Friday, September 10, 2010

How To Buy Stones At A Gem Show

Blue sapphire, white topaz, and 14K white palladium gold stacking rings. Rings & photo by Emily Wiser.

just got back from the San Mateo International Gem & Jewelry Show. It was really crazy. Not a lot of professional buyers there, not even in the wholesale section. In the wholesale section, there were a good number of women from bead shops buying briolettes and a lot of rather silly women holding the temporary strung beads up to their necks and saying, "Does this fit?" I must admit they were beautiful stones, and I was tempted to do so myself!

At this gem show, there were a lot of fakes mixed in with the real stuff, and a lot of bad stuff mixed in with the good stuff. How can you tell the real from the fake, and the good from the bad? (Subscribe to my newsletter to get more tips like this. My next issue will tell you how to buy pearls at a gem show!)

Emily's Tips For Buying Stones at a Gem Show
1. Set your spending limit before you go! This is very important!

2. Bring your sales tax number or sales tax certificate with you. If you don't have a sales tax number, you can still buy in the retail section of the show.

3. Bring a 10x jeweler's loupe. This is absolutely necessary. Otherwise, you will not be able to tell real from fake gems. I brought 2 loupes: my 10x and my 20x. Look through your 10x first, and then if you see something interesting, you can use the 20x to see more detail.

4. Bring a piece of white paper to hold stones against. You can use your white business card. I simply used an envelope that held my sales tax certificate.

5. Shop at well-lit booths. Surprisingly, there were quite a few booths that were badly lit. It becomes very difficult to see the stones' colors and flaws clearly without good light.

6. It's better to buy fewer stones of a higher quality then more stones of a lesser quality. This is just my preference. I think it's best to be happy with your purchase.

7. Ask the salesperson a question to which you already know the answer. It helps to gauge whether s/he's truthful.

8. Bring a price guide with you. You can use your smart phone or just bring a wholesale catalog. It's difficult to keep the prices of all the different stones in your head.

9. If you see dyed or fake stones being sold at a booth, skip the whole booth. Don't shop there at all. You know you can't trust them.

10. Do not pull out the bead strands. You might have to buy it if you do.

11. Ask them if they will give you a discount. Often, the price marked on the strand is not the price they sell it at.

12. Look through your 10x jeweler's loupe for scratches at the facet joints of the stone. If there are scratches, chances are good it's glass.

Do you want to know how to tell real from fake pearls? Subscribe to my newsletter!


  1. This is wonderful information. I wish I had had it when I started going to gem and bead shows. I had to learn the hard way by trial and error. I am off to one tomorrow and have yet to master the art of setting my spending limit beforehand and sticking to it. Thanks!

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