A Complete Guide To Adding Gemstones Into Your Jewellery Collection
Lately, we’ve seen rubies, emeralds, sapphires and other coloured gemstones climb the popularity charts with surprising speed, trouncing the prized diamond, which has been known to be a girl’s best friend for the longest time. This could perhaps have something to do with the fact that coloured stones are able to highlight certain personality traits — a ruby’s red denotes passion, an emerald’s green indicates mystery while a sapphire’s blue signifies regality. However, when one invests in such precious gemstones it is equally important to ensure that they are ethically mined and come from no-conflict zones. Besides, it is also crucial to know how to care for your jewellery and how to avoid making common mistakes when you purchase a precious gemstone.
This is where Gemfields’ Elena Basaglia can give you sound advice. Having over 15 years’ experience in the jewellery industry, she began her career in jewellery retail first in Milan and subsequently in London. Basaglia studied at the L.A.C. (Liceo Artistico Caravaggio) in Milan, where she wrote a dissertation on jewellery in the Art Deco period, going on to procure a graduate gemologist diploma from the Gemological Institute of America in New York. In her present role at Gemfields, she actively follows the path of the company’s cut and polished gemstones whilst also liaising with the key entities of the gemstone trade, such as auction houses, museums, and laboratories. We ask the expert a few questions on how to pick the perfect rubies and emeralds and how to clean them without damaging the quality…
Why are more women choosing to buy emeralds and rubies instead of sticking with diamonds?
“I believe that coloured stones allow the wearer to express their personality or match their mood thanks to the infinite varieties of colours. Even in engagement rings, we have noticed that diamonds are losing preference, and are quickly being relegated to accents to the central stone, which is often an exquisite green, blue or red gemstone in a wide range of shapes.
Over 500 million years in the making, rubies and emeralds are far rarer than white diamonds. Held in high regard by royalty, style mavens and Hollywood A-listers alike, rubies have an almost other-worldly quality that has beguiled and delighted humanity throughout the ages. In fact, one of Cleopatra’s favourite stones was the emerald, and her passion for the stone was well documented.”
What should one keep in mind while buying rubies and emeralds?
“What you are looking for is an evenness of colour with good saturation so you might want to tilt the stone in all directions as sometimes the colour can look washed out at certain angles. If possible, view the stone in daylight so that you aren’t in for a rude shock when you look at the stone in a light that’s different from the one in the store you bought it from.
The cut of the stone is also important for this makes the gemstone come alive. Coloured gemstones often have inclusions — which are natural features — within the stone. These are part of its DNA. In theory, rarity is equivalent to value, in that the clearer the stone and the brighter its colour, the rarer it will be. However, don’t hassle yourself with the inclusions as they are what make your emeralds and rubies unique. Inclusions ensure that you will never get two stones that look the same.
If you are purchasing a gemstone of significant value, there should be full disclosure on transparency or treatments of any kind, so it must be accompanied by a certificate from a recognised, independent gemological laboratory.”
How should one incorporate coloured gemstones into their jewellery collection?
“Rubies, emeralds and sapphires are considered to be the major gemstones. Some of these are associated with special anniversaries — the ruby is a great stone for a 50th — so this could be a good occasion to buy a ruby. That being said, it is also nice to treat yourself without the need for it to be attached to a milestone event. This is possible thanks to the vast array of designs available to cater to every woman’s taste. Gemfield’s latest collaboration with MUSE saw 23 emerging and established jewellery designers create 65 different pairs of earrings. Designers such as Silvia Furmanovich, Ana Khouri, Holly Dyment, Michelle Fantaci, Tara Hirshberg and Nikos Koulis to name but a few, created earrings using responsibly sourced Mozambican rubies and Zambian emeralds from Gemfields.”
How important is it to inquire about the country of origin while purchasing gemstones?
“The origin is not of paramount importance. All gemstones are unique and it would be wrong to base your decision to purchase on the origin of the stone. However, responsible business practices and transparency are incredibly important these days as many consumers want to know where their products and materials have come from and coloured gemstones are no different. So, if the consumer wants to purchase responsibly sourced coloured gemstones they should look to Gemfields.
Responsible sourcing for Gemfields means operating in a way that contributes positively to national economies, taking a leading role in modernising the coloured gemstone sector and building lasting, sustainable livelihoods for the communities around its mines.”
How must one clean and look after their gemstones?
“It is always a good idea to carefully clean your jewellery with a soft toothbrush and warm soapy water. This will preserve the shine of your stone. Always store your gems separately from your other jewellery, especially your diamond sets as a diamond will always scratch a ruby or emerald, but never the other way round. Gemstones also don’t react kindly to grease so put your jewellery on only after you have applied your hand cream or perfume.”
Can you elaborate on the 4 C’s of ruby and emerald-buying?
“Coloured stones roughly follow the same criteria as diamonds when it comes to grading and valuing which include colour, cut, carat and clarity. However, there are a few differentiating factors as mentioned below.
1. In coloured stones, the most important factor is the presence of colour whereas the quality of diamonds is dictated by the absence of colour.
2. In terms of clarity, inclusions are naturally present in coloured gemstones and are part of their personality unless they are so prominent that they mar the natural beauty of the stone altogether.
3. The cut of coloured stones doesn’t follow strict guidelines like the round brilliant cut in diamonds with angles and proportions that are studied and optimised. In coloured stones, the most important thing is the face value which is why you often find stones with uneven pavilions, off-centred culets etc. This is acceptable as it may originate from an uneven shape of a stone found in the rough and the intention of the cutter to maximise the final carat weight.
4. Carat weights of 10 and above, especially in rubies, are extremely rare and they command higher prices due to the shape and size of the stone.”
What are some of the common mistakes people make while buying emeralds and rubies?
“People are under the misconception that all rubies are expensive but there is an immense variety of styles and designs that accommodate different sizes and qualities which can be surprisingly affordable. The treatments allow us to complete what nature didn’t have time to complete. We can improve the colour in rubies, remove unwanted inclusions, or fill fractures in emeralds. With full disclosure at the point of sale and information on the care, there is nothing wrong with treated stones which are a lot lighter on the pocket.”
Do you believe that wearing certain kinds of stones influences one’s personality?
“Rubies were treasured by early cultures as they represented the redness of the blood that flowed through their veins. Many people believed that rubies held the power of life and so the stone was often carried into battle for protection.
To the spiritually inclined Hindus, who have christened the ruby as ratnaraj (meaning ‘king of the gemstones’), rubies are considered to be as radiant as the rising sun that paints the whole house in crimson.
Colours are important to Chinese culture as they are replete with lucky meanings. The three main colours considered to bring luck to people’s daily lives are red, yellow, and green making rubies, yellow gold and jade extremely valuable.”