Ever wondered why there is such a massive difference in prices on the gemstone set jewellery that you can buy from a large chain jewellery store, or in some cases even a craft seller on Etsy, to what you can buy from a trained bench jeweller? You could pay as little as $99 for a ring featuring sapphire set in silver and probably gold plated from a chain retailer or online, compared to upwards of $2,500 from a fine jeweller for a similar looking ring featuring sapphire and created from gold.
We often hear people ask: why such a massive difference in price? There are a few key factors that contribute to the quality, and therefore price, of gemstone set jewellery:
Colour and inclusions determine a gemstone’s value
Just because the stone in a piece of jewellery is an emerald or a sapphire doesn’t automatically mean it is of a high value. There are a few factors that determine the quality of a gem:
The gemstone’s colour, which is considered in three parts when it comes to the stone’s value: its hue (colour), tone (darkness and lightness) and saturation (vividness). Is the gemstone cloudy or clear? A gemstone with high clarity indicates a higher value and commands a higher price.
Has the gemstone been heat treated or is the colour natural? Some jewellery that is mass produced is set with heavily treated gemstones, this is to enhance their saturation, which can be a sign of lower quality. But not always – sometimes a gemstone just needs the slightest assistance of the human hand.
Are there ‘inclusions’ (which are essentially any material that is trapped inside a mineral when the mineral was formed)? Inclusions can be crystals, liquid, gas bubbles, or even tiny fractures. Inclusions can affect the clarity, and then in turn, affect the gemstone’s sparkle sparkle, which in turn, can affect the stone’s value.
The way a gemstone has been cut also affects its value
The way a gemstone is cut is another factor that gives it beauty and brilliance. A quality cut gem refracts light well and shouldn’t have a ‘window’. Most often, if you see a window in a gemstone, you can see right through it, meaning you could essentially see what is behind the gem (its setting or your finger), which is not always ideal. An expert gem or diamond cutter will try to avoid windowing, which will always appraise at a higher value than a mass cut lower grade factory cut stones.
Some commercial jewellers try to retain the weight of the gems they source, whilst compromising on the quality of the cut, so they can place a higher price tag on the piece. This practise, however, ultimately lowers the actual value of the piece, meaning the retail price has been vastly inflated.
A reputable fine jeweller will consult with you one on one to identify the right gemstone for your piece.
Each gemstone has a varying degree of hardness (check out the Mohs Hardness Scale to see where any gem you’re wanting on a ring sits before you fall in love with a particular stone!)
Diamonds have a hardness of 10, making them fit for everyday use, being less susceptible to fractures if they’re bumped against a surface. On the other hand, emeralds have a hardness of around 7.5, meaning they may be too soft for setting in any ring you plan to wear every day, as they could more easily become damaged by knocks, which are an inevitable part of life.
A good jeweller will consult with you on the ‘wearability’ of the gemstone you’re after, asking you questions such as what you do for work, what your general everyday lifestyle is like, and recommending suitable stones for how you intend to wear a piece of jewellery.
If you’re ‘wedded’ (so to speak!) to a particular gem, a fine jeweller will also have strategies up their sleeve on setting gemstones in particular ways, to better protect them from knocks and bumps.
This one-on-one advice from a jeweller is something you’re less likely to get from most jewellery retailers or online stores, where the aim is to sell in high volumes.
The jeweller adds a uniqueness that can’t be found at chain jewellers
Fine jewellers spend years and years refining their skills and carve out a place for themselves in the industry by competing on not only quality and precision, but also on the individuality of their designs. There is enormous value in the creativity a jeweller brings to the design of a bespoke piece of jewellery, which is something that you won’t find in most retail jewellery stores, where designs are replicated and manufactured at scale.
Going to a fine jeweller may be a pricier option than purchasing off the shelf gemstone jewellery from a retailer or online, but the higher price tag gets you exceptional quality, uniqueness and longevity, which is arguably more valuable than a cheaper piece of jewellery that is likely to be treasured less.
Thinking about treating yourself or someone special to a piece of fine jewellery?
Book an appointment – we’d love to chat about what you have in mind!