Get an Appraisal Before You Buy

If you are making a major purchase and you feel unsure, you may want to have a gemstone independently appraised to double-check that it is as represented. An appraisal is an estimate of a gemstone’s value by a third party. But ask yourself: why are you buying from a store that you don’t trust? Maybe the answer is to go to a well-established jeweler who will be there if you have any problem. Most of the problems consumers have with fine jewelry or gemstone purchases are a result of trying to get something for less than it is worth. This is particularly true with purchases made on vacation, “at the mine,” or “on the border.” Would you buy on the street in New York City? Buying on the street in Rangoon (Yangon) will probably have the same result.

In some cases, an appraisal is helpful in building your confidence in the buying decision. It can also be helpful if you are considering selling an item or want to insure your jewelry. However, be aware that the appraisal industry is not regulated, so the appraiser is just giving you an opinion about value which may or may not be correct. Some appraisers are very skilled and reputable but, because anyone can call themselves an appraiser, some unfortunately are not. Exercise extreme caution with appraisers who have a commercial interest in the value they assign to the piece.

A Certificate is not a Guarantee

In some countries, in particular Japan, all gemstones are sold with a laboratory certificate. A certificate or identification report confirms the gemstone variety and natural origin of the stones. In some countries, a certificate may also include information about where the gemstone was mined, based on a study of its inclusions. But although certificates from a major laboratory provide support for your purchase, in many countries, including the United States, there is no official regulation of who can offer a certificate. Some certificates are reliable and some are just fancy letterhead with the signature of some unknown person. Even certificates from reputable labs can be forged. Certificates are a common feature to gemstone investment scams, especially common in sales pitches over the telephone or, increasingly, on the Internet, so be careful about accepting them as some kind of guarantee. Never buy a gemstone in a sealed package and never buy a gemstone by cert alone, over the telephone, as an investment. Gemstones are not a liquid investment and you should be very wary of anyone who sells them as if they were a security. Offers to repurchase the portfolio whenever you want to sell will not do you much good if the firm has disappeared.

So buy a beautiful gemstone, do not buy a piece of paper. Gemstones do store wealth and are an excellent way to pass down something fine and valuable to the next generation, but do not think of them as an investment for the future: enjoy them today as well!