Investing in gemstone jewelry can be a major purchase, and it’s important to know what factors affect the price of gems. Whether you’re buying a gift for that special someone, or treating yourself to a beautiful piece of jewelry, here are some tips on what goes into the price of gemstones.
1. Color: A major factor in gem pricing, color value can vary between different types of gems. For example, color has a greater effect on the value of blue sapphires than on blue topaz or yellow sapphire. As a rule of thumb, the more saturated the color the higher its value. Personal preference is definitely a factor, as one grade of stone might be more appealing than another. In general, if there is more gray, black or brown in a stone, the price may be lower, unless, of course it’s supposed to be that color. Red opals are the rarest opal color, so they would be more highly valued. Even lower priced lightly colored gems can be very beautiful if well cut.
2. Clarity: A stone that is relatively free of flaws, inclusions and blemishes will be more valuable than one that has flaws. The smaller and less noticeable the flaws, the more the gemstone would be valued. Diamond values rely more on clarity than those of gemstones, since the visual appearance and color of Opal gemstones have more bearing on value than the clarity of the stone.
3. Transparency: Clear stones, which allow light to pass through them, will have higher value if they are more transparent. Rubies and sapphires have microscopic particles within the stone which disperse the color, so they may be expected to be less transparent, and can be more valuable than more transparent ones. The value of emeralds, rubies, sapphires, opals, jade, star and cat’s eye gems rely a great deal upon their transparency.
4. Shape: Shape and cutting style aren’t as important as color, clarity and transparency in determining the value of a gemstone, but shape, cutting style and the quality of the cut play a major role. Fashion and demand can affect prices, round over oval, for example. Personal preference is an important factor as well.
5. Cutting Style: The way a stone is cut or faceted can affect its price. Cabochon stones, which have rounded tops and no facets, are generally priced lower than faceted stones.
6. Cut Quality: The proportions and finish of a cut stone affect the brilliance and color of gemstones, so this is a crucial factor to consider. A well-cut stone will have even color throughout, with no dark or pale areas in the face, or flat area, of the stone. Colored gemstones with good color and brilliance may be cut deeper than diamonds. Stones with the same size face may be of different carat weights, which will affect the price.
7. Carat Weight: Carat weight refers to the size of the stone. Usually the higher carat weight, the greater the price of the gemstone. A carat is 1/5 of a gram. Some opaque or translucent stones, such as jade and malachite, are sold by the piece or the size of the stone rather than carat weight. Some cuts may be priced per piece, and some colored stones under 1/2 carat can be priced according to size.
8. Treatment Status: If you’re going to invest in a gemstone, be aware of treatments. Has the stone undergone a process to improve its natural appearance? Most colored stones are treated since high quality untreated stones are more rare and expensive. Some treatments such as dyeing or cavity filling are less acceptable than heat treatment. Almost all emeralds have tiny fractures, so it’s customary to fill them with oil, epoxy or wax. It’s important to find out whether a stone has been treated, to what extent, and what kind of treatment it received.
9. Place of Origin: Where did the stone come from? The country or area where it was mined isn’t as important as the quality. For some gems, such as rubies, sapphires and emeralds, origin can affect the price, depending on rarity and color quality.
10. Phenomena: This would include unusual characteristics like cat’s eye, stars or light shifts. Cat’s eye stones have a band of reflected light that looks like the eye of a cat. Stars are bands of light that cross each other in the center, like in the star sapphire. Moonstones show a floating shifting light effect, and some stones change color when viewed under incandescent light. Opals show shifting colors of the spectrum. Pearls are iridescent, and may have subtle combinations of pink, blue or silver.
What’s the most valuable color of gemstone? Generally, the less brown or gray in the stone and the more saturated the color, the higher the price. Each gemstone has a range of shades of color with varying values. Personal preference will determine which stone you’re attracted to, but it’s important to know how to compare prices. Color is often considered the most important factor in valuing gemstones, and although it is a major factor, color isn’t everything. Become knowledgeable about all the factors that go into the pricing when shopping for gemstones.