3 Things You Must Know When Buying Gemstone Jewelry: The Basics of Color

This blog will teach you the 3 things you MUST know when buying gemstone jewelry. I’ll teach you how to evaluate the Basics of Color so you can be a more confident gemstone jewelry buyer! If you want to be able to buy jewelry more confidently, read on.

How do you choose a gemstone when buying your jewelry? Would you like to make sure that you’re not choosing a dud? Maybe you want to be a better judge in determining value in the jewelry you’re seeing? Keeping 3 things in mind when buying colored gemstones will put you on the path to the one of the most important things about the jewelry we buy: How to Judge Quality in Jewelry.

 

When it comes to colored gemstones, it’s really all about the color. Color is the biggest factor in choosing the right gemstone. Issues with gemstone inclusions aren’t as big an issue as you might think. Yes, you want the fewest inclusions possible, but when it comes to amazing color, the color will win out over inclusions. Focus on the color! Here’s what to consider.

               1) Saturation:  When choosing color, what you want to think about is NOT light or dark, like I constantly hear people tell me in jewelry stores. “Light and dark” is a misunderstanding of the real component which is SATURATION. You want intense, vivid color. Think of it like dying a white cloth. If you want to dye a cloth blue, and it turns out so faint that you can barely tell it’s blue, that’s not a great dye job. Conversely, if you dye the cloth and it turns out so dark that it’s almost black, that’s not what you want either.

This photo from Pala Gems International is a good visual for what I mean. The sapphires on the ends are NOT what you are looking for. (Unless you like them, in which case, buy what you like. It’s your ring and your choice. I’m not going to tell you to NOT buy what you love- that’s the whole purpose of buying jewelry.)

 

These two photos of sapphires, both from GIA, are an example of colors you want.

 

               2) Now that you understand saturation, we’re going to discuss some more technical things. You need to consider tone and hue. Tone is how light or dark the color appears. It also has to do with the amount of grey in the color. Hue is the basic color itself, but also has to do with other colors present in the stone. Some sapphires have slight green or violet hues, for instance. Those colors aren’t technically blue, and aren’t necessarily bad, but are present along with the blue color. It’s just good to know what you’re buying. Again, buy whatever appeals to you. I’m not going to spend too much time on this because it’s more involved than a basic blog post can cover. When you’re talking about your own personal jewelry, it’s subjective anyway. I’m including this chart from GIA just to give you a basic understanding of these two components. Gemologically speaking, pure hues are more valuable than hues with combinations of other colors, but again, buy what you like. If you like a sapphire with greenish hues or violetish hues, then that’s what you should have. It’s your jewelry and you need to look at it every day, so buy what you love!

 

               3) The other important thing that I’d say is something you need to at least be aware of is how evenly the color is distributed throughout the stone. If the color is really intense except for a spot right in the middle of the gemstone, that’s not a gemstone that I’d choose. Also, if a gemstone’s color is vivid, but has places where the color becomes so dark that some places look black, that’s not something I’d choose either. They have gemological names so I’ll include them for your reference with pictures to better understand them.

               Windowing: A window is an area of a gemstone whose saturation is so weak that it appears clear or colorless at that point. Think of it as a “see-through” area. If you held the stone over print, you could read the writing through the stone.

This is an example of a gemstone with a window (From Pala Gems International). The larger stone to the right in the picture has a window right in the middle of the stone.

 

               Extinction: An extinction area is an area of a gemstone where the color appears dark or black.

Look at the same picture above showing the stone with the window. Both of these gemstones also have extinction areas. The smaller one of the left has multiple areas of extinction, the largest between 10:00 – 11:30 and again about 2:30 to 4:30. The larger gem on the right has some rather large extinction areas right at 12:00 and 6:00.

Both of these above terms have to do with the proportions of the gemstone’s cut and how light passes through it. If I can speak like a gemologist again, neither a window nor a stone with extinction is considered advantageous when buying gemstones.

You may not have even noticed these two things before I pointed them out and that’s fine. I’m only pointing it out to you so you are aware of it when shopping for gemstone jewelry.

 

If you keep these 3 things in mind when shopping for gemstones in jewelry, you will know more than the majority of the salespeople in most jewelry stores! You’ll be able to determine for yourself the quality of what you’re buying. Determining quality is the first step to understanding value and knowing if you’re getting a good deal and making a good purchase. I hope this blog gives you the confidence to buy gemstone jewelry with ease. I hope to do an entire series on How to Determine Quality When Buying Jewelry. This series is designed to allow YOU to be in the driver’s seat in a buying experience. For more helpful tips, follow me on Facebook or Instagram. Sign up for my newsletter on the right hand side bar of my blog where you can be involved in fun mini training sessions; interact with dealers and buyers to discuss concepts and share tips; get in on Facebook Live Question and Answer sessions; and learn the tricks of the jewelry trade!

 

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2 Comments


  1. Thanks for sharing your wisdom! Does windowing and extinction apply to colorless gems as well? Obviously not in regard to color variations, but perhaps affecting refraction or other indicators of quality?

    Reply

    1. Hi Judy, Windowing and extinction don’t really apply to colorless gems. These things happen because of the cut of the gem (too shallow or too deep) and while these things effect the color, they are not caused by color. Does that make sense?

      Reply

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