Tuesday Tips: Buying High-End Jewelry
Yes, I know. It seems crazy to be talking about expensive jewelry in the middle of a potential recession. But I'm hoping for a nice Mother's Day gift here. So here are 10 tips for my husband... I mean you, the Shop To It readers, on how to shop for high-end jewelry, which I consider anything more than $1,000:
Tip #1: Feel good about the jewelry store you're giving your hard-earned money to. It should be a place where you feel comfortable asking the dumbest of questions and where you are treated with respect. You also want it to have a good reputation for variety and style. WeddingWire.com offers reviews of different wedding vendors, including jewelers. And don't look to the store's Web site to get a sense of the their selection. "Most jewelers aren't in the tech business so items on their Web site are old, and the new and exciting pieces are not up on their Web site because they don't have the resources to update it everyday," says Ronnie Mervis, owner of Mervis Diamond Importers in Tysons Corner, Chevy Chase, Rockville and Washington.
Tip #2: Be prepared to answer a lot of questions about the recipient of the jewelry, whether it be your fiancÃ© or your mom. High-end jewelers are trained to ask probing questions to be able to fit the jewelry to the person. They'll ask about everything from the person's lifestyle to their occupation.
Tip #3: You'll also want to think about the recipient's body type and hand size. A piece of jewelry could look great in the bright lights of the store but then look like a piece of tinfoil on the person's neck or wrist. "Not every ring is right for every person," says Mervis.
Tip #4: Know the store's return and repair policies. You'll want to make sure you can return or exchange the piece if your honey doesn't like it. Also make sure the store can fix the piece of jewelry if something becomes unhinged.
Tip #5: Ask a couple of questions about the piece of jewelry, like who designed it and where it came from. A special piece needs to have a story behind it, especially if you're thinking of it as something to be passed down to other generations in your family.
Tip #6: Consider some alternative metals to expensive gold and platinum. Some jewelry designers are starting to work with stainless steel, which has a white metal look, according to Nicole Gorman, co-owner of I. Gorman Jewelers in Washington. A simple men's wedding band in stainless steel can go for about $200 while one in platinum can run you up to $4,000. Palladium is another alternative metal that designers are working with. It used to be more common in jewelry but then platinum took over in popularity, Gorman says. It looks very similar to platinum but is cheaper than gold. Also consider a brown diamond, which has less value but an impressive look, according to Gorman. "They're also doing some great rings with smaller diamonds but have that great look," says Gorman.
Tip #7: If you're on a budget but love can't wait, look into financing plans. Most retailers these days have them. And some, like Mervis, are offering zero interest deals to lure customers.
Tip #8: If you can rent a movie, you can rent a piece of high-end jewelry. Say you have a black-tie event to go to but you only have the funds for a nice dress. Some stores offer a rental program where you pay a fee to borrow expensive pieces for a few days. Mervis started one about a year ago where you can borrow a piece of jewelry worth at least $10,000 for five days.
Tip #9: Get an independent certificate from a major gem lab to verify that the stone you're buying is exactly what the store is promising. The three most prominent labs are the Gemological Institute of America, the American Gem Society and the European Gemological Laboratory.
Tip #10: If you're buying an engagement ring, make sure that 90 percent of what you're spending is on the diamond and 10 percent is on the ring. And quality is more important than price. You want a diamond that has the right cut and proportion to allow for the most light to reflect from it, Mervis says. "We're all about the return of light," he adds.
So what are your tips for buying high-end jewelry? Who has the best deals? Post a comment below. And if you'd like some Tuesday Tips on one of your shopping dilemmas, please send me an e-mail at email@example.com.
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