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I-Team: Department Store Deceiving Customers With Fake Gems?

BOSTON (CBS) - Second only to diamonds in the hierarchy of precious gems, rubies are the most valued of all the colored stones.

Mary Kay Elloian of Bedford was thrilled to find a pair deeply discounted at just $100.

"I was buying ruby, a pair of ruby earrings. That's what I requested and that's what I was buying," Mary Kay said.

At least that's what she says the salesperson at Macy's in Burlington told her she was buying, but when she got the earrings home she noticed a partially-covered sticker with fine print.

"It actually said lead-filled. I felt like I was duped," she said.

Trained at the Gemological Institute of America, Beth Doughty of Winchester explained that by improving color and clarity the lead glass transforms otherwise worthless stones into something pretty enough for jewelry.

"They are very, very low quality goods and they are trying to make them marketable and they have come up with this way to do it," Doughty said.

The I-Team asked her to examine another pair of earrings bought at Macy's that are same model number as Mary Kay's.

"GIA would describe this as a manufactured product in their report. Nowhere would the word ruby be," said Beth Doughty.

When you shop online at Macy's the website says "almost all rubies are lead-glass filled."

But the I-Team found sales people in the stores are not as forthcoming.

The I-Team got the same story when shopping for rubies at the Macy's in Providence, RI.

In a statement Macy's says there is signage in the stores about the glass filled rubies. However, Mary Kay didn't see them and neither did our I-Team producers.

The store also said, "We are training our store associates to bring this information to the attention of our customers."

The I-Team took our undercover camera to several other retailers to see what they told us about their rubies.

Lord and Taylor's lead filled rubies had large stickers identifying them as such.

Zales, Kay Jewelers and Sears told us upfront that their rubies are lab created which contain no natural ruby at all, but those synthetic stones do last like real rubies do. Something you can't say about glass filled stones.

"The lead glass that's being used to do the filling is not very durable," said Shane McClure of the Gemological Institute.

According to the Gemological Institute of America, these stones may not hold up to any kind of repair or remounting.

"Even some of the most basic solvents that you might find around the house like bleach for instance could potentially damage the filler in these stones and it's not repairable once it's been damaged," said McClure.

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