9 Tips for Buying Jewelry

9 Tips for Buying Jewelry

When shopping for jewelry, do you know what qualities to look for or the right questions to ask? There are quite a few aspects to investigate before choosing a valuable piece of jewelry to ensure you get an authentic, quality piece that will stand the test of time. You also want to know that the price you pay is comparable to the value of the piece.

Find a Reputable Jeweler

Image via Flickr by Seth Lemmons

To find a piece of jewelry that you love that's authenticated and has lasting value, consult with a jeweler who has practical experience with jewels, training in jewelry manufacturing, or formal gemological education. To find a reputable jeweler, turn to a national or state jewelers' association. Such organizations can provide referrals to established, knowledgeable jewelers in your area.

Look For the Maker's Mark

When inspecting a piece of jewelry, look for the maker's mark (or trademark) somewhere on the piece. This stamp shows the authenticity of a piece of jewelry. It's proof that a specific manufacturer has made the piece. You wouldn't buy a painting that the artist didn't sign; likewise, you shouldn't purchase jewelry without its form of a signature.

Examine the Quality Stamp

Look at the information on the quality stamp. This stamp indicates the metal type used in the piece, as well as its fineness. If a piece of jewelry is made in the U.S., a quality stamp must be present along with the maker's mark or trademark by Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations. For example, on a gold or silver piece, you'll see a mark indicating whether the piece of jewelry is made out of 14K gold or if it contains 925 silver.

So as not to mar the aesthetics of a piece of jewelry, a quality stamp will be located in an inconspicuous area on the piece, like inside the band of a ring or the backside of a brooch. For European-made jewelry, pieces are inscribed with the same information, called hallmarks. These hallmarks also indicate the country of manufacture, the type of metal, and its fineness.

Examine the Gems and Their Mountings

You should check the mountings for looseness, as this means the gem isn't secure, and you could be at risk of losing a precious gem if it falls out of its mount. Also, make sure that the stones aren't damaged. Ask the retailer for a jeweler's loupe to closely examine the gem's facets for any abrasions or chips.

Look For Any Signs of Damage

Inspect the metal for scratches or dents. Unfortunately, jewelry can become damaged easily, regardless of the material. Any damage may be easier to spot on a bright, shiny finish, so ensure a closer look when assessing a matte or textured piece of jewelry. Thoroughly inspect the piece, even when purchasing new, to ensure there are no signs of damage.

Request the Lab Report

Jewelry that contains significant gemstones has grading or gemological identification reports. These are from independent labs, such as the non-profit GIA (Gemological Institute of America). The report contains information such as whether the gems are natural or synthetic. Synthetic stones are grown in the lab. Identification reports show the material, and GIA's diamond grading reports contain information about the stone's quality. These assessments are trustworthy, as GIA isn't affiliated with any retailer, so their reports are unbiased.

If you're looking to purchase a piece of jewelry containing GIA-graded diamonds or seeking a jeweler with professional staff trained by GIA, you can search for local GIA retailers with their directory. This directory makes it much easier to find jewelers who have certified diamonds with GIA grading and knowledgeable staff who can tell you more about each diamond as you shop.

Learn the Basics of Diamond Grading

The GIA created a universal standard for assessing diamonds, the 4 C's of diamond quality: color, clarity, cut, and carat weight. This standard takes the guesswork out of purchasing a diamond. In the past, buyers didn't know what quality stone they were about to purchase. This lack of a standard measure made appraisal and assigned value subjective, leaving consumers in the dark, especially if dealing with a dishonest retailer. Thankfully, now you can be an educated consumer. You can rest assured that the diamond has been examined and assigned a value for each of the 4Cs.

Ask Questions

Don't hesitate to ask your jeweler questions. Buying jewelry containing diamonds or other precious gemstones shouldn't be rushed. It's a substantial purchase, an investment, and something you may pass on through generations as an heirloom. It's wise to make sure the jeweler addresses all your questions before you take the plunge on such a significant purchase. If the jeweler you're dealing with seems to rush you or pressure you on a sale, that's a sure sign to shop elsewhere. Don't let anyone push you into a hasty choice, or you could wind up with buyer's remorse on a grand scale.

Before making your final selection and completing your purchase, make sure you have thoroughly read and understood the jeweler's return policy and their terms of the warranty. Ask if they offer maintenance for your jewelry, such as annual cleaning and an examination for loose or damaged gemstones.

Once Purchased, Get Your Jewelry Appraised 

If you purchase an antique piece or a pricey one, be sure to get it appraised. It's highly recommended you insure antique and expensive jewelry pieces, and an appraisal is required to retain insurance. The appraisal will determine the replacement value of your jewelry, lending you some peace of mind in the event of damage or theft.

When planning your next jewelry purchase, be sure to seek out a reputable, knowledgeable jeweler, and educate yourself on the basics of diamond grading and gemstone quality. You'll be better able to find a high-quality piece of jewelry you can wear with pride if you follow these tips. For more information on high-quality jewelry, contact the experienced team at Martin Busch Jewelers. Offering everything from custom engagement rings to jewelry polishing and cleaning to jewelry restoration, the Martin Busch team is sure to answer any question you might have about your jewelry purchase.