Gemstones: Drawing the line

I slowly adding more gemstones to my work. I am particularly
intrigued with the colored diamonds that Rio offers (they are
irradiated and heat treated.) I fabricate mixed metal jewelry and my
price points have yet to reach 4 figures.

My question is sort of hard to explain. What I want to know is at
what point do you decide you won’t set a stone because it is not
“real” enough? And why?

I use fresh water pearls, untreated, bleached, dyed, irradiated
without a thought given as all this seems with in the “normal range”
of treatments for fresh water pearls.

I have set lab grown Padparadscha sapphires, (love the color!) but I
get a little defensive about it…while they are sapphires, Mom
Nature didn’t make them. So are they real?

I won’t set CZ’s or Mossanite as they aren’t real. But are these
treated diamonds real enough?

I’d love to hear how others make the decision on what gemstones they
will set and which they won’t set and why.

I’m not sure about my personal whys. Would you all mind sharing your
reasons to set or not set a stone?


I just had a debate with an ebay seller regarding a similar

I thought I was bidding on a (and I quote the listing) “Genuine
loose 10 mm Alexandrite gemstone Emerald Cut”. Nowhere in the
description did the seller mention it was created in a lab. And
“genuine” in this case, was synthetic! In my opinion this is in no
way, by any stretch of the imagination or definition a Real
Alexandrite! Ebay agreed with me and banned the seller from calling
their lab created and synthetic stones “Genuine”. If its mined from
the earth or harvested from the sea, or falls from an astronomic
source and is then fashioned into a cut stone then it deserves the
distinction of being called 'real" or genuine, or authentic.

But your question seems more towards the aesthetics of a stone:If
you like it, want to use it and can’t get the colour, cut or type of
stone it’s created after, or afford the natural material then the
choice is entirely yours. Marketing it is where ethical details
enter into the picture.

Most consumers want coloured stones and don’t care what it is, as
long as it is within their price tier, and they are not decieved. So
have different price tiers for different target markets.However I
believe it is ethical, and essential to specify, when creating high
karat, custom art jewelry that the stone(s) are in fact genuine,
lab-created, synthetic, or imitation ( yag/glass).Equally I believe
the jeweler is responsible to correctly identify opals and other
assembled materials as doublets, triplets, or soudee respectively in
no way creating an aire of deception… I have questions about
representing rose cut diamonds as faceted my opinion they
are more akin to industrial grade diamond.If I take a carat of
industrial diamond and bond it together with adhesives, resins,heat
and pressure or any other material and then incorporate it into a
workpiece it is then a misrepresentation to call it diamond jewelry
in my opinion…

The FTC has specific details on selling or representing stones used
in the manufacture of jewelry for resale. There are also a number of
Industry related organizations that offer guidelines to gemstone
classifications. I don’t believe one should list a lab-created
sapphire,or any precious gemstone as genuine, regardless of the
methods imitation of the natural processes- inclusions and all- that
a lab used in its manufacture. If it comes from the earth and is
subsequently faceted or cabbed from natural rough, or set in its
rough state then it is in fact real. Just as one would not represent
plated or gold filled material as karat gold, neither should stones
be misrepresented. Solid marketing ethics call on each artisan to
represent his/her work for what it is…An emerging “green” marketing
trend is anti-minning, pro non-precious metals and pro lab or
synthetic stones ; the line of thought being its better for the
environment, and the target market being the 18-25 age group with
less money to invest in art pieces or collectible jewelery and
collective conciousness that buys into the psuedo-politically
correct “alternative adornment materials” trend over open pit and
strip mining, the international gold and diamond trades and
implanting oysters in large and small scale aquaculture of pearl
materials. In actuality its all just plain marketing and economics
and demand driven . So use what you like and let it be driven by your
own design standards and the target markets that you want to cater
to…whatever anyone else thinks about your work should be taken with
the proverbial grain-of-salt, or two…

Hi Carla,

Excluding diamonds, I cut or carve all my own gemstones for my
jewellery. And I always have had this ‘purist’ view, namely that if
it is not natural, it is not in my work.

But, as new products and stones are developed, I am less and less

Beryllium coloured sapphires are very pretty. And I use ones that
were not cut by me. I will also use coloured diamonds. And while I
have cut lab grown corundum, strontium titanite, and coloured CZ for
my own pleasure, they simply don’t go into 18ct gold well. Lowering
the tone of the neighborhood, so to speak.

Its very difficult, because a well cut coloured CZ is a very
beautiful stone. Or lab grown beryl, corundum and spinels. And Chatam
recreated emeralds are perfect lovely and perfectly expensive. And I
could see myself make something very pretty with them. But to sell it
to the public in my shop just doesn’t gell.

And the price can become an issue as well.

At, rough Paraiba coloured beryl costs
$7.50/ carat. ( no disrespect meant, they supply a good product) That
puts your polished price at around $30.00/carat.(more or less) Then a
300% markup puts it at around $100/carat. Times that with a ten carat
stone, and you have a questioning customer, wanting to know why a
‘man made’ stone is so expensive. Irrespective of beauty.

I would very much like to know how to be able to sell high end
jewellery with man made or synthetic stones in it for the beauty
only. But when someone is about to shell out 5K for a piece of
jewellery, they want the natural stuff. (Sigh)

Cheers, Hans Meevis


Your decision to not set certain types of stones needs no defense.
It’s simply a matter of choice, and certainly your right. But your
motives are unclear and may cause lost income.

I cut stones for a living, both natural and synthetic. There is a
legitimate market for both. Today, I am finishing a color change YAG
that looks similar to Tanzanite, It’s a 12 x 10 mm oval in a fancy
design that shows no “bow tie”…bright throughout. It is going to a
jewler in dallas and cahrge $200 for the stone…he is charging his
customer $500 plus setting fees. Happens every day.

Many years ago, I refused to cut synthetics. I turned away a lot of
business. Now, I seek that business and it comes to ma…and my
bank account.

I am not the arbiter of what is “correct” to set or wear, my
customers decide that and always will. My job is to practice my
craft with skill and integrity…and full disclosure.

Just as many women dye their hair and apply their make-up “mask”
(Oh, I wouldn’t be caught dead without make-up!", says my daughter,
the costume jewelery and synthetic market is alive, well, and
growing by leaps and bounds.

Yes, I’ve even cut a couple of Coke bottle bottoms into "stones"
that are proudly worn by their recipients. I am told they are
excellent for conversation at the black-tie cocktail parties
attended by the Washington socialites who wear them. Yep.

Wayne Emery, just give me the money

Dear Carla,

Real vs Not real, a lovely physics question, and a favorite of mine.
Perhaps you are more concerned with authenticity rather than

Lab grown padparaschas are authentic corundum, however, their
provenance is not from Nature. Maybe this is why you are comfortable
setting these stones.

Maybe the irradiated diamonds come a little too close to
"Tumbled-and-Dyed-Hot-Pink-Agate-from-the-Rock-Shop" for you.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself when you are creating:
“Is it pretty?” “Does its vibe fit what I’m trying to accomplish
with this piece?” Don’t deny yourself something that could add just
the right amount of unexpected ‘snap’ to your art.

Sometimes a fun exercise is to buy a stone you don’t like and make
something cool with it.

Just be careful about setting something off-limits because it
doesn’t fit “natural” criteria; you could end up eating your own
words one day!

Susannah Page-Garcia
Moonshine Metal Creations

What I want to know is at what point do you decide you won't set a
stone because it is not "real" enough? And why? 

Carla, you seem to understand that there is no answer to this
-everybody will be different. For myself, there are really two
factors - beauty and the marketplace. Treated, enhanced and created
stones almost always look like it. They tend to be too uniform,
“crayon colors”. Padparasha is a perfect example - you might think a
synthetic is great until you see a real one - only “Mom Nature”
(cute!) can do that. The marketplace depends on where you fit into
Again, for myself, nobody’s going to buy a treated diamond from me -
they won’t even put it in a showcase. I’m not going to try to
analyse, chastise or micromanage people’s tastes - they just don’t
want synthetics for whatever their reasoning, mostly. Neither would
and that mostly boils down to beauty, and also having something
“natural”. I’d almost say there is no line, but there actually is -
natural and manmade or tinkered with so much it might as well be -
i.e. irradiated diamonds. And it’s not snobbery, either. I’ll do
anything if someone wants it, it’s that they don’t want it, around

I do not use synthetic or simulated stones in my work the only
exception being lab created Alexandrites.

I have no problem with enhanced stones, provided the enhancement is
customary for that particular stone, such as irradiated topaz.
However, I will not use anything that is dyed, including dyed pearls,
although I will admit that some of the dyed pearls have been used
effectively by some jewelers.

I purchase my stones only from reputable dealers who give a complete
description of the type of treatment or enhancement given to the
stones they sell,…

Why do I eschew gemstones that are not natural? Simply my own
personal bias. Somehow I feel that as I have put a lot of time and
effort into creating a piece of jewelry, it deserves a genuine stone.
Again, my own personal preference. The stone does not have to be
expensive, In fact, very often an interesting but very inexpensive
stone will be just the one that suits the piece I have made. But,
whatever I use I do want it to be natural.


My question is sort of hard to explain. What I want to know is at
what point do you decide you won't set a stone because it is not
"real" enough? And why? 

I have different standards for the various areas of work I do. I do
have one hard and fast rule though, I won’t work with 10 karat gold
and I state that to anyone who asks although I get few inquiries.
For my own art work, that work which I make because I want to, I opt
for 18karat gold or sterling silver, Argentium or platinum. I will
use the best turquoise I can get, lately Bisbee. But I find I will
use heat treated sapphires or Zachariah treated turquoise but both
have to be high quality of those catagories. I do this because I want
to be remembered for using quality materials which have intrinsic
value after I’m gone. For commission work I will use what ever the
client wants even irradiated topaz ( which I also put n my wholesale
line) and 14 karat gold. I have the freedom to use what I would want
my family or myself to wear in my art work but, commissions I am at
the mercy of the client for choice of materials and I will do the
best I can to make what they want with in my own design guidelines. I
don’t try to be everything to everyone, I have narrowed my working
parameters somewhat over the years to those things I can do well and
leave the experimenting to my art work.

Sam Patania, Tucson

I think this is a matter of personal choice more than actual value
of the gems. I’ll set just about anything that a customer brings me
if they’re willing to pay for it (and this is critical because most
of the time if the stone isn’t worth much they don’t want to pay my
prices to set it). In my own stuff I stick to any natural (treated
and untreated) stone that I like, but that could vary from a $20
pearl to a $10,000 sapphire depending on what I’m doing. However what
I won’t do anymore is set a low quality stone into my stuff, so if
it’s a $20 pearl it better be a really nice $20 pearl.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
1780 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140

Thank you all for you well-considered responses. They are very

Telling customers what the stones are, real, lab-grown, treated etc.
is a given. Of course, I do. Usually very early in our discussion. I
appreciate your story on this R.E. (Tho how to do this and increase
the marketing of this disclosure is a toughy…I like the “green”
jewelry approach.)

I think my problem is that I am moving my jewelry up a price notch
and must slowly bring a loyal and well-buying clientele with me. So
while I may prefer a natural-real padparadscha sapphire to a lab
grown one, my work & clients can’t support that much of a price
jump. Most of what I make is not commission work, but stock to go in
my case at shows. So I don’t have the luxury of asking my customers
how much they want to pay for a stone. I must guess.

For me, I think I will use as few man-made stones as possible
(probably just that pad sapphire…I like its color crayon eye
pop). The treated stones I will stick to heat & irradiated. As my
price points move up, I will slowly add in more expensive
stones-bigger diamonds.

Thank you so much. It is wonderful to hear your input from so many
different points of views. It clears up my own thinking.



If you’ll set a lab-grown sapphire (not a natural gemstone) why not
a lab-grown mossanite? Mossanite is a naturally occurring crystal.
It’s just that naturally occurring mossanite crystals are rarely
enough or pretty enough for anyone to want them faceted.

It’s not a matter of excluding certain gemstones because of their
origin or treatment, the line you shouldn’t cross is not disclosing
those origins or treatments to the customer.

Personally, I don’t like setting anything that is too fragile or
brittle, like apatite. It’s pretty and a natural gemstone but setting
it gives me a heart attack.

Nanz Aalund
Associate Editor / Art Jewelry magazine
21027 Crossroads Circle / Waukesha WI 53187-1612
262.796.8776 ext. 228

Hi Carla

I won't set CZ's or Mossanite as they aren't real. 

I’m not a stone setter, and probably won’t be, just through choice,
but I am always curious about what people like and don’t like.

When my husband asked me to design a ring for him to give to me I
designed a wide white gold band and had it set with a row of
graduated rectangle shaped amethysts and CZ. I chose the CZ because I
wanted them instead of diamonds and the size I wanted would have made
the ring more expensive than we could afford. I know they are not
“real” gems, but I love my ring and have had many compliments on it.

My question to you is… would you turn down a good sale because you
don’t like the gems/stones that a customer wanted? I applaud your
standards, but wonder if you would be limiting your sales. Perhaps
on the other hand, you do have enough business that this wouldn’t be
an issue. If so… good for you and stick by your standards.

This is just my own opinion and I am not even close to being a
proper jeweler… yet.



"Genuine loose 10 mm Alexandrite gemstone Emerald Cut". Nowhere in
the description did the seller mention it was created in a lab. And
"genuine" in this case, was synthetic! In my opinion this is in no
way, by any stretch of the imagination or definition a Real

I was curious, so I looked at a few examples of genuine Alexandrite
vs created. The price differences are pretty huge. I’m not
understanding how you got duped. If it’s a really low price on a
stone and it looks like the perfect deal, chances are pretty good
that someone is faking you out right?

Why do so many people go after the Ebay transaction? It seems to
take a lot of time and (from what people have said here) is pretty

The company I looked at didn’t have an Alexandrite as big as 10mm.
Judging from the prices, there may not be much call for an
Alexandrite that size? However, I noticed that, when you do buy a
large Alexandrite from them, it comes with a certification. This
provides me with a lot more peace of mind than an Ebay auction.

I know some of you sell on Ebay and I mean no disrespect at all, but
it just seems safer to me to buy from a company like Stuller or even
Rio. At least I would know for sure what I was receiving.

To take it a little further, what do you guys say to the customer if
they ever ask about the original source of their stone? I think I
would rather say “I buy my stones from various places, but this
stone in particular came from a company with a long-standing
reputation for quality and, as a matter of fact, is accompanied by
this certification” than “Oh, I buy them on Ebay”

Now, in the cases where someone has already established a
relationship with you, you have had dealings with the seller in the
past, you are referred to the seller by another person, or other
situations that would give a little peace of mind…these things I
can understand. However, just logging on and bidding on something
that (according to my catalog) retails for thousands of dollars and
you don’t know the seller from Adam?

Ok, my crystal ball is now screaming for me to go hide from the
impending firestorm

There’s a role for every stone. Or else they wouldn’t be marketed.

One should have a policy based upon economic reality, as it exists
in your target market. And how that relates to what you do, or aim to
do. If your customers demand a pearl necklace at a low price point
that kinda dictates that you use bleached or dyed or whatever. If
your customers are ready to pay thousands then you have to offer them
Akoyas or South Seas, or gasp Orientals (in my dreams!)

Some people feel insulted if you offer less than what they demand.
This creates a situation for the jeweler. You only have $X available
for inventory. If you opt for spreading out your inventory dollars
you may not have the higher priced piece your customer is looking
for. If you opt for strict adherence to a high quality/price you may
not be able to offer enough choice. So clearly the middle ground is
something to consider carefully.

Now as for my preferences, for my own ego soothing, while I will do
almost anything someone is willing to pay for, I like the stones to
come up to par with the work. And vice versa. Thankfully most of my
clients want genuine and are willing to pay within reason. This
allows me to make some good money on the materials.

There is a reason you don’t often see expensive stones set in
inexpensive mountings. They do exist ofcourse but the imbalance is
usually glaring.

If you have a choice of selling a $5 genuine or a $500 psuedo, which
would you choose?

As far as treatments go, as long as they are of accepted trade
practice and disclosed, I have no problem. As long as it fits the


If you like the padparascha color, you might try exploring
andesine-labradorite. It’s a natural gemstone, and can be found on

This stone has several ranges of the color orange, and is very
reasonably priced. I found it today by accident, and I thought I’d
pass it on to you.

I’ve done lots of business with multicolour, and I can vouch for
their reliability and integrity. They’re great guys, I get a card
every Christmas from them.

I hope this helps,
Susannah Page-Garcia
Moonshine Metal Creations

The company I looked at didn't have an Alexandrite as big as 10mm.
Judging from the prices, there may not be much call for an
Alexandrite that size? 

The last time I had a call for a large alex, they were, of course,
dreamers. It’s not that they don’t have a call for them, it’s that
they don’t exist. I’m not speaking “authoritatively” - I have a
little knowledge of them, not a lot of it. It’s pretty much THE
gemstone - that could be debated endlessly, of course (truly red
diamonds?). I’ve asked high-end dealers about it, and first they
laugh, and then they say it’ll take a year to find, and then to just
open up the checkbook and dump out it’s contents. And that’s also the
reason for the big push to get good synthetics - it’s synthetic or
nothing, mostly. As for ebay - I’ve looked at the jewelry section now
and again, and it’s awful sorry. There’s little of use there, really.
There’s so much dyed or outright fake jade that it’s a disgrace,
probably more than 50% of dealers of any gemstones are either
misleading or outright lying about their products. There’s more
promise in finished goods, yes. But I think of it more as a “Home
Shopping Network” than a real gem marketplace.

Addition: I went to Christie’s and Sotheby’s and searched for
Alexandrite, and found 2 pieces. One was a 4.47 ct. loose pear shape
that was really ugly - estimate 4-$6,000. The other was a very pretty
2.86 ct. surrounded by diamonds in a ring, est. 13,000-20,000 chf.
20,000 swiss francs = $16,531.

No firestorm Kim. I (obviously) agree with what you’re saying. I, as
do a few on the list, cut stones for jewelers and individuals. I’m
not cheap, but you get what you pay for and if it’s synthetic you’ll
know it. This sounds like an obvious dupe but how could anyone ‘in
the trade’ fall for it??



The company I looked at didn't have an Alexandrite as big as 10mm.
Judging from the prices, there may not be much call for an
Alexandrite that size? However, I noticed that, when you do buy a
large Alexandrite from them, it comes with a certification. Ok, my
crystal ball is now screaming for me to go hide from the impending

Not all certifications are equal. It is generally accepted in the
diamond market place that a certificate from the GIA is the most
accurate and that certs from other labs, such as EGL or IGL tend to
be somewhat generous in their descriptions of stones. Anyone can open
a lab and certify stones. Caveat emptor.

Joel Schwalb

If you like the padparascha color, you might try exploring
andesine-labradorite. It's a natural gemstone, and can be found on 

Andesine cannot be compared in color, brightness, and most
especially durability to padparascha sapphire. I think it would be
hard to sell. The difference in price for andesine compared to
synthetic corundum makes andesine too expensive for most people as
andesine is more of a gem for a collector, not for the average

Richard Hart


Not all certifications are equal. It is generally accepted in the
diamond market place that a certificate from the GIA is the most
accurate and that certs from other labs, such as EGL or IGL tend
to be somewhat generous in their descriptions of stones. Anyone can
open a lab and certify stones. Caveat emptor. 

I agree with you completely. Caveat emptor is kind of what I was
trying to come around to.

I looked again at my example company. Large diamonds are certified
through various independent labs, IGL, EGL, GIA etc. Here is the
part that makes me rest easier though. If you feel that what you
receive is not what you wanted, you can exchange or return within 30
days. Further, if, at any point in the future, the diamond is graded
again and disputed, you receive exchange, refund, or price
adjustment. Peace of mind for the retailer (any one of us) translates
into peace of mind for the client.

I’m saying that you can better sell that which you have complete
confidence in. Everyone on the forum knows that, when it comes to
business, I’m not even out of the gate yet. You guys have loads more
experience. That’s just a given, but in Nov., when I did my first
small show, I came to an understanding, an epiphany. Now, I sell
beaded stuff. The highest price tag is 225 dollars, so people buy a
lot on whim. That’s ok. A customer asked me about a particular bead
in a particular piece and I heard myself flubbing "oh, when I bought
those beads, they were represented to me as (whatever they were) so,
I’m representing them to you as (whatever they were). What kind of
silliness is that? I was not sure of what I was selling. I was not
confident. Confident buying trickles down to confident selling and
now I know, that’s what I need.

So, if I have established a relationship with someone by buying
small quantities over time and I am happy and the customers are
happy, then I might take more risk. If it’s a large company like Rio
or Stuller (which, by the way, most of you rave about) then I will
take a risk. Doing anything less is shooting myself in the foot
because when the moment comes that the customer asks me to explain
myself and my process, I will flub.

There is the issue (which I can’t speak of out of lack of
experience) of accurately representing what you are selling and how
can you do that when you are taking such risks? You guys can dicker
on that if you want to (and I will read and try to absorb every

Obviously, this is just my opinion. If you don’t have enough
about the seller (from whatever source you have) then
bidding high money on internet auctions is like putting your money on
the wheel in Vegas and spinning…which looks actually like a lot of
fun, but that doesn’t mean I do it.

Once again, I know there are extremely talented and reputable people
on the list who sell their things at auction. I’m not meaning to
target anyone and I apologize if I offend.