Once upon a time in the not so distant past, real stone jewelry of wide variety was quite commonly found in jewelry and general fashion stores. It’s not so simple anymore. If you’re looking for one of the popular precious six (diamond, ruby, sapphire, emerald, pearl, or opal), you’ll have little trouble finding them at almost any jewelry store or jewelry section of department stores, along with a few other precious and some of the more well-known semi-precious gems. However, if you’re looking for the not so common, unique, one-of-a-kind, something you can call exclusively your own, stone jewelry piece; you won’t likely find it at the popular shopping places.
Why is that? Just remember this: the popular sell popular and the unique sell unique. It really is about as simple as that. Specifically, you might need to leave the comfort zone of the large well known retailer to go out and discover something refreshing and new at a smaller, individual or family operated, specialty store. If you prefer to search in brick and mortar stores, you should probably consider tourist area shops, rock shops, crystal shops, silver shops, and sometimes antique, art, or handmade craft stores. However, for a more convenient and personal adventure in finding truly unique/one-of-a-kind, artistically created stone jewelry pieces, online is usually best. Search for such items under individual jewelers, gem artists, store brands and at marketplaces (Etsy, Bonanza, and Ebay, etc.).
So why do I suggest online? Simply because that is where many jewelers and gem artists post their creations directly and because a much wider variety of precious and semi-precious stone jewelry can be found there than at any individual brick and mortar store (including department and jewelry stores). Searching and shopping online is much like browsing through a series of jewelry galleries and finding not only stone varieties and jewelry pieces you might like, but also artists and artistic styles you like where you can easily return again for more pieces that fit your style. Along the street location stores are not typically like that. Styles and trends come and go, your favorite gems may no longer be available, and returning to them doesn’t guarantee that you will find more pieces that fit your style or pieces from the same or even similar jewelers or artists.
Another good reason is that online sellers, by gem descriptions, tell you directly what you are getting. If they are selling a real stone piece, they tell you. If it is glass or some artificial material, they’ll tell you that as well, at least to their extent of knowledge. They don’t dare intentionally mislead simply because they don’t want to deal with the hassle of returns or get bad reviews. To be honest, I have seen some few jewelry items online that are not what they are said to be, but most of these have been honest mistakes. All sellers are not experts, and buyers must be aware that some sellers don’t know. Since ultimately it is the buyer’s responsibility to make sure they are buying what they want, the question arises – how do you know?
Unfortunately, we can all be fooled by imitations, but some research, experience, and awareness can greatly reduce mistaken identity. A few simple guidelines can be helpful.
#1 – Natural looks natural and artificial looks artificial.
This is typically true. Although some enhancements and created materials are made to closely imitate stones, many are not, but are rather made to appeal to glamour or bring attention to the wearer. If it is too bright, color saturated, excessively sparkling (especially in bright or variable colors), etc. it probably isn’t natural or real. Or, if it is a natural stone, it has probably been artificially enhanced.
#2 - Do a little research
Sometimes real stone names are added to synthetic or artificial material names or terms for marketing or commercial purposes in order to increase sales or popularity. Don’t assume that because a real stone name is part of the name of some material; that the material is a real or natural stone as well. “Goldstone” for example is not a stone at all, but a manufactured glass. A few searches and reading on the internet will usually reveal what a name really is and whether it is natural/real stone or artificial.
#3 – The name is not enough
I once observed a woman walking with a few friends telling them about her beautiful Malachite pendant. Problem was, I could tell, even at a distance, that it wasn’t Malachite at all, just a medium green something, probably glass. I wondered how she could mistake it for the real stone, but then realized that the Malachite name is also, and often, used to describe a green color as well. And Malachite is not alone. Many stone/gem names are used in this same way to describe many colors. This practice is quite common in fashion and costume jewelry stores for colored glass and created crystal. Some familiar stone names used as colors include Amethyst (purple), Citrine (yellow/orange), Jade (green), Sapphire (blue), and Ruby (red). These names are often used in cosmetics as well. Make sure you know what the real stone looks like before you go shopping for it.
#4 – Finally Familiarize Yourself
How can you know the real from imitations and artificial stones? A simplest secret is to get out there and look around. Go to specialty stores at both extremes. Visit rock shops, silver shops, crystal shops, etc. Then look into costume, fashion, and cosmetic jewelry stores. Compare between both obvious and subtle differences in the real vs artificial. Experience is a wonderful teacher, and as you begin to familiarize yourself, you’ll soon see. I could explain in more detail, but this article has come to its end, so I’ll leave the explaining for another day, another article, maybe the next one.
* Find natural semi-precious stone pendants at jemelww.com
Copyright 2016 Steven A. Barben
Pough, Frederick. 1983. Peterson Field Guides: A Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals.
Houghton Mifflin Co.
Mottana, Annibale; Crespi, Rodolfo; and Liborio, Giuseppe. 1978. Simon & Shuster’s Guide to Rocks and Minerals. Simon & Shuster Inc.
Note: Minor sources may include, but are not limited to a variety of printed and online sources as well as observation and experience.
Steven A. Barben shares stories from his book - Wisdom's Way: Tales, Treasures, Truths in "Wisdom in Story;" provides stone information and tales that typify emotions, moods, and personality or character symbols of various stones in "Wonder in Stone;" and clears confusion, raises awareness, and opens stone, gem and jewelry understanding in "Stone Truth."
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