Educational Consumer Tips


Author: Better Business Bureau

Whether purchased for oneself as a fashion accessory or as a gift for someone else, jewelry is a major expenditure for many Americans.
Everyone occasionally makes a jewelry purchase to mark a special occasion. Taking the time to understand the fundamentals of classifying and evaluating precious gems and metals will be a sound investment. Truly fine jewelry should, with proper care, last for generations. Such an expenditure deserves thoughtful selection based on informed judgment rather than a whim.


The value of a gemstone is determined by the extent to which it possesses certain qualities. Rarity, durability, portability, and fashion are some of those qualities: 

1) Diamonds- Are the hardest and most brilliant of gems. The diamond industry recognizes four value factors: color (pure, colorless), clarity (less noticeable marks and blemishes), cutting (properly cut to catch all its features), carat (the larger the stone,the greater the value). 

2) Pearls- Found naturally in finished form, pearls are as are as variable as diamonds-that is, no two are ever alike. There are two types of pearls: Natural (produced by types of mollusks found in both salt and freshwater sources-extremely rare), Cultured (production is scientifically controlled, produced in Japan). Look out for imitation pearls! They must always be described as "imitation" or "stimulated" pearls rather than "faux pearls." The designation "fresh water pearls" is inappropriate. 

3) Emerald- They are green in color. The finest are transparent and have a velvety grass-green color. The emerald fractures easily and should be given special care when handling. 

4) Ruby- Rubies are red with only limited traces of other tints or hues. 

5) Sapphires- Their colors range from blue, yellow and green to orange, purple and pink. There are many other gemstones. Some are extremely expensive, and others are very low in price. 

Whatever the gemstone, it is it is important to know how durable it is. Some, although beautiful, must be used with care if they are to endure as jewelry. Colors of some gemstones are susceptible to fading upon exposure to heat or direct sunlight.


Eight metals are considered precious: gold, silver, and six members of the platinum family (platinum, palladium, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium, and osmium). 

1) Gold- Pure gold is designated 24 karat. If a jewelry item is not pure gold, then its specific karat designation must be stated. 

2) Silver- Sterling silver must consist of 92.5 percent pure silver alloyed with 7.5 percent copper. 

3) Platinum- Platinum jewelry is usually produced from an alloy of 90 percent platinum and 10 perent iridium. Because it is rare and alloyed with other precious metals, platinum is very expensive. 


Two factors govern price: the value of the watch movement itself, and the design and material on its case, dial and band. A movement may be placed in a platinum case or a plastic one: numerals on the dial may be marked by diamonds or by fluorescent paint. When buying a watch, consider the type of usage it will receive. Special features such as shock resistance may be desirable. In the case of protection against moisture, be sure to check whether the watch is designated to be water resistant. Always read any warranty and find out if the seller will provide watch repair service, or if you will have to return it to the manufacturer. 

The Better Business Bureau provides this advice to consumers when they are going to buy jewelry of any kind:  

1) If you don't know the merchandise, know the merchant. Check with the BBB for a reliability report on the seller. 

2) Ask neighbors and friends for recommendations, and if possible, shop around before buying. 

3) If a warranty is offered, determine what is covered and who is the warrantor. Always get this information in writing. 

4) If buying on credit, be sure all credit terms are spelled out, including the annual percentage rate. 

5) Determine the seller's policy on refunds, exchanges, repair or replacement. 

6) When buying a diamond, be sure to ask for a written statement of its weight in karats, and, if possible, a statement of its quality (color, clarity, cutting). 

7) When buying a gemstone, ask if the original color has been altered, or the stone treated. Is it permanent? 

8) Be sure to read any tags and markings of gold and silver items for their content (i.e. 14K, sterling). 

9) Ask the jeweler for care and cleaning instructions for any jewelry you purchase. 

Many jewelers advertise that they are "wholesalers." BBB advertising standards for the terms "wholesaler" and "wholesale outlet" state that those terms should not be used unless the advertiser actually owns and operates or directly and absolutely controls a wholesale or distribution facility which primarily sells products to retailers for resale. 


he BBB in conjunction with the Jewelers of America Association offer these tips for general care of your fine jewelry. 


1) Don't wear them when doing rough work. They may be durable, but they still can be damaged. 
2) Keep your precious pieces in a fabric-lined jewel case, or box with compartments or dividers. 
3) Do not mix with other jewelry. It may scratch other precious pieces. 
4) Clean your diamonds by detergent bath, cold water soak, or ultrasonic machine. 

Colored Gemstones: 
1) Thoroughly clean your gemstones with a soft, damp cloth after wearing. This will enhance the luster and assure your jewelry is clean before storing. 
2) Do not expose your gemstone pieces to salt water and harsh chemicals, such as chlorine or detergents. These elements will slowly erode the finish and polish of the gems. 

1) Always separate your gold jewelry in a compartmentalized jewelry box. 
2) Remove all jewelry before showering or cleaning. Soaps can cause film to form on karat gold jewelry, making it appear dull and dingy. 
3) Look for commercial cleaners for cleaning your karat gold. Ask your professional jeweler to recommend one for your jewelry. When you purchase a dazzling piece of jewelry, you're making an important decision. Proper selection and care of your jewelry is the key to your satisfaction.

For more information, contact: 

Better Business Bureau
100 Bryant Woods South, Amherst, NY 14228  
(800) 828-5000

This report is general in nature and is not intended as a Business Review on any company, service or product.