The Joys of Gem Collecting...

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I have collected rough gemstones for most of my life. For most of my early adulthood I wore mostly silver jewellery with black onyx or garnets, but collected loose tumbled gemstones of all types, precious as well as semi-precious. I even thought about writing to NASA to get a piece of moon rock. More recently I have started wearing yellow or white gold rings with gems of all types, having found various price-drop TV channels which sell precious jewellery at low prices. This guide will give jewellery / gem collectors an idea of good buys and some of the pitfalls of buying jewellery from TV channels as well as from jeweller shops.

My passion for gemstones began in childhood, when my parents bought a large world atlas from the Readers' Digest. There was a lavishly-illustrated double page spread of ordinary rocks, semi-precious stones and precious jewels, in their rough and cut/polished state. When I saw those pictures it gave me a craving to touch the actual gems, rather than just looking at the pictures. The covetous magpie in my mind was suddenly awakened.

For anyone wishing to start adding stones such as rubies and emeralds to their jewellery collection, shopping on price-drop channels such as The Jewellery Channel (TJC) and Gems TV can be a great idea, as well as shopping for them on eBay. At certain hours of the day, they have "Under £50" hours, so that you can buy rings, earrings and pendants set with these gemstones, plus small diamonds, for prices as low as £39 or even £29. The carat weights are fairly modest at those prices, but there are no cubic zirconias to lessen the value, the stones are genuine. Quartz-family stones, such as amethyst and citrine, do come in larger carat weights at those prices, too. Always be careful about sizes, however. Make sure the presenter/salesperson has shown you the size of the piece by holding a ruler against it. Or if not, when you look at a pendant for example - is it bigger or smaller than the presenter's fingernail? If it's the same size or smaller, then the pendant is not very big. It may disappoint you when it is delivered. If they say the gemstone has an "asterism" or star effect, make sure it does have one when you get it home - test it by shining a torch on it. If it doesn't have an asterism, or if it is a "colour change" gem like alexandrite which has a very low colour change factor, you can return it within ten days for Gems TV, or within thirty days for TJC... but keep the tag on it if you think you might return it. The tags are designed to show tampering if people try to remove them, then put them back on.

QVC have a good range of jewellery most of the time, which can be found on their website when not featured on TV. You can save money by getting stones like tanzanite set into silver rather than white gold, and QVC have a whole range of ring sizes. You can also have fun reviewing the products and letting other buyers know what you think, using their customer review form.

Tanzanite is a good stone to have in your collection. In ten to twenty years' time, this gemstone will run out. It is said to be 1000 times more rare than diamonds, and can only be found in one mine at the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. The TV sales presenters always say that the darker blue examples are more precious than the lighter ones, but I like both. It is possible to buy cluster tanzanite rings with patterns of the light and dark blue, which looks wonderful.

Fire opal is a fantastic stone. The Brazilian example is not as deep in colour as the Mexican one, which is a deep fiery orange colour. As you stare into the Mexican fire opal, shades of smoky brown can be seen at the top, while the orange light seems to smoulder up from the lower facets like flames leaping up in a dark fireplace. When the sun shines on it, the blue of the sky reflects in the facets and behind that, deep fires of orange and yellow come to life, like shades of volcanic lava.

Two other highly-desirable gemstones are black star diopside and star sapphire, also star ruby. Star sapphires and rubies have exquisite six-pointed asterisms, whereas diopside has a four-pointed star. It is even possible to find star jelly opals, which are very rare. Those have a very high price tag.

The advent of price-drop jewellery channels has made high street jewellers more competitive. I have noticed that two local jewellers are now doing more silver gem-set jewellery, and one of them has a good range of second-hand jewellery at very reasonable prices... including prices like £39 or £35, even for diamond rings, up to a quarter of a carat. Young engaged couples would be amazed to see what beautiful diamond rings could be bought for under £50, if they seek out jewellers with a second hand section - leaving more money for things like a deposit on a house. Some jewellers will price a second-hand diamond ring fairly modestly simply because it is a cluster made of small diamonds - but  you still get a large area of sparkle, like a diamond mosaic or flower shape. Also 9ct rings are less pricey and more durable if you are wearing them all the time. It is great to see more jewellers introducing a middle and low-price range of products, so that more people can afford to have and hold delightful jewels such as rubies and diamonds.

Jewellery may not be as important as houses or cars, but it lifts your spirits. If you are on a long train journey and the only view outside is of rain and graffiti-scrawled railway bridges, you can look down at your rings and they sparkle back at you, giving you something better to look at, like the way the sun shines on the surface of water. It also gives you something interesting to pass on to younger family members, for them to wear or sell later on. It can be found in charity shops, too, as well as high-class jewellers... which means that every shopping trip can be a treasure hunt too. So get hunting, try it, buy it, love it... and if the novelty wears off - why not put it on eBay and see where it goes next....

 

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