Before Purchasing Jewelry, Always Comparison Shop

August 2013

Shopping for jewelry should be an exciting adventure! A whole world of possibilities awaits the lucky person who is in the market for one or more precious gemstones. Dazzling diamonds, ravishing rubies, elegant emeralds and spectacular sapphires are just some of the beautiful and enticing gems which are offered to consumers by the fine jewelry industry.

But to the uninitiated or uninformed, searching for and purchasing a diamond or other quality gemstone can feel like navigating a minefield. Potential disasters lurk everywhere. How do you know if you are paying a fair price? How can you be sure of the quality of a certain stone? What should you know about diamonds or other luxury gemstones? It's smart to do some research before heading to an actual retail store and definitely before making a purchase.

What to Know

Usually, purchasing fine jewelry is not something you do every day and more often than not, it involves spending a great deal of your hard-earned money. So it makes perfect sense to arm yourself with some basic knowledge about diamonds, gemstones, and precious metals before selecting the jewelry piece you want to own.

Diamonds continue to be a favorite choice of people searching for a timeless, mysterious, and classic gemstone. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) has made it easier for consumers to understand and appreciate the differences in various diamonds by grading commercially sold diamonds and placing them into four separate categories. Diamonds are judged by what is commonly known as the "Four Cs". This refers to:

  • Cut
  • Clarity
  • Color
  • Carat Weight

Any reputable jeweler should be able (and more than willing) to give you the specific 4C information about any diamond you are considering. Remember that each of these factors, and especially the cut, can significantly affect the quality and value (price) of a jewelry piece.

The quality of a gemstone's color is extremely important when dealing with colored stones. Many colored gemstones undergo treatments to improve their clarity and color but the use of these processes can greatly diminish the overall value of a stone. When comparing different gemstones, it's important to consider the overall quality of the piece you are considering- not just the size of the stone but also the integrity of the gem itself and whether it has undergone any enhancing treatment. A qualified, competent jewelry professional should be able to tell you if a gemstone has been treated.

Before you begin shopping for a jewelry piece, it's always a good idea to determine the amount of money you can afford to spend. You don't have to commit to a certain number right at the start, but it makes sense to set a reasonable range so that you don't waste your time looking at pieces that you cannot afford. It can be very disheartening to find a diamond or other jewelry piece that you absolutely love only to learn it costs about five times the amount of money which you have to spend. When you are able to give the jeweler a specific dollar range, he or she can show you the jewelry items which easily fall within your budget.

Again, remember that various factors affect the price of a diamond or other gemstones. You may find a larger diamond within your price range that has poorer quality (color and clarity). For the same price, a much higher quality but smaller-sized stone may be available. Only you can decide which one of the 4Cs matters most to you. And to do this you need to educate yourself a bit on the subject beforehand.

It's amazing how people can go to four or five different retailers searching for the best deal on a flat screen television. Then these same people will go to one store (which they've passed by at the mall or seen an advertisement for on TV) to purchase an expensive piece of jewelry! Always comparison shop! When you find a piece you like, write down the important information: the 4Cs and the type of precious metal used in the setting (sterling, platinum, 14Karat, 18Karat, etc.) Then proceed to another jewelry retailer and compare a similar diamond (or gemstone) and setting. Remember: all jewelers are not created equal!

Be a Savvy Shopper

Here are some important considerations to keep in mind when shopping for jewelry:

  • Be wary of jewelers or retailers who won't (or can't) give you ALL the information regarding the 4Cs of a diamond in which you have expressed interest. A reputable establishment will always give you the information which you request.
  • Shy away from advertising that only touts the carat weight (size) of a gem. Many times these retailers count on the fact that their customers will not know to ask about the other important aspects of a stone- color, clarity, and cut. Don't be shy. Ask questions and be satisfied with the answers.
  • Try to avoid stores that advertise huge savings - "up to 60% off". Often these retailers simply mark up the price 300%-400% and then give a "discount". Don't be fooled by these wild claims.
  • Avoid buying from a retailer that will not give you written confirmation of a gem's grades and measurements. Any jeweler who makes verbal claims to you about the quality of the jewelry you are buying should be more than willing to state those claims in writing also.
  • Be certain you have the option of returning any jewelry which you purchase within a specific amount of time. This allows you to have the piece independently appraised. Never use an appraiser who is recommended by the jeweler from whom you originally bought the jewelry item.