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Gemstones are beautiful, precious and colorful alternatives to diamonds–but knowing where to find loose gemstones, especially online, can be tricky. The best places, in fact, might be more accessible than you’d imagine. There’s ample reason to both want to and be hesitant to shop online, but there’s no doubt that gemstones themselves can make beautiful wedding accessories or gifts.
The Best Places to Buy Gemstones – Summary
Bottom Line up Front: If you are in a hurry, my top go-to place to buy loose gemstones is James Allen here. They have the best in class online shopping experience with an amazing 360 HD camera to inspect each and every gemstone prior to purchase. Better than in store!
From rubies, sapphires and emeralds to lesser known, glamourous gemstones will be on display at The World of Colors Fair this June in the heart of Hong Kong. The stunning showcase will include multicolor sapphire necklaces, Burmese brooches with brilliant rubies, and many other elegant options, all sold through professional gemstone dealers.
Also on sale: loose gemstones of every kind you can imagine.
The annual fair is perhaps most well known for the Fine Gemstone Pavilion, which features gemstones by specific regions and countries. The ruby is especially beloved. As dazzling as the fair is, though, let’s face buying loose gemstones online is by far more convenient.
What are the most common types of gemstones?
Before we explore whether or not buying loose gemstones online makes sense for you and the best places to purchase we need to discuss what kind of gemstones are your best option. While there are of course many varieties of gemstones, the following are among the most popular options:
- Alexandrite: This gemstone is remarkable because its hue changes depending on its exposure to light. During the daytime, this gemstone appears to be a cool blue with a hint of green; at night, it develops a red color with raspberry undertones. It’s most commonly sourced from Sri Lanka, East Africa, and Brazil, though its origins can be traced to the Russian Ural Mountains in the 1830’s. Because of its special qualities and because it is relatively rare, it tends to be an expensive gemstone.
- Amethyst: Amethyst gemstones are both popular and prevalent, and thus a more affordable gemstone. It has a deep lilac hue and goes well with either cool or warm tones; it is a versatile gemstone that goes with almost everything. It’s actually a form of quartz and associated with St. Valentine.
- Aquamarine: Aquamarine gemstones are the birthstone for those born in March, but there’s ample reason to prize it regardless of the month you were born. The name is derived from the Latin word for seawater, and while it is associated with the sea, it’s also been associated with good fortune for marriages. Today, much of loose aquamarine gemstones come from Brazil and Pakistan. The color, as the name implies, is a pale blue, and can range from almost translucent to a deeper turquoise. Elegant, it’s a great option for your something blue; the deeper the blue, the more expensive it tends to be.
- Citrine: Citrine is in the yellow and orange color family, with hues ranging from light yellow to deep orange with brown undertones. While citrine was once associated with protection against evil, it’s now more commonly associated with prosperity. It’s actually among the most popular and affordable gemstones and would go excellently with other yellows, blues, and in some tones, even purples. It is important to note that most citrine sold has been heat treated; natural hues are more rare and expensive. It’s most commonly used as an alternative to topaz and yellow sapphires.
- Emerald: The emerald is known for its beautiful green hue and symbolizes love, Spring, and fertility. Perhaps the most well-known figure associated with emeralds is Queen Cleopatra of Egypt, who was known to wear them often. As is the case with other gemstones, the lightest hues tend to be affordable, while the deepest colors are the most expensive. Some emeralds even have a bluish tint to them. GIA lab testing is actually performed to determine if there is enough green to classify a gemstone as a proper emerald.
- Garnet: If you’re searching for a gemstone in beautiful hues for an earring, brooch or bracelet, the January gemstone may be a good option. Garnet gemstones are not as good for rings or large necklaces; they are a slightly softer gemstone, with a hardness of 6.5 on the moh’s scale. Highly versatile, garnet gemstones are available in just about every shade you can imagine, from blue-green to deep red to fuchsia and even shades of yellow and orange. Derived primarily from Russia, Africa, and Sri Lanka, the gemstone symbolizes mystical power and protection; it is a traditional gift for good fortune.
- Jade: If you’re in search of a loose gemstone in the green family but not sold on emeralds, jades are a nice alternative. It’s actually been a prized gemstone in China for as far back as 2500 BC, associated with royalty and has even been discovered in the ancient tombs of emperors. A symbol also of protection, the gemstone is best known for its medium green hue with a sheen, but actually also is available in yellow, white, pink and even lavender. Due to this most common flat, disc shape, it’s most popularly worn for necklaces, bracelets, and in some cases, earrings.
- Moissanite: Moissanite is a very hard gemstone – it scores a 9.5 on the Moh’s scale of hardness and actually sparkles more than most diamonds. It is also heat resistant, but the sparkle it gives off is multicolored in appearance as opposed to the pure white of diamonds. It costs about five hundred dollars per carat, as compared with diamonds, which cost an average of several thousand dollars per carat.
- Morganite: Morganite is known as the gemstone of “divine love” and features soft hues in peach, pink and bolder fuchsia. It’s also possible to find it in rose and salmon tones. Heat treatment produces a durable color and enhances vibrancy; it tends to be paler and more pastel and is highly popular, as well as complementary to a variety of outfits and skin tones.
- Opal: Opals have quite a reputation; they’ve been associated with some of the most powerful examples of the beauty and power of nature and compared to everything from volcanoes to fireworks and even galaxies. The Romans solidified their symbolism as one of love and hope, as well as good fortune. Flashes of opal, in sunlight, are reminiscent of the brilliance of diamonds and can range in hue from creamy white to blue, yellow, lavender, and countless other hues. While they are brilliant at their best quality, opals are also another relatively soft gemstone, with a hardness rating around 6.5.
- Pearls: You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who didn’t know what pearls were. Pearls have been prevalent even in ancient societies and the pearl also happens to be the June birthstone. They are the sole gemstone that comes from a living animal and can range in hue from ivory to rose and lilac or even gold. Freshwater pearls are the most expensive and precious and come in four varieties. Far more common and affordable are synthetic pearls. This is an elegant option that works beautifully with a more traditional and classic wedding or bridesmaid dresses and is also a great option for engagement rings.
- Peridot: Peridot is available in lime green, olive green, and greens with brownish undertones. The gemstone most commonly comes from Arizona, but also China, Myanmar, and Pakistan. The most common gemstones are under three carats, though more expensive gemstones are sold in carats as high as five, or even up to fifteen, though that is quite rare. It’s a fairly inexpensive option in smaller carats and is labeled as “the extreme gem” by the GIA. It is associated with the sun, protection, and Ancient Egypt. It’s an overlooked alternative for a green gemstone.
- Ruby: Rubies are also highly popular and have actually been referred to as “the king of all gems”. Symbolic of courage, passion, and love, the iconic red hue ranges in terms of its undertones, with options of blue and orange that slightly change the intensity of the hue. The Burmese Ruby is the most expensive and highly prized color, and the color most associated with the ruby.
- Sapphire: Perhaps almost equally as well known and popular as the ruby is the sapphire gemstone, which is also the birthstone for September. The word actually comes from the Greek word for blue and has been associated with honesty, purity, and loyalty, beautiful meanings that add layers to the idea of ‘something blue’ for a wedding. While sapphires can be found around the world, the most precious gemstones come from Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Sapphires come in a range of blue hues, but in this case, darker sapphires are actually less expensive.
- Spinel: Spinel gemstones, also the birthstone for August, are an alternative to rubies, in part because they are very similar in appearance; however, spinels are far rarer and also tend to be sold in larger carats. In addition to deep red, they are also found in orange and pink hues.
- Tanzanite: Tanzanite is another option if you’re looking for blue gemstones. You may be surprised to learn that true tanzanite only comes from Tanzania, near Mount Kilimanjaro. This is a smoother, deeper blue than sapphires, and is prized for its purple undertones. The deeper the hue, the more pricey: one carat of intense hues is worth three hundred to four hundred dollars, or over seven hundred dollars for three carats.
- Topaz: Topaz is associated with fidelity, friendship, and love. It’s available in blue, white, gold, pink, purple, brown, and rutilated tones, which means it’s finely etched to reflect light. Yellow topaz is the most affordable and least valuable, while blue is a little more so but not much. Topaz is widely available and thus considered one of the most inexpensive of gemstones and is more associated with mass market jewelry, making it less popular for weddings.
- Tourmaline: Tourmaline is another gemstone that comes in a variety of hues. It has been even nicknamed “Earth’s most colorful gemstone”. It’s among the most popular gemstones sold worldwide and is now mined in the United States, in addition to Brazil, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tanzania, Mozambique, Nigeria, and Namibia. It has a large range of price points, from inexpensive to quite expensive for rarer colors. It’s harder than some gemstones, with a 7 to 7.5 rating and is most commonly colorless, brown, blue, purple, green, or multicolored.
What should I look for in an online retailer for loose gemstones?
Purchasing loose gemstones online has many benefits. For one, many traditional jewelers may be limited in terms of how many loose gemstones they stock in stores. Shopping online means you can buy gemstones with an unparalleled variety in terms of colors, varieties, gemstone types, origins, carats, clarity, cut, and price points.
Shopping online, of course, is also far more convenient. That said, there are always some drawbacks to shopping online, as well as things you should be wary of. In order to find the best places to purchase loose gemstones online, you need to take the following factors into consideration:
Go with an experienced seller
Get as much information as you can about the seller–you should not only look for customer reviews on external sites but the history of the company itself. Ideally, opt for something that has been in business for at very least five to ten years; more experienced jewelers will have even more history of selling, and likely started as traditional jewelers before expanding to e-commerce. Also, look for a company story and contact information; typically you can find all of this on an “About” page.
While ethical sourcing is a prominent concern for diamonds, in particular, it’s essential you know how gemstones of any kind have been sourced. Look for ethical sourcing standards, inquire if it’s not clear where the gemstones come from, and investigate if they have other standards, such as environmental sustainability.
Are the pictures accurate
Many gemstones are sold under stock photos. Be aware that your gemstone may not look exactly the same. If this is a concern, you could even opt for a company that has physical showrooms, like a handful of online sellers do. Even just from an estimation point of view, 3D images are more helpful than flat stock photos.
Do the prices make sense
Unless you’re a gemstone expert, chances are you may have troubling telling the difference between a good deal and an unbelievable price. While the total cost may vary, you can have an estimate of how a gemstone of that variety and size might cost. Consult a gemstone price index: one thing to keep in mind is that the price ranges are reflective of a gemstone of top quality. You also should check at least one other online seller to see if the price point is at least within a reasonable range.
What quality of gemstones are being sold
What quality of gemstones you’re purchasing is also important–and may become obvious by the list price. For weddings and wedding related purposes, most would prefer fine gems vs mass produced gemstones. Commercial gemstones tend to have a poorer cut, color and clarity and may also not be as durable. A key to figuring out if it’s fine vs commercial gemstones is by checking the price and also origin. Cheap gemstones are also more commonly sold alongside very cheap or costume jewelry.
Is there any certification process
The most reputable places to buy gemstones online are places that work with professionals and provide certification of authenticity. The American Gem Society and Gemological Institute of America are two reputable organizations.
What’s customer service like
Before you check out make sure you’re aware of the company’s policies. Are any refunds available? Are there any protection plans? What happens in the case of defects? Also check out shipping policies, including fees and security, as well as privacy policies so you understand how your information is stored or used. A direct hotline, email, and if applicable, preferably a physical address are all things to look for. Without any of this information, it’s a sign you should look for another place to buy loose gemstones.
What places can you recommend?
Now that we’ve discussed the kinds of gemstones you might consider buying, as well as criteria for online places selling loose gemstones, here’s a list of reputable sellers that also offer a beautiful variety of different kinds of gemstones:
- James Allen: James Allen may be most known for their diamond engagement rings, but you can also shop an assortment of precious gemstones. You have the option of viewing gemstones in high quality, 360-degree imaging, with a zoom of forty times. Every gemstone is GIA certified and comes with free shipping. James Allen is also BBB accredited with an A-plus rating. Gemstone options include blue, yellow, and pink sapphires, as well as rubies and emeralds.
- Brilliant Earth: You only need to look at our multiple reviews for diamonds to see that Brilliant Earth is one of the best places to buy gemstones online. They offer sapphires, emeralds, rubies, aquamarines, and a handful of others. You can easily shop loose gemstones by size, color, dimensions and price point; you can also filter for natural or lab-grown gemstones.
Brilliant Earth has physical showrooms, is dedicated to environmentally sustainable and ethical sourcing, donates five percent of net profits to mining communities, offers thirty-day returns and even flexible payment plans. It boasts high professional and customer reviews and is one of the leaders in ethically sourced fine jewelry.
- Fire & Brilliance: Fire & Brilliance specializes in fine gemstones, both loose gemstones and jewelry. They have a signature collection where you can buy gemstones, are certified, and include information on grade quality. You’re allowed a thirty-five-day window for returns, flexible payment plans, and free shipping. The founder was awarded the designation of “GIA’s Best in Class Jewelry Design” prior to starting Fire & Brilliance in 2010. They do mostly specialize in Moissanite, with a few other options; there are also regular deals to help you save money.
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