Shopping for jewelry is rarely a simple process. Between the high prices and gemstone jargon, the experience can be downright intimidating. The best method for finding a perfect gem is to approach the purchase like a professional jeweler. Before buying a piece of jewelry, take the following tips into consideration.
Do Your Research
There’s no shortage of options when it comes to jewelry stones, metals and styles. While it may be difficult to match the knowledge of an experienced jeweler, a shopper should still take the time to look into a few basics. For diamond buyers, this will mean understanding how to assess the cut, color, clarity and carat of a stone.
Getting familiar with gem setting styles and the different metal karat ratios will be helpful as well. Even with a little bit of background information, you’ll be able to enter a jewelry store with more confidence. Jewelers are less likely to take advantage of buyers who can at least follow along in a conversation about gemstones.
Visit a Reputable Jeweler
The unfortunate truth is that some jewelers may resort to misleading practices to make a sale. That’s why a substantial part of your research should involve finding a trustworthy shop. Be sure to ask around for recommendations and look up details online. Of course, the best way to gauge the integrity of a shop is to stop in yourself. Check out as many jewelers as possible, and never make a purchase on a first visit. Remember, name recognition will not always lead to the best selection or price. Famous designers such as Cartier and Tiffany may charge up to 80 percent more, but their jewelry often matches the quality of what can be found in an independent shop.
View a Variety of Pieces
When you find a possible winner, don’t let your excitement immediately show. Carefully view the piece and compare it with similar items at different price ranges. Don’t be afraid to ask the seller if you can borrow a loupe — the magnifying glass used to inspect jewelry. Search the gem and the surrounding metal for imperfections.
All large stones should be pulled from the setting by the jeweler. This will make it easier to find any flaws that may be hidden under the prongs. You should also look for the hallmark stamped on the metal. This mark will verify the item’s karat weight.
Beware of Misleading Claims and Common Frauds
Natural stones, as opposed to lab-created or imitation gems, are the most valuable. To avoid getting duped by a fake, ask the seller to produce certification papers. A serious diamond should always be certified by the Gemological Institute of America. High-value colored gemstones should have American Gem Society papers.
While natural stones come organically from the earth, most of them are treated in some way. Despite this, some sellers boast of having naturally colored stones. Never pay extra for any so-called naturally colored jewelry.
You should also beware of any gems that have received a “clarity enhancement.” This essentially means that the natural stone has fractures that have been filled with glass. Such fillings will have to come out if the stone is ever cleaned or altered.
Get an Appraisal From an Independent Gemologist
Even if you think there’s a remote possibility that a jewelry piece may not be completely authentic, get it appraised. While you’re at it, mention the appraisal to the seller and ensure a generous return policy. Your jeweler may suddenly become a bit more scrupulous. The appraisal should be handled by an independent gemologist with respected credentials. While this inspection may cost more than $100, it will be worth it in the long run.