The saying that one “knows just enough to be dangerous” was invented to describe a lay person who learns about the 4 C’s of diamonds and then goes to buy colored stones. Well, not really–but it could not be more applicable. Generally, people will google the 4 C’s before they buy a diamond and then head off into the trenches to buy a diamond. OK, no harm done. Worst case scenario they just bought themselves a diamond that is not a great fit for their needs or investment strategy but it won’t be horrible. However, walk into a store to buy a colored stone flashing around your 4 C’s and your wallet and/or ego will get a thrashing. You see, when one buys colored stones, the 4 C’s don’t matter at all because an entirely different criteria applies. The second you whip out the 4 C’s the salesperson knows you’re a rookie.
Colored stones are infinitely more complex than diamonds. When it comes to colored stones, color is king. Duh. Always go for the truest color (as long as it appeals to you). However, having said that it is very difficult for a person who is not in the industry to know what the “true color” of a particular stone should be. I know what exact shade of green radiates from the best emerald, the perfect crisp light blue of a Paraiba tourmaline, or deep complex red of a rubellite, from an investment perspective–but for the retail buyer, personal preference plays a larger role than return on investment. Some people prefer deeper green emeralds that are so dark they are almost opaque, others prefer a vivid grass-green. Prices vary immensely based on color.
Inclusions can matter but generally no one cares about inclusions if the stone is lively. By lively, I mean you want to look at a stone and feel as though it is flirting with you. That is the only way I know how to describe it. I’ve seen perfectly clear stones sit on my dealers shelves and never move and then I’ve seen stones with inclusions that seduce their way to a fabulous home. A flirty stone is like someone with a glimmer in their eyes–you can’t miss it.
26 carat Paraiba tourmaline from Mozambique is such a vivid blue and so clear that it costs more per carat than a diamond. This is one sexy stone. The ones from Brazil are so rare I’ve never seen one this size, color or clear.
For a collector, rarity is also key. Thus, it is always important to ask what treatments the colored stones have had. Certain treatments are normal: emeralds are often treated with oil to improve the inclusions, sapphires and rubies are heated to improve the inclusions and color. All collectors hunt for the non-treated natural stones. However, the difference between a treated stone and untreated stone is often hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars so unless you’ve got the zeros on-call, the normal treatments will not matter. The treatment to avoid like the plague is dyeing. Stay away from a dyed stones–once a stone is dyed it’s not worth anything.
Untreated emeralds with no or minute inclusions are extremely rare. This 12+ carat is one of the clearest untreated stones I’ve seen.
Origin is another factor that affects investment value. Certain stones are worth more when they come from specific geographical regions. For example, Colombian emeralds are more valuable than Brazilian emeralds, Brazilian emeralds are more valuable than Zambian emeralds. Paraiba tourmalines from Brazil are the most valuable followed by ones from Mozambique. Burmese sapphires and rubies are more valuable than African ones but a good sapphire from Kashmir or Ceylon can knock the Burmese ones out of the water. It all depends.
For general purposes, focus on color, make sure you choose a flirtatious stone, make sure the colored stone has not been dyed, ask a few questions and make sure the big ones come with certificates. Those interested in collecting or investing in colored stones should always go through an expert.
Big Kiss and Bigger Diamonds,