If you're in the market for jewelry, it's best to pick up some tips from the experts before you buy online. With faster Internet speeds and increased e-commerce security, buying jewelry online has steadily increased by the year. Falling diamond prices and high numbers of jewelry store closures have contributed to the trend.
But jewelry can be particularly tricky to buy sight unseen. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, here’s some expert advice on how to buy jewelry online, courtesy of former jewelry store owner, Clancy Martin on vice.com.
Don’t buy jewelry as an investment.
Before buying any expensive piece of jewelry, know in advance that it is not likely to become an investment. The piece may increase in value if it’s a rare, excellent stone, but don’t go into buying hoping it will increase in value. Buy it because you want a luxury piece of jewelry to enjoy, like a luxury car.
All colored stones are treated.
According to Martin, there is simply no such thing as “natural”-colored gemstones, especially if it’s been set in a piece of finished jewelry—a piece that has been completely assembled.
He also suggests avoiding stones that have been irradiated or injected with colored glass or silicon, which is one of the most popular treatment techniques, especially for expensive rubies and sapphires.
The only way to guarantee that the stone you are buying has not been treated in this way is to be sure that you can return the stone after having it appraised by an independent expert.
Natural pearls are extremely rare, he explains, and buyers should insist on a certificate guaranteeing their authenticity and only buy from an established business that specializes in natural pearls.
When shopping for colored gems and diamonds, know that irradiated and synthetic stones are now the norm, so insist on full disclosure in writing from the seller about how the stone acquired its color. Once you receive the stone, have an independent appraiser test the stone to be sure that the disclosures are accurate. If they are not, return the stone. This may also give you leverage in price.
A hallmark can be forged.
Be warned that a hallmark, such as a stamp of karat weight, metal type, or of a designer’s signature, is easily faked. Anyone can make a stamp that says Pt (for platinum, stamped on white gold), 18k (stamped on 14-karat gold), or JAR (Joel A. Rosenthal). Martin advises that buyers always and only purchase 18-karat gold or platinum. Be on guard especially if you’re shopping for a one-of-a-kind piece, such as a Louis Comfort Tiffany, Fabergé, or Cartier.
The problem with buying online is that you can’t inspect the piece in person under a loupe. If you can’t see the physical piece, then be sure to shop and buy from the official manufacturer’s website. You’ll likely pay more, but at least you’ll know it’s an authentic piece. In any case, ask about “proof of provenance.” Do what you can to find out about the history of the piece, such as where it came from, how are they certain it’s original, etc.
Certificates can be faked.
Like a hallmark, keep in mind that any certificate of “authenticity” can also be faked, including the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and the American Gem Society (AGS), as well as “Kimberly Process” papers and conflict-free papers—and any such warranty should always be checked with its issuing agency.
Buy significant diamonds loose or unmounted.
When it comes to buying a significant diamond, Martin advises only buying “loose” or unmounted stones—but be sure to educate yourself first. A sophisticated diamond buyer understands how important an excellent cut is to the value of a diamond, such as make and proportions. Take the time necessary to learn about and appreciate the nuances of diamond cutting. Online video tutorials can help.
Bargain, bargain, bargain.
Whether you’re buying online or in-store, try and get the best deal you can, especially on an expensive piece of jewelry. Martin says you must be shameless in bargaining. It doesn’t matter whether you’re buying from Cartier or Neiman Marcus or De Beers or Barneys or Graff; or if you’re spending $1,000 or $100,000. Offer less then they’re asking; shop around; wait for sales. The more time you are willing to invest, the more money you will save.
Never buy a used Swiss watch.
Forgery has become rampant in the Swiss-watch business, and even the experts may be hard-pressed to tell the difference. So if you want to be sure, buy from a manufacturer’s official website and/or registered dealer. Again, bargain. Depending on the brand, you should demand a 40-percent discount from the sticker price; a 30–35-percent discount on most popular brands like TAG Heuer, Cartier, and IWC; and a 20–25-percent discount on the most desirable brands like Rolex and Patek Philippe.
In summary, do your due diligence. The more you plan on spending, the more time and effort a buyer should invest in the purchase. Martin suggests looking at the process like a game or hobby—the more you learn, the more fun it is to buy, and the better deal you will obtain.
Source: “How to Buy Jewelry Like a Jeweler”