Too Good To Be True? How To Spot a Suspicious Gem

Did you know that our little shop offers complete appraisal and gemstone testing services? Our knowledge can come in handy when you’re faced with a piece of jewelry of which you aren’t sure the providence, like our client recently experienced…

A longtime client of ours came to us recently with a collection of pieces he had accumulated over the years from various antique jewelers he met while traveling. As an amateur jewelry collector, he knew there would be some pieces he would get lucky with and others…not so much. Sometimes a diamond in the rough really is too good to be true.

Among his collection sat this “emerald” and diamond ring. We were immediately skeptical of it when we saw it — something just seemed off about it. Interestingly, though, when we tested the gemstone in the ring, it resulted in a positive result for beryl, the mineral name for emerald. But, it just didn’t seem right.

What was “off” about it? First, it was amazingly clean for an emerald. As you may remember from my May Birthstone Report, emeralds almost always display an assortment of inclusions — le jardin — within the gemstone. It’s the characteristic that, for me, makes it special by lending it a softer, glowing hue rather than the harsh perfection of other faceted gemstones. Also, the color seemed odd. Not quite emerald green and oddly saturated. But why was it testing as beryl?

We called our client and explained our hesitations in certifying this as an emerald. In order to fully evaluate the gemstone we would need to remove it from its setting and examine it more thoroughly. He gave us permission and, lo and behold, we immediately spotted another anomaly.

See the odd line here? That shouldn’t be there. And, notice how the top of the gem has a slightly different tone from the bottom? That’s weird, too.

We tested the bottom of the gem and the material proved to be…garnet! Wait, what? Garnet on the bottom and beryl on top? How could that be? Well, this was a perfect example of how unscrupulous jewelers can easily trick a purchaser into thinking they’re getting a “real” gemstone when really, it’s a composite. Called a “doublet,” this technique fuses two different mineral types into a single gemstone to create a realistic impersonation of the real deal. Usually you’ll see doublets as stand-ins for real emeralds, rubies, and sapphires — all colored gemstones where the color saturation gives it value. By using a small slice of the real mineral on top and a less precious similarly toned gemstone (or even glass!) on the bottom, doublets can achieve a deceptively close impersonation of a fully natural gemstone.

Another deceptive technique we recently discovered during a testing session is the tactic of fracture-filling a colored precious gemstone with lead glass to hide visible inclusions. The markers of this technique can be difficult to discern with the naked eye, but under a microscope we noticed the tell-tale spidery veins of fracture-filling. This treatment dramatically reduces the value of the gemstone and has very adverse effects upon its durability. Indeed, fracture-filled rubies like this can literally fall apart if they are cleaned or worked with the same way a natural, untouched ruby would be!

If you have your jewelry insured, it’s a good idea to update your appraisal every 8-10 years. Chances are if it’s older than that, the item is probably undervalued to current replacement costs so you could find yourself under-insured in the unfortunate event you need to use it. If you have many items, we recommend that you make an appointment so that we can take the time to fully inventory your collection. Just email us at inquiries@alxandcompany.com to set one up at your convenience!

 

 

  • The latest from Meaghan
Creative Director & Co-Owner | Alexandria & Company
I came to join Alexandria & Company by way of love: my husband Tim has owned the stop for nearly ten years, and I started by helping him on Saturdays so that we could spend more time together. Eventually, I quit my other life in the legal field to become Alx&Co’s Creative Director and co-owner with Tim. Now, we run our small business together in Old Town and I haven’t looked back.

Alexandria & Company is an Old Town-based workshop and design studio specializing in creating and restoring fine jewelry and silver hollowware. They are the in-the-know jewelers of Alexandria and have been serving clients out of their small workshop for decades. Tucked in their historic building on South Royal Street, the team at Alx&Co. brings a personalized, modern approach to their craft – this is not your average stodgy jeweler or antique shop. Visit them during their walk-in hours or online to view their collection of handmade fine jewelry or to drop off a repair project; or, if you’re feeling creative, make an appointment to talk about that custom design project you’ve been imagining.

inquiries@alxandcompany.com  |  alxandcompany.com

121-B South Royal Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314

703.548.0659

Design Studio Walk-In Hours (all jewelry services): Wednesday – Saturday 12-6pm
Silver Workshop Walk-In Hours (all silver repair and restoration services): Wednesday or Friday 12-6pm, or by appointment

Appointments encouraged for custom design.

2 Comments

  1. Avatar Pat Moore says:

    This is very instructive information. Thank you for this email. I will make an appt. in the Fall with you to reappraise my jewelry.

    Pat Moore
    Old town, Alexandria

  2. Avatar Sandra Caughlin says:

    Thanks for posting. I’ve never heard of this before!

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