Some of the most beautiful and permanent examples of nature’s breathtaking colors are found in gemstones. One of the most important roles of the jewelry sales associate is as jewelry educator and advisor. When selling colored gemstones to your customers, you should make an effort to explain the value factors that make each gemstone unique.
DIFFERENT THAN DIAMONDS
The first mistake many people make when shopping for a colored stone is trying to apply what they understand about diamond quality and value to other gemstones. It is your job as their jewelry sales associate to explain that, even though industry terminology somewhat similar for gemstones and diamonds, the inherent uniqueness of each and every gemstone demands that each gem variety be evaluated individually and not according to the same standards applied to diamonds.
You can help customers understand these differences as you walk them through the general value factors of colored gemstone jewelry. Use the four Cs (color, clarity, cut, and carat weight) but highlight the unique value and beauty of colored gemstones when explaining each factor.
In almost every gemstone variety, color is the value factor that has the strongest impact on price. Here are some general guidelines to follow when discussing color with jewelry customers:
Darker doesn’t usually mean better.
Many people are under the impression that the darker the color, the more valuable the gem. This is not necessarily true. If a gem is too dark its value actually decreases, because the true color is hidden. For example, there are lots of blue sapphires on the market that look more black than blue.
The most valuable gemstone colors are pure and vivid with a medium to medium-dark tone. The value of a gemstone will usually begin to decrease as the color moves toward a very light or very dark shade. Value will also drop in many gem varieties as the color moves from pure hue (red, blue, green, etc.) to something in between (such as orangey-red or yellowish-green).
Lighting makes a difference in the way a gemstone looks.
The real test of a gem’s beauty is to see if it looks attractive under many types of light, incandescent and fluorescent light and even natural sunlight. Explain to customers that gemstones photographed for print ads, catalogs and websites are very carefully lit with specially designed lights to ensure they look fabulous. Tell the customer that, because of this, there’s really no other way to buy a colored gemstone except by seeing it in person.
- Use the science of lighting to display your gemstones, so that they look their most beautiful in your cases and to your customers. Incandescent lights, such as a normal light bulb, give off warm shades of the spectrum: red, orange, and yellow. Using incandescent light to illuminate a gemstone in this “warm” color range will make the gem much more attractive.
- Fluorescent lights usually contain more of the cooler shades of the spectrum: blue, green and violet. Gems in this “cool” color range will always look more attractive under fluorescent light.
A gemstone expert can tell you which colors are the most valued, but only your customer can decide which colors are the most attractive.
When talking about something as subjective as color it is impossible to equate cost and rarity with beauty. Quite simply, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Don’t allow your own personal feelings or gemological knowledge to get in the way of helping your customer choose what they like best. You should help your customers select colors that appeal to them, their style and their fashion sense. If they prefer paler shades of a gemstone, then it’s your job help them find the perfect color at the best value. They’ll be happier with their purchase and with their experience shopping from your store.
Colored gemstones form in unique environments, and these environments have a lot to do with the clarity of the gem. For example, the formation process of aquamarine usually results in a highly transparent and inclusion-free gemstone when viewed with the unaided eye. On the other hand, emerald forms in an environment that almost always produces some inclusions visible to the unaided eye. This means that finding an emerald with no visible inclusions would be extremely unlikely, while inclusion-free aquamarines are relatively common.
Knowing what to expect in regard to the clarity of each gemstone variety will help you better understand and sell a gemstone’s value. As a general rule, a gemstone with no visible characteristics will command a higher price than a similar gem with visible inclusions. But this is not always the case. In fact, a gemstone’s inclusions add individuality and help make the gemstone one-of-a- kind. Explain to your customers that inclusions are like birthmarks, not flaws. If they understand that inclusions don’t negatively impact the gem’s overall beauty, it will be easier to show them a variety of gemstones.
The way a gemstone is cut can have a tremendous impact on the gem’s beauty. Gemstone cutters strive to do two things. First, they try to create an attractive finished gem, and second, they struggle to save as much weight as possible from the rough gem crystal with which they’re working.
A well-cut gemstone should show large areas of brilliance and color when viewed in a face-up position. Light and color should be reflected evenly from inside the entire gemstone as you slowly rock the gem back and forth. Large dark areas and areas that look washed out or transparent indicate a gemstone that was not cut with maximum beauty in mind. As a general rule, at least 60% of the overall face-up area of a well-cut gem should reflect strong brilliance and sparkling color.
EXPLAINING CARAT WEIGHT
The majority of gemstones are sold based on weight using the “carat” as the standard unit of measurement. The per-carat price of a gem will usually increase as the size of the gem increases. The amount of the increase depends upon the factor of rarity. A good comparison that illustrates the effect of rarity on per-carat price is blue topaz versus ruby.
Because it is common to find blue topaz in large sizes there is very little increase in the per-carat price between a one-carat and a four-carat specimen of similar quality. On the other hand, it is extremely rare to find a ruby in sizes over a carat. A one-carat ruby might sell for $2,000 per carat while a similar quality four-carat gem could reach as high as $5,000 per-carat, all because of its rarity.
Specific varieties of gemstones can come in a wide color range. For example, blue sapphire can vary from extremely light (pale blue) to very dark (black-blue). The hues can also range anywhere from a strong greenish-blue to an almost pure violet. Which one is the best? That’s easy: it’s the one your customer likes the most!
Don’t confuse price with beauty. Encourage your customers to trust their eyes and their hearts to pick out the colored gemstone that’s right for them. Because each and every gemstone variety is unique, it’s important that you do a little research to better understand the gemstones that your store sells. You may discover that a fine quality one-carat ruby is out of many of your customers’ price range, while a fabulous red spinel is both affordable and the exact color they are looking for.
Perhaps your customer thought they wanted a blue sapphire only to later discover (after you showed them an alternative gem) that they really prefer the violet-blue hues of tanzanite. Investigating colored stone possibilities is both fun and exciting. The more you learn, the more confidence you’ll have in helping your customers select a beautiful gemstone that fits their preferences and personal styles.