Caveat Emptor - Buyer Beware

Too good to be true??? Many times it is... and it takes one in the trade to point out the potential problems and make the proper inquires.

We occasionally look on line to see what is being offered. On eBay, we have seen items that have disappointed us many times. We have offered our services to eBay over the past 3 years to patrol their website to insure that the photos, descriptions, etc. of gemstones are accurate, as we have seen MANY cases of outright fraud and misrepresentation. Here is just a small list of the items that we have recently seen that would make any honest gemstone dealer cringe. The lack of disclosure goes against FTC policies. These "companies" could be prosecuted, but many are outside of the United States.

Synthetic Alexandrite: Synthetic Corundum (Sapphire) being sold as Synthetic Alexandrite. There is a BIG price difference. The only synthetic that we carry is Synthetic Alexandrite and we have one of the best prices, but when a company sells the inexpensive Synthetic Corundum as Synthetic Alexandrite, not only do we loose a sale, but the customer looses too - and will probably never know it.

Diaspore: We have seen photos of gemstones which are supposedly Diaspore, yet none of the Diaspore that we have seen, looks like the material photographed.

Vivid Pink Topaz: "Natural but Heated" - so they say, but when you know the right questions to ask, one finds out that the material has not only been heated but also has chemicals agents applied. We know that something is wrong when we see very large pink topaz gemstones - very rare even in small sizes and the color is usually not intense. IF (and that is a huge IF...) we could find gems like these, the wholesale price expected would be many thousands of dollars per carat. Therefore, selling a gemstone of this size and color (even if just heated with no other treatments), could cost us $60,000 wholesale - so one cannot put this up for auction where it could sell for $50. Something is wrong that the seller is not telling potential customers.

Large Imperial Topaz: Very large Imperial Topazes are being offered. Said to be natural and from Brasil. Photos look nice, orange with red highlights. Worth a fortune wholesale in the sizes and colors shown. Like the pink topaz above, we haven't seen this material in 25 year of business, so why is the price so low and the stones are so huge? Made us wonder. They say it is natural, but when asked they did tell us that it was a brownish color (possibly with orange highlights) - so that tells us immediately that we are not missing anything as this material is not the sought after true Imperial (precious) Topaz color.

Unusual Colored Tourmaline and Other Gemstones: We have seen colors of gemstones on line that just don't exist naturally. The explanation for this is that the colors have been modified digitally. Everyone's monitor is different and will display colors differently. We have seen this with our own gemstones on other monitors and computer screens, but the colors that we have seen are just way off base.

Incredible Ruby - Large, Clean: A company had a wonderful looking 2+ct Ruby. Gorgeous! It was also certified as Natural Ruby. If truly natural, we would be expected to pay MANY thousands of dollars per carat, and not just a few thousand per carat either! Well, we made an inquiry. Though the material is "natural" in origin, it has been treated, mostly likely via the diffusion method. So this is not the bargain as originally thought. Guess we can cross off that $40,000 Ruby for only $200.

What does one do in cases like the above?? Know the seller and insure that the item can be returned. All That Glitter's policy is that you have 10 Days in which to inspect the gemstone. If for any reason you do not wish to keep the gemstone, return it in the same condition as received, for a full refund, less shipping and any PayPal fees incurred on our end.

With All That Glitter's, should an item be identified by a certified gemological laboratory such as AGTA and GIA, and it is not what it was identified as on your receipt, your purchase is guaranteed for life and you will receive a refund.
That's right - a  Life Time Guarantee!

There was an interesting case of a parcel of Natural Cat's Eye Alexandrite that was purchased by a person in the UK. A local store tested it and said it was Cat's Eye Quartz (if it was Cat's Eye Quartz, it would be a wonderful example in that size, sharp cat's eye and color shifting ability!). The material was sent to a lab in the UK for testing and came back as what All That Glitters had indicated it was - Natural Cat's Eye Alexandrite.

Below are the actual titles and keywords that have been used on eBay for a number of items. Having 30 years experience in the gemstone trade, the owner of All That Glitters made inquiries requesting more information, already knowing something was wrong just from the description, the photograph, title or sttarting price. What was sought, was the truth - what wasn't said about these gemstones....

Large Size Master Oval Cut Ultra Rare Unheated Tanzanite
Text from the main body of the description: "Treatment: Gentle Heat"
ATG Comments: Notice the word - "Unheated".
This mandates that no heat what so ever has been applied to this gemstone. This statement is then contradicted further down in the auction where "gentle heat" was disclosed.

Title: 23.15ct.GIANT! Stunning AAA Top Hot Pink (Topaz) NR$1!
Described as coming from Africa - Heated Inquiry: An inquiry was made, as I know this material is not being found naturally. In fact, if this piece were available and natural, this would be selling for a phenomenal price - wholesale. The color is intense, the gemstone is clean and the size is too large for this type of gemstone as we currently know it today. The material just doesn't exist naturally, so the price is entirely open with the sky being the limit. Also, there were many large Hot Pink Topazes available from this company as well as a number of other companies.
Seller's Reply: Pink Topaz, we just know that they came from Africa and take to heated by irradiation coated treatment.
Inquiry - A second inquiry was made seeking more details.
Seller's 2nd Reply: For pink Topaz we just know that heated by irradiation coated treatment in lab.
ATG Comments: As suspected, it is some kind of a coating. Hopes of finding a rarity or something of value are dashed again.

Title: 60.85ct.Museum Dazzling Unheated Imperial Topaz NR$1! The origin as stated as Brasil and is unheated. Color is described at "Rich Orange Red". Inquiry: We wanted confirmation that the topaz was indeed from Brasil and unheated. Some large topaz from Mexico have been irradiated to produce decent looking color, but with some brown - the color fades on exposure to light. We also asked how pure the color was.
Seller's Reply: For Imperial and Champagne Topaz are wll cut and eye clean, not treatment in any way with brownish orange color.
ATG Comments: If the color is brownish orange, the color of the photograph that we were viewing would therefore not be an accurate color rendition and the brown overtown kills the color and therefore a low price is to be expected. It would also be difficult to call this color Imperial.

Description: Gemstone: Ruby; Quantity: 1; Weight: 2.1ct; Size: 7.6 X 5.8 X 5.3 MM.
Shape: Oval; Clarity: Flawless; Lustre: TOP AAA LUSTER 100% FULL FIRE
Origin: Madagascar; Hardess: 9; Treatment: Heated
Inquiry: This seemed to be a gorgeous gemstone. Having personal contacts in Madagascar and hearing that a new find of Ruby would be available in the future, I was very curious as to whether this was entirely natural. With the treatments of Sapphire/Ruby involving diffusion techniques producing not only orangy colored results but others as well, I was susipicous of the size, clarity and color. I also knew that my contacts in Madagascar said that the Ruby that would be hitting the market in the future would have to be fracture filled because the material was highly fractured. I had to make an inquiry as to whether this gemstone was only heated, as this was too good to pass up - a $10,000 or more Ruby for perhaps a few hundred dollars.
Seller's First Reply: You know , these days, There are many kind of treatments and new technology in gemindustry . I dont really know all of them. All equipments and chemicals to enhance stones we import from Japan. and They dont disclose all . I can answer as i can.
Seller's Second Reply after 2nd Inquiry: Sometimes Standard of gemstone between US and Asia are not the same. Usually Sapphires are treated by any treatments...They dont care what kind of treatment to enhance the stones. If treatments are acceptable in Gem industry. and we are pretty sure The treatment of this ruby is also acceptable In Thailand .
ATG Comments: I think the company's reply says alot without saying too much. If a gemstone company is buying items and doesn't ask questions when certain colors or sizes are seen, they shouldn't be in that business. Most of all the currently known treatments are documented and some have simple tests to reveal these treatments. Of course, the policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" can have financial gain and a way to accept an incorrect identification without admitting wrong doing. As this company indicates, the standard or acceptance of some treatments can vary from country to country.

Description indicated Heat; No other treatment was mentioned
Inquiry: Similar to the above inquiry. This color, size, clarity, cutting, price, etc. says to us Diffusion!
Sellers Reply to Inquiry: Many thanks for your email. All our items are 100% genuine and are not fakes, synthetics or simulants in any kind of way. This item has bot been chemically coated or surface diffused. There is a chance that it has been cooked in the prescence of natural Chrysoberyl (a yellow gem found in Madagascar and East Africa) whereby light elements of Be from the Chrysoberyl (remember the periodic table at school!) helps open up the color.
ATG Comments: As suspected, the gemstone was not entirely natural, it had been treated to give that wonderful color that one saw in the photos. American dealers have been hesitant to accept this relatively new treatment for sapphires/rubies. Personally, we have stopped buying certain colors unless we have been dealing with those dealers from abroad for years and have reassurance from then that if we find out something different than we are told, we can return the gemstone. Note that no where in the auction did it state treated or enhanced. It did say heat. The company selling this gemstone only revealed the treatment because I specified asked the right questions. It did require two emails to be sent to this company before a reply was received. Also note, that the term Padparadscha is misused here. The color description used would disqualify this as a Padparadscha. Their comment about the Beryillium Diffusion was sad - "it opens up the color". Actually, it is responsible for the color - sort of like dying eggs at Easter time. If you want to call that process, "opening up the color" of the eggs, then he does have a point! The natural eggs certainly did not have bright blue, yellow, green, purple, orange prior to dying, and I don't believe the eggs in other countries are much different than the New England area.

It was very easy to look at Feedback for those companies whose ads/auctions appear above. Much of the feedback was positive. One of the reasons for this is that the general public does not understand the idiosyncrasies of gemstones - color is very important, as is size, cutting and inclusions. Most of those purchasing the items we listed above are not aware that the gemstone they purchased is not 100% genuine and that the color is enhanced. There will be those who are disatified with their purchase and feel cheated but others, even knowing that the color is not natural, will still be very happy with their purchase. As long as people know what they are purchasing and all knowledge is disclosed at the time of purchase, everyone will be happy.

Examples of Feedback that indicate problems include statements like:

  • Very disapointed with sale. Spent $2,000 most items are dyed. Misrepresented
  • Misleading ad. Sell won't contact me about returns. Emailed them 5 days ago.
  • Not as discribed, worth 1/10 of the discribed stone. Asked to return got not res
  • Stone is not yellow asdiscribed. It is a bad clear. Worthless. No response

Final Notes - we have sent a Return Receipt requested letter to eBay in the past, as well as a few emails and regular letters without a Receipt request. Our services were offered to police eBay for potentiallly fradulent auctions/advertisements in not only the gemstone sections, but minerals, jewelry, etc. Unfortunately, we never made any progress. This is most likely due to the fact that there is money in the auctions/advertisements as well as fees paid. PayPal was also purchased by eBay in the not too distant past - again, more sales, more revenue. If customers complain about a seller, then the seller will probably be banned from eBay and will just open another account. BUT, how many customers actually know what they are buying? How is the buyer going to know that the gemstone they purchased is not exactly the genuine article that they thought they were purchasing? Many sellers count on the fact that they won't find out. Most customers have no idea that they should be concerned, especially if an item is described as genuine or natural. It can be costly to professionally have a gemstone examined. Also, the person examining it could not have the proper background to truly do the examination and determination necessary. They could also have ulterior motives. Does the person buying the wonderfully colored sapphire for over $1000 realize that the color is not the true color of the original gemstone? Personally, we wouldn't purchase that material if we knew it was Diffusion Treated. We are willing to accept heat as many gemstones have been heated routinely for hundreds, if not thousands of years, but Diffision is entirely different.

Questions to ask yourself:
Do the companies selling gemstones have a gemologist to perform due diligence? Are they up on treatments and enhancements? Will they stand behind something and refund purchases if the item proves to be treated or enhanced and the buyer wasn't made aware of it?

Trust the company and people you purchase not ony gemstones from, but all items that you are not an expert in. Unfortunately, the gemstone field is an area of study that is constantly changing, but those who constantly read trade journals and have good business ethics and morals, will do their best as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) now demands. Companies abroad have different regulations as well as different treatments that they accept.

Trust those who depend on their reputation and integrity! Disclosure is important and a right of the customer.

For other related internet stories from the All That Glitters Archives, visit any of the following topics:

Fooled Again - Story of 'another' on-line Gemstone Purchase...
Photo Enhancement
by some companies create colors that don't exist in natural gemstones and have no resemblance to the original color.....So don't be surprised if the gemstone you purchase on many websites, is not what you expect when you open that package!...
< Fooled Again >

More and More deception is being seen on the internet. See some of the cases that All That Glitters has encountered. Most of it is hard to believe!
< OnLine Gemstone Deception >