I have bought most of my rough from Ebay and more often than not am disappointed but it is the only real source of material I have found. For Cubic Zirconia, there is a seller (Jewelelectronics) that I have consistiently good transactions with; decent prices (at about $.02 to .08 per carat) and he always sends more carats than is actually listed.
But for ‘natural’ stone, I’m afraid my hunt for gemmy material has yielded multiple disappointments. Most often the stone is what is pictured but the picture just doesn’t show all the inclusions or fractures. My gut feeling is that most vendors are honest and are not intentionally hiding these flaws; just hard to show them all. Many times I’ve bid on an item that I believed to be superior quality, only to find it hazy inside or otherwise disappointing. If I can’t hold it in my own two little paws up to the light, it’s hard to see what you are really buying.
I pay very close attention to feedback and make it a point to read the negative AND neutral comments left by previous buyers regarding anyone with a less than 99.5% satisfaction rating. Below that, you generally have sellers who have something of an issue that you may want to avoid.
I have also had a couple of transactions that were pretty blatantly falsely advertized. One in particular comes to mind in that there was a piece being sold as ‘natural blue’ topaz. It absolutely had a bizarre shade of electric blue that would jot have ever occurred in nature but also, you could see this flat side to it with ripples that are left during the manufacturing process.
I wanted the piece regardless but bid what I felt it was worth as a lab-created piece and not as a ‘natural’ stone. Perhaps they were a ayi g it was a natural blue and not a natural stone as a way of twisting words but I believe the intent was deceptive.
I’ve also seen several auctions advertising ‘Herkimer’ diamonds or Herkimer quartx, but the items are coming from Pakistan or China. I wrote to one of these sellers and they insisted that most gem vendors will use the term Herkimer to refer to clear quartz when by my standard it should have come from Herkimer County, NY.
Buy what you think you can afford to be disappointed over. Look as closely as possible but don’t pay a fortune because you WILL get taken. I have had a hand full of very good transactions through Ebay but they are the excepti OK n rather that the rule. Kind of like finding the one gemstone in a whole quarry of junk.