Steve Duke Presents Tradio Gems: How to pick out Birthstones and colored Gemstones
(Excerpts from Tradio)

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Steve Duke:
Well, we’ve talked about diamonds for you for Christmas. We’ve talked about gold jewelry for Christmas. Another thing you’re going to see out there are gemstones.

Now, some of you people out there are addicted to some of these gemstone television stations. You’re up at 2:00 o’clock in the morning and you’ve just walked in the door. I can’t imagine where you’ve been. You’ve got a little buzz going on and here’s a guy saying “You know, this is a rare stone and it’s limited. They’ll never be mining these again because in Africa the rains are coming. The mines have collapsed.” That’s all baloney, okay? There’s as much tanzanite out there as you need. There are all kinds of rubies. There are all kinds of emeralds. There’s plenty of blue topaz and citrine and things like that.

We won’t go into where they all come from and we’re not going to go into the quality control too much with you, but the jewelers years and years ago got pretty clever and came up with what they call birthstones or gemstones to represent each particular month of the year. A lot of guys and a lot of women have gotten conned in this deal. “Well, I have to buy this particular birthstone” because that’s the month they were born in. No you don’t.

Believe it or not, some people who were born in different months really don’t like the color gemstone that they were born with and there’s no set rule that you have to buy them that particular gemstone. I have guys who come in and they’ll say “You know, I was born in July and my birthstone is a ruby. I hate ruby, man. I wish I was born in September because that’s sapphire. I like blue. I don’t like red.” So if you’re going to buy a birthstone ring for a person or a birthstone piece of jewelry, find out for sure if they really like that color.

A lot of times people will come in and they’ll say “I don’t know what the heck to get her.” My girls will say “Well, what month was she born in?” They’ll tell her and they’ll say “Oh. Well, you know that month is this particular birthstone.” It’s great, especially for guys, because most of us don’t have a clue half the time what to get. So, yeah, if you get something, you give it to her and you say to her, along with the presentation, “You know, hon, the reason I got you this is because it’s your birthstone.”

Lots of times the girls don’t even know it was their birthstone, but now you’ve finessed it. You’ve romanced the stone and now they’re so proud of the fact that the stone they’re wearing is the month they were born in. It’s kind of like having your phone number on your underwear. It helps you.

Kenny:
Really?

Steve:
It’s a little clue. The nice thing about gemstones is that they come in all shapes, all sizes, all qualities. It’s a very good price point for you. You can buy a really fine quality that gets much more expensive. You can buy a lesser quality that’s still her birthstone and it’s less money. Now, what’s the difference? How do you tell?

Well, the majority of birthstones you’re going to run into are going reflect the particular color you’re looking for. It might be a red. It might be a green. It might be a blue. Now, what’s the difference between one red and another red and another red? Well, we’re going to teach you three words today and this is going to come into play when you’re looking at color gemstones.

Now, the first word is opaque. What does opaque mean when we’re talking about gemstones? If you look at a wall it’s opaque. You can’t see through it. No light passes through it. I don’t care if the room next to it was on fire, you can’t see that fire. It’s opaque. You cannot see through it.

Now, if you looked at an opaque ruby you will see the color red or you may see the color pink. Most of your opaque stones when it comes to ruby have a little bit more of a pinkish tinge to them than a really dark red, but you’ll also see that dark red. Which is better? The darker a color in a gemstone the more expensive that gemstone becomes.

Now, there are a couple other characteristics that we’re going to throw in there with it to help you, but basically you should be able to see the body color of that particular color. When I say body color, if it’s a ruby you should be able to see at least that pink or you should be able to see at least that red. It shouldn’t be so dark that it hides the color.

I think probably the easiest gemstone to see that with would be a sapphire. You’ll see sapphires that are opaque that are kind of light blue. You’ll see them in a medium blue. You’ll see them in a dark blue and you’ll see them where they get to the point where they’re so dark they almost look like a piece of onyx. When it gets to that color now your gemstone becomes less expensive.

We have jewelry designers that over the years have taught us that these dark sapphires are out there in a lot of pieces of jewelry and a lot of people actually like that really, really black dark color more than the blue. Now, are you wrong? Are you right? There’s no right or wrong. It’s whatever a person’s particular taste is. The difference is these dark black-blue sapphires are a much less expensive gemstone than a nice bright blue sapphire.

So, again, it’s a matter of taste. It’s what you like and nature has helped us with that and jewelry designers have helped us with that. You’re out there shopping with your friend and they’re looking at a sapphire ring. You happen to like a bright blue and they happen to like that black-blue color or what we call an onyx sapphire. It doesn’t make you right. It doesn’t make them wrong. It’s a matter of taste. So the word opaque means that you’re not going to get any light transmitted through that particular gemstone.

The next word you’re going to encounter is translucent. Now, for translucent I like to compare it with a sliding-glass shower door. It’s a glass door. It’s made out of glass. Theoretically, you should be able to see right through it. Well, what they did is they sandblasted it. These are the ones you always see in the movie theatres. James Bond is checking out some babe in a shower stall, but the glass is translucent. You can see the figure in back of the shower door, but you can’t see anything in particular.

Well, when we look at a gemstone the same thing is apparent. You can see the color of the gemstone. You can see into the gemstone to a certain extent. It’s a little prettier. It has some depth to it. The color is a little bit more vibrant. If you put your hand in back of that gemstone, like if it was in a ring, you couldn’t see your finger, but there is light that comes through that gemstone. It makes it a much more vibrant stone. It gives a little bit more fire to it and it makes the gemstone a little prettier because you can see that light.

If we had a ruby that was opaque and we had a ruby that was translucent, they were the same color and they were the same size, the translucent gemstone would probably be two to three times more expensive than the opaque gemstone. So you can see that the more light that goes into that gemstone and comes back out of the gemstone the more expensive it becomes. We’re starting to see a pattern here.

Now, the next word that I want you to remember is transparent. Transparent, if we were talking about that shower door, now it wasn’t sandblasted it’s just a plain piece of plate glass and you can see all the way through. You can see everything that you should be seeing if there was someone in that shower stall.

It’s the same thing with a transparent gemstone. If it was a sapphire then you’re going to be able to see straight through that sapphire. That means the light is going to come back to your eye. It’s going to come from the back of the stone. It’s going to come from the sides of the stone. You’re going to be able to see all the way through it, which means you’re going to be able to see the full range of color that particular gemstone has.

It’s going to have some vibrance to it, depending on the type of cut, depending on the gemstone itself, but in general a transparent gemstone is going to be a much more vibrant, much more lively and a much more expensive gemstone than one that’s opaque or translucent.

Let’s go back to that ruby that we started with again. If you took the opaque, the translucent and the transparent ruby, they were all the same color, but now this one is transparent, it’s probably somewhere between five to 10 times more expensive than that opaque particular gemstone. It’s probably three or four times more expensive than that translucent gemstone. So you can see that transparent is the key when it comes to gemstones. Now, why is this? Number one, it’s much more difficult to find a gemstone that’s really transparent.

Now, you might like the gemstone amethyst or you may like a gemstone citrine or a topaz or a blue topaz. You’re going to look at these and you can see straight through. You’re going “Man, Steve, these should be really expensive gemstones.” Well, these are much more plentiful. So the quality depends on the intensity of the color. I don’t want to get real scientific with everybody, but when I say the intensity, the darker color again is a more expensive color when it comes to these different transparent gemstones.

Now, blue topaz, it’s kind of funny. When it first came on the market it was a light blue. Then they realized if they irradiated it they would get a darker blue. They’d get a nice dark blue color, but the problem they had when they first started to irradiate blue topaz was the fact that some of it actually became so full of radiation that it was not a healthy thing for people to have. They took it off the market for a while because they found when they used Geiger counters on it the amount of radiation was not acceptable.

So they said we have to come up with a better way to change the color because when we changed the color this gemstone took off. So they began to heat it rather than radiate it and now it changed the color again and the first color they came out with was a real shocking electric blue. They called it Swiss Blue and it just blew everything off the market. It was a fantastic-looking color.

Then they said let’s cook it a little bit longer and see what happens. What happened? The color got darker and darker and then they came out with what they called a London Blue. It was a very dark stone and again the masses ran to the stores because they were in love with this new dark blue. This started life as a transparent gemstone and it stayed transparent, but the intensity of color changed it a little bit. Some of them weren’t quite as vibrant as others because of the darkness of the color. We’re going back to that dark-blue sapphire. If it gets too dark then the gemstone itself loses a lot of its sparkle or its scintillation, its fire.

Some gemstones appear naturally in nature as transparent, others don’t. Now, why don’t they? Because what happens, specifically in ruby and sapphire, is there are little things in there that we call needles and the needles are basically a part of the makeup of that particular gemstone and they have the color in them. Now, if the gemstone itself has so many needles that you just can’t break it down and you can’t see through it, it’s going to have less of a quality and there’s a lot more of that out there than there is the really fine stuff.

If it has needles, what they will do lots of times will be to, again, heat these gemstones. What happens is the needles will begin to melt and it disburses the color throughout the gemstone. It makes it a much more even color. If the gemstone happens to be transparent that’s even better because now the color gets nice and dark. It gets to be a more expensive color. The stone stays transparent and it becomes a much more valuable gemstone.

Now, are there gemstones that are transparent and have great color already? Yes, there are. A lot of the older stones are from where we call Burma. That was one of the larger producers of rubies at the time. A Burmese ruby has a very soft glow to it. It has a little bit of a bluish tinge and if it’s never been heated – the only way you would know that is if they do scientific testing on it – and it happens to be transparent and that great red color, that stone is worth 100 times more money than a gemstone that has nice color and it’s been heated and treated to give it that color.

There was an auction at Sotheby’s many years ago where a sapphire was heated. Sapphire and ruby are both from the same material, which we call corundum. They’re both heated to give them this beautiful color. This gemstone was advertised as being non-treated, non-heated and it sold for over $1 million. A lot of these people don’t buy them just for jewelry they buy them as investment pieces. This sapphire was bought, it was tested later on at a lab and it was found to have been heat treated. Sotheby’s was sued for a lot of money because they had misrepresented this stone as being treated.

You’re not going to have to worry about that when you’re out there shopping at Christmas this year. What you will see is, again, you’re going to run into opaque gemstones, translucent gemstones and transparent gemstones. When you see these if they’re mounted in the same type of gold, most of the time your opaque gemstones are going to be mounted in 10 carat gold. The reason being is the opaque gemstones are less expensive and the 10 carat gold allows the manufacturer to give you a mounting they put it in that will cost them less money. And the reason was? Correct, if you said to your spouse while you’re sitting there listening to me, “because 10 carat gold is only 40% gold.” Fourteen carat gold is 58 ½ % gold. So the gold content is less money, the opaque gemstone is less money, but it still gives you a great look and it gives you an affordable piece of jewelry for Christmas.

Now, the translucent gemstones they’ll usually put in a 14 carat gold mounting or a heavier 10 carat gold mounting. Now, why do I say heavier? Because, again, we’ve talked about when we pick up a piece of jewelry if it has weight to it, if it has weight that you can actually feel then we have the perception that it’s a more expensive piece of jewelry. Remember I told you that a lot of the designer jewelry is done in 18 carat gold because it does feel heavier. We’re able to charge more money for it, not just because of the heft, but because of the perception that it’s a more expensive piece of jewelry.

So translucent, which means you cannot see all the way through that gemstone, but it has a little bit more life to it. You’ll find that generally in the 14 carat gold or a heavier gold mounting. This will be a more expensive piece of jewelry than the one that you found with opaque color in it.

Now, when we get into a transparent gemstone, these are generally going to be in 14 carat gold. It’s a more expensive gemstone and they’re going to use a more expensive material to build that gemstone holder for you. Again, when I talk about transparent as far as affecting the value of gemstones, I’m primarily talking about ruby, sapphire and emerald, because these are the three main gemstones. These are the more expensive gemstones or what we call the precious gemstones.

Somebody is going to say “Well, heck. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about because I bought tanzanite and I spent a ton of money for that.” Tanzanite, in general, when you first mine it, believe it or not, it’s a brownish-color gemstone. It’s opaque, but when they heat it it melts those needles again and the stone becomes transparent. This is indicative of that gemstone. It’s going to be transparent.

The difference on a tanzanite is what we look at as far as the color goes and color on a tanzanite we’ve talked about before. When you go to the Caribbean most of the tanzanite that you encounter are either going to be light blue with a little tinge of purple or you’re going to see a real purple stone with a little tinge of blue.

Ideally, the more expensive tanzanite is going to be blue with a very small tinge of purple. The bluer that tanzanite becomes the more expensive it becomes. We don’t have to worry about it being opaque or translucent because the tanzanite itself if going to be transparent because of the way it’s processed. It turns it from an opaque gemstone in its raw form into a transparent gemstone once it’s been treated.

So you’re going to find the difference is, again, the coloration of the stone. Again, ruby should be a nice red. The less purple it has the more expensive it becomes. We’ve actually turned around and used the phrase Pigeon Blood Red to describe a ruby. I don’t know how many of you have ever seen a pigeon dying with their blood hanging out. I’ve never seen it, but…

Kenny:
I wouldn’t tell your wife that that’s the color they call it.

Steve:
But that’s the color they call it, Pigeon Blood Red, which is evidentially a bright nice red with no other colors out there.

Kenny:
All right.

Steve:
And I wouldn’t try mounting a pigeon on a piece of ring and saying “Here. Steve said this is the right color for this ring. I couldn’t afford the ruby, but I got you the pigeon.”

Kenny:
And don’t try to color the diamond yourself.

Steve:
No, leave it alone. When we talk about sapphires, the ideal color for a sapphire is one that came from Salon and it’s what we refer to as American Flag Blue. Now, again, some people can’t conjure this color up in their mind, but a lot of people imagine the field with the stars on a flag. It’s a very uniform color and this is the ideal color for a sapphire. But, again, you’re talking about a transparent stone, not a translucent stone or an opaque stone. So that’s the right color or the more expensive color when it comes to a sapphire.

Emerald, we’re looking for something that looks sort of like a Sprite bottle, that nice bright green. The difference on emerald, you’ll find opaque emeralds. They’re going to have a lot of whitish tinge to them. You’ll find translucent emeralds. They start to get a little bit greener. A transparent gemstone emerald, regardless of what you think, when you look in it most emeralds are going to have some sort of what we can veining or gardens in them. These are internal characteristics and most emeralds will have these.

When you find emeralds that don’t have anything in them at all it’s a little scary, but the really, really expensive emeralds are a nice bright grass green or what I call a Sprite bottle green. A lot of people don’t remember Sprite, but that nice really vibrant green color. If you see nothing in it at all, generally it’s going to be a very expensive gemstone when it comes to emerald.

They’ve learned how to simulate rubies and they’ve learned how to simulate emeralds. They actually grow them now. It’s a man-made process where they grow them and you’ll find these out there in the stores now. They’re expensive, they’re not cheap. We don’t like to call them synthetic, we call them simulated or grown. How do you tell the difference?

Lots of times if you look in that gemstone you’ll see kind of a wispy look to it. It almost looks like if you took cigarette smoke and blew it into the air. That fine little wispy look that you get, well you’ll find that inside of a gemstone. Now, if that gemstone is transparent, it’s a beautiful green or a beautiful red, what you need to ask the people who are selling it to you is “Is this a simulated gemstone? I looked at one and it was $10,000 that was genuine and this gemstone is only $3,000. What’s the difference?” Especially if you’re going to spend big money on your colored gemstones, know what you’re buying. It’s like any kind of collectable or anything else I’ve told you about. You need to have the knowledge and hopefully the person who’s selling it to you has the knowledge as well.

Lots of times I’ve walked into stores, different pawn shops and secondhand dealers and things like that looking for colored gemstones and I’ve had people behind the counter say “Here’s an emerald that I can sell you or here’s a ruby I can sell you for $1,000. Look at the quality. I know it’s a really expensive stone. I don’t know how expensive, but I’ll sell it to you for $1,000.” Then I’ve looked at it under my loop with my magnification and it’s a created gemstone. It didn’t have the internal characteristics that told me it was a genuine gemstone. I’ve just sort of said well, thank you and I’ve passed on it.

People will say to me “Well, what do you think Steve?” They know that I’m fairly knowledgeable in this category and I say to them what you have is a created gemstone. It’s a grown emerald or it’s a grown ruby and it’s not genuine. It’s not what they wanted to hear, but you as a consumer need to be able to deal with somebody who understands what product they’re selling you so that you don’t pay too much or you don’t pay way more for a product that you thought you were buying but you didn’t get that particular product.

I’m Steve Duke the owner of Westchester Gold & Diamonds. I’m talking to you a little bit about going out there and shopping for gemstones this year. Again, if you’re looking for a piece of jewelry that you’d love to have her birthstone in you can stop by. We do custom work at Westchester Gold & Diamonds.
Stop by and see us. We are in the Baer Plaza behind ABC Liquors. Westchester Gold and Diamonds is located at 4200F Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte, FL 33952.
Call (941) 625-0666.

Westchester Gold and Diamonds provides services including custom jewelry design, repairs, appraisals and other jewelry and antiques related services. Westchester Gold and Diamonds is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Monday through Friday; 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday and by appointment at your home or bank.

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Have Questions about your antiques, estate jewelry, collectibles or old treasures?

If you have questions for Steve Duke to answer about your jewelry, antiques or collectibles, just send a photo of the item and your question directly to Steve Duke at WGDiamonds@HotMail.com and Steve will research it for you and you may be contacted to participate in an upcoming Tradio episode. Be sure to include your name, email and phone number along with your question and email it to: WGDiamonds@HotMail.com