Consumer Watch: Golden advice for buying jewelry

Consumer Watch: Golden advice for buying jewelry

February 10th, 2019 by Ellen Phillips in Business Around the Region

Rare is the woman who doesn't adore beautiful jewelry! In fact, flowers and jewelry are the most-spent sweetheart gifts on Valentine's Day. However, just like any other large or small purchase one anticipates, scams abound; it's up to us savvy shoppers to avoid unsavory salespersons and their offerings. Follow today's advice from to remember the old adage, "All that glitters is [definitely] not gold" and to ensure your sweetie's delight.

1. Decide on your max budget beforehand. By doing so (and holding firm), you're able to smile gently as you reply a resounding "NO THANKS" to purchases that cost more than you had in mind. Sales people are persuasive and often even pushy.

2. Think in advance about the type of jewelry you wish to buy. Again, this places you in control and avoids that overwhelmed feeling when arriving at the jewelry counter.

3. Never impulse-buy. Comparison shopping is always a smart idea, especially with sales and coupons in abundance.

4. Research the stores where you think you'll shop. Per any substantial expenditure, ask friends and relatives for recommendations. Additionally, check the store's reputation online.

5. Study up to learn the terms that jewelers use. 14K, 18K, 22K are prime examples to learn to understand what the jeweler is talking about. Then, upon discussion, decide whether what you want is worth the price.

6. Understand the refund and return policies before buying. If not a money-back-guarantee, can the piece be exchanged? Make sure that receipt is in hand and the store's phone number is visible on the receipt. Sales receipts should have information about the jewelry, including a gemological report from a laboratory. (Depending upon the value of the piece, an appraisal for insurance purposes is a shrewd idea.)

So what should we know about jewelry stones and precious metals before shopping and buying? According to the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, it's important that we identify the following characteristics before making our purchase:

Diamonds: The Four C's are the criteria used to value a diamond. Ask about the carat weight, color, clarity and cut (cut refers to the quality of cut, not the shape).

Ask if the diamond(s) have been treated in any way (i.e. fracture-filled, laser drilled) and whether or not the treatment is permanent.

Colored Gemstones: Is the gemstone natural, lab-created or an imitation?

Has the stone been treated and, if so, with what and is the treatment permanent and has it affected the gemstone's value?

What is the country of origin of the gemstone? Is special care required?

Pearls: Are the pearl(s) natural or cultured?

Has the pearl been dyed to enhance or change its color?

If the pearl is dyed, is the treatment permanent? Did this affect the value?

Is special care required?

Precious Metals: In addition to the specifics about precious metals, make sure that jewelry containing precious metal(s) is marked in compliance with the law. The item's karat must be identified to you in some way (verbally, through signage, etc.).

If an item is stamped to indicate the quality of metal it contains, a trademark must be near the quality mark.

Platinum: Items containing 950 parts per thousand (95%) may be marked as platinum.

Items that are between 85% and 94% platinum must be marked with the platinum content, such as 900Pt and 850Pt.

Items containing less than 85% platinum must detail the platinum group metal. Example: 750Pt200Irid. Total parts must equal 950 (95%).

Platinum group metals are platinum, palladium, rhodium, iridium, ruthenium and osmium.

Gold: 10 karat gold is the minimum fineness of gold to be sold as such in the U.S. Jewelry under 10kt fineness shouldn't be sold as gold.

Jewelry is made of many different types of gold: solid gold, gold plate, gold filled, gold overlay, gold electroplate, gold flashed/washed or rolled gold plated.

Silver: Silver/sterling silver means that 925 parts per thousand (or 92.5%) of the item is made of pure silver. Silver plate describes a product made of base metal and layered (or plated) with silver. (For those few modern brides who still like silver like their mothers and grandmothers, the majority of these gifted for weddings are plate and not sterling.)

Silver coins contain 900 parts per thousand (or 90%) pure silver.

P.S. Romance scams account for the largest amount of online money scams – more than $230 million in 2017 alone. According to, catfishers and con artists swindle hard-earned funds from lonely folks looking for love, especially around Valentine's Day. Beware!

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