A Man’s Guide to Taking the Stress Out of Jewelry Shopping

Photo (cc) by jurvetson

Question: Who’s more stressed out when it comes to gift-buying?
A. A woman shopping for power tools.
B. A man shopping for jewelry

Answer? B. Men are more stressed because diamond earrings cost more than a circular saw – a lot more. It’s hard not to feel edgy when you’re spending tons of money on stuff you don’t understand. So get this through your head, guys: The more you know the less you’ll stress.

Let’s take a closer look at the five tips Money Talks founder Stacy Johnson offered in the video above…

1. Educate yourself

Stacy gave one quick example of education when he was talking about gold. Namely, if you’re buying a gold chain or other expensive gold jewelry, look for the hallmark: a tiny manufacturer’s stamp or tag that certifies the purity either as a percentage or in karat weight. For example, 18-karat gold is 75 percent pure. So the hallmark should either say 18k or the number 750, reflecting 75 percent.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Before shopping for diamonds, you’ll want to get your mind around the 4 C’s: Cut, Clarity, Color, and Carat weight. You can read more about that in Buying Diamonds in 5 Simple Steps.

And if you’re shopping for gemstones or pearls, you’ll want to know that a carat (yes, just to confuse you, the spelling is different) is equal to two-tenths of a gram. To learn more about that, check out 5 Tips for Buying Jewelry.

The point is to do some homework before you get in the car. There’s tons of information online. Will you still be an idiot when you arrive at the store? Yes. But maybe a little less so than if you didn’t do any prep.

2. Check out the jeweler

You should never buy anything expensive without knowing who you’re dealing with, and that especially applies to jewelry. Overpriced – even fake – gems are impossible for the novice to spot, so no matter how much you learn before you shop, you’re ultimately going to end up trusting someone. Make sure they’re trustworthy by spending a little time before spending a lot of money. The American Gem Society has a list of certified jewelers, as does the Jeweler’s Vigilance Committee. And while you’re online, look for reviews and information from the Better Business Bureau and complaint sites.

3. Ask about refunds, returns, and warranties

When you buy something at Home Depot or Lowe’s, you know you can bring it back for a full refund, no questions asked. Your jeweler should offer the same policy. Ask for a written copy, and don’t even think of dealing with anyone who won’t cheerfully refund your money for at least 30 days after the purchase.

Also ask about warranties and repairs. What if the clasp breaks? What if a stone falls out? Will they provide free cleaning?

Like many retailers, some jewelers will push high-priced extended warranty plans. Before agreeing to purchase one of these policies, balance the likelihood of needing to repair your purchase against the cost of doing so. You may also find that your credit card offers extended warranty coverage on most purchases.

4. Shop around

Jewelry is a competitive business, so most medium-sized and larger cities will be home to multiple jewelers catering to different price points. In addition, you can look online to get a greater feel for what’s out there and how much it should cost. You’d do that if you were shopping for a car, and probably even a circular saw. No difference here. The more you shop, the greater your confidence that you’re not blowing it.

5. Negotiate

Jewelry is a prime candidate for price negotiation, because it’s expensive and the margins are fat. The way to do it is the same way you’d negotiate for anything: First, make sure you’re dealing with someone who can actually make a decision. Then, tell them you’re trying to decide on what they have vs. something you’ve seen elsewhere, perhaps online, and ask what they can do to sweeten the pot.

The more attached you are to the item, the less likely they are to negotiate, so play it cool. And if you find they won’t budge, at least try to get something out of them, even if it’s just free gift wrapping. To learn some more tips on negotiations, check out Confessions of a Serial Haggler.

Well, that’s it, guys. Will following these steps give you the same comfort at the jewelry store that you feel at the hardware store? You wish. But it will make the experience a little less painful, and hopefully more productive. Good luck!

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