How to Buy Organic Gem Jewelry

Five Methods:PearlsAmberCoralJetIvory

Most gemstones are made from minerals that combine and form a crystal, but organic gemstones are made from sources that were once alive. Most organic gemstones are not quite as expensive or common as non-organic gemstones and, unlike their counterparts, they usually have imperfect appearances. The five basic types of organic gemstones include pearl, amber, coral, jet, and ivory.[1]

Method 1

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    Buy from a reliable jeweler. Pearls are highly valuable and desirable enough to appear in just about any jeweler's stock. A chain store jeweler is a reliable source, but you may not always get the biggest selection or the lowest cost. You can buy from smaller, family-owned jewelers or only for a better selection and price, but you need to do your homework on these sources first. Check reviews, ask if the jeweler is certified by an official gemological organization, and make sure that there are no complaints filed against the company.
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    Understand the difference between natural and cultured pearls. Most pearls are not naturally grown. Instead, they are harvested from oyster farms specifically created for the formation of pearls. Both types are considered organic, however.
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    Check the pearl's luster. Luster refers to the way in which light reflects from the surface of the gem. To determine if a pearl has high quality luster, look at how well images are reflected in the surface. The clearer te reflection, the better the luster.
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    Make note of the size. As far as taste goes, whether you choose large or small pearls is a matter of personal preference. Larger pearls will generally cost more, though, simply because there is more pearl there.
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    Look for pearl pieces with matching pearls. No two pearls are exactly alike, and each one will vary slightly in shape, color, and size. If the differences are too noticeable, the piece will look unbalanced. It is important to note, however, that a piece made from pearls with very few differences will be more expensive.

Method 2

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    Use caution when shopping for amber. The gemstone is not quite as valuable as pearl and does not appear in chain store jewelers frequently, but small jewelers and online merchants are more likely to sell it. Buying amber in person is preferable to buying online, though, since fake amber is commonly sold as the real deal and is easier to check if purchased in person.
    • If you do buy amber online, only buy from trusted, certified merchants who have a decent return policy.
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    Consider the color. Amber is made from fossilized pine tree resin and usually has a rich golden honey or light brown hue, but one shade is not necessarily better than another. Blue amber even exists, but since it is quite rare, it tends to be expensive.
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    Expect to see veins and inclusions. Amber is not a gemstone that is meant to look smooth. In fact, some of the most valuable and expensive pieces contain inclusions of insects, plants, or pyrites. The inclusions and veins found in amber give it more character and do not ruin the quality or durability of the stone.
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    Do a float test on the amber. Amber floats in salt water, but plastics meant to mimic amber usually sink. If you buy the amber as loose gemstones instead of in a solid piece of jewelry, the float test is a good way to test for fakes.
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    Perform a hot needle test. Heat a needle and gently touch the needle to the bottom of the stone. Real amber will give off the scent of pine when heated. Fake amber will usually smell acidic or otherwise unpleasant.
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    Test the amber with nail polish remover containing acetone. Wipe a cotton swab dabbed in acetone over the amber gemstone. Real amber will feel the same way before and after, but a fake will feel soft and sticky afterward.

Method 3

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    Expect high prices. While not as coveted as many non-organic gemstones, coral can be quite rare and, as a result, fairly expensive. Pure red coral, called "fire coral" or "ox blood coral," has been over-collected and is now limited in an effort to reduce the stress placed on natural coral reefs. As a result, pure red coral will not usually be cheap, and you should be suspicious of any merchant selling red coral at a low price.
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    Buy from jewelers and trusted merchants. Coral is about as common with jewelers as amber, so you can find a few pieces at a big name retailer but are more likely to find a bigger selection with a smaller, specialized jeweler or online merchant.
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    Do not trust sellers offering black coral. Gem-grade black coral is no longer available commercially. If you purchase a vintage or antique piece, the black coral might be real. On a newer piece, however, you will be unable to find gem-grade black coral.
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    Do not expect perfection. Coral is generally supposed to look slightly jagged and uneven. Perfectly round or square cut gemstones can be found, but the rough, "natural" look is generally preferred.
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    Find out if the coral is reconstituted. Reconstituted coral is technically organic, but it is not quite as natural. These gems are made from coral fragments that have been ground into a powder, doused with a binding agent, and reformed into the desired cut. These stones may also be dyed to enhance the color.

Method 4

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    Look for jet at antique shops and online. Jet is a form of coal made from fossilized wood. It was popular in the nineteenth century but is rarely seen today. Finding jet at a major retail jeweler will be difficult, and you may struggle to find it at a smaller jeweler, as well. Shopping online is your best option for new jet. Given its popularity in the past, however, you can also find it in antique jewelry sold at antique malls and vintage shops.
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    Know what you're looking at. Good jet has been polished until it gives off a matte or mildly glossy luster reminiscent of wax or velvet. It should not appear too shimmery, but it should not look too dull, either. If buying an antique piece, the polished luster may have worn off. Ask the merchant to quickly polish the gemstone to determine if the jet is real and able to be polished to its original condition.
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    Look for jet in large pieces. This gemstone has a very low density, so it is easy to wear even in large amounts.
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    Check the stone for scratches. Jet has a low hardness and is easily scratched. A piece of jet jewelry that has been properly cared for should have minimal scratches, but do not be too surprised if you see a few light scratches on antique pieces.

Method 5

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    Do your research about the trade of ivory. Elephant tusks have been the most common source of ivory throughout the gemstone's history. Due to the manner in which elephants are illegally poached for their tusks, however, the trade of new, contemporary elephant ivory is internationally banned. Typically speaking, though, you can still buy old elephant ivory that is decades or centuries old. You can also buy mammoth ivory, which is, perhaps, the most human form of ivory in existence since it comes from the tusks of mammoths that died of natural causes over 10,000 years ago.
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    Buy online or at antique stores. Since new ivory is banned, your best chances at finding ivory jewelry come by shopping in antique malls and online. Make sure that the merchant is certified and that no complaints have been filed against the shop.
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    Know what to expect. Ivory used in jewelry is off-white in color and usually polished until it becomes slightly glossy. The ivory is usually carved into intricate designs, from flowers to cameos, but smooth, simple ivory bangle bracelets are also common.

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Categories: Personal Accessories and Jewelry