(US) Where to buy inexpensive synthetic gemstones?
April 21, 2021 6:06 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to make some simple jewelry, gift my wife, and perhaps have my D&D players face a dragon with an actual (but not terribly expensive) hoard. And, what can I say, I like shiny things. Aliexpress has many shops, and there are many sites a google search away, but it's difficult to judge the reliability of the shops. Is there a standard place to buy these, or a crafting site that has recommendations?
posted by SunSnork to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Fire Mountain Gems is rock-solid reliable and has a huge catalog of things like glass and crystal beads that could stand in very nicely for gems. Their customer service is super helpful also, so if you don’t see what you need or are not sure what to search for, they will help you out. Enjoy!
posted by corey flood at 7:12 PM on April 21 [3 favorites]

I know you said synthetic, but if you want some real semi-precious stones, Alpha Imports has been known to have some good deals. I've made a handful of purchases from the site, and the items have always been the quality promised or better. The Gemstone Specials section might be a good place to start looking if you want to buy in bulk. Or the Deals and Steals section (under the Semi-Precious category). It also has a Simulated Gemstone category where you can pick up a fake 5mm diamond for $1.00.

If you want some suggestions, chrome diopside is a nice dark green that could make for cool dragon eyes. Chalcedony comes in an assortment of pretty colours. White topaz is often used as a diamond substitute. I got some fabulous citrines from the site. It's not a stone I'd buy for myself, but mystic topaz might be a good enchanted D&D stone. Amethyst is another solid option that might make a nice gift for your wife.

(I do want to say you're a terrible person for making me look at that site today. I've been a good girls and haven't been shopping on it in a while. Now, I've got a hankering to buy a kunzite lot.)
posted by sardonyx at 8:54 PM on April 21 [3 favorites]

Forgot to add garnets. Those good-sized marquise stones are a steal if you're making your wife some jewellery.
posted by sardonyx at 9:00 PM on April 21

I got my tabletop props from ebay waaay back in the day, buying "lots" of mixed crystal bits.

I like corey flood's link. ebay has gotten to be ever more of a swamp. I'd google (maps - nearby) your area for local gemstone and rock tumbler places and ask if they have "chips" or crystal gravel.

Never did find a suitable model for loose (gold) coins, though I had been tempted to buy actual "gold grains."
posted by porpoise at 10:17 PM on April 21 [2 favorites]

Looking through ebay, there are still "faceted gems" sold in "lots" where random 250 to 500 carats of cut gravel are being sold for <>
That's a heaping teaspoon to a tablespoon of cut (tiny) gems.

The best prices I could find for gold grains is $100 per gram (a premium on $70/ gram list price for straight-up gold).

But back in the day I did manage to pull a couple of pieces from lots to set in silver to give as handmade jewelry gifts.

Sorry, no first-hand recommendations for specific merchants.
posted by porpoise at 10:39 PM on April 21

If you do want to order from Ali Express, Wong Rain is a legitimate seller -- that's a link to the loose gemstones dragon hoard section.

Also your dragon can have 30 pieces of gold for $1.25 (and if it fails to deliver, it was $1.25)
posted by DarlingBri at 1:21 AM on April 22 [3 favorites]

Seconding Fire Mountain Gems. I haven’t looked lately, but they used to sell loose cubic zirconia stones in lots of colors.
posted by MexicanYenta at 2:31 AM on April 22 [1 favorite]

123stitch.com sells lots of crafty items and has a beading section. Most will have holes in them but you might find some that work. They have good prices and quick shipping for a flat $3.49.
posted by soelo at 3:15 PM on April 22

Response by poster: For anyone running across this old question, I ended up doing a trial order from https://www.gemsngems.com/. It was relatively inexpensive (~$35 for qty 20 8mm round faceted rubies, or maybe "rubies", I haven't tested them). They're quite lovely. Compared to $278 per 5mm stone from Fire Mountain.... Fulfillment time to the US was a bit long, about a month.
posted by SunSnork at 10:20 AM on May 24 [1 favorite]

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