Hey there, gem gals! Today I want to tell you why Macy’s is NOT the place to buy a ruby. Now, before you think for even a second that I don’t love Macy’s OR rubies, know this: I. LOVE. RUBIES. And I love Macy’s. Just not them together. And here’s why: it’s probably really a ruby. You may think you’re buying a ruby. The salesperson may tell you it’s a ruby. But no. It’s not.
Unfortunately, we live in a place where sometimes it’s hard to be a consumer. I say that because it seems like we have to work so hard just to get basic information about a product. For example, you would think if Macy’s labels something “ruby,” it’s actually a ruby. Sadly, no. It’s most likely lead-filled glass.
You should all know by now that I don’t judge my fellow gem gals and guys. If you like it, and it makes you feel good, wear it! If it increases your confidence, please WEAR IT! I love all jewelry. I am not a fine jewelry snob.
Here’s the catch, though. If you want to wear a beautiful red glass pendant, you shouldn’t have to pay a ruby price for it. And you certainly shouldn’t pay over $100 for jewelry that’s essentially glass.
How Did This Even Happen?
Burma (now Myanmar) is home to the most gorgeous rubies in the world. People go gaga for Burmese rubies! Best of the best. Unfortunately, sanctions and bans in the early 2000’s meant it wasn’t possible to get ANY rubies from Burma. (If you’re wondering, those sanctions and bans were for human rights violations.) Another source had to be found.
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Dealers quickly went to Africa, where they got lots and lots of lower grade rubies. They filled them with so much leaded glass it’s really not even appropriate to call them rubies anymore. In some cases, stones were 90% glass and only 10% corundum (ruby)! Now, keep in mind that rubies and sapphires are prized for their hardness and durability. They are second in hardness only to diamonds. Glass, on the other hand, is cheap filler. So, not only are you NOT getting a ruby, you’re getting something that’s very fragile! The consumer is the clear loser in this scenario.
At the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), they call these “a manufactured product” while the Accredited Gemologists Association refers to them as “composites.” Regardless, they should NOT be called or sold as rubies. Under Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requirements, consumers should be told WHAT they are buying. Knowledge is power, people!
Questions and more questions
Around 2004, these low-grade stones starting showing up in American markets and people started noticing and asking questions. For a few years, there was a lot of debate with tin the industry about how to handle this. Still, it took until 2007 for any media to take notice. Jewelry Insurance published an article entitled “How do you like your rubies — leaded or unleaded?” The article provided an overview of vast price differences between lead-glass filled ruby (cheap!) and real ruby (way expensive!). This article was included in a newsletter for insurance agents, underwriters, and claims adjusters. Needless to say, the mainstream media didn’t pick up on this for another couple years.
Good Morning America did an investigation in 2009. Guess what they found? Stones sold as rubies that weren’t really rubies. San Francisco Public Press did their own investigation in 2010. Guess what they found? More people paying ruby prices for stones that were actually composites. The Consumerist also ran a report in 2010. Another jewelry insurance newsletter warned people. Macy’s even had a lawsuit filed against it.
Is This Still Happening?
Again, sadly, yes. Even after finger-wagging from the industry, bad press, and lawsuits, Macy’s continues to sell stones as ruby, even though they are clearly not.
The TODAY Show did its own investigation in July 2014. Guess what they found? Surprise!!! More uninformed salespeople shilling rubies that aren’t really rubies. It’s pretty sad, because this is a clear violation of FTC guidelines, and still Macy’s continues to profit by cheating consumers. And now, it’s not just Macy’s. It’s Lord & Taylor. And JCPenney.
In fact, in response to the TODAY Show investigation, Macy’s doubled down and said this:
“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.”
They’re basically saying if a stone is 1% ruby, they’re going to sell it as ruby. Even today, if I search on Macy’s website, I have to dig really deep to find information. And even then, it’s presented very innocuously, as if it’s industry standard what they do. So, gem gals, be aware. Be informed. And for goodness sake, don’t buy anything labeled ruby from Macy’s!