Hey folks! We're the gemcutters and jewellers of Reddit. Ask us anything!

The season from Thanksgiving to Valentine's Day is a very busy one for the gem and jewellery industry, and nagivating the industry can be confusing at best. "What the hell are the "Four Cs" of diamonds? How is anyone supposed to tell if a sapphire is cut well, or if it's cut in a way to rip you off? How can I learn to cut gems?" We're all happy to help answer these questions and any others you might have.

/u/diamonddealer - Dan Moran, owner of Concierge Diamonds in LA, a high-end private jeweller and wholesaler; also has a presence at some of the higher-end parts of the Tucson Gem Show

/u/flameswithin - Phil Lagas-Rivera, owner of Alternatives Lapidary, a gemcutting studio in Raleigh that specializes in lab-grown gems

/u/stagandfinch - Bryan Wiebe, owner of Stag and Finch, a gemcutting studio in Manitoba that got started here on Reddit

/u/AtelierVieuxPont - Trevor Vipond, a jeweller who does custom work, and also happens to cut gems; a frequent poster to the gem and jewellery subreddits

/u/cowsruleusall - Arya Akhavan, one of the directors of the US Faceter's Guild, the certifying org for gemcutters; also designs modern gem cuts

Proof here and here.

We've also got some folks who'll be floating in and out all day. /u/lse138, /u/bugabob, /u/greenstrong, /u/letstalkaboutrocks, and /u/druzyq are all involved in the industry to some extent.

Edit: left a few things off of the bios, added them in

Comments: 527 • Responses: 39  • Date: 

Gemmabeta96 karma

People often say that diamond prices are overinflated by the Debeers monopoly. Is this idea correct? And if this is true, how much would a cut diamond cost if there is not a monopoly in place?

cowsruleusall64 karma

You know, this is a really good question. I'm not super-deep into the diamond side of things, but from what I've heard the inflation is way less than it used to be, given that there are now a bunch of sources outside of the control of DeBeers.

As for the cost of diamonds if monopolization wasn't a thing... there's no good way to predict that, as far as I'm aware. The cost of luxury goods is a fickle thing to predict.

Pyronic_Chaos55 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA, I've been trying to research gem cutting and this is a surprisingly well timed AMA!

  1. Where should rough cut gems be bought? Is eBay reliable enough with quality (a high star rated seller)? What should I be looking for in a rough cut besides dimensions and price/weight? Any giveaways that the stone I buy will be a dud or not worth cutting?

  2. What tools (or kit) would a beginner use to start gem cutting?

  3. Are there easier (cheaper?) gems that take less skill to practice on before trying a more expensive stone?

  4. Tips/hints for beginners?


cowsruleusall77 karma

Excellent question! I've taught a lot of people how to cut gems, and there are some excellent resources available. If you're interested in getting started, I always recommend three things. First, sign up for the Gemology Online forums - that's the friendliest and most used peer-to-peer source of info. Also, buy Tom Herbst's book "Amateur Gemstone Cutting, Vol. 1" on Amazon, and watch my low-production-value YouTube series "Faceting 101". That should give you the full rundown of what to look for in gem materials, what the equipment is for cutting gems, and how to actually do the process.

To answer your questions:

1a. Gemstone rough (uncut gems) shouldn't come from eBay unless you're buying lab-grown material. There are a few good resources I'd recommend for beginners, including TMS Gems in San Diego (also online), Garsow Gems somewhere in CA (also online), WesternGem (online only), and to some extent New Era Gems (also online). All of these folks are well-used to having beginners, and will know exactly what materials to send your way.

1b. In rough, you want a piece that's "blocky" (not too long, narrow, or thin) and "clean" (not a lot of junk in the stone; should be transparent). It should pass the "white paper test" (if you put it on white paper, it shouldn't look black) and the "mirror test" (if you put it on a flat mirror, the light reflecting back up through the stone should give the stone a nice colour).

1c. It's a dud if the stone is black in normal ambient lighting, full of junk, or super thin or super long and narrow.

  1. You need a "faceting machine". The Graves Company makes the most inexpensive one that's still appropriate for beginners, if cost is a major concern. You'll also need "laps", the metal disks that you put diamond onto, which actually do the grinding work. And you'll need "dops", the metal rods that you glue the stones to, in order to actually do the gemcutting.

  2. The best beginner stones are inexpensive red garnets, clear or straw-coloured sunstones, very pale aquamarine/heliodor/morganite (the beryl family), or "laser gem" (borosilicate glass).

  3. The best tips/hints I can offer are to have you check out those resources I mentioned above, before you start doing anything in the gem world :)

kayson44 karma

What are the best alternatives to diamonds for jewelry?

lse13835 karma

I like Moissanite, it's 9.5 mohs in hardness and has an RI (refractive index) of 2.65, compared to diamonds 2.42. So it's cheaper and has more fire.

gemhound9022 karma

What you a refereeing to is Synthetic Moissanite. Natural Moissanite is extremely rare(largest crystal 3cm). Synthetic Moissanite has a range of hardness (8.5-9.25). You see more fire in Synthetic Moissanite because its a double-refractive stone(light goes in get split), diamond is single refractive(reliant on how its cut to bring the best fire out).

cowsruleusall5 karma

Mostly right but slightly wrong. Synthetic moissanite is a label that applies to over 200 different forms of silicon carbide, that occur in a transparent crystal form. The hardness for the most common and most gemologically-relevant forms is usually around 9.25.

And you see more fire in synthetic moissanite because the material has a higher index of dispersion, not because it's doubly refractive. These are two commonly confused issues. Double refraction (birefringence) is related to the difference in a material's refractive index based on polarization of light. Dispersion is related to the difference in a material's refractive index based on wavelength of light. Birefringence gives you facet doubling. Dispersion gives you fire.

50v3r31gnZA14 karma

Apprentice Goldsmith here, As has been posted it all depends on what you are looking for, a set of earrings for instance gets far less wear on the setting and thus the gem than a ring with a claw setting. one of the biggest culprits are Tanzanite absolutely terrible gem, scratches easily, sets very difficult and sticking your hand under cold water coming from an oven could cause the stone to change color or even break!

cowsruleusall23 karma

Tanzanite is a gem that looks absolutely amazing...but really shouldn't be advertised as for daily-wear use. Is it heat-sensitive? Yes, but it won't change colour just from going from an oven to cold water. But, if you get it up to even as low as 300*C, it can start to change colour. And it totally does scratch more easily than, let's say, amethyst.

VinoQueen30 karma

Is there a major difference in lab-created and "real" rubies? I want one instead of a diamond for my engagement ring, but I'm thrown off that lab-created is so much cheaper. Is it just a status thing?

cowsruleusall86 karma

Good question! Yes the price difference is a status thing. Natural rubies are rare as fuck, so they're very expensive. Lab rubies can be made for cheap.

For appearance differences...The short answer is "not really". The medium answer is that lab rubies look much more like high end rubies - the less expensive ones are more dark red and don't have that "glow", but expensive rubies and lab rubies do.

The long answer is complicated. There are four major methods to growing rubies. Flame fusion basically just drips molten ruby onto a "seed crystal", and the droppings stack up to make a cylinder of lab ruby. This stuff looks like natural ruby but can be a touch hazy due to microscopic bubbles and uneven in colour in very large sizes. The Czochralski method dips a seed crystal in a vat of molten ruby and pulls it out slowly, meaning no bubbles, making a flawless cylinder with even colour. Both of these methods distort the crystal lattice a bit, meaning that although the hardness and physical properties are thebsame, some of the fine details are a tiny bit different. With the flux method, rubies are dissolved in molten metal then crystallized back out. This gives almost a perfect ruby, but just had tiny particles of molten metal trapped inside. The best method is hydrothermal, which perfectly mimics natural growing conditions, but this shit is insanely expensive.

If you go with a flame fusion lab ruby, you'd never know the difference between that and a natural one. If you have each of these four types of synthetics next to eachother, you'd think the hydrothermal looks the best, the flame fusion looks the hziest, and the others are about the same.

K4R1MM26 karma

Considering diamonds are sold by weight and not dimensions. What do you say about the claims that you can get the same price of a diamond, but by cutting it with a wider crown and lower point you're getting a shinier diamond for the same price as "Any old regular cut"?

cowsruleusall58 karma

Oooooh, this is a good question. Diamonds are sold by carat weight, with listings frequently including the millimeter size. Coloured stones (all transparent faceted gems other than diamonds) are sold by both carat weight AND millimeter size.

You bring up a good point; two stones can have the same carat weight, but one can be shallower and therefore wider. The problem with this is that changing the height-to-width ratio significantly affects the stone's end appearance. The crown (top part) can be changed without much issue, but the pavilion (pointy part) is much more sensitive to changes in height. If you start going too thin and too wide, your stone will become less fiery ("dispersive"), and once you pass a critical threshold the stone will basically die. All the light will leak out the bottom and cause a "window" or "fisheye", and that can actually be mathematically calculated out given the refractive index of the material.

When you cut with a mildly wider, shallower stone, you're getting a more brilliant stone that looks bigger face-up, but it will have less fire. If you go too wide and too shallow, you'll get something that looks like glass.

Naked_Amos24 karma

I've heard it said that there's no such thing as a diamond that isn't a blood diamond. How would you respond to that claim?

cowsruleusall45 karma

/u/diamonddealer has some valuable points. A few other things I'd add in - there are diamond mines in regions that don't have active conflict. Russia and Canada have active diamond mines without slave labour, and if you're going for hardcore there are some even more stringent certifications that include not only the Kimberly Process, but additional requirements for environmental friendliness.

"Blood diamonds" are way less common now than they were in the late 90s and early 2000s, and with the advent of the internet it's much easier to find diamonds that avoid the problem entirely.

my-spoon-is-too-big22 karma

What are your thoughts on moissanite? How does it compare in the 4 Cs to diamonds? Any concerns with them?

cowsruleusall53 karma

I'm not the diamond person, but I'll chime in because I love the lab-grown "exotic diamond-like materials". We can ignore carat weight, because we're assuming comparison between two stones of the exact same size and shape. We can ignore clarity, because moissanites are almost all entirely flawless unless you're getting the "bottom-barrel" stuff from China or India.

For colour, moissanite comes in blue, green, pink, yellow, orange, brown, and now comes in extremely high-quality whites ("F" equivalent). For cut...diamonds and moissanite from chain jewellers will have the exact same cuts. However, moissanite is something that a custom/precision gemcutter can work with, and can cut the material into a unique cut that you'd never see anywhere else.

When we talk about the basic appearance, moissanite is substantially more fiery, more than double that of diamond. Some people think it looks more "interesting", while others think it looks "weird" or "fake". That's more of a matter of personal preference.

NanoRabbit21 karma

Hi! How have the types of gemstone cuts changed over time? More specifically, what would be your pick for a beautiful old-fashioned cut that is less common nowadays?

cowsruleusall23 karma

The history of gem cuts is actually fascinating :)

Gem cuts started off as...shit, actually. People left stones in their natural crystal habits and left them as is, or tried to knock bits off then round the sharp bits off. As technology improved, people started figuring out actual gem cut shapes. Let's think of diamonds and spinel, which normally occur as perfect octahedra. People figured out that if you ground off the top part, you had something that reflected around a lot and was really shiny. This was the first real gem cut designed around modern principles.

As tech improved, people realized that adding more facets, and changing the total height of the stone, gave different results. There was a good long period of trial and error, then someone decided to apply principles of optics to figure out ideal angles. This moved us from basic table cuts, to basic mine cuts, to the Old European Cut, and then eventually the Standard Round Brilliant we all know today.

If you're asking about old-fashioned cuts, the reason they've all fallen out of favour is because they look awful compared to the majority of modern stuff. They black out, they have giant dead glassy areas in the middle, they look awful when the stone is tilted, etc. However, if you're asking about cuts that look classic, then there are a few awesome ones, although I do have to warn you that there are several thousand gem cuts out there.

Head over to the Gemology Project and check out "Life in the Mines", "Eye of Zul", or "Classic Continental". Those are probably more along the lines of what you're looking for :)

workingtimeaccount14 karma

What gems do you like better than diamonds?

cowsruleusall47 karma

I'm the kind of gemcutter who loves the weird things, but my favourite clear gem would have to be rutile, the mineral form of titanium (IV) oxide. It has the highest refractive index (brilliance) of any gem material, as well as the highest dispersion (fire). This means that for any given gem cut, rutile will be both the most brilliant/sparkly and the most fiery.

Don't believe me? Check this shit out. Rainbows everywhere, and in real life it looks way, WAY more impressive.

There are also a few other things I'm super enthralled with. Gems like blue apatite, Paraiba tourmaline, ruby, and cerium-doped YAG all have extremely high fluorescence, which makes them look like they have a radioactive glow in real life. Some gems have a strong colour change depending on the lighting conditions, like alexandrite. And some, like andalusite or Sunset tourmaline, have multiple different colours when you look at the stone in different directions, and can even show 3 totally different colours when you see the gem face-up!

StagandFinch8 karma

did u/flameswithin cut that rutile?

cowsruleusall9 karma

Hell yes he did. :D

j89456 karma

Is rutile still a pain to source?

cowsruleusall10 karma

Unfortunately yeah. Outside of a few precision cutters, it's not really available as a gem material and it's primarily used in optics. I have a giant stash, /u/flameswithin had a few pieces left...and I can't think of anyone else offhand who has any.

StagandFinch15 karma

Do you really have a giant stash?! Can I add a piece of rutile to my shopping list for when we meet up Tuscon? I'd love to cut something that can poop rainbows.

cowsruleusall12 karma

I am the proud owner of almost a kilo of rutile. I buy it whenever it's available because it's such a pain in the ass to get. Yes I'll bring some.

AtelierVieuxPont12 karma

I also want a rainbow poop stone! :D

cowsruleusall13 karma

You want to see what kind of craziness can be achieved with rutile? Here.

MightyMuskrats6 karma

What is the price range difference and the durability (for lack of a better term.. not really sure how to phrase it properly) of rutile vs diamond? As a ceramicist, this is something that would interest me much more as a gem rather than a diamond.

cowsruleusall9 karma

Good question. For price range, synthetic rutile is comparatively way less expensive, but highly variable since there basically isn't a market for it. I usually sell for anywhere between $50-$200 per carat, depending on how pure white the material is.

As for durability, it has a hardness between 6 and 6.5, depending on how much iron it has as an impurity, and what its oxygen deficit is (if it's oxygen-deficient, it gets a blue colour). It can be doped with aluminum to give it a pure white colour and a hardness of 7. Either way, it's not appropriate for a daily-wear ring, but would be fine otherwise.

-Scarodactyl-12 karma

Have you ever cut or set a warm-colored topaz (yellow, brown, orange, etc; anything not blue) not from Brazil? If so, where was it from and did you test for stability of color in sunlight?

Also hi Arya.

cowsruleusall12 karma

Hey!!! :D

Also, Pakistani topaz. Faded from pink (obviously irradiated) to peach.

vortish11 karma

I love gems! What is the least expensive way to get into cutting gems?

cowsruleusall8 karma

The absolute least expensive? First, learn as much as you can from free sources. The best would be the Gemology Online forums, then my "Faceting 101" video series on YouTube (which is already obsolete! dammit), then the "Just Ask Jeff" blog that might still be floating around (author died a few years ago).

Once you've read up as much as you can, then, try and find a local rock club, gem club, etc. The US Faceter's Guild should have some more information about clubs nearest to you. The clubs usually rent out machines for a nominal fee per day, as long as someone's seen that you're not going to accidentally destroy the machine. They may have classes for a fee as well.

That's probably the least expensive way. If you decide you like it, you can start out with a used machine from Craigslist, which could be as low as $500 with all the (used and outdated) equipment.

backtobow9 karma

Hello fellow rock hounds! I am an amateur cutter, I took some classes a few years back and later took the plunge to buy a facetron. I now have a small but growing collection of cut stones that I'm increasingly proud of. My question is, what was the turning point that took your hobby to the next level?

I'm not trying to make a full time career out of this (although sometimes I dream of being the next Lisa Elser!), but it's expensive and I'd like to start breaking even and getting a bit more serious.

(I don't live in the US.)

StagandFinch19 karma

for me the biggest stumbling block to selling stones wasn't the faceting at all. It was the photography! It doesn't matter how beautiful your work is if you have crappy pictures. Get yourself a nice camera, it's a must if you want to take it to the next level.

cowsruleusall12 karma

My photography sucks giant monkey balls... Gotta work on that. The best faceting is useless if you can't demonstrate it over the Internet to prospective buyers.

AtelierVieuxPont11 karma

Hello! Lisa is one of my personal heroes, both because of the cutting she has done but also (and mostly) because of her die hard commitment to ethical sourcing and giving back to the communities a lot of these gems come from. Also she's from where I am!

It's a bit harder for me to answer this because I came from jewellery, and gems can just tag along. From what you have described, I think making an attempt at selling some of your work at market rates to then buy more rough would be a good option. Sort of a trade up, where the gems you cut might be more expensive but in turn make you more profit to break even and invest in yourself (classes or more rough).

cowsruleusall9 karma

Well shit I forgot you're Canadian too. You bring up a good point about ghetto g to the point of more expensive rough. There's a runaway feedback loop where expensive rough leads to expensive sold stones, and a much better dollar income pet hour worked.

backtobow4 karma

I didn't think of it this way in terms of increasing return on investment. I feel I'm at the point now where I can't justify the expensive stuff without figuring out a way to fund it.

cowsruleusall6 karma

Sell some more stones, but save all the money you make from them. Pool it all together and spend, let's say, $500 on a single piece of rough. You don't have to justify funding it if all the money is coming from gems anyway.

cowsruleusall11 karma

Hahahah Trevor, Bryan, and I are all Canadian. Lisa is a close personal friend of mine, and she helped me get started in faceting :)

My big turning point was starting to write my own designs, and getting proficient in that. Not only did it help me squeeze a much higher percent yield from stones, but it so got me "deeper" into the industry and gave me better theoretical knowledge. The other thing that gave me a boost was starting to teach, since I needed to know enough about gems, gemology, and faceting to be able to help other people troubleshoot.

BenSharp17 karma

Hey, this might get buried, but it's worth a try _^ I'm planning to propose to my girlfriend at some point in the near future, looking for a nice blue gem ring. This is my first experience buying expensive jewellery, so how do I know if I'm getting ripped off/are there any insider tips I should use? Thanks for the AMA Btw!

cowsruleusall20 karma

Good question! Buying expensive jewellery for the first time can be scary.

Some brief advice - for an engagement ring, stick to Mohs 8 or harder. That limits you to topaz, spinel, sapphire, YAG, CZ, moissanite, chrysoberyl, alexandrite, and diamond. Among these, all of them can be found in blue colours except for alexandrite, which by definition has a green-to-red change in different lighting conditions. YAG and CZ will be the cheapest, topaz will be the cheapest natural stone, and sapphires are probably my preferred option for blue.

First, figure out what your girlfriend likes in terms of jewellery. Then, check lots of different sources, online and in person, to get a good sense of what the general pricing will be. Don't buy into the "3 months' salary" myth. Remember, you're trying to buy something she'll like and wear, not something at a certain price point.

Once you're actively looking for things, read through some of my posts on how to recognize good gemcutting. I'm about to go to bed so I'm feeling kinda lazy with respect to writing a full explanation out, but if you search through my posting history on /r/jewelry, you should find plenty of in-depth guides.

obsidianchao6 karma

I've seen a few comments about rutile, moissanite, etc - what do you find to be an affordable diamond replacement that doesn't necessarily compromise on quality? (ie, not cubic zirc)

Favorite engagement ring stones?

cowsruleusall5 karma

Soooo... cubic zirconia isn't a compromise on quality. Cubic zirconia is a mineral in its own right, and very high-quality blocks of the material are produced nowadays. It just has a reputation of being inexpensive, and it has an unfortunate reputation as a "fake" because people used to try and pass off CZ as diamonds. It's probably the closest material to diamonds, in terms of optical properties and end appearance.

I have to partially agree with /u/diamonddealer - if you're going for a high-brilliance, moderate-fire white gemstone, you might as well go with diamonds. There's not a whole lot of use in getting white YAG or white CZ unless price is a major factor, OR the intended wearer is very, very rough on their hands and you want to have like 5 backup stones sitting around somewhere.

However! If you really want a white stone, there are three others that I really like that immediately come to mind. Rutile is the single most brilliant, single most fiery gem material that exists, but it's a bit on the soft side at 6.5. Danburite is the single clearest, cleanest gem material that exists, and occurs in large pieces; even though its optical properties are fairly low, it punches above its weight class due to the sheer clarity. And moissanite is almost as hard as diamond, but way more fiery - choosing that is really more of a personal taste question.

Best engagement ring stones? Diamond, for sheer hardness. Moissanite if you're going for overall durability, and/or if price is a major consideration. Lab sapphire or cubic zirconia, if you want interesting colours OR if you want unique colour-change varieties or unique custom/precision gem cuts. YAG if you're a hardcore science nerd.

iambluest5 karma

I want to try carving amethyst. What basic tools can I use? Are there simple, basic how-to guides online?

cowsruleusall7 karma

Oof. I don't think any of us do carving. Your best bet is to ask on the Gemology Online forums.

marrowbonez5 karma

If I had an unlimited amount of money and I wanted a Green Lantern ring with no visible metal and made entirely out of a green gemstone, would that be possible? How much would it cost?

cowsruleusall11 karma

Well, I can't help you on a Green Lantern ring made out of solid gemstone, but if you want a gemstone with the GL Corps insignia in it... Check out the gem cut "The Oath" on the Gemology Project. Genrrally, solid gemstone rings are recommended against because of the risk of catastrophic finger injury if they break.

Silverlight424 karma

How difficult is it to get into gemcutting?

Do you basically have to apprentice under someone?

I enjoy learning and doing things myself, with the help of research on the internet of course.

I've been interested in jewelry for a while, and gemstones, materials, that sort of thing... but I have no experience other than doing a little bit of chainmail (some finer work using silver wire).

I imagine it would be easier to get into it by selling jewelry along with the stones that are cut, right?

AtelierVieuxPont5 karma

Not difficult! Like any other hobby it requires lots of practice and patience but can absolutely be learned from reading and internet sources.

The Gemology Online forums are an amazing resource with a huge number of very knowledgeable people that are willing to help beginners. Tom Herbst's Book "Amateur Gemstone Faceting Volume 1" is also basically required reading, and really helps with not making disastrous mistakes off the bat (or not too many at least!). Watch out for the older books, they have a lot of outdated information that will do more harm than good.

Interest is what got me into the jewellery trade, and ultimately how I became a goldsmith. The best thing you can do is taking local gold/silversmithing classes (or gemcutting classes!) to nurture that interest, and see where it takes you. Gemcutting was the logical progression so I could indeed cut the stones, make the rings, and set them myself.

cowsruleusall6 karma

/u/AtelierVieuxPont is recommending all the right sources. I'll also shamelessly plug my low-production-value YouTube series, "Faceting 101", if you're much more of a visual learner.

As for apprenticing...if you find someone to practice with or to show you the ropes, it'll make your learning curve much faster, but it's not necessary. The fastest I've ever taught someone is 6 hours from start to finish, and damn his finished stone was good.

ljuvlig4 karma

I notice sapphires and rubies that are unheated / untreated cost a premium. Are they worth it? And are some treatments worse than others?

cowsruleusall6 karma

This is really a point of personal preference, not anything else. Rubies and sapphires are comparatively uncommon. They usually have at least some amount of random shit in them, with the most common stuff being needles of rutile "silk". That means that rubies and sapphires that are naturally incredibly clear are comparatively very rare.

You can heat rubies and sapphires to dissolve the rutile "silk". This enhances the clarity of the stone, but can also change the colour (can either lighten the really dark sapphires, or add blue to the paler "milky" sapphires). Heated sapphires are cheaper because they weren't naturally found in that condition.

There are other treatments, like taking beryllium or titanium, vaporizing them, and diffusing them into the stone. These are more sketchy treatment methods and unless there's 100% full disclosure I don't like these. You can also take really shitty ruby and "heal" the fractures by filling it with a specialized lead glass. This is crap and these stones are super fragile - stay far away from them.

sandmyth4 karma

What do you think is the prettiest gemstone for the price?

cowsruleusall5 karma

Rutile, because it has insane amounts of fire and is still fairly affordable. Or sunset tourmaline, because it's also affordable and has a beautiful mix of warm colours in the stone.

gaqkabo3 karma

So artificial diamonds, is that really a thing? How about alternatives like Moissanite, are they worth it?

lse1386 karma

Yes, they make diamonds. Moissanite is an awesome material, it has a mohs hardness of 9.5, so it's very durable and it has a higher RI (refractive index) than diamond, so it has more "fire" than diamond. It's a little hard to get ahold of the rough because it was originally manufactured under a patent held by Charles & Colvard.

cowsruleusall12 karma

But now the patent on moissanite has expired! :D There was some moissanite rough at Tucson way back in 2014 that I got my hands on, there was plenty this year, and supposedly 2017 will have full 2" diameter disks at some of the shows.

But to answer the original question, yes, artificial diamonds are real. Labs can vapourize carbon, then deposit it onto a tiny "seed crystal". As the carbon gas slowly settles out, it'll crystallize onto the original diamond seed, making it bigger and bigger. You can actually get pretty large lab-grown diamonds this way, although they're usually a yellow or yellow-brown colour.

j89453 karma

How does the price compare between moissanite and other synthetic gem rough?

cowsruleusall8 karma

Moissanite rough is insanely expensive still, and not very high quality, because only the shittiest of the disks ever get rejected from the big cutting houses and make their way to small buyers like me. In the next few months to years the market should stabilize and this won't be true anymore. Rough moissanite can go up to $5/ct or more.

You're better off just recutting moissanite that's been poorly cut in mass production cutting houses in India. That's what I do :)

flameswithin7 karma


cowsruleusall4 karma

You do realize that I got the idea from you, right?

amtant3 karma

Hi! How good/reputable are the pieces of jewelry they sell on TV networks like JTV and QVC?

diamonddealer3 karma

Generally, mass-produced garbage.

cowsruleusall5 karma

There was a massive scandal a few years back where they were selling "andesine", that turned out to be cheap crappy sunstone that had been heated to insanely high temperatures with copper diffusion. It was a disaster.

These folks also frequently make up new catchy trade names for low-end stuff, just to be able to sell it. If you've ever seen the South Park episode that talks about Cash-4-Gold and similar things, the parody that they have of JTV is pretty spot-on.

chiaseedsinthehouse3 karma

As a fellow Reddit jeweler, diamond setter, and cad designer this ama makes me so happy to see.

Have any of you ever collaborated on a project or worked together?

cowsruleusall6 karma

Hehehehehe funny you should ask...

I just cut a garnet, then had /u/flameswithin make a custom piece of jewellery to set it into. /u/stagandfinch just cut an Oregon sunstone in a design I wrote up. And I'm meeting up with most of these guys at the Tucson Gem Show in a few weeks anyway.

There are some of us that collab all the time. I create a lot of unusual modern gem cuts, and /u/flameswithin and /u/stagandfinch test these out for me since I don't have a lot of time anymore. They'll ask me for designs, and I'll write up new ones for them. Stuff like that.

Wandering_My_Mind3 karma

I just got these for my girlfriend, https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007HGAG7M/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1, am I getting ripped off or is this a good deal?

lse1382 karma

It's going to be smaller than you expect. I imagine that they mass produce these and use the same photo for all of them. I'm sure the cut won't match the ones in the photos. As far as a deal, I'd be surprised if it's actually tourmaline. You can buy just the gemstone for $10 for a two pack on RioGrande.com. I'd say that it's cheaper than jewelry stores would sell it for. I'm curious what they will look like in real life.

Edit: $10 for two at RioGrande is a simulant, so if it's real, than it's a good deal.

Wandering_My_Mind3 karma

Is there anyway to tell if it's real tourmaline? Wouldn't it be false advertising if it wasn't? Thanks for the response!

AtelierVieuxPont5 karma

In the description it says they are natural tourmalines, but have been irradiated. It happens with off colour stones that normally wouldn't sell too well, they bombard them with radiation to alter the colour. I agree that they will probably be smaller than you expect but around the price I would expect them to be. /u/cowsruleusall can probably give a better explanation of irradiation treatments!

cowsruleusall2 karma

Well, the only way to be sure if this was tourmaline at all would be to do gemological testing. You'd have to find the refractive index with a refractometer, the specific gravity with one of any number of tests, and some additional tests too.

As for irradiation... It's always interesting :) You can take light pink, light orange, or other certain light tourmalines and irradiate them. That converts the normally pink Mn2+ to Mn3+, which is a deep rich purple. Irradiated gemstones are still real and natural, but they legally have to be sold as "treated". It doesn't make them radioactive or anything.

s_wipe3 karma

oh man, this is a topic im strangely fascinated about, most of the stuff i wanted to ask were already asked, so ill ask this:

what are your thoughts on lab grown gems? personally, one of the things that attract me so much in gems are them being a natural occurring treasure, so a gem being lab-grown is somewhat of a turn off. what are your thoughts on the matter?

cowsruleusall5 karma

As someone who loves the science behind lab-grown gems (meaning they occur in nature AND can me grown in a lab), as well as true synthetics (do NOT occur in nature, but can be grown in a lab), I'm torn between two camps. There's a huge appeal in knowing that a rare gemstone came from nature, and that conditions just happened to occur in the infinitessimally small probability that allowed a rare gem to form. On the other hand, I'm also fascinated by knowing the concentrations and ratios of the "doping agents" in lab grown gems that give them their colour and properties.

There are some things, like chromium-doped forsterite or aluminum-doped rutile, that are just too damn cool and can never occur in nature. Those I love. Other lab-grown gems and synthetic gems I like for themselves in their own right. But for stuff like quartz or sapphire, I personally prefer natural.

mjknlr1 karma

Mr. Harrison or Mr. Libby?

cowsruleusall2 karma

Oh man that brings back memories of high school. I had Mr. Libby. Send me a PM and tell me who you are!