How To Protect Yourself When Purchasing Gemstones Online

Gem Buying and Chunky Monkey Ice Cream

As little as 20 years ago, if we wanted to make a purchase from the comfort of home, it was usually in the wee hours of the morning. Propped up on our pillows with blood-shot eyes, we dialed the toll free number of a late night infomercial while chunky monkey ice cream dribbled down our chin.

More often than not, we got what we ordered and were not too disappointed. This is because it cost thousands of dollars to make these infomercials and that helped to limit the amount of con artists and scammers.

Twenty Dollars to Break Your Heart

Unfortunately, today for around $20… anyone can post pretty gemstone pictures on a WordPress website, write fancy, reassuring words, and sell poor quality gemstones.

In this post I’ll talk about protecting yourself from heartbreak when buying a gemstone online, and I’ll also give you my gem buying advice.

The Safest Way to Buy Gemstones – My Advice

Inspecting jewelry with a loupe

A Personal Jeweler has the Knowledge You Need to Know to Choose the Right Gemstone

The most reliable way to avoid being taken by less than legitimate online jewelers is to purchase from a jeweler with a physical location in your hometown. This way, you can look at the actual gemstone you want to purchase.

The ability to hold the gemstones, and view them in ordinary as well as fancy lighting conditions and against a variety of backdrops assures your happiness after a purchase.

The Downside of Gem Buying at a Distance

The internet has become one of the most amazing and convenient ways to make purchases. We still usually get what we want by ordering from the television or online, however, ordering gemstones could be an entirely different matter.

It is not difficult to find on the internet, a growing list of reports from unsatisfied people who have purchased gemstones from television jewelry shows and online e-commerce websites.

The quality of the gemstones is a far cry from what they expected and returning these items for refund… is a nightmare.

Nowhere To Turn – The FTC, FBI and NSA Don’t Care

Better Business Bureau Where You Can Lodge a Complaint

Better Business Bureau Where You Can Lodge a Complaint

Unfortunately, it seems all we can do is complain online. That is… as there is no real government regulatory committee to complain to. One place to raise a complaint is with the Better Business Bureau online. However, other than having that complaint known to anyone who inquires of the BBB, no action is taken against the offender.

Do you check with the BBB before you make an online or TV purchase? Yeah, me neither. The sale of diamonds and other precious and semi-precious gemstones online or via television jewelry networks is not regulated by the FTC, nor is there a uniform set of guidelines to be followed across the jewelry industry.

Beyond Normal Precautions

Most people realize that we must take precautions when making a purchase online. What many people do not know is that those precautions that we normally take for a purchase of a pair of jeans or a really nice pair of shoes is simply not enough when it comes to shopping for a precious gemstone.

Just ask those who have fallen in love with the perfect gemstone online and committed to a purchase, only to be disappointed when they received a gemstone that looked nothing like the picture they fell in love with on the website.

Or the gemstone looked good, but when appraised was not the gemstone they were told it was. See the Macy’s “glass-filled rubies” disaster, where sales people sold ruby jewelry that was not proper ruby at all.

How Do We Protect Ourselves?

There are steps that we can take to improve the odds. These steps begin before we even begin to look for a website from which to purchase the gemstone that we need.

It is always wise to learn everything you can about the gemstone you are thinking about buying. Professional, trustworthy websites that sell individual gemstones will have educational material on the website for their visitors.

Knowledge is Power

Matlins Gem Buying book

An Industry Respected Book to Help Gem Buyers

Research is the gemstone buyer’s best friend. Once you have found several websites that have the type of gemstones you want, it is time to do some heavy-duty research on those websites in order to limit your risk.

Knowing what you want when you begin your search always helps.

Three Steps You Can Take Toward A Safe Online Purchase of a Gemstone

Here are the most important aspects to look for when researching your chosen gemstone websites.

1. How long has the gemstone dealer you are considering been in the business?

Those that have a bad reputation for selling poor quality gemstones rarely last more than a few years. Most people do this type of research and discover exactly what type of dealer they are considering. Those who have numerous complaints online simply cannot afford to stay in business long.

2. Does the Website Truly Present a Truthful Gemstone Image?

Is the photo of the gemstones you are considering on any particular website a stock photo or a photo of the original gemstone? Many websites use stock photos. Non-reputable websites try to pass stock photos off as the truthful image of the gemstone that is for sale by them. Usually, these stock images can be found on the internet or will have a faint watermark on them. Do not be afraid to ask the webmaster if the photo is from stock or an actual image of the gemstone you want.

3. Is the Return Policy Clear and All-Inclusive?

A legitimate jewelry sales website will have a thorough and clear return policy. The policy will be spelled out completely and all stipulations as to how much time and the payment of shipping will be specific and to the point. Be wary of any return policy on a website that charges much more than 5 percent, which is usually called a restocking fee, as much more than this would be far from a refund.

Never purchase a gemstone from a website that does not allow you to return it if you are less than satisfied. Legitimate jewelry dealers that deal in individual precious gemstone sales do so because they are confident that the gemstone you receive will be of the highest quality.

How to Compare the Individual Websites that Sell Precious Gemstones

Different Lighting Effects the Color You See in a Gemstone

Different Lighting Effects the Color You See in a Gemstone – Fluorescent Light

Which ones have the following…

• A forthcoming website that speaks to treatments, refunds, and discloses a lot of information about the gemstone you are considering for purchase and the business in itself.

• A fully loaded “Contact Us” page with phone numbers, physical addresses, and emails is the sign of a trustworthy website. Do not be afraid to contact them before the sale to verify the accuracy of the contact information.

Lab Tanzanite Under Incandescent Light

Lab Tanzanite Under Incandescent Light

• A ton of educational material (Added to their site regularly) means they want you to make an informed decision, and would like you to visit with them often for a variety of reasons. This is always a good sign. The topics should include links and be all encompassing, from properties of each gem, how to choose a precious gemstone for a unique design, to gift giving ideas and all topics in between.

• Testimonials on a website are good, although some underhanded websites will either write them or hire a writer to do so. Read the testimonials and look for similarities in the writing. Surprisingly, it is not hard to spot when twenty sparkling testimonials were written by the same person.

• The “About Us” page, if there is one, should have the date when the website and/or company began doing business. It should be possible to trace a company’s existence further than five years. Very few websites that break the rules or provide poor service last more than a year so the longer the company has practiced sales of precious gemstones, the better. I like an about page that has owner’s names and pictures of them.

Don’t Forget Review Sites

Finally, research the internet for good or poor reviews regarding the websites from which you are considering a purchase. The majority of people who have a bad experience will complain. This is especially true of purchasing precious and semi precious gemstones since there are no governing bodies to which we may turn.

How to Find Online Reviews of Gem Sites

With Google, type into the search window the name (of the web based business you are considering buying from) and a dash and the word “reviews.”

No reviews at all, is not a good sign. Many good reviews and a couple flaming ones may still be OK as there are trolls and competitors who could leave negative reviews to mess with the business. But no reviews suggests that the business isn’t selling much. Move on to a business that has activity beyond its own website, like many reviews.

The Best Defense Against a Bad Experience is Knowledge

That knowledge can be your own, from your research or a trusted jeweler’s. If you really want to avoid being disappointed, locate and visit a well-known Jeweler with experience in gemstones in your hometown. If your jeweler is a G.G. which is Graduate Gemologist, that tells you immediately that they are very experienced about gemstones.

Build a relationship with a jeweler that you are comfortable with and enjoy and make  your gemstone purchases through them.

Your Personal Jeweler,

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About Calla Gold

Calla Gold is a Personal Jeweler and Author who takes pride in working with clients one-on-one to integrate their personal sense of style and taste into custom designed jewelry and repaired jewelry pieces.   Unlike typical Santa Barbara jewelry businesses, Calla Gold has no brick-and-mortar location. Calla Gold comes to you, bringing you the jewelry collection you want to see and collaborating with you to create unique custom jewelry. Calla also works with at-a-distance clients.

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Antoinette Matlins
10 years ago

Dear Hanna: I read your post and applaud your efforts to help people understand the importance of taking time to gain as much knowledge as possible before making decisions about gem or jewelry purchases. You provided some very sound advice. The only thing I would add is that in addition to the Graduate Gemologist (GG) diploma awarded by the Gemological Institute of America, the Gemmological Association of Great Britain (the GemA) awards the title — “Fellow of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain” (FGA) — which is highly respected internationally and is also a credential that a select number of… Read more »

Mona Baroody
10 years ago

On the subject of stock photos, the easiest way to find out quickly is to do a search on google for the photo. Right click the photo and copy the link to the photo (not the site). Then, go to Google, click “image” in the type of search “bar” at the top of the page. Finally, past the link to the photo in the search bar and click “enter” or “search”.

Diamond Market News
Diamond Market News
6 years ago

First you have a beautiful name
I read your writing and thought deeply about Chunky Monkey Ice Cream and safe diamond shopping online.
The website is well developed.


4 years ago

Hi Hanna,

Really awesome guide about the buying gemstone online

4 years ago

Hello Hanna Jameson,

I really impressed after reading this post, awesome guide about the gemstone online buying.