Buying Gemstones from Shopping Networks


Buying Gemstones - Tourmaline

I have a few comments. and explanations of these comments below in more detail. Keep in mind that these are my personal opinions and experiences, other people may have different ones.

Buying Gemstones from  TV Vendors and Shopping Networks

Comment #1 – You are buying and paying retail.

You are buying and paying retail. When you buy on the TV or gem networks, you are paying retail. Maybe low retail, maybe the going rate retail in the market for the gems, maybe much higher than the going rate for the same gem stone in the market. When and if they say wholesale, the sales people usually claim it is wholesale, they are giving you a sales pitch. It is not true.

Have you ever seen the TV people make a big deal about the price of a particular gem stone they are trying to sell? Here is how this game is played, and I do mean game, it is really a sales scam. Legal yes. Ethical? No not very ethical, but consider the source. The TV host(s) talk up a type of stone, like Garnet for example. Then they tell you how rare the stone(s) they are going to showing you are… The next part of the game is they put up a large inflated retail price for the gem stone they are trying to sell. For example say they are selling a Garnet and “claim” the retail value/price for the Garnet is $2400.00.

The next line goes like this. “Ladies and gentleman, we are going to give you such a deal on this gem stone… We are selling this so far under what it should sell for, the wholesale on this stone is more then we are selling it for…” You can fill in the sales pitch here. Then after a few minutes of telling you completely fabricated stories, they offer a price to you of $695.00 for the exact same gem stone they claim should sell for $2400.00. OK guess what the real retail price of the gem stone they are hustling is? Correct the real every day price of the stone is $695.00. That is the retail price, at least their retail price.

So what is the $2400.00 price? Complete story and sales pitches. Here is a little insight, these people are in business to make money and they are retail sellers. In most cases if you do some research you will find the same stones they are selling around in the market for generally the same price range, or going rates, often you may find a much better quality stone for less money. Here is another thing I have noticed, often if you pay attention you will see the exact same stone(s) (especially large stones) they claimed to have sold for sale again on another day or week. The truth is they did not sell the stone, they just faked it so that people watching would think the stones were selling and offered it for sale again at another time because it really did not sell. Or they sold it and it was returned. These shopping networks have an extremely high rate of merchandise being returned to them, for one reason or another.

Comment #2 – Gem certificate of appraised value. These make good fire starters and toilet paper.

Gem certificate of appraised value. These gem certificates/appraisals make good fire starters and toilet paper. The seller says they will give you an “appraisal of the value” of the Garnet in the example above for $2400.00… So it must be that valuable right? Wrong. Here are a few questions you should ask. If in the appraisal the seller is claiming the value of the stone is $2400.00 and the Garnet is really worth $2400.00. Why and how can you buy it from them for $695.00? The answer is of course they cannot do that and that the Garnet is worth $695.00 (at the most) which is what the seller is really trying to sell the retail Garnet(s) priced at. Most gem appraisals of this type are not worth much in my opinion. Claims on these appraisals are about the same as the claims some slim ball used car salesman makes when telling you that some little old lady only drove the used car on the weekends… The car is a lemon, so is the stone usually.

Another question to ask is. What would you (the host/seller) buy back this $2400.00 appraised gem stone at? Pin them down, do not except an evasion. This question will almost always make them choke. If they say they will “appraise” a gemstone at $2400.00 then if that is the value they should be willing to buy it back for maybe a little less, but close to the “appraised value”… Right? The truth of the matter is that they probably bought the Garnets in question for less than half of the $695.00 price they are selling it at retail for and that they would not buy the stone in question back at all. They may say they have a money back guarantee (for what they sold the stone at, not appraised the stone at), but that is not the same thing as what they would be willing to pay for the stone in question.

Note: There are accredited appraisers that do real appraisals of value and worth for the trade and insurance purposes. But remember an appraisal is just a “supposed” value and no insurance company will pay that value, they will pay what they call “replacement” value which is usually significantly lower than the appraisal value. So frankly the “appraisal game” they all play is nothing but a lie and scam.

Comment #3 – If you are educated and watch what you are doing, you might get your money’s worth, but you might not too.

If you are educated and watch what you are doing, you might get your money’s worth, but you might not too. Education is the real key to getting some value for your money. Do the TV people and gem shopping channels have some good buys on them? The answer is yes they do on occasion, assuming you want the gemstone or jewelry quality (by this I mean the quality is seldom high, usually commercial standard) you are buying. But you have to be an educated buyer and know the values and the market rates on the stones or jewelry you maybe buying.

In general, no the buys on TV are just the commercial retail rates for the gems in question and with a little research you can find much better stones from honest dealers at better and more fair prices.

Comment #4 – The TV sales people are basically like used car salesman (which actually maybe insulting used car salesman). They bend and mangle the truth very badly in my opinion.

The TV sales people are basically like used car salesman. They bend and mangle the truth very badly in my opinion. Frankly by comparing used car salesmen to the TV “gem hosts” I maybe insulting used car salesman. I have seen many of the TV people make claims that frankly are plain lies, they should be charged and prosecuted for scamming/swindling. They seem to be able to get away with some pretty blatant falsehoods and implications. These sales people are seldom ever in the same room with the truth and they often say things about gem stones that are so far out in left field it is hard to believe. Want a few examples?

OK, I have seen the TV people selling “white Aquamarine”. There is no such thing, Aquamarine by definition is blue/green to blue. The “white Aquamarine” they are selling is nothing but colorless Beryl, called Goshenite. It is lower value by a quite bit than real Aquamarine and they are being miss leading using the name “white Aquamarine” in order to not only sell the colorless Beryl but to imply it has more value than it does by using the term “Aquamarine”.

How about the “green Amethyst”? Again no such thing. Amethyst is by definition purple/blue/magenta. So when they say “green Amethyst” they are miss labeling the gem stone and trying to associate the material with purple Amethyst which is a well know and valuable gemstone. Green Quartz is what they should be calling it. Also of note the vast majority of green Quartz is irradiated and man-made so it really has almost no collector or gem value.

Note: Prasiolite is the tern used for natural Amethyst that some times will heat to green, the real thing is rare and all man-made green Quartz should be called just that “green Quartz”.

I could go on a long time here, but you get the idea. Honesty maybe the best policy, but very few sales people on TV are honest in my opinion. You as a buyer need to educate yourself and verify any thing and everything some “gem host” on TV says. They are not only often ignorant, they are very often not telling the truth in my opinion. Believe a “gem host” on TV about as much as you would trust a politician.

Comment #5 – No custom cut by “xyz” does not mean a thing as far as quality of the stone or the cutting.

No custom cut by “xyz” does not mean a thing as far as quality of the stone or the cutting. You will hear many of the TV people claim a gem is cut by “xyz” and it is a top gem. No, in fact it is not a top gem and usually the stone in question is very poorly cut. Basically what you are going to get is a stone that is at the best cut to reasonable commercial standards. Some times the rough quality of the stone in question maybe top quality, but the cutting certainly is not and truthfully the stones they claim are top gem seldom are in my opinion.

By not top quality I mean.

  • The meet points will not have been cut to meet. The facets are not meeting each other or straight.
  • The polish is OK but not good. You will see placed where there are bad polishes and scratches if you 10x loupe the stone.
  • The girdle is rounded and not cut and often not symmetrical.
  • The design and material are frequently miss matched and the light return/performance of the stone is fair to very poor.
  • The stone will frequently have fish eyes and blind spot, places where when you look at the stone from the front, you will look right through the stone, there is no reflection.

Some used car salesman type on TV saying “Top Gem World Class” is a very poor way to judge the quality of the gem in question. The gem might be top quality, it likely is not. The point I am making is that the “TGWC” description is like a used car salesman telling you “low mileage…” It tells you nothing. What you want to know is what grading and clarity system are they using? What is the clarity of the gem stone in question? What is the color? Color is a personal issue, but remember if the stone is under super bright lights on TV, it will likely look a lot different in real life in person.

Now this quality (low) is not unusual for commercial cut gem stones and it is commonly excepted in the trade. But like I said a stone cut like this is at best a commercial quality stone and NO the stone is not top gem, not even close. Yes the person cutting the stone can make a huge difference in quality, but you as a buyer need to know what you are looking and and recognize quality work and craftsmanship. Here is a hint, I have never seen top quality cutting on gem network TV channels. They may have some occasionally, but I have never seen it. I have seen some better commercial quality cutting from the “safe” occasionally. But while better is is not any where near top quality cutting. What is top quality? Look here. Custom cut Gemstones

Comment #6 – Stone investment advice? You would be better playing craps in Las Vegas.

Stone investment advice? You would be better playing craps in Las Vegas. Your odds would be much better. Taking stone investment advice from a TV sales host? I would rather take investment advice from my neighbors pet parrot. At least the parrot is more honest and knowledgeable. I have seen gem show TV hosts promote all kinds of “investment” opportunities, almost every time their advice is not only wrong, it is borderline scam in my opinion. You will note that the “investment advice” always happens when they just happen to have some thing that is a “good deal” and that they are selling that material “below wholesale”.

Investment in gemstones is a large and complicated subject and I would say no one should even consider doing it until they have at least basic gemstone knowledge. Do some research and learn some thing about what you are investing in before you ever attempt to do it. Note that investment is different than just buying a stone because you like it and enjoy it. I still urge people to get some education before buying gem stones from any one, but. Yes many people do invest in gemstones and yes they can be very good money investments. But the bottom line is you have to know what you are doing or you will end up with nothing.

My advice? For what it is worth… Always buy the best stones, that includes the faceting/cutting which to me is critical to the value of any stone. If a stone is not cut well, then you are wasting your time. I tend to personally stick with things like Aquamarine, Pink Tourmaline, Rubellite, quality Garnets. Stones that are main stream in the market and always in demand and have a steady reliable market. Yes, sapphire maybe worth considering but they have so many treatment issues in the Sapphire market that they are a poor choice for anyone but an expert to attempt to buy.

Comment #7 – The quality at best is just commercial average, nothing very good. Even out of the “safe” or what ever the cutting is better, but far from good.

The quality on the commercial market and gem networks at best is just commercial average, nothing very good. As I have said commercial quality is just that. The stones are usually poorly cut and polished. So keep in mind what you are buying and paying for. If you like commercial quality stones then fine, but remember they are not top quality and never will be. There is nothing wrong with commercial market quality, if that is what you want you just need to realize there are differences.

A few closing comments

If you want top quality gem stones the place to buy them is from a quality gem artist or faceter. Yes like me, but there are others out there. If you like the quality that you buy on a gem network, then that is fine. But be aware that these stones are very seldom any where near top quality in my opinion and that the pricing is retail. Nothing wrong with retail, that is what makes the world turn. Just know that prices are retail and that no you are probably not getting the stones cheaper than any one else.

Also be aware that you have to be knowledgeable and know what you are buying. You have to ask the correct questions and know the color and clarity grading system(s) being used to grade the stones in question. The “gem hosts”? It is their job to sell as many stones as they can and frankly they are generally good at their jobs. Honesty? Well lets say about as honest as any 3rd rate used car salesman… in my opinion.

You as a buyer need to educate yourself and look around and do some research into the gem market and the stones that you are interested in. No one will hold your hand for you and if you fail to educate yourself. Well you remember that old phrase… “A sucker born every minute?” Educate yourself.

Gram Faceting Archive of Information
This edited version of an article by the late Jeff Graham is part of a special archived informational series from Gram Faceting. Used with permission.