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Necessity for Product Knowledge – Precious Vs Semi Precious Gemstones

Every retail staff member has always been in a position at least once in their career where they were questioned about the difference between precious and semi-precious gemstones. Customers are well read these days and tend to ask more technical related questions before buying a jewellery product.

“The common questions asked relate to metal purity, quality factors affecting the value of a diamond, quality of gemstones used and buy back value of studded jewellery.”

These are not easy questions to answer unless the retail sales staff has the necessary knowledge to tackle such questions.

To enhance the knowledge level one requires additional self-learning. Methods of self-learning include reading up industry related news, articles, books, web browsing and discussing information with each other and the team.

The most gripping questions that one can be asked are:

  • What is the difference between precious and semi-precious gemstones?
  • Why is there such a huge price difference between both?
  • Does a semi-precious mean it is fake?
  • If its mounted in the jewellery, will I get a buy-back amount for the gemstone or only for the diamond?
  • If there is no buy-back value for the gemstone, why should I invest in it?
  • Are these Burmese rubies/ Colombian emeralds/ Kashmir sapphires?
  • Why is this jewellery piece having red and green stones cheaper than the other jewellery piece you showed me? What is the difference?
  • What benefit do I get if I buy gemstone studded jewellery especially from your store?
  • How different are the stones that you are selling from the next-door store?
  • What guarantee or certificate are you giving with the gemstones?
  • How do I know if this is the right price for the stone? My friend got the same coloured gemstone at a much cheaper price from another shop, then why is this stone more expensive than her stone?
  • Will you exchange my old jewellery having gemstones in them which is from my grandmother and are real for a new more exclusive piece of jewellery?
  • Does this gemstone really work for astrology? Do you have anyone who can assist me on the astrological effects of the gemstones?
  • When I bought these ruby earrings, I paid a lot for them, then why am I getting so less for their buy-back? I haven’t used these earrings; then why should I not get the original amount back when I have the bill?
  • Can you look at this stone I bought from a friend of my relative and check if it is genuine or not? Can you value it for me also?
  • I was gifted this pendant purchased from your store but I want to exchange it for something else? Can you tell me how much is it worth and what can I get in return?

These are just few of the questions a retail or counter sale staff member faces daily from the customers visiting their store.

“There is essentially no difference between precious and semi-precious gemstones globally, however, in India, Ruby, Sapphire (Blue, Yellow), Emeralds are considered as precious gemstones.”

All other gemstones are considered as semi-precious. Diamonds are not included in both categories as they are considered as a single stone.

The reason for ruby, sapphire and emerald to be considered as precious gemstones is due to their rarity and more since they were associated with royalty in the era of Kings and Queens.

Ruby, sapphire and emerald are valued by their origin or country from where they were mined other than their colour, clarity and carat weight.

“Since ruby, sapphire, emeralds are much in demand their synthetic counterparts (grown in laboratories) are available in the market. Treated natural and synthetic stones are also available in the market.”

The similar coloured semi-precious gemstones only resemble the colours of ruby, sapphire and emerald but do not have their gemmological properties. These are usually sold as their simulants. Cultured pearls are not synthetic pearls, they are created with human assistance. These include Akoya, South Sea, Tahitian and Freshwater pearls.

Fake gemstones include glass and plastic available in all colours.

Buy-back of mounted or studded gemstones is usually less compared to diamonds. The reason for this is yet unexplained at many retail outlets and may have to do with the identification issue of the stone unlike diamonds which are accompanied by certificates, although a good number of retailers do buy-back precious gemstones which are mounted.

Another reason for not buying back certain old gemstones could be related to the reality that rubies were first synthesised in the 1800’s. And those who have completed their gemmological education even at a basic level are aware of this fact. One more reason could be the insufficient evidence to determine the type of stone whether natural, treated or synthetic.

“The market for gemstones is not organized compared to the diamond market especially when it comes to pricing. The value of a gemstone be it precious or semi-precious will differ from shop to shop depending on the demand and supply of the gemstone.”

High quality and high valued gemstones are usually accompanied with an identification certificate either issued by a third party or then by the jeweller itself. The stones may or may not have an inscription to identify if they are same stones or not, causing a hurdle in the buy-back process.

When it comes to astrological effects of a gemstone, unless the retail sales staff member is an astrologer the lesser said the better. The reason for giving this statement has to do with the negative feedback a customer may receive from their astrologer or someone else thus endangering the store’s reputation. If the store does have an astrologer associated with them, the details of the personnel can be shared with the customer.

If a customer wants to have their gifted jewellery appraised i.e. checked and valued by your store, then the same should be done in their presence with the checking being conducted by a qualified and experienced gemmologist. The same process is recommended when checking a stone that was purchased at another store.

Whether conducting a sale or a buy-back, a retail sale staff member should always follow the rules laid done by the retailer to ensure that incorrect or inappropriate information is not passed on to the customers.

The emphasis again should be on self-learning accompanied by internal discussions so that an informed selling can be done and questions which are not very technical can also be answered to ensure customer satisfaction.


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