8 Tips to Avoid The Most Common Mistakes When Buying Jewelry

Many people — traditionally men — view both shopping and jewelry as foreign territories filled with expensive landmines. Combining the two seems like a recipe for personal anxiety and financial disaster. If the thought of buying jewelry for your honey fills you with dread, this article is for you.

Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson has a simple but vital rule to help avoid jewelry-buying mistakes: “Go with your eyes.” That is, do not listen uncritically to what the clerk is insisting that you need.

You know what you find appealing, and should trust your judgment as you begin to browse. Of course, if you’re like most of us, you likely don’t have the money to choose some of the pieces that you find most alluring. That’s OK. You can still buy gorgeous jewelry your loved one will cherish without sabotaging your budget. Just follow these guidelines to avoid common stumbles:

1. Set a realistic budget

Woman holding a giant diamond.
InnerVisionPRO / Shutterstock.com

There is a wide variety of fine jewelry at a huge array of price points — including many lovely pieces that cost less than $100. Before you find yourself peering into a glass case while a salesperson grills you, decide what you can actually afford. Then if the salesperson shows you things that cost more, just say “I’m sorry. That was more than I was planning to spend.” If that means you are guided to another counter, or need to go to a different store to find something within your budget, so be it.

2. Educate yourself

Close up of diamond rings
faferek / Shutterstock.com

Are you looking for diamond jewelry or something with another gemstone? What will the setting be made of? Not only do those specifics impact the look and cost of jewelry, but they also tell you what it will require to care for the purchase. Sterling silver needs regular polishing, for instance, and gemstone settings should be examined by a jeweler occasionally to ensure they remain secure. The Better Business Bureau offers a rundown of factors to ponder if you are shopping for diamonds, colored gemstones and pearls, as well as considerations for metals of various purity, or “karatage,” which can greatly affect the price:

Jewelry made of higher-karat gold is more yellow in color and slightly softer than gold jewelry made of lower-karat gold, which may include copper, silver, zinc, or other metals. Consumers also need to be concerned with the alloys if they are allergic to certain metals or have a high acid content in their bodies. Acid can turn the jewelry you wear black, appearing to be of poor quality when it actually is not.

Read up on what you’re in the market for and you’ll know what to ask when you get to the jewelry counter.

If you’re shopping for a diamond, here’s another idea to ponder: Why Your Next Diamond Should Be From a Lab.

3. Separate fact from fiction

Ethiopian opals
Leela Mei / Shutterstock.com

You’ve likely heard some of the conventional wisdom and lore about jewelry: Opals bring bad luck (it depends on which historical reference you choose); diamonds are indestructible (not quite); vinegar destroys pearls (sorta); and biting gold will allow you to determine if it’s genuine (maybe, but it’s not a good idea). Do a little myth-busting research on the piece you are eyeing. It could be fun and may save you from sending an unintended message.

There’s a fun and informative read on the myths and legends of gemstones in Vogue.

4. Don’t guess on ring size

Couple lying in grass.
TroobaDoor / Shutterstock.com

Sure, rings can be resized, but it’s fairly easy to secretly determine someone’s ring size and look like a hero when it easily slips onto your love’s finger. If you can get a ring your intended currently is not wearing (one worn on the same finger as the one for which you’re shopping), you can match it to a ring-sizing chart like this one from Zales. Or just trace around the ring on a piece of paper and bring it to a jeweler to help you determine the correct size. Another way to get close — at least a step above guessing — is to consider the average size of rings (7 for women and 10 for men) and go up or down a size from there, accordingly.

5. Study the recipient’s tastes

Woman's hands holding a glass of wine.
jutastaff / Shutterstock.com

The most common jewelry-shopping mistakes are made when the giver wings it without knowing the recipient’s preferences. Sure, we told you to start with what you like, but as you winnow your choices you’ll naturally make the final selection based on what you believe your significant other would most enjoy. Some general rules of thumb: A hopeless romantic will likely enjoy heart-shaped jewelry, while conservative and casual types might enjoy basic hoop earrings, diamond stud earrings, or link chains. In general, it’s best to stay away from glitzy and unusual designs unless you’re confident that is your significant other’s preference.

Need more clues about those preferences? Look carefully. If the intended recipient never wears earrings, there is likely little point in giving them, noted AskMen.com. Does the recipient tend to choose geometric designs on clothing and home decor, or veer consistently toward natural shapes like flowers?

6. Become an online sleuth

Hooded woman looking at computer screen
Marcos Mesa Sam Wordley / Shutterstock.com

Sure, you regularly peruse your loved one’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest accounts but consider scouring them for likes or follows of any certain types of jewelry brands, recommends brilliantearth.com. Beware, though: Your research may well lead to online advertisements that will be emailed to or displayed on your computer. Clear your browser history and block the site from collecting cookies on your computer so the surprise isn’t unearthed.

7. Choose your jeweler carefully

Jeweler studying a gemstone
Nejron Photo / Shutterstock.com

True, you don’t want to blindly follow a sales consultant’s advice, but you should consider his or her expertise. And, of course, the expertise — like the jewelry — hinges in large part on the ethics and mastery of the jeweler. Overpriced and fake gems are impossible for untrained shoppers to spot. The best way to ensure you buy from a reputable source is to find those recommended by The American Gem Society and the Jeweler’s Vigilance Committee. Both have information on certified jewelers from which you can start to choose.

8. Read the fine print

Reading paperwork with a magnifying glass.
LidiaLydia / Shutterstock.com

What if your gift is something that, despite your best efforts, just doesn’t work? What if a stone falls out or a clasp breaks? Can you get your money back? Can you exchange it for a different piece of jewelry? What about a store credit? Make sure you understand the jeweler’s return, refund and exchange policies before you walk out the door. Some jewelers will prompt you to buy a high-priced extended warranty. Before you agree to that, consider the likelihood of needing to repair the piece versus the cost of doing so. And check to see if your credit card offers extended-warranty coverage on this type of purchase. Many do, and can save you from forking over even more money to the jeweler.

What lessons have you learned while shopping for jewelry? Share with us in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

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