Gemstone fraud

I’m so fed up of how easily people are getting away with selling “gems” fraudulently on places like eBay and Etsy. You see it constantly. “Naturally mined pink sapphire”, which is so obviously cubic zirconia and if natural, would have cost many times more than the advertised cost. Their customers are on the whole none the wiser so they get away with it.

My own budget is very low, so the gems I buy are very hit and miss as to quality - although I must add that I don’t usually take such risks. I wanted a natural round cut ruby, as large as possible. I found one from an Indian seller on Etsy that looked nice. I know enough about the market to know that this 8mm round ruby, if natural, would be heavily flawed and subject to all manner of treatments to improve its appearance. I paid less than £20 (UK pounds) so my expectations were very low. It arrived in the post this morning. It is in my opinion a beautiful looking gem. I therefore knew instantly that there is nothing natural about it, as a gem so large, with such a beautiful colour, and so crystal clear, if natural, would have cost thousands, not less than £20. It is either lab corundum, cubic zirconia or could even be quartz that’s had some vapour deposition process to add the red colour - who knows?! To add insult to injury, the so called AGSL certificate of authenticity is so obviously fake, with very poorly reproduced graphics and a hologram that is a sticker, stuck wonkily to the outside surface of the laminated card!!! Of course when you visit the AGSL website and input the certificate number, it doesn’t exist.

I am not writing this because I feel victimised - I don’t. I took a punt, expecting for my money, a heavily included stone and got a very pretty but cheaply produced lab-made “stone”. I could have bought this pretty stone for a fraction of what I paid, from a UK supplier that I buy CZ from. But it makes me so cross that there are so many people out there getting away with such obvious fraud. There seems to be no accountability whatsoever. I just want to educate people about the fake gems they are buying, oblivious to the fact that they are not the natural gems they believe them to be.

Rant over.



I’ve had the same issues. I’ve started to pull away from buying from etsy and ebay. I’ve been researching more legit dealers in the US, mainly those that cut their own stones (have found a few on instagram). I’m also fortunate enough to have worked for/with a jeweler who love to keep everything and has amassed a large collection of stones from scraped jewelry. I’ve picked up a few from them and they can test the stones if there’s any questions. They’ve been trying to sell off these stone because they’d hate for them to go to waste. It’s hard to know what your getting when you only have a photo off the internet.


I believe if you had made that purchase with a credit card you
could have disputed the purchase and likely recovered your purchase price. Falls
under the old adage “CYA”.

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I have opened a dispute via PayPal for a refund as the junk they sent is not worth anything. They just annoy me. There are some good gem dealers out there but they are few and far between on such selling platforms. You get what you pay for and I knew that, which is why I wasn’t expecting much. I will stick to my usual dealers in future. It’s not worth the risk.



There are two words I use! “Buyer beware”. If it’s too good to be true, then it isn’t what it is supposed to be!

One of my diamond setting clients is buying all of his diamonds direct from EBay.

I asked him what happens the the stones are not what they’re supposed to be. The answer is “tough luck” and either you keep them or return to the country of origin and pay your shipping costs!

I buy all of my gemstones in person & forget the online drek!


Gerry, On my iPhone!

Hi Helen,

Sorry to hear that. I silversmith in my spare time and get my stones (usually semi precious ones, like amethyst, malachite, rubylite, citrine, aquamarine from a supplier in Zambia). This is easier for me as they come based on personal recommendation and fly to London often. They also supply emeralds but I personally would not attempt to set such an expensive stone just yet but of course others may. I just don’t think I am at that level yet. They used to provide free samples but were soon conned by people ordering samples with no intention to ever buy them, so I feel there is a mismatch between buyers and sellers as scammers may be present in both camps. I am sorry to hear about your experience. If it helps I can find out what assurances they provide. To date I have not been sold anything that is not what it says it is on the tin and to be fair they keep their prices according to what they are selling. As everyone else has said if its too good to be true, it is usually just that.

I am sorry to hear about your experience.

Kindest wishes,


I understand the whole buyer beware and “if it sounds too good to be true…” concepts and have advised others on it myself. I do not feel duped as my expectations were very low due to the price. I just decided to take a risk as a one-off. I normally buy from dealers I know I can trust.

I was just annoyed at the unscrupulousness of it all. The woman was most put out at my message to her, and said that she is only a reseller who buys from “top dealers with certification”. I pointed out that her dealer is definitely NOT a top dealer and that the gems and certificates they are providing are fakes. I also pointed out that she has a responsibility to know what she is selling and whether or not it is genuine. There are too many of these charlatans out there preying on the unsuspecting public.




Not to defend these scum, but the question is if you can’t tell what type of stone it is, how can you dispute what they say it is? eBay Buyer Protection is pretty powerful but not all powerful. :stuck_out_tongue:

That is why I have invested in gemstone identification tools so I can verify what I purchase of gemstone sellers is what they say it is. Conductivity meters, refraction meters, chelsea filters, dichroscopes, specific gravity kit, etc. are all part of the diagnostic toolkit for identifying and verifying gemstones. :wink:

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Get to know your local rock and mineral club members. Some clubs also sponsor yearly shows where you can talk to the seller and look at what you buy before you buy it. Otherwise, it is “buyer be ware” until you have a good relationship with a supplier you can trust…Rob

…I have invested in gemstone identification tools so I can verify what I purchase of gemstone sellers is what they say it is. Conductivity meters, refraction meters, chelsea filters, dichroscopes, specific gravity kit, etc. …

If a person wants to do that, buy all that equipment and learn how to use it, that’s fine. It gives you more control. Not everyone wants to do that though.

I got a letter from Rio Grande once telling me that they were made aware that ‘high quality’ natural amethyst sold to them by a wholesaler turned out to be fake. They spread the word in the industry about that wholesaler, and Rio Grande gave me a full refund for the amethyst.

That is integrity!

While it might be nice to score a bargain, I consider myself well ahead trusting in Rio Grande. If their prices are somewhat higher than from no-name sellers so be it. The price includes their integrity as well as the gemstones. Of course I expect the same of Stuller, Stachura, and a few other established sellers.

Doing business with trusted sellers saves me from having to buy all that testing equipment, and that makes their prices are a bargain.

Just my 2 cents.

Neil A


I was just annoyed at the unscrupulousness of it all. …There are too many of these charlatans out there preying on the unsuspecting public.

Mayans used to value chocolate, so much that they bartered with cocoa beans. Charlatans would hollow out the beans and fill them with sand. Counterfeit cocoa beans!

Scrub jays bury seeds and nuts. Scrub jays watch where other scrub jays hide things so they can steal them. Knowing this, scrub jays who have been observed often come back and re-bury their seeds elsewhere.

Thievery is as old as time. Even birds have to deal with it! Its out here, not even just among humans, so just be watchful and don’t let it get you down.

Neil A
a fan of scrub jays :sunglasses:


If its dodgy deals and fakes you want, head to the source of the stones. From Madagascar to Columbia, the closer you get to the mine head the more predatory it gets, Speaking of Mayans, the trickery persists - I spent a lot of time in Chiapas (Mexico) buying amber and you would see carved steering wheel sold as black coral. Phenolic resins being more hard there to come by than amber, the substance itself was usually real, but specimens containing insects sold at a premium; they’d heat a bicycle spoke or such, make a tube in the amber, push in an ant or bug, then seal it back up,

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if its too good to be true then is always is. If its a pricy gem never risk it unless you can view them in person

I am forever warning my students about this. It is RIFE online.

Personally I always order my stones from only 2-3 reputable long established dealers who have given me reason to believe they actually care where they are sourced and cut AND will always take a stone back if I am not happy with them.

For me it is very important to know as best as possible where and how the stone has been mined.

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“Gemstone Fraud” has been brought about by a total lack of education by the jewelry trade and schools and courses. Jewelry artists do not receive any gemology training at their schools. We brought for many years courses and syllabus for “Jewelry Artist” courses as gemologists but were rebuffed by them . It is no wonder these students then buy based solely on price points and whatever anyone tells them it is . Coral is sold as real but is dyed bamboo coral, chrysocolla as well as peruvian blue opal and azurite malachite is often a dyed stone or stabilized with opticon glue so it can be cut as is turquoise etc . There are practical ways and tests to tell. Being miners and cutters out of Peru we encourage people to buy directly and not on price points . Peruvian blue opal is not a " cheap stone" There is very little if any production and one pays for quality . Only 5-10% plus of all mine production is premium -superior grade quality and thus a higher price .

In trying to deal with overseas fraud we suggested to the ministry of mines of zambia , eithiopia, malawi , kenya etc that all licensed gem dealers ( since anyone can get a gemstone dealers license for sales and export) must pass our syllabus for basic and advanced gemology courses in order to be licensed . Fees to teach such for transportation, lodging , etc would be born via increased licensing fees or dealers in africa in order to gain licensing . Our proposals were nixed because o the vast amounts of corruption involved in african governments not to legitimize and protect buyers buying in these countries . As an example a government mineralogist can arrest one for fraud in zambia and hand the person over to the Lusaka police. However, due to corruption fraud artists pay the police off from their ill gotton gains while the Ministry of Mines reuses to intercede and support the law and to protect buyers of gemstones . If your defrauded good luck having any police, ministry of mines official or embassy in the USA etc address your problem or do a thing about such fraud . Then you have to hire a lawyer in that country and worry if that lawyer is in fact corrupt or will sell your case out .

It is why all jewelry schools and courses must require that all students take courses in gemology. Ignorance of what you buy is no excuse for fraud if one is educated . We require no less regarding education for licensing of out real estate agents , attendant care workers . etc.

Trust no one at a show unless they are trained in gemology . Not only have webeen trained but we mine and cut our own gemstone materials besides being exporters of rough in Peru and Africa . As my wife Nyakiringa a well known former gem dealer from Kenya would tell you do not pay first for goods until you see and test them. To do business overseas you have to be there to see and testyoiur goods . There is way to much fraud via bait and switch of pictures , photo shopped or coor altered pictures , etc on the net along wit poor identification of goods and altered goods or treated goods . Education should be a requirement in gemstones for all designers and manufacturers .

Lee Horowitz, M.Ed, CAGS , Gemologist


Peru Blue Opal Ltd


Hi Lee Horowitz

Your email was a “breath of fresh air”, as I relish the idea of having jewellery schools (everywhere) teach their students on what to buy, where to buy and of course how to buy!!! But alas this won’t happen, why? Sadly, not all of the teachers even know how to answer the above-mentioned questions “what, where and how”…;>(

I am also a goldsmith and also do cabochão and facets degree cuts in Brazilian natural gems. I agree with you on both sides of the coin, we have honest people and also dishonest people. Regardless of whether you are a buyer or a seller, everything is in people’s character.


Carlos Peixoto.

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It really makes me sad that you got cheated. Sincere apologies on behalf of my country. I know that feeling. Even I got cheated many a times before I moved to the UK. But now have learned to filter sellers and successfully narrowed on one vendor who just stays next to my house in India. Did not know all these years:) .How convenient. He shows gemstones and tells about the quality. And he also says original and natural are very expensive and if I can afford that price he can get it.

Kerry Gregory of Gemmology Rocks has created a course for jewellers for this exact reason. It is really fantastic and I can wholeheartedly recommend it so much I am telling everyone I know. Gemmology is such a huge field and students must learn that they are responsible for what terminology they use as well as selling on product that matches description that they use to sell to end customers. Here is a link.

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