Educational Consumer Tips
Author: Better Business Bureau
The anticipation of picking out new jewelry can be an exciting and overwhelming experience. With the vast amount of metals and stones to choose from, it is important to be an informed shopper. Whether you are shopping for a gift or picking out a piece for yourself, use these tips as a guide to buy a piece that will last a lifetime.
Tips for Buying Jewelry:
Think Before Shopping. Buying jewelry can be a major purchase so it is important to think about the desired piece before going shopping. Be sure to first set a budget and then consider the type of metal, stone and brand name. High-end brand jewelry stores often charge a higher price just for having their label on the piece. If you are looking to save money, check out styles at the high-end jewelry store and then look for a similar piece at a more reasonable jeweler.
Research the Jewelers. Ask friends and family members if they can suggest a jeweler with a good reputation. Check out the jeweler’s reviews and complaints on bbb.org. Find out if the jeweler belongs to a trade organization. Organizations such as Jewelers of America require members to participate in ongoing education and abide by high ethical standards.
Learn About Types of Jewelry. The more informed you are the better you will be at judging if the stone or metal is worth the price. Be sure to shop around to get the best deal. Use these tips when you are buying the following metals or stones:
- Gold: Whenever you are buying gold, make sure the piece is marked with the karat weight and registered trademark. The karat quality mark tells you how much pure gold is in the piece. Pure gold is 24K, which is soft and yellow. The most common marks are 18K and 14K, which are a combination of gold and other metals to make the piece more durable. The trademark could be a name, symbol, or initial. If either of these marks are missing from the gold piece, do not buy it. Find out if the item is solid or hollow. Hollow gold pieces are usually susceptible to more damage over time.
- Silver: When buying silver, be sure that the piece is clearly marked “925” or “sterling silver”. Do not mix-up sterling silver with nickel silver or German silver, these metals do not contain silver.
- Diamonds: A diamond is valued based on color, cut, clarity and carat. Color is judged from colorless to yellow. Cut is the shape of the diamond, which takes into consideration symmetry, polish and proportions. Clarity refers to the flawlessness of the diamond, accounting for imperfections. Carat is the weight of the diamond, which is given as a decimal or fraction. The jeweler should also communicate that the weight is not exact and state the range of weight for each fraction. Be sure to ask for a certificate of replacement cost and the original gemological certificate.
- Platinum: Platinum is marked according to how much pure platinum it contains. A marking of 900PT denotes the piece is 90% platinum and 10% other metals. Be sure the piece is always marked with the metal content and manufacturer. Platinum is often more costly because of the skill it requires to craft.
- Pearls: There are three types of pearls: natural, cultured, and imitation pearls. Natural pearl are made from oysters and other mollusks. Cultured pearls are also made from these mollusks but with help from human intervention, causing them to be more common. Imitation pearls are man-made. Pearls are valued based on their size, shape, and color. When buying pearls ask about the nacre or skin. Pearls that are cultivated longer have a thicker nacre and are more durable.
- Gemstones: The three main types of gemstones are: natural, laboratory-created, and imitation stones. Natural gemstones come from nature, causing them to be rare and expensive. Laboratory-created stones or synthetic stones have the same properties as a natural stone but are more common and less expensive. Imitation stones are made from glass and plastic to look like natural stones. Be sure to look into the jewelers magnifying glass to check for chips or damages and ask for a certificate of replacement.
Know the Refund Policy. Before purchasing ask about the return policy. Make sure the type of metal or stone is clearly printed on the receipt with its weight. Ask if the jeweler offers a warranty or guarantee. If they do, get the guarantee in writing and read it thoroughly. Ask what will happen if the jeweler moves locations or goes out of business.
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