I have sold and bought rocks and Lapidary equipment on Ebay now for 7 years. In that time I have done a whole lota buying. In doing so I have learned many a rule of thumb that I would like to share with you.
I never put much faith in an auction that only has one or two pictures, or no close-ups. Its critical that there are several angles taken and at-least one good close-up to insure there is no pits or fractures. Good pictures are so important, especially for Dino Bone, Plume Agates as both tend to have pits and sadly some sellers do not think twice about listing bad rocks.
There are also sellers that simply don't fully understand the grading process or they linger into selling a variety of stone they know nothing about, so Pictures are the first step to insuring a good, solid transaction!!!
This is a must as I have bought slabs and stones that looked way bigger in the pictures and ended up with a pebble!!! Even though the size may be stated it is crucial that either a tape measure or coin, something be next to the stone in at-least one picture...
Look at the warranty, do they stand behind what they sell??? If so-for how long??? This is very important as some sellers only stand behind the sale for 7 days. I know many times it takes me a few days to get around to opening the box, so look for those 30 day no questions asked warranties...When buying rough it is very important to know if the seller will stand behind a rock on auction, and after you cut the rock it turns out to be low grade.
I understand no one can say for sure whats inside of a rock, but with anything in the market from cars to fishing poles if you end up with a lemon it should be replaced...I have a few sellers get upset with me over that, but its true, Stand behind your rocks!!!
If a seller states Must be returned un-altered thats saying if you cut it and its a dud-Tough luck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! NOT!!! While in Law School I had 3 months of Business law and I hated it, talk about DULL!!! But I did learn some valuable things and one is (There is no such thing as NO REFUNDS!!!) Yes thats right, even if they say No Refunds...Why??? For instance, you buy a rock and the seller states it as great cutting material, good for cabbing, etc...Then it has to meet that criteria. Yes they can say no to you but know your rights as a consumer and assert those rights. If they have a disclaimer then ask them what happens if you cut it and its junk...If they refuse to stand behind it, I advise to shop somewhere else as theres plenty of rock sellers on Ebay that do stand behind their stones...
On Picture Jaspers its very important to find out if the slab is only good for display or if one can cut it into cabochons. My all time favorite rock is Picture Jaspers. There are many varieties of this fine Jasper,Biggs, Deschutes, Owyhee, Blue Mountain, and many others...You will be looking for pictures that show a good closeup shot of the pictures in the slab, searching for small pits or other problem areas. Usually the seller will state if it is Collector Grade. Keep in mind there are alot of new sellers that are just learning to grade their auctions. That can mean a real good buying experience, or a dud of a slab...
If your buying slabs the thickness is very important. I never buy anything thinner than 3/16" and prefer 1/4" thick.
As for finding the right seller I don't look so much at feed-back as that can be deceiving. Unless of course it shows an unusually high number of negatives.
What I look for are the number of sales vs the number of Unique Feed-backs. That will show you if this sellers customers are return buyers. E.G. say a seller has 1,500 Unique Feed-Backs and a total of 6,000 Feedbacks, thats a sure sign that folks are returning there to buy their products because they are pleased...
If you have more questions, please drop me an email as I love hearing from you!!!
HAPPY EBAY ROCKHOUNDING!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Dale Rhode aka rhodescabbin