The reality is that most of us aren’t that comfortable in jewellery stores.
Between the high price tags and the technical trade language, it’s easy to feel out of your depth, whether you’re buying for yourself or a loved one.
Read our quick tips on this page or take a look through the information pages in the menu and it will help to make your next purchase a painless one:
1. Know What You Want Before Going Shopping
Don’t ever walk into a jewellery store and say you’re “looking for something nice for myself/my wife/a friend.”
That’s no way to get good advice, and even if the salesperson tries to be genuinely helpful you’re still relying on someone else's taste, which may or may not match the taste and wardrobe of the person you’re buying for.
Instead, walk in with a clear idea of the basic characteristics you want, even if you don’t have a set of technical terms in mind.
Here are a list of jewellery descriptors you should determine before shopping:
- Jewellery Color – Do you want plain gold- or silver-colored jewellery, or are you looking for something with a colored stone? If so, what color? This is your most effective triage, since it automatically eliminates a huge chunk of wrong-colored options.
- Specific Metal – Not all silver-tone jewellery is silver, nor is all gold-tone jewellery gold. If you’re set on a specific metal rather than a general color, say so. It helps eliminate a lot of options.
- Jewellery Proportions – Don’t be afraid to use unscientific terms here. If you want a slender chain, say so. If you want a big, chunky ring, say that. Give good, descriptive words rather than worrying about technicalities. It’s your job to tell the jeweller “I want a nice set of earrings that aren’t too ostentatious”; it’s his job to know which pairs would match that description.
- Price – You may not want to mention this up front, but often this is a crucial guide to the jeweller's recommendations. If you’re offered something too expensive, just say “sorry, that’s more than I was looking to spend” and offer a lower figure. Some jewellers may be willing to negotiate over a specific piece’s price, while others will direct you to similar, but less-expensive options.
Believe me on this one - you will notice a big difference in going to the jewellers and saying “I’m looking for a moderately-priced yellow gold ladies wedding ring with a narrow band and a single diamond” versus going in and saying “I need a nice wedding ring.”
2. Talk to a Jeweller You Trust
Most jewellery purchases aren’t made on the spot. You can do it that way, but it’s better to talk a specific piece over with a friend. If that friend is someone who knows the ins and outs of the jewellery industry, so much the better.
When you’re asking for a professional’s second opinion, focus on the things they have expertise in: technical questions, details of quality and weight, origins of stones, etc. You’re trying to fill in the gaps in your own knowledge, not just get an opinion on your taste.
Of course, you may end up wanting to simply purchase from a jeweller you or a family member knows and trusts, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Just be aware that the best second opinions will always come from people with no vested interest in the sale.
3. Know Enough to Ask the Right Questions
Whether you’re dealing with a friendly third party or with the man/woman who’s going to make the final sale, you need to know what questions to ask.
This is where most men get frustrated or intimidated.
Our advice: don’t try to grasp it all at once, and don’t try to pretend you know more than the jeweller - you don’t. Just go in with a solid grasp on the most basic qualities of precious metals and precious gems. A good jeweller will support and guide you, allowing you to make the big decision confidently.
4. Find the Right Place to Buy
Not all jewellers are created equal. Some have larger selections, some have better prices; some have more helpful and knowledgeable staff. If you’re very lucky you’ll find one that’s good at all those things, but it can be tough. Know your options:
- Big Chains - The “shopping mall” jewellers. You will know some of the names from radio ads. These focus on the most common types of jewellery: budget wedding and engagement rings, earrings for women; watches and chains.
They tend to have good return policies and other customer service features. The staff may not be as knowledgeable as an independent jeweller, and in some cases be aware that you’ll be dealing with a sales clerk rather than a professional jeweller.
These are fine places to look for basic jewellery needs, just be sure you’re getting an experienced opinion on the quality, and don’t expect to find anything too out of the ordinary.
- Family or Independent Jewellers – Something of a dying breed, most major cities still have good jewellers in the better suburbs. Expect to find a smaller retail selection with a more refined selection of styles than you would at a big chain store. These are great places to find hand-made, eye-catching pieces, and the jeweller will usually have ample knowledge and expertise. On the other hand, there won’t be a fixed catalog to choose from - usually a custom made design and a personally selected diamond will be combined to produce a truly unique piece for you.
- Antique and Pawn Shops – Any second-hand jewellery offers two opportunities: the chance to score a really unusual piece, and the chance to get majorly ripped off. Exercise caution! If you’re not a jeweller, you’re not really qualified to judge a piece based on its appearance and whatever documentation it might or might not come with. Don’t shell out serious money without a jeweller’s opinion or a really good return policy.