JEWELRY AUCTIONS - Promotional Gemstones Buying Guide

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Promotional  Gemstones - What are they?

What's a déclassé gem? What's a promotional stone? Is one different from the other? The resounding answer to this question is NO!

A déclassé gem and/or promotional stone is usually a rather large stone which is three, four, five, six - up to 20 carats in size and even larger. They come in sapphires, emeralds and rubies (for the most part) and may be placed into middle of the road settings and in some cases, into platinum settings. The settings themselves can be much more valuable than the stone itself.

However, when you review the listing, the buzz words abound. VS to I-1 diamonds, 18KT. gold setting and a whopping 7.50 carat sapphire! Sounds exciting, don't it? However, look closely at the setting - just how many diamonds are there? If they are 2 to 6 pointers diamonds, which number over a few dozen, there's no doubt there's one tucked into the setting which is VS, which in turn, allows one to state VS to I-1 diamonds. Throw the word 18KT., 14KT or Platinum and a gem certificate with a estimated retail value in the thousands and you have a real winner - or do you?

The most valuable part of this piece should be the sapphire, which is 7.50 carats however, if it's a déclassé stone (not a gem) then you're paying for the setting. Look at the sapphire. Is it translucent? Can you hold it up to light and see any transmission of light? Does the stone throw off a pale mottled color? Does it have rough edges where it was cut? Does it have a white cloudy look to it? Does it have a milky whitish blue color? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions then what you may have purchased (or are about to purchase) is known as "déclassé" and/or "promotional" stone.

Here's a good definition of déclassé stones...

Clarity is graded on a scale from Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS) down to Imperfect (I3). Below that are Déclassé (Dcl) with so many inclusions that the stones are no longer transparent and thus do not merit detailed clarity grading.

Why are they called "promotional stones"? Because they are sold in plastic bags containing a few hundred stones in various, sizes, shapes and colors.  They're deemed "promotional" stones, as they are sold at jewelry trade shows and conventions a half dozen times a year.

Why do people buy them, set them and sell them? Because they're cheap (plain and simple) and they're called "bluff stones" in the business. A "bluff stone" is usually fairly large and set into a decent setting, which highlights the piece. In other words, the color of gold comes into play - big time. If the stone looks better in yellow gold, it's set in yellow gold. If it looks better in white gold, then it's set in white gold. It's called a "bluff stone" for the obvious reasons.

However, send that jewelry item into GIA and they tell you that while you have a big stone on your hands, it's a classified as a "déclassé" stone. The value??? If it came with a certificate and the value seems to be a "pie in the sky" estimate, then you just ate a big piece of pie.

This is what infuriates those in the jewelry trade who don't sell "bluff stones" or "promotional stones". When consumers eat that first piece of pie then they think that every piece of pie thereafter should be gauged by the size of the first piece of pie.

In other words, if you buy one of these large stones and you pay $50.00 a carat and receive a 6 carat sapphire for $300.00 then you see a sapphire, which is selling for $250.00 a carat online, you think you're being robbed (when in fact) you were robbed the first time around.

It's comes down to quality. Buy a "bluff stone" and you may have paid 500 times more then what it costs, as they come in bags of hundreds. The profit margins are huge on such stones and the only way to sell them is to put them into settings, which play on the sizzle and not on the steak.

Very rarely do we see these stones being sold without a setting, as if they had no compliment to their sheer size (with a beautiful setting) you'd pass them over and/or laugh out loud that someone was actually attempting to sell something that looks like a mottled rock.

Remember, there are stones, which may be deemed déclassé naturally, as they may be cabochon rubies, emeralds and sapphres and thus are not transulent. However, they are priced accordingly.

Gem Cards - A Questionable Practice:

What's more disturbing is the use of the words "fine" and "extra fine" (and so on ) on Gem Cards. Gem Cards seem to be the new wave in selling jewelry and gems. They are usually offered for free and look like a plastic credit card. These cards may have a picture of the item, carat weight and some type of grading information. If it's a diamond ring, which has been graded and there are many diamonds in the piece, the piece may be graded as VS-1 to I1. In other words, if it's a pave setting you're being offered (which may contain 5 pointer diamonds) this means that one diamond (out of the entire group) may be VS-1 however, the remaining diamonds may be all I1's.

The Gem Card is the next great selling tool, as this little card can carry a message of "high value".  In the case where the diamonds are graded VS-1 to I1 - the term "VS-1 is what catches the buyer's eye. VS-1 is the grading which "sells" the piece. However, once you receive the item and find crusty white I1 diamonds and one VS-1 diamond - you'll be sorely disappointed  - as in many cases, the one "good" diamond stands out amongst the crusty white "smashed glass look" of the I1 diamonds.

It's not by accident that a VS-1 diamond is set into the piece. Put in a VS-1 diamond and the seller can use the grading however, it's a slippery slope upon which they sell such goods, as if one diamond is a VS-1 and the remaining diamonds are I1's - the quality of the piece and the high value attached via a Gem Card - becomes questionable.

Gem Cards should NOT be given any weight when purchasing a finished piece of jewelry or loose gem as they set a bad example for the entire industry. They bring into question the validity of value and this has far reaching implications for the entire gemological grading industry.

Acceptable and Non Acceptable Words in Descriptions:

If one uses words such as Elegant, Fascinating and Stunning (as listed in Word Group "A") then this is the opinion of the Seller and the piece may indeed present itself as "Elegant and Fascinating". However, to use words such as XTRA Fine, Gem Fine or AAAAA may be a bit confusing for many buyer's who may think these terms apply to the cut and clarity of a given gem.

In fact, those who use terms such as "Museum Quality" or "Museum Aged" may be teetering a bit on the side "carnival barking" their wares - as to imply a gem is "Museum Quality" - is to imply the item should be displayed in a Museum!

We've all been to Museums at one time or another in our lives and the only Museum (or Institute) I have seen Museum Quality gems is at the Smithsonian. If we're talking the Hope Diamond then that's one thing however, if we're talking about a three carat Burmese Ruby, then I think that stating "Museum Quality" may be a far reaching use of wording.

"Museum Aged" is another term, which (I think) may imply that an item is so old that it should be in a Museum. Okay, one slight problem on this use of wording and that goes to the core of "just how old are gems - which are mined from the earth?". I guess you can see my point.

Gem Origins:

When gem listings use words such as "Burmese Ruby" does that mean that the Ruby indeed came from Burma? Unless the gem arrived with a stamped passport from Burma or a gem "birth certificate" then one really does NOT know the origin of the gem. However, to state the gem is Burmese may simply imply the color of the stone is that of Rubies which originate from Burma.

What's even more disturbing is the use of the phrase "pre-embargo burma rubies". How does anyone what a "pre-embargo" ruby looks like let alone, that it is indeed a "pre-embargo" burma ruby?

The same can be said of Emeralds originating from Zambia or Tanzanite originating from Tanzania. Tanzanite also comes from other parts of the world - as do rubies, emeralds and sapphires.


There are some who advertised Alexandrite as "Russian Alexandrite". However, Russian Alexandrite originates from the Ural Mountains located (of course) in Russia.

(True) Russian Alexandrite displays a unique color change. However, Alexandrite is now originating out of Brazil and the color change is far from  "true" Russian Alexandrite (which has basically been depleted and can only be found on the secondary market via serious collector's, buyer's and seller's).

The Brazilian version of Alexandrite changes from green to a gray-blue and while it's found in abundance, the price per carat is a bit on the high side as the "word" Alexandrite commands attention!

In closing, also remember a simple rule of thumb - if a Gem Card states an item is worth $7500.00 however, it's being sold for $300.00 then there's something very amiss in the valuation being touted. Does anyone (anywhere) on this planet sell anything for $300.00 - which has a Gem Card stating a value of $7500.00?

Buying fnished jewelry and gems on eBay can fun and exciting however, you might want read in between the lines in descriptions and research any gemological laboratory, which offfers Gem Cards, as opposed to the standard industry appraisal.

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