Buying jewelry can be a complicated and challenging process for the uninformed. There are so many options to choose from, and just as many scams and cases of jewelry fraud to be aware of. So, it makes perfect sense if you feel lost. To make your life easier and simpler, in today's article, we will share:
- Tips on how to choose jewelry – You will find details about how to shop for engagement rings, how to choose a wedding band, and more.
- Engagement ring tips – Small details that will allow you to make the best buys per your style and budget.
- Most common jewelry fraud types – Including diamond scams and the most common tricks imposters play to convince you to buy fake jewelry.
- Tips on how to avoid jewelry scams.
Hopefully, by the end of this reading, you will be able to choose the best jewelry for the occasion with supreme confidence!
How to Shop For Jewelry
There are some basic rules to bear in mind so that you never go wrong in buying luxury jewelry.
- Colored stones are treated – Period
- Inspect Set Stones Carefully
- Buy 18-Carat Platinum or Gold - Always
You won’t find a "natural"-colored gemstone in a jewelry store or set in a piece of finished jewelry (piece that has been assembled completely). There are natural pearls however, they are extremely rare. In fact, many of the natural pearls bought from auction houses and respected jewelry stores are cultured pearls. So, if you want to buy pearls, you should definitely see a certificate of authenticity from an established business that specializes in natural pearls. The same applies to gemstones – treated ones (that have been injected with colored glass or silicon, or irradiated (a technique to treat stones)) are sold as untreated, which makes them more expensive,. To guarantee that the gemstone you are purchasing has not been treated in any of those two ways, insist on full disclosure about how the stone got its color (get everything on paper), and ask to have the stone appraised by an independent expert first. If the disclosures are inaccurate, you should be able to return the stone.
Stones under half a carat are usually set in a piece of jewelry. Before you inspect the piece with your naked eye and then with a loupe (some sort of magnifying glass), though, it is important to have it cleaned first. If the stone is large, ask the jeweler to pull it out for you. Most flaws (i.e. cracks and chips) are hidden under the prongs. Also know that jewelers use metal to improve the quality of their pieces, or hide their flaws. Most of the times, a brownish diamond is set in yellow gold prongs to make it look like a canary. Also, a stone completely wrapped in metal (aka bezel-set stone) is usually falsified in terms of proportions, weight, and color. So, if the jeweler refuses to pull the stone for you, it's better for you to leave. If you are buying a designer or antique piece, the jeweler may say that removing the stone will spoil the integrity of the ring. Not true. A stone set in a bezel can be re-inlayed by an expert jeweler.
It is very easy to fake a stamp of a metal type (i.e. stamp that says platinum (Pt) on white gold or 18-karat on 14-karat gold), karat weight, or a designer's signature. To see if you are presented with the real thing, weigh a platinum piece in your hand. If there is a similar piece in white gold, ask for it too. The white gold should be a tad yellower, shinier, and lighter than platinum. Be very careful when buying a one-of-a-kind piece like a Tiffany. The craftsmanship of such fine pieces is extremely elaborate and leaves no room for imperfections. Inspect the piece under a loupe. If you notice crudeness or lack of attention to detail, stay away.
How to Shop for Engagement Rings
When buying a diamond engagement ring, things can get a bit tough, especially considering the countless variables that affect cost, quality, and beauty. Each diamond is unique and before you find the best diamond, it is important to find the style that speaks to your heart (of your fiancé's heart). Here are some options to consider:
- Type of Diamond - If you fancy a simple and elegant diamond showcased in a metal band, then you need a diamond solitaire. If you want the diamond surrounded by smaller diamonds, a halo ring will do. You may also consider a diamond engagement band instead of a ring with a larger center stone. That aside, there is always the option to have an engagement ring with side diamonds or color gemstones to inject color and dazzle – even color diamonds instead of white diamonds.
- Shape/Cut of Diamond - If you decide you want a ring with a center-stone diamond or side stones, your choices include: (1) Round, (2) Princess (oval cut with rounded corners), (3) Emerald, (4) Marquise, (5) Oval, (6) Pear, and (7) Heart (see image below).
- Metal of Engagement Rings - Platinum is the most preferred (also hypoallergenic) option of those that want an engagement ring with a modern flair. For more contemporary, softer look, white gold is a great choice. If you prefer classic look you may fancy yellow gold or the more romantic and unique look of rose gold. A more affordable option is silver (make sure it is marked 9.25 Sterling Silver).
- Diamond Settings – A prong setting delivers a clean and classic look while a channel setting gives extra flash and flair. For more a glamorous option, go after a pave setting. Finally, a bezel setting is ideal for those who are more into contemporary, yet striking, looks.
- Quality – The higher the quality of the diamond, the more beautiful (and costly) it is. Consider the 4Cs: (1) Color (the whitest diamond is a D grade), (2) Clarity (measures the number of inclusions (internal blemishes) a diamond has and that makes it look as if it is lit from within), (3) Carat Weight, and (4) Cut (well-cut diamonds have more play of dazzle and light). Take a look at the diamond with a loupe and see how precisely cut the angles of the diamond are then compare it to diamonds graded at lower and higher quality.
Types of Diamond Cuts
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Engagement Ring Tips
There are some tips to steer clear of troubles and to avoid scams when buying engagement rings. Below there is a list of what you should focus on, as well as things you should avoid.
- Always check the issuing agency of any certificate you get - All certificates, including the American Gem Society (AGS) and Gemological Institute of America (GIA) can be faked. Check your stone (colored stone like tsavorite or sapphire, or diamond) against the certificate. Then, check the measurements (ask for a millimetre gauge). Finally, check the weight (ask for a scale) and ensure the imperfections shown on papers are the exact same imperfections you see with a loupe.
- Have the engagement ring appraised by an esteemed independent appraiser - If you are to spend thousands of dollars on such a purchase, everything has to be checked out.
- Always choose the person that will re-plate your ring or other pieces of jewelry - If, for example, you have a ring dipped in rose gold and then re-plated, it should be someone you can trust or you will end up with the problems one pissed consumer faced. She shares her ring repair experience with Zales, mentioning: "I had a BEAUTIFUL rose gold ring that I got for Christmas and I knew it was only dipped rose gold so I would have to get it redipped every few months, which I was fine with. I wore it for a couple of months […] and […] turned it in to get it resized. 6 weeks later I received it only for 24 hours later the rose gold had completely come off!"
- Look at a diamond in the sunlight - All diamonds, even those that are poorly cut shine in the sun after they are cleaned.
- Accept the "jewelry is an investment" phrase - Unless the jeweler is willing to write you a paper guaranteeing to buy the ring back in 12 months at a 5% premium over what you will pay, don't believe that you are buying jewelry as an investment.
How to Choose a Wedding Band
If you have not made it to the engagement ring part of the process yet, you can purchase bridal sets, which comprise of an engagement ring and a wedding band. Then, you may coordinate your wedding band and an engagement ring with a wedding ring for him. here are some ideas for choosing a wedding band for your personal style.
- Style - Your wedding ring should match his but this is not the norm anymore. the wedding band just has to complement the engagement ring. It could have the same stones or you may mix colored diamonds or gemstones and white diamonds. The metals may also be the same but you can mix gold tones in the wedding band and engagement ring as well. Or you may choose a family heirloom instead.
- Metals – Besides yellow gold, white gold, and rose gold, there are also palladium and platinum. 24-karat gold is not usually used in jewelry as it is soft. For that reason, it is alloyed with other metals to boost strength and hardness. Yellow gold bands are also the easiest to repair. White gold is yellow gold been alloyed with zinc or nickel to get its white color, and is usually plated with metals like rhodium. You will need to have it re-plated if it shows signs of wear. The blend between yellow gold and copper gives rose gold. Platinum is more expensive as it is rarer than gold; yet extremely durable. Palladium bands are more affordable options than platinum with a soft, satiny finish. There are also titanium wedding bands in smoky-gray shades. They are particularly durable but they cannot be resized.
- Gems and Diamonds – If you don’t like having a plain wedding ring, then go with stones. Although diamonds are the most popular choice, you could also opt for contrasting gemstones or color diamonds.
How to Choose a Wedding Band – Final Tips
- Think long term -Ensure the style of your wedding band is something you will probably want to wear for the next 30 years or so. However, you can always make changes to it later on (i.e. add diamonds) so don't stress too much over it.
- Consider maintenance – Gold and platinum wedding bands are easy to maintain (just rub with a soft cloth) while ones with stones need extra attention and maintenance (soak in warm water, gently brush with a soft eyebrow brush, rinse, and pat dry carefully).
- Get the right size – Your final band fitting should be at a time when your body temperature is normal and you are calm (means, no swollen fingers). Avoid morning hours, when the body has retained water from the night before, when very hot or cold, or after you have worked out.
- Check quality – The band should have a quality mark (i.e. PLAT or 24K) and the manufacturer's trademark.
Diamond Scams and Jewelry Fraud
Here are some red flags to bear in mind when buying jewelry and diamonds.
- Diamond Carat Weight Scam
- The "Half-Off" Diamond Scam
- Diamond Weight Scam
- Fracture Filling Diamond Scam
- Fake Diamond Certificates
It is among the most common diamond scams, where the tag on a ring or other pieces of jewelry do not state the total weights for each diamond separately. Instead, it writes the total carat weight of all the diamonds in the piece (a carat is a unit of weight for diamonds while Karat is a unit of purity). One large diamond costs way more than a lot of smaller ones of the same rating that equal total carat/weight with the large one. Not knowing the weight of the center diamond leaves you in ignorance as you won't be able to compare prices accurately. The best way to buy jewelry: Always ask for the specific carat weight and quality of the center diamond or a gemstone. And, get everything in writing.
Many retail jewelers mark up diamonds 200% and even 400% and then stick a sticker with a 50% discount. In the end, not only you do not get diamonds at half the price but you also overpay. The best way to buy jewelry: Avoid sales that offer such significant discounts. If you think it rationally, there is no reason a retail store owner is willing to give away half of their stuff for free, especially diamonds.
This is a common diamond scam. Rounding up a diamond's weight can cost you a lot of money and anyone who is doing that is performing a scam behind your back. Diamonds are weighted in carats and most people are familiar with the major weights related to them like ½ carat, 1 carat, ¾ carat etc. However, jewelers weight diamonds over a carat in carats AND decimals, according to the Gemmological Institute of America (GIA). So, a 1.05-carat stone would be described as one point oh five. Diamonds under one carat are stated in points (i.e. 0.90 carat is said to weigh ninety points). In the weight scam, the jeweler labels, for example, a diamond that weighs 0.65 carat as a ¾ carat one, which can cost you almost $1000. Sadly, after the diamond has been set into a ring, it is impossible to weigh. Best way to buy jewelry: Buy a certified loose diamond. Then, have a reputed jeweler set it.
Fracture filling is a technique used to improve the quality of a diamond (and sell it at a higher price) and is usually applied to rings that have to be resized. However, the procedure may leave a crack on the diamond, which makes it prone to chipping and even falling into pieces. For that reason, fracture filled diamonds are considered worthless. This is most likely what happened to one pissed consumer who reports about her Kay Jewelers experience: "We have had nothing but trouble with my engagement ring from the start. When he bought a diamond to put in a setting they cracked the center stone. When I brought it in the lady told me it was an inclusion. She asked "do you even know anything about diamonds" this was not an inclusion it came right off the prong and cracked just like a crack in your windshield would look like." Although you can't tell a fracture filled diamond with an untrained eye, it is good to know that gem labs don’t issue certificates for such diamondsAnd if they do, they clearly state that the diamond has been enhanced using this method.Best way to buy jewelry: Ask for a written statement regarding any enhancements the stone has undergone and always ask for a certificate from the GIA, EGL (European Gemological Laboratory), or AGS (American Gem Society).
Some jewelers counterfeit certificates issued by reputable gem labs (see above). A GIA reports will look like the image below:
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An AGS diamond grading report looks like this:
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If you suspect that a jeweller has faked a certificate, report it to the gem lab in question. Major labs care deeply about their reputation and they will pursue the scam jeweller. Also know that whatever the certificate you are presented with (if from a lesser known gem lab), it should always be accompanied with a certificate from AGS, GIA, or EGL. For GIA certificates, cross check the details in the report using the GIA online check tool has developed to help verify a GIA report.
Other Jewelry Scams
Replacing high-quality diamond with cheaper ones when the buyer takes the ring or wedding band in for cleaning. This is what happened to one of pissed consumers who tells about her Jared diamond ring:
"My fiancee purchased a gorgeous diamond engagement ring one evening. After coming home we decided we wanted to upgrade the band. The following week I went alone to surprise him and purchased a band for $1000 more than our initial one. Our diamond was a COLORLESS diamond F rating. To my devastating surprise when I picked up my new upgraded (or so I thought) ring, the diamond was now literally VISIBLY YELLOW."
Always do your homework when buying a diamond or an expensive piece of jewelry. Ask for a certification from a trusted gem lab, and make sure you get everything in writing before you leave the store. Hopefully, with the engagement ring tips mentioned above, and the many different ideas as to how to shop for engagement rings and how to choose a wedding band, you will get a really fine piece!
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While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal, medical, accounting, investment, or any other professional advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.