I sometimes suspect that more fraud is perpetrated on eBay than everywhere else in the world, combined. That’s probably an exaggeration – but not by much. Some of it is pretty straightforward – counterfeit memory cards, for example, or fake “designer” clothing. Some of it, though, is a bit stranger. Among the odder – and, to many people, less visible – bits of fraud going on the online auction site are the jewelry and gemstone listing. I’m really not exaggerating things when I say that roughly half of all the jewelery auctions – and maybe as much as seventy-five percent of gemstone auctions – are knowingly, willingly misrepresented. You’d think the scams there would be fairly obvious, but you’d be wrong.
Consider this rather beautiful bit of sparkley goodness:
It’s a – very roughly – 25-carat “all natural Brazilian Ametrine”, according to the fellow who sold it to me. It is ametrine – a combination of amethyst and citrine, both colored varieties of quartz which do occur naturally together. It’s not natural, though, and it’s never been anywhere near Brazil. How can you tell? Well, honestly, it’s pretty easy – angle is everything:
Technically, this is “bicolor hydrothermal quartz”, a very pretentiously fancy way of saying, basically, “colored glass”. One of the other indicators is the fact that the stone – including shipping – was about nine U.S. Dollars. (I wouldn’t think you could facet something like this – even glass – for nine bucks, but maybe you can.) Ametrine is a pretty cheap stone, but under $0.50 per carat, faceted? Not where mother nature was involved, I’m afraid. A lot of hydrothermal quartz – including this stone, most likely – comes out of Russia these days, at (wholesale) prices around $0.10/carat for rough. Keep that figure in mind – and remember, it’s basically, when all is said and done, glass.
But, where weird gemstone fraud is concerned, that’s nothing. Consider this stone:
Guess what? This – according to the seller, is also an all-natural ametrine. Again, he’s lying – not least because quartz doesn’t occur naturally in either of these colors. The reality here is a bit more interesting – the stone doesn’t look like quartz, or even faceted glass… because it isn’t. Nope, a quick bit of testing shows that it’s actually…
Now, topaz does occur in both green and blue, and bi-color topaz does exist naturally, though it’s rare (and expensive). However, most of it is manmade, and still pricey. That seems set to change given that someone, somewhere – other than Signity/Leslie & Co – is not only making the stuff, but making it available (as “ametrine”) at ridiculously low prices. The stone shown is about eighteen carats, and set me back $8. Not too terrible for hydrothermal quartz – again, around $0.40-$0.50/carat – but, remember, this isn’t quartz. It’s topaz, which, even manmade, is worth quite a bit more than quartz.
That’s the part that confuses the hell out of me: You could sell this stuff as “bi-color topaz” for anywhere from a few to quite a few dollars per carat, depending on how honest you are about its man-made origins. Instead, it’s being dumped on eBay as “ametrine” – natural ametrine, at that, which is clearly a joke – at a fraction of its theoretical, real-world value. I can’t fathom that one, myself. Maybe there’s something wrong with it – the color’s unstable, and fades quickly, perhaps, or it could even be that irradiation treatment, to enhance the color, has made the material dangerously radioactive. (It happens, all too sadly.) Hell, who knows; maybe it’s part of some incredibly complicated Russian Mafia money-laundering scheme…