Federal Trade Commission and Jewelry, Gemstones, Precious Metals

This topic may sound dry and dull but it is relevant to anyone shopping for jewelry, gemstones or precious metals.  We have seen recent  listings (on a variety of auction sites) which misrepresent metals and gemstones.  For example:

  • One troy ounce German silver: this can be misleading as German silver contains zero Silver – see details in our blog post about various representations of silver: https://dragondreamsjewelry.wordpress.com/2012/11/03/know-your-silver/
  • 925 silver: then the listing states “no Sterling Silver content” in fine print
  • Peridot quartz: this was describing green colored stones but what exactly, one would have to guess since peridot and quartz are distinct gemstones

What’s a consumer to do?  First, educate yourself.  Do some research about the item you are buying – or seek assistance from someone who does.  Know the characteristics of the gemstone or metal as well as market prices.  If an item is selling for well below market price, that may be a warning sign.   Second, work with a reputable seller you can trust.  Positive feedback on an auction site or other website is no guarantee that a seller is trustworthy – far too many people purchase items from unscrupulous individuals without verifying their purchase.  If you cannot trust the seller, be sure you can get a full refund should the item not be as claimed.  Third, verify items you purchase.  Inspect the item or possibly have an expert evaluate it.

If you find a disreputable seller, know that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is out there to help consumers.  It is required by FTC rules that sellers disclose any and all treatments to gemstones, that is, the seller is responsible for informing the consumer.  The FTC also outlines rules for clearly identifying metals and metal content so that the consumer is able to understand exactly what is being purchased.  Details of the rules are on the FTC site here:  http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/guides/jewel-gd.shtm

Some sellers make mistakes and will correct the mistake once it has been brought to their attention.  However, sellers who repeatedly and intentionally misrepresent their products should be reported to the FTC.

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Featured stone: ruby

The Latin ruber, meaning red, is the likely origin of the name ruby.

Prior to the 1800s, there was not a distinction made between red spinel, red garnet, and ruby[1].  As a result, some of the most famous rubies of the world are not actually rubies.  For example, the Black Prince’s Ruby is actually red spinel.   There are also a number of misnomers for ruby[1]:

  • almandine ruby (red garnet)
  • Australian ruby (red garnet)
  • balas ruby (red spinel)
  • Bohemian ruby (red garnet)
  • cape ruby (red garnet)

Chatham ruby, Ramaura ruby, Linde star ruby are all names describing synthetic, flux grown ruby.

Ruby is a variety of corundum which has a purplish-bluish red to yellow-red color (sapphire is used to describe corundum of any other color).  Ruby has a Mohs hardness of 9, making it quite durable and strong.

Clean your ruby jewelry with water mixed with a small amount of mild liquid hand soap with a soft cloth, rinse with water and dry with a soft cloth.  You may want to use a toothbrush to clean under the stone.  While rubies are not particularly light sensitive, all colored stones can fade with prolonged intense exposure to sunlight, so be sure to store your ruby jewelry out of direct light.  As ruby jewelry can last many years, periodically check the prongs and/or settings to be sure the metal is still holding the stone securely in place.

Rubies can have fractures filled with oil, wax, paraffin, glass, or epoxy resin as fillers, reducing the visibility of flaws and cracks within the stone.  When this has been done, the ruby is considered to be composite, reducing the value of the stone although the it will look better to the naked eye as the fractures will be nonreflective[1].   Rubies, like sapphires, can also be heat treated to improve the color.  Most of the rubies we have seen recently in chain jewelry stores have been lab created rather than natural stones.  Sellers are responsible for disclosing all treatments and whether the stone is natural or lab created.

Some of the metaphysical properties associated with ruby include:

  • shields against negative intentions
  • guards against psychic or physical attack
  • helps to be warm, caring toward others
  • reinvigorates and restores energy
  • encourages love, passion, joy, spontaneity, laughter, and courage
  • balances the heart
  • improves motivation

Chakras: root, heart

[1] The Jeweler’s Directory of Gemstones by Judith Crowe, p.50

We have gorgeous ruby jewelry items on our site at www.dragondreamsjewelry.com.

Ruby and Sterling Silver earrings

Featured stone: amethyst

The Greek word ‘amethystos,’ meaning ‘not intoxicated,’ gives amethyst it’s name – it was considered to be a strong antidote to drunkenness.

Amethyst is a type of quartz that can be found in all shades of purple – from light lavender to a rich purple that can display highlights of magenta when faceted, known as Siberian amethyst.  Cape amethyst (also called amethyst quartz) is more opaque with color zoning in white and purple.  Like all quartz, amethyst has a Mohs hardness of 7, so it is moderately hard but can scratch and get chipped.

Amethyst is sensitive both to heat and sunlight – both could affect the color of the stone.  Try to keep your amethyst jewelry or stones away from prolonged exposure to intense heat or light and store in a cool, dark place when not in use.  Clean your amethyst jewelry with water mixed with a small amount of mild liquid hand soap with a soft cloth, rinse with water and dry with a soft cloth.

Typically amethyst is not treated in any way, however synthetic amethyst does exist and synthetic quartz may be dyed and sold as amethyst.  Be sure to ask your seller about the stones.

Amethyst has a number of metaphysical associations with it, including:

  • increases stability, peace,  and calm
  • provides protection against psychic attacks
  • opens communication with angels, telepathy and other psychic abilities
  • promotes shrewdness in business matters
  • balances and heals all chakras
  • encourages inner strength
  • helps with developing intuition and psychic abilities
  • can transform negative energy to love energy

Chakras: third eye, crown

 

We have many amethyst pieces on our site and loose stones waiting to be set.  Below is a 2.51ct amethyst set in Sterling Silver from www.dragondreamsjewelry.com

Amethyst set in Sterling Silver

Featured stone: fluorite

Fluorite’s name derives from the Latin fluere, “to flow”.   It “melts more easily than other minerals and was once used as a flux.”  [1]

Fluorite, sometimes called fluorine, fluorospar or fluorspar, can be found in a variety of colors: bright golden yellow, bluish green, rose-pink, blue, green, purple, colorless, and in a mixture of any of these colors.  Fluorite can be transparent or translucent – or anywhere in between.  With a Mohs hardness of 4, this stone is somewhat fragile, brittle and can be damaged easily.

Because the stone is so soft and scratches easily, cleaning fluorite is best done with a soft dry cloth (like a chamois) or with some cool water and a soft cloth.  Do not use warm or hot water on fluorite as this will damage the luster.  The beautiful colors of fluorite can fade if exposed to prolonged intense sunlight so be careful to store these stones in a cool, dark place.   To protect your fluorite jewelry when not in use, also store it apart from other stones, wrapping it in a soft cloth to provide additional protection from scratching or chipping.

One of the interesting features of fluorite is that it usually glows (fluoresces) under black or ultraviolet light – likely caused by yttrium and other trace impurities in the stone.

Fluorite may be irradiated or heated in oil to deepen the color.  It may be impregnated with a resin or polymer to strengthen the stone.  Cabochons are sometimes capped with clear quartz to protect the stone against scratches or being chipped.  All treatments should be disclosed by the seller.

Fluorite (sometimes called “the genius stone”) has a myriad of metaphysical properties associated with it, including:

  • stimulates third eye
  • increases wisdom and the power of discrimination
  • aids the advancement of the mind, concentration, and meditation
  • cleanses aura
  • promotes self-love
  • powerful healing stone
  • grounds excess energy
  • boosts comprehension
  • promotes spiritual and psychic wholeness and development, truth, protection, and peace

Chakras: vary by color but include heart (green), third eye (purple)

[1] The Jeweler’s Directory of Gemstones by Judith Crowe, p.108

See beautiful jewelry like this for sale at our website – www.dragondreamsjewelry.com

Fluorite wrapped in Sterling Silver

 

Know your silver

As the price of pure silver has risen over the past few years, many jewelry makers have moved to less expensive variants with lower silver content to keep prices down while still delivering attractive pieces for clientele.  It is our belief that customers should know what they are getting.  As a result, we have put together a summary of common silver variants along with information about approximate silver content and a simple home test anyone can perform.

One of the most common “silver” materials for sale internationally is Tibet silver.  Tibet silver is only a name, it does not guarantee any silver content.  Typically, what we know as Tibet silver today, is the Chinese PAKTONG, or cupronickle or copper-nickle.  Typically this material is 60% copper, 20% nickel and 20% zinc.[1]

What about other silvers?

  • Genuine Bali silver is generally around 92.5% silver but some makers are lowering the silver content as silver prices rise.
  • Genuine Thai Hill Tribe silver is around 95% but again, some makers are reducing the silver content.
  • Some American Indians found that they could get a very inexpensive silver, a metal also known as German silver, or Nickel Silver.  This material has been found throughout American Indian works since the 19th century, in everything from horse bridal decorations to wearable Jewelry art.[2]  The German silver was developed in an effort to copy the Chinese cupronickle.
  • Fine Silver is 99.9% pure silver.
  • Sterling Silver is 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metals, often copper.
  • Genuine Mexican silver has to be at least 90% pure silver and much of it is 92.5%.
  • Britannia Silver is 95.85% pure silver with not more than 4.16% copper.

So what is a consumer to do?  The name of the silver can provide an indication of the process and silver content.  Silver content can also be established by specific gravity testing and simple chemical tests (chemical test not recommended in the kitchen).  However, some research has turned up this quick and simple test that anyone can perform at home.

  1. Get a genuine Sterling Silver item and a Tibetan, Bali, or Mexican silver item.
  2. Wet the items – preferably with distilled water (because distilled water doesn’t have the contaminants found in tap water)
  3. Place the items on a plate.
  4. Cut a hard boiled egg in half (free range eggs have a higher sulfur content so they work better).
  5. Place half of an egg on the plate.
  6. Cover the plate with a glass dish or other solid, see-through cover and watch. The lower the silver content, the quicker it tarnishes.

Take the tarnished items and boil them in a dilute solution of sodium carbonate or bicarbonate (baking soda).  Only the silver with at least 80% silver content will revert back to a white silver surface.  It the item turns more of a salmon color, then its a high copper alloy.  Items that have an appearance similar to stainless steel will be nickle silver or stainless.

Two things to observe to understand silver content of an item:

  1. Time it took to tarnish by comparing a known metal against an unknown.  The color of the tarnish is another clue, as the lower the silver content, the quicker and blacker the tarnish, maybe even a greenish tinge.
  2. Color of the metal after the baking soda test.

Note: this test does not harm the metal.  In fact the baking soda “test” is one method of cleaning and removing tarnish from silver.

[1] Tim McCreight, The Complete Metalsmith.

[2] Dubin, Lois Sherr. North American Indian Jewelry and Adornment: From Prehistory to the Present. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1999. ISBN 0-8109-3689-5., p. 290-293.