Renťe Newman: Who is She?  A  Q & A  With  the  Author



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How did you end up writing books about gems?

While working as an international tour director, I was exposed to beautiful gems in Asia, South America, and the South Pacific. I saw gems everywhereóin hotels, airports, jewelry factories, pearl farms and, naturally, in shopping areas. My passengers wanted to know how to get good buys on them and spot quality, so I searched libraries and bookstores for help. Even though there was information on gem identification, history, mining and lore, there was little about judging the quality of pearls and colored gems.

When I heard about a colored gem grading class at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), I decided to enroll. The enthusiasm of the instructors inspired me to sign up for the gemology program there. Two years later, I obtained a GIA Graduate Gemologist diploma and began work as a gemologist at a wholesale firm in downtown Los Angeles, the Josam Diamond Trading Corporation. It was a great opportunity because I worked with a wide variety of diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, pearls and other colored gems and I learned what was involved in the manufacturing and pricing of jewelry. Besides my role as a gemologist, I was also put in charge of jewelry quality control.

Ever since Iíd become aware of the need for affordable information on gem evaluation, Iíd wanted to write a consumer guide to buying gems. However, when I learned how complex the subject was, I realized it would be better to just focus on diamonds in my first book. The Diamond Ring Buying Guide: How to Spot Value & Avoid Ripoffs was published in 1989; it was so successful I decided to continue writing more gem and jewelry books for both consumers and trade professionals. To accomplish this, I could only work part-time as a gemologist. Gradually, writing, research, speaking and book promotion became a full-time occupation.

How did you learn to write? 

After graduating from the University of California at Santa Barbara and obtaining a lifetime California State Teaching Credential, I taught English in France, Spain and Japan. To do that, I had to learn to communicate in clear, simple English so foreign students could understand me. After teaching English abroad for six years, I signed up for the Masters in Linguistics program at San Jose State University and obtained a Master of Arts Diploma. The courses leading to my Masters Degree in Linguistics and my ESL teaching experience were very helpful in preparing me to write books and explain technical concepts in clear English with an easy-to-read style.

Where do you get your information?  

  • From hands-on experience with the gems in the US and abroad.

  • Directly from dealers and jewelers who specialize in whatever I'm discussing. For example, Iíll interview several opal dealers if Iím writing about opals and Iíll have some of them check the accuracy of my sections on opals.

  • From appraisers and gem laboratories. I also have them check what I write.

  • From gem and jewelry seminars geared to the trade. Even though I graduated from the GIA (Gemological Institute of America), I must keep abreast of new developments, sources and treatments.

  • From consumers and hobbyists. Sometimes they know more than "experts."

  • From gem shows. This is one of the best ways to learn about gem pricing and availability.

Where do you get your photos?

Iíve taken many of the photos myself (those with no photo credits). The others I get from designers, jewelers, photographers and gem dealers. They get free publicity by having their name mentioned and I get free usage of the photos. There is no paid advertising in my books.

Who is your target audience?

Anybody who buys, sells or appraises gems or jewelry will benefit by reading my books. Quality factors, buying tips and lab documentation are the same for all gem buyers whether they are consumers or trade professionals. My books do not presuppose a prior knowledge of the material covered. The first edition of my Diamond Ring Buying Guide was written mostly for consumers, but after I learned that jewelry salespeople were using it to help sell jewelry and appraisers were using it as a reference, I decided to include more advanced information in my books. My Diamond Handbook is primarily geared to trade professionals but you don't need a gemology background to understand it.

Why donít you explain gem pricing according to the 4 Cís of color, clarity, cut and carat weight?

When the concept of the 4 Cís for diamonds was developed in the 1950's, it was a workable system. Now there are additional factors to consider. For example, the treatment status of a diamond must be included as a price factor because it can have a significant impact on price, just as it does with expensive colored gems. Diamond treatments such as fracture filling and high heat & pressure treatment were not available prior to the 1980's, but theyíre increasing.

Likewise, transparency has become another relevant price factor because non-transparent diamonds are becoming more common. (Transparency is the degree to which a gem is clear, hazy, cloudy or opaque. Itís a separate factor from clarity.) Although itís rarely mentioned, transparency has always been a value factor for colored gems, and it can be just as important as color.

The way many trade members explain cut with one term can be confusing to lay people. Itís easier to understand if itís broken into its component parts of shape, cutting style and cut quality, all of which function as separate price factors.

The origin of gems is also important. There can be a huge difference in price between a natural mined gem and one created in a factory or laboratory. There's an even bigger price difference on the secondary market for manmade stones. In many cases, buyers will not offer any money or trade-in value for manmade gemstones even if they originally cost a lot. Before 2010 colorless lab-grown diamonds were not sold in jewelry stores. Now they are readily available. Whether you are buying a diamond or a colored gemstone, make certain you know whether it is a lab-grown or mined gemstone.

Salespeople like to have a quick and clever way of presenting gem pricing to their customers, so they prefer to use the 4 Cís. Iím not selling you gems. Iím selling you information on how gems are valued. To do that, I'm committed to providing you with complete, accurate, up-to-date information.

How would you characterize your books?

My books are:

  • Loaded with detailed info on how to judge gem and jewelry quality.  Since jewelry stores normally don't describe the quality of colored gems, pearls or jewelry mountings, you must learn how to judge it yourself in order to get good buys and make wise choices. My books show you how.

  • Well illustrated. The main points are explained with color photos and diagrams, which are linked to the text. Itís time-consuming and costly to do this, but readers appreciate the numerous high-quality illustrations showing gems unmounted as well as set in attractive jewelry with and without magnification.

  • Written in clear English without a lot of trade jargon and euphemisms. Technical terms are defined and explained before they are used.

  • Unbiased and objective because their underlying motive is not to sell you jewelry or related services; it's to educate. Even though I used to work full-time in the gem and jewelry industry, I now make my living by writing and speaking about gems and jewelry

Links to Details of Newman's Books 

Diamond Ring Buying Guide, Details & Reviews

Diamond Handbook, Details & Reviews

Gem & Jewelry Pocket Guide, Details & Reviews

Gemstone Buying Guide, Details & Reviews

Gold, Platinum, Palladium, Silver & Other Jewelry Metals, Details & Reviews

Pearl Buying Guide, Details & Reviews

Ruby, Sapphire & Emerald Buying Guide, Details & Reviews

Osteoporosis Prevention, Details & Reviews

Jewelry Handbook, Details & Reviews

Exotic Gems, Volume 1, Details & Reviews

Exotic Gems, Volume 2, Details and Reviews

Exotic Gems, Volume 3, Details and Reviews

Exotic Gems, Volume 4, Details

Rare Gemstones, Details