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Expert Advice on Buying Jewelry Online

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” 

What to Know About Buying Jewelry Gifts Online

s-l1600Online holiday shopping is big business. Last year in the U.S., Americans spent $56.43 billion shopping for the holidays via their desktop computers. And $2.3 billion was spent online on Cyber Monday alone, making it the biggest online shopping day ever, according to a statista.com survey.

If you plan on shopping online for jewelry this holiday, here are some important things to know and do so you can “Buy Now” with confidence, courtesy of the GIA (Gemological Institute of America).

Benefits of buying online

Clearly, there are myriad reasons to shop at home on our computer, or on-the-go on our tablet or smartphone. Certainly, the convenience of being able to buy wherever and whenever we want is appealing. Also, shopping online eliminates the pain of driving in traffic, wading through crowded stores, and waiting on long lines for sale items that may or may not be sold out.

Another big benefit is the research aspect of online buying. Whatever type of jewelry you’re looking to buy, from vintage estate jewelry to high-end diamonds and luxury watches, you can research the online vendor via  third-party reviews and consumer feedback.

On many online jewelry shops and consumer review websites, you can find comments from customers who’ve bought products from that shop. This is a great way to find out what kind of experiences people had, and if there are any trends in either a positive or negative direction.

Also, like most websites, online jewelry shops have a “contact us” section, where you can ask questions about the products available, and specifics such as colors, sizes, grading, availability, shipping, payments and other purchase details.

Here’s some GIA advice on buying jewelry online.

Smart buyers do their research

As with any significant purchase, start by researching your specifics about the piece you want to buy, such as how the price is determined and variations in quality. With diamonds, for example, understanding the 4Cs—Carat, Color, Clarity and Cut will help you understand the variations in price and quality. The more you know about what you want, the better deal you’ll be able to find. Also make sure the website you are considering purchasing from is reputable—more on that below.

Beware of counterfeit jewelry

One downside to buying online is that you can’t see the piece you are buying up close, in your hands. Still, there are ways to confirm if a piece is authentic or not, starting with shopping at reputable websites.

Buying signed jewelry is one way to ensure you are purchasing a high-quality item — as long as it is the real thing. Genuine signed jewelry is any piece of jewelry stamped by the company that makes it, such as Tiffany & Co., David Yurman, Cartier, Harry Winston, etc.

Signed jewelry pieces are almost always made from precious metals and genuine gemstones. That is the main reason they are more expensive than non-signed pieces — you’re paying for higher quality materials and craftsmanship.

Conversely, most replica jewelry pieces are made of non-precious metals and synthetic stones because it is much cheaper to produce and they are usually made in mass quantities. So, when looking to buy a signed piece — especially if it is pre-owned — make sure that it is made of the exact same metals and stones that the designer uses for that specific line or design.

Know who you’re buying from

Here are a few things to check regarding the seller, before you buy.

How long has the company been in business?

What kind of reviews has the company received?

Does it belong to any jewelry trade associations, such as the GIA?

Do they offer secure transactions?

Are the online representatives helpful?

What is the return policy?

Where is the seller located?

How will the jewelry be shipped?

Is the shipment insured?

Is a signature required for delivery?

In addition to the above, if you’re buying from online auction sites, you’ll also want to look into buyer feedback and ratings and determine if the seller is providing sufficient evidence of the quality of the jewelry offered for sale, such as photographs, a grading report, or report number that can be verified.

Consider the payment method

Each online retailer or auction site will specify how it will accept payment. If you paid with a credit card and if there is a problem with the purchase, most credit card companies provide recourse. Using a check or a money order for your purchase can reduce your options.

Proceed cautiously with out-of-country online sites

For example, U.S.-based consumers have options for recourse when buying from a U.S.-based company, such as filing complaints with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Jewelers’ Vigilance Committee (JVC), Better Business Bureau (BBB), etc., or pursuing a legal case in civil court. Websites that do not have a physical presence in your home country may be insulated from recourse and attempts to recover funds can be frustrating.

If you like it and can afford it …

Finally, remember that choosing the right piece of jewelry for yourself or others is also subjective: Don’t just focus on the price or rating —go with what looks beautiful to you and is in your budget. If you’re buying for someone else, apply the same logic. Know his or her tastes. Does he or she prefer size over quality, or quality over size? If he or she prefers size and quality, you may need to do some real comparative shopping! Also, make sure you know the person’s ring size, as well as the jewelry store’s return policy.

 
 
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