Cozumel Jewelry Buying

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Cozumel Jewelry Buying Tips

Posted by Diver Dan on the Cozumel Travel Forum, February 19, 2001

Photo courtesy of Don Householder
LEFT, a photo of the Real McCoy, a 2.86-ct ruby flanked by triangular cut diamonds courtesy of Tino Hammid and the Gemological Institue of America.


I've never been a big one for jewelry; they're just selling overpriced pretty rocks, as far as I'm concerned. But I was intrigued a couple of years ago when I went to Cozumel with a friend who is in the business of growing rubies - yes, you can grow rubies in your garage, with the right equipment & materials.

The man-made rubies are called Cashon - they are chemically & physically indistinguishable from natural stones, except they are normally clearer, with less inclusions (those tiny specks of impurities that lodge in all gemstones as a result of other elements that get stuck during crystal structure growth) and variable in color, as a result of incomplete mixing of the chromates that give rubies their red color.

There are also man-made emeralds (although the process is much more dangerous, as the coloring agent in emeralds is very highly toxic before it sets in the crystal structure).

Anyway, a properly trained gemologist can tell, with a sufficiently powered microscope, the difference between Cashon (man made) rubies & natural, based upon crystal structure, growth lines, inclussions, etc. - natural stones sell for up to $3,000 per carat, depending on size, quality, color & clarity, while Cashon sells for between $4 per carat (for very small chips) and $60-$80 per carat.

I went with my friend to several of the jewelry stores on Cozumel, & she pulled out her Jewelers' Loupe and a small portable microscope to inspect several rubies - all of which were being offered (of course) as "Natural". To no great surprise, a fair percentage of these stones (less than half, but in all size & price ranges) were in fact Cashon, worth only a small fraction of the offering price.

A significant percentage of the emeralds offered had been oiled, a common practice with emeralds - the oils seeps into the microscopic pores in the crystal - it enhances the color and refractive qualities of the stone, but the gem won't continue to look like that after the oils seep out and evaporate or discolor from age.

Now, what are you going to do when the $2,000 ruby or emerald that you bought in Cozumel, based upon the retailer's certification that it is genuine, natural gemstone, turns out after all to be a man-made or artificially enhanced gem after you've returned home? Get a refund? Good Luck!!! Sue the store? In a Mexican Court? Again, Good Luck!!!

My advice is, unless you are VERY knowledgable about gemstones, and bring your Jeweler's Loupe with you to closely examine what you are buying, stay away from buying expensive jewelry in Cozumel, or any other foreign tourist spot, for that matter. Really like that $60 set of earings, or that Silver & Turquoise Necklace? Go for it! Its just a souvenir of a pleasant vacation. But don't even dream that that $3,000 Ruby Ring will be an "investment" - you're begging for a big disappointment.

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