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Can cleaning alter the colour?


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Hi there


This is the story...


My mother died recently and we decided to get 2 rings valued - one with emerald and 2 diamonds, one with 3 diamonds. They had belonged to my grandmother.


My sister took them to a shop, they kept them overnight to value and said they would clean them, When she came back next day they were very sparkly and she remarked that the diamonds had changed from being yellowish to clear and was told that was because of the cleaning. The valuation for insurance purposes was £1500 or so, platinum rings. Advised to send them away to their chap to get a proper certificate, so that they could then be sold more easily. My sister did not do this.


Couple of weeks down the line an auctioneer from Sothebys is passing (it is a rural community) so the rings are shown to him, along with pics of furniture etc from my mother's house. He says he thinks the diamonds are cubic zirconia and the diamond ring worth about £100.


So - is the auctioneer a furniture specialist who does not know anything about diamonds? Or did the shop (which has since gone bust incidentally) done a swap? The crucial question is - can cleaning really alter the colour??


Needless to say, in real bumpkin fashion, we have no photographs of the rings. However, we have since discovered in my mother's papers a valuation of the diamond ring done several decades ago. Would that be any proof? Also, if it is platinum, would it be normal to have a zircon stone?

We do know that the emerald has not changed as it was chipped and still is...


Hoping someone can help us


Many thanks



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My condolences on the loss of your mother.


There’s not really enough here to know how to proceed. Sotheby’s is a pretty good way to sell expensive sorts of items (over say $25k) but they don’t do so well with the more normal kinds of products because their fees are so high and they really don’t attract the right sorts of clients. It may be different in UK but here in Colorado people seem to get the best prices by consignment deals with jewelry stores although this has it’s downside as well. It can sometimes take a while for things to sell and you are effectively making yourself partners with the jeweler. There are also local and regional auction markets that are worth considering. These places have auctions a lot more often. Lastly there’s outright sale either to a broker, jeweler or through ebay type venues. All have their place and the difference will have to do with what you’re selling, your patience for the process and similar issues.


To answer your questions:

Yes, clean diamonds can look quite a bit whiter than dirty ones.

It’s not all that difficult to tell the difference between diamonds and CZ’s and I would expect most Sotheby employees to be able to do it, even a furniture guy, but I would not rely on an unwritten opinion of value by someone who isn’t even pretending to be an expert.

No, an old appraisal won’t do you much good. Even if you can demonstrate that these are not the same stones, there is no way to demonstrate WHY they aren’t the same.

CZ’s are a pretty recent development. They were not available prior to 1980 although there were other simulants on the market prior to that. If, indeed, they are Cubic Zirconia, they are probably not the same stones as the ones described in the appraisal from a few decades ago.


You need two pieces of information to proceed.

1) Figure out what you have

2) Find a marketplace where you can sell


The straightforward way to figure out what you have is to show it to an appraiser. This may involve a trip to the city but it’s probably worth it for peace of mind. A jewelry store should be able to tell you if they are diamonds or not and possibly advise you both on where to get it appraised and where you might be able to sell. Watch out for ‘appraisers’ that are trying to buy. There’s nothing wrong with making you an offer, but this is not an appraisal and there is a distinct conflict of interest.


I hope this helped and again my condolences on the loss of your mother.



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Thank you Neil for your great help. You have put it all very clearly. I don't know if we will sell, it seems wrong in many ways, but there is a good reason too for selling which I can't go in to here. Anyway, you have helped a lot. I agree that getting them properly valued is the next step forward.


Thank you too for your condolences. It happened 8 months ago but there isn't a day when I don't think of her. The irony is that she would have been so good to talk to about this too!


Best wishes



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