Be very careful when buying off Ebay. Every stone I have ever bought there has been awful!! Obviously there are many good gem dealers that sell on Ebay, but you have to be very discriminating, or at least get a recommendation.
You are sooo correct Sparklee - I have sooo many "learner" stones that were my initial ebay "finds". I now only buy from a very few sellers on ebay.
With all due respect to Steve - I totally disagree with his "comfort" with the appraisals he is getting for his stones, without having them certified by a reputable gem lab first. Appraisers make their living giving out "replacement" value for like gems/jewelry for insurance purposes and without a gem certificate, you are going to be hard pressed to get that "appraised value" for your stone. The insurance company will just go out and find a similar stone/piece of jewelry that they can buy or have made wholesale and give you that price - I know... I've been down that road and learned the hard way and was told that a tanzanite ring (that had a custom cut high end tanzanite that was purchased in the 90's) that cost a LOT of money even back then, was worth about $800 because they could "buy" one wholesale or have one made for that.... I had no recourse because my insurance appraisal did not have a cert. stating the quality of the tanzanite and I was stuck!
ALSO, and this is VERY important, MOST GIA appraisers specialize in diamonds and not colored gemstones, especially stones that are a bit less well known. If anyone does go with an appraiser, please make sure he/she specializes in colored gemstones.
I bought a star sapphire from a high end jeweler when I lived in Oregon that came with an appraisal from an independent GIA appraiser stating that it was natural/unheated/untreated - it was a gorgeous thing and I paid a pretty penny for it. This appraiser was supposed to know a lot about colored gemstones.
When I got it home, I louped it and saw darkened areas that made me suspicious so I sent it to Richard Sherwood, who at the time was one of the most respected colored stone appraisers in the US and was very knowledgeable in star sapphires - he said he suspected it was treated and sent it off to AGL for me and it came back dyed AND diffused and the GIA appraiser missed on both counts - so instead of a sapphire that was worth thousands, I ended up with a dyed rock that was worth hundreds.
Fortunately the jewelry store I bought it from stood behind their sales and refunded me, but now you know what I think of colored gemstone appraisals without a lab report. Also, most appraisers are in the business of insuring jewelry, not loose gemstones, in fact, most homeowner's policies won't even cover loose gemstones - you have to go with an insurance company that specializes in jewelry and gemstones.
Unless an appraiser has the necessary equipment to check for BE heating (and no they don't because there are only a few labs in the world that do) or have the equipment to test for some of these new treatments, they do NOT know the true value of the stone, but rather are giving "retail" values assuming the stone is what it appears to be without having a gem certificate to back it up.
PLEASE if any of you are considering getting your feet wet in the world of color gemstones, and spending more money than you would on a nice CZ, spend some time lurking in the colored stone forum of Pricescope. There are a lot of experienced collectors/cutters that spend a lot of time on there and their experience (and mistakes made) can save you time and heartache.
If you are just wanting to buy some fun natural colored stones (which is how I started) then by all means, do a little research and find out which ebay sellers have good reputations or buy a colored stone second hand on DB from someone you trust OR if you are wanting to spend a bit more money, contact one of the precision cutters that are recommended or wait until a precision cut stone comes up on DB and snag it!!! The US precision cutters that you see discussed often on PS get their stones from sources they trust (not ebay - believe me) and usually will agree to get an AGL cert for any of their stones that are valuable - they have a reputation to maintain, and word of mouth can make or break them.
Buying colored gemstones is a lot of fun, but you can also throw a lot of money down the drain if you aren't careful, but be warned - it can be addicting. BTW, I'm not advocating not buying native cut stones, most of mine are - just know that native cutters usually cut for color or to maintain ct. weight, so the stones are often unattractive (Sparklee's examples). Precision cutters, cut for light return and will often sacrifice ct. weight to get a better cut because they are getting paid as much for their cutting as for the actual gemstone.
Color vs cut is a discussion that goes on and on and there is not a right answer - if you ask me, my answer would be - it depends - lol.
Steve - you and I both know that your opinions about your stones/jewelry/appraisers is what ended your posting on Pricescope. I'm not going to rehash any of that on this board, because as you stated, you are happy with your stones/jewelry/appraisals, so I am happy for you, but there are many on this board that are new to earthmined colored gemstones and I hate to see you throwing out a blanket statement about how happy you have been with all your ebay purchases and subsequent appraisals because it is misleading and could cost "newbies" some money and heartache if they just unknowingly start buying on ebay.
I'm sorry about the long post, but as many of you know by now, earthmined colored gemstones are my "thing" and even though I am a relative newbie compared to many, I've learned a lot over the past 5 years and I would hate for anyone just starting out to get burned and loose interest (and a lot of $$$ in the meantime).