The Truth About Topaz
The mailer offered a “genuine blue topaz” ring -- for free!
“All you pay is $3.99 shipping & handling.” How can that be?
Topaz has great name recognition. Many people assume it’s right up there with ruby and sapphire in value. It’s not.
Blue topaz may be an attractive gem but it is, as one jewelry industry magazine bluntly put it, dirt cheap. It typically wholesales for well under $5 a carat. Colorless topaz is heated and/or irradiated to produce various shades of blue, and jewelers can order a variety of hues. With a little comparison shopping, a buyer can get a very big topaz for next to nothing.
Many consumers don’t know this. In the offer quoted above, the seller was willing to send a ring — along with "2 Surprise Gifts!" — for just the cost of shipping. Who could resist? What the seller gets in return is the buyer’s address and expression of interest — in effect, an invitation for future solicitations.
Here’s another typical scenario: A traveler returns home with bargain topaz jewelry purchased in the Caribbean or aboard a cruise ship (“duty-free,” “avoid the high U.S. markup,” etc.). She goes to her local jeweler to have it appraised and finds it is worth far less than she paid.
Insurers beware! The next step may be to recoup her losses by having the jewelry insured under a valued contract and then “losing” it.
This is not to say that all topaz is inexpensive. Blue topaz is the most common and is very cheap, but topaz comes in colors ranging from greenish blue through purple/red. So-called precious topaz is orangey red. Yellow topaz is also high in value and pink, the most rare, is quite expensive. Sometimes the color is natural. Often it is produced by irradiation, and as technology improves, costs go down.
As with all jewelry, the insurer’s best protection is a detailed appraisal from a reliable jeweler/appraiser, preferably a Certified Insurance Appraiser™.
FOR AGENTS & UNDERWRITERS
Only a jeweler who regularly deals in colored gems, knowing both the gem and the market, can properly appraise colored gem jewelry.
Be especially wary of jewelry purchased abroad, by mail, or under other unusual circumstances. If the buyer made a spontaneous purchase decision, without doing research or comparison shopping (as on a vacation cruise), or did not see the actual jewelry before buying (as by mail or on the Web), chances are he paid more than the value. Be sure to get an appraisal from a disinterested jeweler/appraiser, preferably a Certified Insurance Appraiser (CIA)™.
Topaz is particularly prone to breakage and cracking. This can happen when the stone is being reset or as a result of improper cleaning. The insurer is not liable for damage under these circumstances.
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