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Meet Renée Newman

Gemologist Renée Newman shares her "nuggets of knowledge"

Diamonds and rubies, silver and gold … What’s valuable? What’s not? What do you look for when you're buying?

Average consumers and gem trade professionals alike have benefited from Renée Newman’s vast knowledge of gems and jewelry. She has authored 13 books (so far) and has lectured extensively. And now, readers of Bead&Button magazine can learn from Renée's new column, "nuggets of knowledge."

Passionate teacher and learner


Renée is passionate about sharing her knowledge. After all, teaching has always been a big part of her life’s work:

“After graduating from the University of California at Santa Barbara with a B.A. in French and a teaching credential, I was able to get jobs in Grenoble and Montpelier, France, teaching English as a second language to college level students,” says Renée. “After five years teaching in France, I decided to get teaching jobs in Spain and then Japan. Because of my foreign language background, I was able to get a job as a Globus Gateway international tour director in Asia, South America, and the South Pacific.”

And that’s when, as an international tour director, Renée was first introduced to the dazzling world of gems.

“I saw gems everywhere — in hotels, airports, jewelry factories, pearl farms, and, naturally, in shopping areas,” says Renée.

During the tours, her passengers often asked questions about how to identify gems for their quality and value. Renée studied up on the subject but discovered there was very little information to help inform the average consumer. At this point, Renee was hooked on gems!

She enrolled in a colored gem grading class at the Gemological institute of America (GIA) and completed the required coursework to earn her GIA Graduate Gemologist diploma. Soon after, Josam Diamond Trading Corporation in Los Angeles hired Renée to work as a gemologist.

Because of her experience, Renée decided to take on the task of writing that much needed, straightforward and understandable consumer guide to buying gems. Her first book, “Diamond Ring Buying Guide: How to Spot Value & Avoid Ripoffs,” was published in 1989.

“It was so successful,” says Renée, “I decided to continue writing more gem and jewelry books for both consumers and trade professionals.” Eventually, writing and speaking about gems became Renee’s full-time pursuit.

Appreciating quality

At the firm where she worked, Renée was in charge of jewelry quality control. “I needed to know how to determine when to accept and when to send back jewelry that was made for the company,” she says.

So, to further educate herself, Renée took a jewelry-making class at the GIA and two more classes at a local adult night school.

“Later I needed the jewelry-making and -setting information when writing about jewelry craftsmanship in my jewelry books.” Renée says. “Then I had jewelers check over what I wrote to make sure it was correct. I learned a lot from their comments.”

Renée says she appreciates the workmanship of a wide variety of jewelry designers, many of whom have contributed images and information for her books.

So, out of the many beautiful stones, does Renée have any personal preferences? “Two of my favorite gems are pearls and opals because there are so many different varieties at all price points.”

Buyer, be aware

Renée has this advice on where to purchase stones, and who to buy them from:

Buy gems from dealers and sellers who are willing to discuss quality differences and fully disclose gem treatments, and manmade gems if they sell them.

It’s a good sign when a seller specifies the treatments their gems have undergone, and are a member of trade organizations such as the AGTA (American Gem Trade Association) and ICA (International Colored Gemstone Association).

Many Internet sellers are identifying manmade stones as natural and misidentifying imitations, so do not assume that labels on internet gem sites are correct.

To determine if a seller is knowledgeable and candid ask the following types of questions:

  • Can you tell me something about the quality of this stone?
  • Which of your stones are treated?
  • Which of these stones are more valuable and why?
  • Are you willing to put in writing what you’ve told me about this stone or piece?

Readers can get a list of appraisal organizations and independent appraisers with appraisal qualifications at

Spreading gem joy

Renée is busy preparing presentations, writing "nuggets of knowledge" for Bead&Button magazine, and is excited to begin work on the 8th edition of her Diamond Ring Buying Guide. (Yes, 8th!)

You can learn more about Renée’s books at and buy them at our Beading & Jewelry Store. Take a quick peek at some of her work in our gallery:

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