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2 Investigators: Are They Real Rubies, Or Processed Gemstones?

(CBS) -- As you go shopping for a Mother's Day or graduation present and consider jewelry with rubies, do you really know what you're buying?

Reporter Pam Zekman looked into complaints about the quality of some jewelry sold at one popular nation-wide retail store.

The 2 Investigators went shopping for rubies at two different Macy's locations, and what they found raised some serious questions.

Their brilliance is stunning, but few can afford the large rubies sold in high-end jewelry stores like the ones on Wabash in the Loop, where a 9-carat diamond and Burmese ruby ring will cost you $600,000.

Most people buy jewelry at a department store like Macy's. That's where Mary Kay Elloian went to buy a pair of ruby earrings.

"I had no way of knowing what I was purchasing was other than a real ruby," she says.

When Elloian got home from the store she noticed a tag attached to the back of the earrings that read: "lead glass filled."

"I was definitely misled and I was very frustrated," she says.

The 2 Investigators went shopping at Macy's to buy the same kind of jewelry.

At the State Street Macy's, the 2 Investigators looked at a pair of leverback ruby earrings.

"Those aren't like costume or anything?" an undercover producer asked.

"Nope, they're 14-carat," the Macy's sales clerk replied. "Actual ruby and actual diamond."

When the clerk said the earrings only cost $117 on sale, the producer asked about the authenticity once again.

"So, it's not ruby, or is it?" the producer asked.

"No, it is ruby, but they put it over there with the birthstones," the clerk responded.

There were no signs or tags explaining that the jewelry was in fact made of composite ruby.

One of the problems with buying gemstones like rubies and sapphires is that it's nearly impossible to tell with the naked eye if the gemstones have fillers like lead glass.

So, CBS 2 took the earrings  to a gemologist, and he found the tell-tale signs of a composite stone: gas bubbles.

"We would not classify those as real rubies, those would be classified as composite glass, composite ruby," said Richard Drucker, president of Gemworld International.

At the Oakbrook Macy's, the 2 Investigators bought a pair of ruby stud earrings for the bargain price of $93.60.

Once again, a sales clerk insisted they were real rubies. Drucker disagreed.

"No, it should not be said that they're real rubies. They're not real rubies," he said after examining the stones.

The earrings purchased at the Oakbrook Macy's did come with a small tag reading "lead glass filled ruby,"  but the clerk never mentioned that at the time of the sale.

A high-end jeweler from Jewelers Row in Chicago also examined the ruby earrings that had been purchased from the two Macy's locations.

"They are red stones, not rubies," said Jerry Bern from Marshall Pierce & Company.

Bern says real rubies are quite costly, should have a deep vibrant color and usually come with a certificate from a gemological association.

"I would say buyer beware -- sometimes things are not what they seem to be," Bern said.

Macy's told us "various types of rubies are available to consumers," and that they have signs in the jewelry department explaining that gemstones may have been treated. They also said: "We have trained our store associates to bring this information to the attention of our customers and will continue to reaffirm this training."


"Various types of rubies are available to consumers. Almost all of the ruby merchandise sold in Macy's Fine Jewelry department has a base of the mineral corundum and is lead-glass filled. In addition, some have been heated to improve appearance. Macy's does not carry synthetic, lab-created rubies that are sold by some other retailers. We have signs in Macy's precious and semi-precious gemstone departments informing our customers that gemstones may have been treated and may require special care. We also tag our ruby merchandise to indicate it is lead-glass filled, and include this in our product descriptions on We have trained our store associates to bring this information to the attention of our customers and will continue to reaffirm this training.
In addition, we have gemstone treatment and care information available in the stores and on, and we provide a web address for online information on our fine jewelry receipts and tags. We are always available to discuss the nature and quality of a purchased item with our customers because we want our customers to be satisfied."

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