What to Look for When Buying Jewelry
What to Look for When Buying Jewelry
Not all jewelry is the same. How can you possibly know what to look for in a simple gold chain versus a platinum diamond engagement ring? When purchasing jewelry, you should always have quality in mind. Understanding what constitutes quality jewelry allows you to compare jewelry when shopping. Here’s what you should know.
How can you tell if jewelry is good quality?
Most people have a difficult time understanding the quality of jewelry. A simple chain can be worth hundreds of dollars, while a stone that appears precious is worth a few dollars at best. If you want to look for quality pieces of jewelry to purchase, you must first understand what constitutes a quality jewelry piece. Price can be an indicator, but it can also trick you. Here’s what you should know.
Metals used in jewelry
When it comes to jewelry, a good indicator of quality is the metal type. This is because certain producers will choose the cheapest products to make the maximum profit. They may use gold-plated or gold-filled jewelry for this reason. While the exterior of the jewelry is plated with real gold, there is low-grade metal on the inside. While it looks the same for a while, all plated and filled jewelry eventually tarnishes. Opt for jewelry made of precious metals (gold, sterling silver, and platinum). Also, not all pure gold is the same. It is important to understand karat concentration.
Additionally, because the price of gold has increased, many fashion brands are simply lowering their standards, so they don’t raise prices. This is something to remember as you’re purchasing — even from a brand you may feel you know well. Brands can use tactics like lowering the plating thickness.
You can learn more in our article about What Type of Metal is Best for Jewelry?
You can often tell a poor-quality gemstone from a mile away, but what about when that stone appears perfect? More often than not, this is a sign of fake stones made from glass and plastic. Genuine gemstones aren’t perfect — they’re flawed as well. You’ll be able to see little specks in them under a magnifying glass.
Similar to gold, diamond prices have increased. Some brands are cutting corners by lowering their diamond quality to keep their prices consistent. When comparing jewelry prices, be sure to keep in mind diamond color and clarity, not just the diamond size.
Unfortunately, this often goes unnoticed by their customers. Most people are concerned with carats rather than quality. This is because it’s a lot easier to tell the differences in size than it is to tell the differences in quality.
If you’re planning on buying diamonds, start by learning the 4 Cs of diamonds. When purchasing larger ticket items, such as diamond rings and stud earrings, it is crucial to understand the 4 Cs. Working with a reputable jeweler that can help guide you through them is also imperative. Here’s a quick overview.
When you think of a diamond’s cut, you may think of terms like princess, oval, radiant, pear, etc. However, it goes beyond just the shape of the diamond. You want to make sure you purchase a well-cut diamond that directs more light through the crown. If your diamond is cut at a depth that’s too deep or shallow, then it’ll allow light to escape through the sides or the bottom of the stone. For smaller-sized diamonds used in more everyday jewelry, it is okay to trust the cut.
You may think of a diamond as being “clear” or “white,” but diamonds can have variations in shades. The diamond’s color ranges from an icy white colorless hue to a light yellow. Colorless is the rarest diamond type, making it the most expensive. Yellow is the least rare, which makes it the least expensive.
When purchasing, it’s ideal if you’re able to compare diamonds side-by-side to see the difference. However, it’s not always possible to do this if you purchase jewelry online. You can always refer to the color grades if this is the case.
Colorless: D, E, F
Nearly Colorless: G, H, I, J
Faint Yellow: K, L, M
Light Yellow: N, O, P, Q, R
Very Light Yellow: S through Z
The diamond color you want to target varies depending on the item you are purchasing. For items such as tennis bracelets, we recommend buying jewelry in the GH diamonds to make sure they sparkle. Be wary of purchasing H, I, or J. While J is considered nearly colorless, your diamond bracelet will lack luster like a G diamond sparkles. However, brands will use this to their advantage in marketing and tell you that you’re getting a “nearly colorless” diamond. When you see “nearly colorless,” ask about the actual color.
Clarity is a critical factor when selecting a diamond. It impacts the rarity of the stone and, thus how expensive it is. The clarity refers to the tiny markings and imperfections you may see. Check the GIA grading scale when choosing your diamond to understand your stone(s) better.
Carat weight is a big factor when people select a diamond. Many people become fixated on the carat weight because they want the largest diamond they can afford. However, this isn’t always a good tactic because you can lower your quality standards on the other factors if you want to get the largest carat weight. Remember that it’s all about balancing all the factors above! Also, millimeter size is often a better indicator of size than carat weight. A jeweler can help you find a lower-carat weight diamond that presents itself as a larger one because it’s top heavy (instead of bottom heavy).
With colored gemstones, like sapphires, emeralds, rubies, etc., it is essential to evaluate similar qualities. Colored birthstones also receive grades. Where gemstones are sourced from is a huge sign. Different gemstones have different colors that are associated with quality. For each gemstone, it is critical to identify quality hallmarks that go into it.
The metal portion of your jewelry should have hallmarks that reveal the country of origin, designer, or maker. You may find these on a necklace’s clasp, within a ring or bracelet, or on an earring post. All fine jewelry will have a hallmark unless it’s over 100 years old. In that case, the hallmark may have worn off.
For example, you’ll likely see common gold hallmarks like 18K, 14K, or 10K. For platinum, you may see hallmarks like “950,” “PLATINUM,” or “PLAT.”
The presence of a hallmark on your jewelry is a good sign. If you’ve ordered a particular type of jewelry from an online store, don’t hesitate to look up the kind of hallmark that that metal is supposed to have and see if it’s there.
Also, if you’re purchasing from a high-end brand with a distinct logo, make sure the logo appears how it’s supposed to. Phony jewelers will sometimes forge hallmarks and logos to pass off fake jewelry as high-quality. You should examine the typefaces, layouts, and spellings to ensure it’s identical to the designer’s.
You may think that prongs are a sign of fine jewelry (think the prongs you see on engagement rings!). However, they can also be used in higher-end costume jewelry to mimic the look while the stones are glued. If a piece of jewelry appears to have stones pasted into a setting with or without prongs to hold it in, then it’s most likely not the valuable piece you thought it was.
There are four different types (or levels) of jewelry craftsmanship. This is based on the type of manufacturing process that was used in its creation. Here are the four types you should know.
Bespoke hand-forging (no casting)
This type of jewelry is often the most desirable and sought-after. It’s made without casting, which means only traditional bench tools are used to craft the pieces. Every piece will be unique.
Handmade with some cast parts
This method has been used for thousands of years. It’s cheaper and faster, but the casting produces a distorted piece with rough, porous skin. As a result, the surfaces must be manually stripped and reshaped.
Casting from CAD or casting from a mold
This method uses a printed 3D model to produce a wax model for casting. Rather than using rubber molds, the technology allows the wax to be printed from a file. A CAD and mold contribute to greater consistency and often are more durable.
When working with a jewelry designer, ask questions about their craftsmanship, sourcing processes, and factory conditions. All of these factors can contribute to the quality of your jewelry.
When buying jewelry, you may feel immediately drawn toward a reputable name. A name that you know, like Tiffany and Cartier. These stores spend a lot of time, effort, and money to create the reputation that they provide quality jewelry to their customers.
Unfortunately, while you can be guaranteed quality through these vendors, adding the “Tiffany” label to jewelry can bump the price tag by as much as 80 percent. Is the name worth it to you? Or could you be just as happy with a piece of jewelry that you knew was quality?
When it comes to reputability, you can find a reputable jewelry store by keeping all the above factors in mind. You don’t need to purchase from a Cartier or Tiffany’s to ensure you are buying quality jewelry.
Are you looking for high-quality jewelry at a low price for a special occasion or a loved one? At Alexis Jae, we help people skip the middleman and invest in high-quality sourced jewelry. This way, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to ensure quality. We only sell fine jewelry (14k or 18k gold) featuring precious or semi-precious stones. Start shopping today and save 50% off traditional retail prices! Work with our stylists to find jewelry that fits your personal style.