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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Second only to diamonds in the hierarchy of precious gems, rubies are the most valued of all the colored stones.

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Mary Kay Elloian was thrilled to find a pair deeply discounted at just $100.

“I was buying ruby, a pair of ruby earrings. That’s what I requested and that’s what I was buying,” Mary Kay said.

At least that’s what she says the salesperson at Macy’s in the Northeast told her she was buying, but when she got the earrings home, she noticed a partially-covered sticker with fine print.

“It actually said lead-filled. I felt like I was duped,” she said.

Trained at the Gemological Institute of America, Beth Doughty explained that by improving color and clarity the lead glass transforms otherwise worthless stones into something pretty enough for jewelry.

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“They are very, very low quality goods and they are trying to make them marketable and they have come up with this way to do it,” Doughty said.

She examined another pair of earrings purchased at Macy’s that are same model number as Mary Kay’s.

“See all these cracks and fissures. Those are filled with glass,” said Doughty. “GIA would describe this as a manufactured product in their report. Nowhere would the word ruby be,” she explained.

When you shop online at Macy’s the website says “almost all rubies are lead-glass filled.”

In a statement Macy’s says there is signage in the stores about the glass filled rubies. However, Mary Kay didn’t see them.

CBS4 visited three of the nine Macy’s stores in South Florida.

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In those three stores, two of them did have signs in the display windows that read, in very small print, rubies are lead-glass filled. And in every store CBS4 visited, they did have a sticker on each piece of jewelry that did say lead-glass filled.

However, when store associates were asked what lead-glass filled rubies meant, most of the associates didn’t know.

The store says “We are training our store associates to bring this information to the attention of our customers.”

Of the six sales people we approached, only two could explain what lead-glass filled actually meant.

Zales, Kay Jewelers and Sears told us upfront that their rubies are lab created which contain no natural ruby at all, but those synthetic stones do last like real rubies do. Something you can’t say about glass filled stones.

“The lead glass that’s being used to do the filling is not very durable,” said Shane McClure of the Gemological Institute.

According to the Gemological Institute of America, these stones may not hold up to any kind of repair or remounting.

“Even some of the most basic solvents that you might find around the house, like bleach for instance, could potentially damage the filler in these stones and it’s not repairable once it’s been damaged,” said McClure.

Good deal or not, Mary Kay returned her earrings.

“People should know what they are buying” said Mary Kay. “I was definitely misled.”

Experts say real rubies are quite costly, should have a deep vibrant color and usually come with a certificate from a gemological association.

MACY’S COMPLETE STATEMENT 

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“Various types of rubies are available to consumers. 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. We also tag our ruby merchandise to indicate it is lead-glass filled, and include this in our product descriptions on macys.com. We have trained our store associates to bring this information to the attention of our customers and will continue to reaffirm this training.
In addition, we have gemstone treatment and care information available in the stores and on macys.com, and we provide a web address for online information on our fine jewelry receipts and tags. We are always available to discuss the nature and quality of a purchased item with our customers because we want our customers to be satisfied.”