Photo (cc) by Swamibu
Thinking Jewelry for Your Valentine? Here are Tips to Get More and Spend Less
If you’re a woman, this post is my Valentine’s Day gift to you: Forward it to your beau with a note like “Came across this article; thought you’d be interested.”
If you’re a guy faced with jewelry shopping this Valentine’s Day, I feel your pain. Jewelry shopping is bad on so many levels: First, you might end up at someplace like a mall. Then you’ll be expected to spend a lot for what looks so little (hey, I could have bought a used motorcycle with that!) And finally, you’re going to feel about as comfortable as you do when you go to Victoria’s Secret (might as well while you’re at the mall).
But if your valentine likes jewelry, there are obvious rewards that go along with giving it (see Victoria’s Secret comment.)
So let’s see if we can make the process a little less painful by arming you with a few quick tips to make it less stressful and less expensive.
We’ll start with some tips from this 90-second news story I shot at the local mall: meet me on the other side for more.
If all that has taken the wind out of your sails, and you’re thinking flowers, here’s a story I did on buying flowers right.
But if not, let’s recap those jewelry tips with a bit more detail.
1. The Golden rules: If you’re buying anything gold from a reputable dealer, it should be marked with carat quality: 24 karat is pure. So it follows that 18 karat is 75% pure, 14 karat about 58% pure and 10 karat about 41%. Look for karat and who’s certifying it: As the jeweler in my news story told us, there should be a tiny tag called a trademark or hallmark that tells you the karat and who made it.
There’s also gold-plated jewelry. Gold-filled, gold-plated and gold-washed are all terms for plating; “filled” is generally a thicker coat, followed by “plated,” then “washed.”
What should you buy? Budget is obviously a consideration, but keep in mind that if your gold-plated gift is worn every day, odds are that sooner or later the gold will wear off.
And if times ever get tight, don’t ever sell your gold by mail: here’s a story that will explain why.
2. Pearls of wisdom: There was a time when you could buy either natural pearls (found on the ocean floor by pearl divers) or cultured pearls (formed by a real oyster in an oyster farm). But I guess all the pearl divers found easier employment: these days. Cultured is pretty much all there is, other than fake; — which are never called fake, of course. They use classier words like “faux” “simulated” or the misleading “semi-cultured.” Don’t be fooled.
If you’re buying a necklace, keep in mind that shorter necklaces are supposed to look better on long necks, and vice versa. The most common length is called a Princess and is 17 to 19 inches.
Pearls are priced by size (the bigger, the costlier) and luster (the more luster, i.e. translucent “glow,” the more expensive). One thing I try to do when I buy any jewelry is to ask for the most expensive thing in the store and compare it to what I’m looking at. In the case of pearls, that makes comparing things like size and luster easier since you have a benchmark to use.
How much should you spend? That’s easy: as much as you can comfortably afford.
There is a rating system for pearls, but it’s not all that reliable: you can read more about it at this website.
3. A gem of a gift. In order of cost, gems can be natural, meaning dug out of the ground, laboratory-made, often called synthetic, or imitation, meaning fake, but never called that. In any case, you should be told the source. And you should be careful, because fakes are often passed off as real. Gems are also often treated to make them look better with processes such as heat, irradiation, dye and coatings. This, too, should be disclosed, since treatments make the gem less valuable.
4. A girl’s best friend: Diamonds are the most stressful purchase because they’re normally the most expensive. But, in a way, they’re also the easiest because they have grades to help determine their quality. Here they are again:
- Cut. This doesn’t refer to shape; it refers to how well the diamond is cut. That’s what makes it sparkle. This is super-important. In order of best (and most expensive) to worst, there’s ideal, premium, very good, good, fair and poor.
- Carat. How much it weighs
- Color. This goes from D to Z. D is colorless, Z is yellowish to brownish. The higher the letter, the less color and the more expensive. But you can get all the way to I before the untrained eye sees color.
- Clarity. Influenced by the number of flaws (inclusions).
- Certificate. A piece of paper certifying the above. The certificate (which is not the same as an appraisal) is the blueprint of a specific stone. It should be issued by either the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) or the AGS (American Gem Society).
All that stuff is for buying big stones, of course. If you’re buying something with lots of little ones, just look for the sparkle. Again, compare what you’re looking at to what’s most expensive as a reference.
Final tips: As with any expensive purchase, the best way to start is with someone you trust. If you don’t know anyone, ask someone who does. I found my jeweler by asking a wealthy female friend where she bought all the stuff that’s constantly dripping off her hands and wrists.
And the most important thing of all? Don’t give your gal (or guy, for that matter) anything fake and tell them it’s real. Be warned: When you give jewelry, people have the perfect excuse to take it in for an appraisal, because they’re concerned about insuring it.
And if they found out you lied, you’ll have wasted the Victoria’s Secret purchase.