In the jewellery trade, informed buying is the preserve of just a chosen few who are either traders themselves, or people who have been traders at some point in time in their lives. Barring these, the trade is built around a bunch of half-truths. The following are some of the naked facts that you should know before you set out to buy any jewellery and more so, the expensive variety.
1. Jewellery never constitutes an investment
Most jewellers employ well paid loquacious salespeople who will pour out all the glory of how wise men and women invest in jewellery. The fact, however, is that jewellery never constitutes an investment for two major reasons:
a) Most ordinary men and women do not shop for jewellery every month or even every year. In all likelihoods, it could be a once in a lifetime shopping exercise. Therefore, even assuming that your jewellery does appreciate in value, it remains notional because you will never clutch that extra cash because you don’t want to part with the jewellery unless you get into a very unfortunate financial situation.
b) Your jewellery is subject to wear and tear over a period. Therefore, even assuming that you do go back to the jeweller to redeem the jewellery for cash, a good part of the value is knocked off towards wear and tear and some other fancy reasons that the jeweller will reel out.
c) No jeweller offers a buy-back scheme with a predetermined value for your jewellery
2. Coloured stones – are they natural or treated stones
Did you ever know that there is nothing called a “naturally” coloured gemstone!! , and more so in a jewellery shop and essentially not when it is already set into a finished jewellery. Now, this term “finished jewellery” is something you should always remember when you walk into a jeweller. It simply means that the piece is fully assembled as compared to, say, a ring that is waiting for the centre stone to arrive. Now you can counter the salesperson who vouches that a particular stone is natural, you can simply ask him if the some has ever been heated. Now notice how quickly his/her body language changes and shifts into a defensive posture. You have fired the first salvo and you would either be politely asked to move on and look elsewhere or taken to a private room where you are perhaps given the option to continue with your shopping because you can potentially distract other customers.
Joseph George of Melbourne’s renowned Joseph George Jewellery says “Pearls are by far an exception because there are indeed natural pearls. But, identifying natural pearls is another uphill task, and it is likely that you will need the services of experts. Even the most experienced jewellers and auctioneers have been taken for a ride with cultured pearls and treated gemstones.”
3. Set stones can hide many secrets beneath
Generally small sized stones (half a carat and below) are set into a jewellery piece and that should be expected too. But, it is a useful idea to ask for cleaning up the piece before you inspect it carefully with naked eyes and then ask the jeweller for a loupe (a type of magnifying glass) which will help you examine the piece at closer quarters. This exercise can be casual if the jewellery you are buying is priced below about $1,000. However, larger pieces will need more careful examination and perhaps certification by an external agency, before you pay for it. Ideally, larger stones should also be pulled out of the prongs to understand potential flaws. There are many ways to manipulate the flaws by associating the stone with different coloured metals. A common excuse when you are considering an antique piece would be that pulling the stone out would impact the integrity of the item. But, this is pure BS since any jeweller worth his salt can always re- inlay the stone without much do.
4. Stamps like hallmark, karat weight, designer’s signature or metal type can be faked with ease
Getting these stamps made is a no-brainer and can be done by anyone. But etiquette demand that you don’t point of finger of accusation unless you can substantiate it. A better option is to trust your own instincts and knowledge. For instance, you can ask for another piece in white gold that has nearly the same weight and hold it in one hand while putting the platinum jewellery on the other. Typically white gold is shinier and lighter and usually comes with a marginally yellowish tone. As for the other markings, the reputation of the jeweller can be factored in. However, when you are after an antique piece you need to be more cautious. “Proof of provenance” and that request will instantly put the jeweller on guard.
5. Always keep the first visit to the jeweller as an educational tour – buy later
Another important factor to bear in mind is to never buy jewellery on your very first visit to the jeweller, and more so when you are buying something expensive. Make it more of an educational trip, try to understand the nitty-gritty and explore further before you take a final buying decision. A focused research online can bring out several useful facts associated with the jewellery you plan to buy and put you in a more advantageous position to negotiate prices. It is a good idea to take a friend along on the second visit to the jeweller, so you have the opportunity of apparently chatting with him and the message getting across to the salesperson, loud and clear. For instance, you can make a comparison, real or imaginary with a similar or near similar piece of jewellery you have seen elsewhere for a significantly lower price. Remember to comprehend the body language of the salesperson closely and see how desperate he is to strike a deal with you. Never worry about how you are dressed up or even your wallet. You should just be comfortable with whatever you are wearing and you don’t need to impress anyone out there. Under-dressing is a better approach than overdressing.