Seven Myths That Cost Us Money When Buying Jewelry
1. The Bigger the Discount, the Better the Deal
We’ve all seen jewelry discounted 50% or more. Tempting as those offers may be, the wise decision is to stick with stores that offer smaller discounts.
No store can stay in business for long by losing money on each transaction. While some businesses may strategically flood the market with “loss leaders”—items priced so low that the business incurs a loss—that approach only works if it attracts long-term repeat customers. The jewelry market simply doesn’t work that way.
Discounts of more than 20% usually indicate that a jewelry store routinely prices its merchandise far above market value, or that it is selling cheaper items than its advertising leads customers to believe. In either case, deep discounts should be a signal to stay away.
2. Jewelry Shops Only Sell Legitimate Merchandise
It complicates things, but some counterfeit items do make their way into traditional jewelry stores. In some cases, these fakes barely stand up to scrutiny: plastic or glass copies of gemstones may look genuine but feel and weigh much differently. In too many cases, though, even scrupulous store managers are deceived by imitation gemstones, which may have also passed unnoticed through regular distribution channels.
3. Synthetic Gemstones are Always Inferior to Natural Ones
Synthetic stones are grown from natural materials, usually from natural stones with a defect or two that prevent them from being used in artistic or industrial settings. These stones are ground into powder and melted before being used to seed the growth of new stones.
Because they are grown in highly controlled environments, synthetic gemstones are nearly always flawless. Too flawless, for some: natural gemstones tend to feature quirks that give them a character lacking in synthetic stones, and they command much higher prices as a result. If such quirks don’t matter much to you, there is no reason not to consider synthetic gemstones.
4. Trade Shows and Art Fairs are Good Places to Buy Investment-Grade Jewelry
Jewelry sold in temporary marketplaces stands an even higher risk of being counterfeit than that sold by established brick-and-mortar stores. If highly regulated, regularly inspected shops sometimes allow phony merchandise to hit their shelves, the risk is much greater in less formal settings.
5. Any Metal Makes an Appropriate Setting for Any Gemstone
Beware of items that purport to contain rare gemstones like rubies or sapphires in low-cost settings made of metals like silver. Among other things, jewelers seek to maximize the value of each piece, and setting an expensive stone in an inexpensive metal makes little sense. More often than not, such a discrepancy serves as a warning that the gemstone itself is flawed or counterfeit.
6. Natural Gemstones Never Fade
After making a smart purchase, owners should be just as smart when caring for their gemstones. While most natural gemstones retain their color and character regardless of environmental influences, some require special care. Golden topaz, for instance, may lose its color when exposed to direct sunlight. The outer, polished layer of malachite, pearls (and mother of pearl), and turquoise may not tolerate certain skin creams and perfumes.
7. Anyone Who Handles Jewelry is a Jeweler
Upon entering a jewelry store, it is unlikely that you will meet a jeweler. Most employees of such stores are expert at salesmanship and trade: they may know a great deal about the merchandise they sell, but they do not have a jeweler’s experience with designing, assembling, and repairing the items on display. Such experience distinguishes jewelers from other professionals.
Gemologists, for that matter, are distinct from jewelers. While jewelers are concerned with the presentation of gemstones, they are not by definition trained in their assessment. Only gemologists have the background in geology that allows them to evaluate each stone and determine its authenticity and quality.