Thursday, May 28, 2009

Exploitation of Jewelry Customers by using Misnomers and Misrepresentations - Part I

Very often we come across friends and clients who have at various occasions bought jewelry which is not exactly what they had expected it to be. On air, I often come across queries as to how one can be sure whether the stone they bought is a diamond or not. I have come across some whose beautiful yellow colored gemstone, 'pukhraj' bought at an unbelievable price turned out to be a more commonly available, not-so-expensive topaz, tourmaline, quartz or worse still, a piece of glass.

In short, we are talking about the mis-representation of information and misnomers used to sell stones. Before we go on, it is very important to understand the meaning of imitation, treated and synthetic stones.

Let us take an example of a diamond. A natural diamond is a rare beauty formed in the nature with no human intervention. This is the most sought after and the most expensive of its kind. If a natural diamond is treated under high pressure or temperature, or it is subjected to any other form of treatment other than cutting, to enhance its appearance to alter the color or clarity, such a diamond would be called 'treated'. Some treatments such as HPHT (High pressure high temperature) are permanent whereas some others such as fracture filling may wear off over a period of time or by chemical interaction such as perfume or heat in the kitchen etc.

If an exact replica or clone of a diamond is to be created in the laboratory, then such a diamond is called 'synthetic diamond' or sometimes a cultured diamond. A synthetic stone is chemically and physically the same as a natural stone. The difference between the value of a natural and synthetic stone makes it very important for one to be able to make out the difference between the two.
Interesting observation: Sometimes though rarely, the synthetic counterpart of a stone looks more beautiful than the natural one such as in the case of a Synthetic moissanite.

A piece of glass, a rock crystal quartz, synthetic moissanite, cubic zirconia and other colorless stones that looks like a diamond can be used to replace a diamond because they match the color of a diamond. These are known as 'imitation' stones because they are used to imitate precious and semi precious gemstones. Usually they are no where related to the chemical properties of the natural stone but look alike.

'Misnomers' are special names given to common stones to make them sound more appealing and more coveted. For example, the stone commonly known as the 'Australian jade' is actually a misnomer for a fairly commonly available Chrysoprase which even in its best quality when it looks very similar to jade is not as precious or expensive as the jade. A common misnomer for yellow Topaz is golden pukhraj which is used to imitate a yellow sapphire. Misnomers are not illegal, which makes it very hard for a buyer to take action against this unethical practice.

When a false piece of information is used to sell a jewel or stone, or when facts are bent to make the sale, such false information is known as 'mis-representation'. For example, if a pink sapphire is sold to you under the name of a ruby, a synthetic stone is sold as natural, a treatment which is not permanent is sold as permanent, then such information is mis-represented to you. If a synthetic stone is not declared as synthetic or the purity of metal is falsely reported, these are all cases of mis-representation of information. Usually this is an illegal practise, but sometimes, the question is not so much about legal but more about ethics.

Name of stone
HPHT synthetic diamond
CVD synthetic diamond
HPHT for color enhancement
Laser drilling for clarity enhancement
Fracture filling for clarity
Coloring the girdle for color enhancement
Synthetic Moissanite
Cubic zirconia
Rock crystal quartz
Colorless topaz
Synthetic ruby
Heat treatment

Cubic zirconia
Red beryl
Synthetic sapphire
Heat treatment
Blue topaz
Cubic zirconia
Synthetic emerald
Fracture filling
Green beryl
Green sapphire
Aventurine quartz

Coming up next: Misnomers and Mis-representation Part 2: How to identify treated, imitations and synthetics from the natural untreated stone.

Look out for information about misrepresentation and unethical practices in selling gold ornaments and other metals.

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