$1 dollars-worth of counterfeit brand-name jewellery was siezed at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Wholesalers show a few days ago.

I love going to the gem show in Ottawa each September, and I always come away with a few bags of goodies.  Often I buy from local vendors that I visit here in Ottawa anyway. However, I do love the opportunity to shop the items that other vendors bring from shops outside of the area.  I’ve always wanted to make it to one of these massive gem shows, and Tucson’s is about as big as it gets, from what I can tell.  Lots of demos, hundreds of vendors, and more sparkly minerals and gemstones than you could shake a stick at.  My credit card shudders at the thought.

That said, with so many vendors, and so many gems and other goods, how possible is it to verify the stock of the vendors?  How can a shopper tell whether the stones or materials are genuine?  There are tips and tricks to checking the authenticity of some things (pearls should feel gritty if you rub them against your teeth, for instance), but without a lab assistant following you around it’s impossible to check most things.  It boils down to trust.

When I shop, whether for jewellery supplies or anything else, I love to ask questions.  It’s fun to learn what I can about a piece of fashion or the features of a new cellphone, and I hesitate to drop a lot of money in a store where staff don’t know their product.  When it comes to buying gemstones, I ask about what I’m buying.  Is it stabilized or colour-treated?  Where does it come from?  I’ve learned a lot about gems and minerals since I’ve been making jewellery, and I’ve taken a class in gem identification , but the store staff should be knowledgeable about their product.  I shop at places I trust, and I’m always happy to pass on my knowledge to curious customers.

Fortunately, fraudsters like those at the Tucson show are few and far between.  My experiences at shows and local events have been positive ones.  The next time you’re at a handmade craft event or art sale, ask lots of questions.  Artists and crafters love to talk about their craft, and are happy to show you of the quality of their product.