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Missed opportunity: Gemmology stories from the frontlines

Buyer beware

Lead-glass filled rubies are a staple in many stores. Though most retailers offer full disclosure when the rubies used in their jewellery are lead-glass filled, this information is sometimes never fully communicated on the showroom floor. At a normal viewing distance, lead-glass filled rubies can look good. Under magnification, however, filling and gas bubbles are obvious, like they are in the photo to the left.

At first glance, you would not think online retailers could pull a fast one on unsuspecting consumers, but that’s not really the case. Most e-tailers have built their business based on providing as much information as possible. By creating pages and pages of information, it is quite easy for an online retailer to build legitimate content just by cutting and pasting. With the growth in the number of e-tailers, however, the online world has become highly competitive. The only way they are able to set themselves apart is by providing as much information as they can about the products they sell without putting the information in context. Consider the following.

Numerous large-scale e-commerce sites focus on loose diamonds and bridal jewellery, listing hundreds of stones within the same grading criteria. However, these online retailers fail to provide context as to why stones of similar quality can vary widely in price. This creates a false sense among consumers that all things being equal, legitimate deals are available online. Consumers don’t realize all grades are not equal and that within a certain grade, a wide range of possible scenarios exist. Some diamonds are at the upper end of a grade, while others are at the lower end—each stone’s price should reflect this range. And so perceived deals are only reflective of the sliding price scale that exists at the wholesale end. In other words, you get what you pay for.

gemmology-1Another area currently being exploited by a few online retailers is the use of appraisal reports as a selling tool. We witnessed this firsthand at our lab a few years back when a client came in to get an appraisal for a rare natural fancy-colour diamond he had purchased. Since the stone was very unique, we asked our client to leave it and the accompanying report with us for a day. With the stone and report on-hand, we reached out to a number of dealers throughout North America to get a sense of a reasonable wholesale price for the diamond. After collecting a number of quotes, we felt the stone’s uniqueness justified an additional premium of 10 per cent. We completed our report and provided the client a detailed appraisal.

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