Jewelry industry brochures usually tell you to choose a jeweler by getting recommendations, by checking credentials and length of experience and by finding out if they’re affiliated with trade organizations. This is good information, but it’s no adequate. Just because a jeweler is a member of trade and has diplomas displayed on the wall does not guarantee he or she is ethical and well-informed. Conversely, some of the most knowledgeable people in the industry do not have gemology one pearl bank diplomas. In addition, it’s easy to lie about your experience and educational background.
Getting recommendations from someone you trust is not always easy or possible, especially when you’re traveling abroad. More often than not, you’ll need to judge yourself if a jeweler is reliable. To make a good judgment, you’ll need to know some basics so that you’ll be able to understand and assess the salespeople. When you choose a jeweler or salesperson, here are some things you should consider. You should then be prepared to ask some of the following questions:
1. Could you tell me about this piece (or stone)? A salesperson who can compare it to other pieces and who can tell you about the background and quality shows more expertise than the one who can tell you the price, the weight and the identity of the metal and stone(s) by reading the tag.
2. Which one of these pieces (stones or strands) is more valuable and why? Two of the advantages of buying jewelry in a store rather than from a catalogue or the internet is that you get to see the merchandise before buying it and you get the free services of a jewelry consultant, provided that the seller is knowledgeable. When a jeweler can explain quality differences to you, this indicates he’s a more competent consultant and he’s probably a better buyer of merchandise for his store than a jeweler who can’t.
3. Are these stones treated (and point to the stones of your choice)? If sellers tell you that none of their emeralds, for example, are treated in any way, this is a strong indication they’re either ill-informed or dishonest. If sellers tell you that an individual stone is not treated ask how they know it’s not treated and ask if they’re willing to write this on the receipt. Untreated stones can be worth more than those that aren’t.
The way in which jewelers disclose treatments is one of the best indications of how ethical they are.
4. Can you tell me something about the cut of this stone? It’s not sufficient for a salesperson to simply describe the shape of a stone and tell you it’s a fine make, if it is. You need specific information about why it’s a fine, average or poor make. For example, they should be able to point out if a stone has a strong window, a very thick girdle, a unique faceting design, etc. You could also ask the salesperson to show you one of the best-cut gemstones in the store and to compare it to an inferior one. Not only will you learn more about cut, you’ll also learn if you’re dealing with a knowledgeable salesperson. Keep in mind that rubies, sapphires and emeralds are normally not as well proportioned as most diamonds.
5. Will you show me the piece (or stone) under magnification? If they aren’t willing to provide you with a loupe (hand magnifier) or a microscope, consider shopping elsewhere.
6. Are you willing to put in writing what you’ve told me verbally about piece (stones)? Reliable jewelers will say yes.
7. What’s your return policy? It’s a good sign when jewelers back up their merchandise and claims by a 100% money back guarantee. Some jewelers only allow exchanges in order to prevent customers from “borrowing” their merchandise for special events. When you buy jewelry away from home, though, exchanges become impractical. There are many jewelers throughout the world who offer a 100% money-back guarantee on jewelry that is not custom made. It’s the best deal with one of them.
When buying expensive jewelry abroad, have the salesperson give you a written copy of their return policy or have them write it on the receipt. Then pay by credit card, not a bank debit card. If there’s a problem with the piece when you get back home, it will be easier to get your money back.
8. How would you rate the quality of your jewelry craftsmanship? Why jewelers that sell well-made jewelry often like the opportunity to explain why their mountings, settings and finishes are better than those of competitors. You can learn a lot about workmanship by listening to them. Salesperson must know something about pearl jewelries or jewelry craftsmanship in order to help you select a well-made piece.