DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Graduations... first communions... confirmations are all coming up. Mother's Day just passed and jewelry is a popular gift.
But the CBS 11 I-Team has discovered if you're buying gemstones, you may not be getting what you think.
What would you do if you found out the stone in one of your favorite jewelry pieces is mostly glass?
That's what happened to Mary Kay Elloian.
"I was buying a ruby, a pair of ruby earrings. That's what I requested and that's what I was buying," she said.
And that's what a salesperson at a Macy's Department Store told her she was buying. But when she got home she noticed the fine print on the sticker in the box with her jewelry. It read: lead-glass filled.
"I felt like I was duped," said Elloian.
Thus, the I-Team hit nearly a dozen local jewelry and department stores and spent hundreds of dollars buying jewelry. We repeatedly asked sales associates, "Are these all real rubies?" At several Macy's stores in Collin and Dallas counties, a salesperson told us we had a real gemstone.
When the I-team asked, "These are real rubies?" We were told, "Yes, yes ma'am."
But listen to what happened when we took the jewelry to Steve Jarvis, an appraiser and gemologist in Dallas. Staring into his microscope, we asked, "Is that a ruby?" Jarvis said, "No, it's not a ruby."
Jarvis showed us what he calls gas bubbles, blue flashes, and fractures all on an enlarged image of the jewelry we bought at Macy's. He says those are all signs of composite material fused together.
We clarified. "It's glass material?" Jarvis said, "Yes, glass material. They're selling it as a ruby. It's misleading."
When customers shop online at Macy's, the website reads "almost all rubies are lead-glass filled." But, some of the sales associates did not tell us that, not in North Texas, and not in Boston or Chicago where our CBS sister stations also went undercover.
In a statement, Macy's told the I-Team, "We have signs in our gemstone departments informing our customers that gemstones may have been treated and may require special care."
But we did not see those signs. We only found a small sales sign next to two "special buys" at two different stores. It said the rubies in those pieces of jewelry are "glass-lead filled."
We did notice, after buying the jewelry, small tags attached to the items say "lead glass filled" in fine print.
The I-Team also took our undercover cameras to several other North Texas jewelry and department stores.
At Kay's Jewelers, a sales associate immediately asked us, "Are you looking for natural or lab created?"
Many of the other jewelry stores also sold synthetic or lab-created stones, but each time, a salesperson mentioned that without being asked.
At Helzberg Diamonds, a salesperson showed us the difference between a lab created and natural stone.
Jewelry experts say the lab-created stones are as durable as genuine stones. But in a new warning on its website, the Gemological Institute of America says it's "exceedingly worried" about the glass-filled stones. "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, " explained Shane McClure, director of West Coast Identification Services at the GIA Laboratory.
Our experts say glass-filled rubies and sapphires are fairly new. So if you have older pieces of jewelry, chances are yours is real. If you're buying something new, you might want to get it appraised while you still have time to return it.
Here's Macy's complete statement to the CBS 11 I-Team:
"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 macys.com. 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 macys.com, 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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