How to Find Quality Jewelry
Buying jewelry can be an overwhelming experience, especially when you want quality. It can be hard to know what to look for and how to make sense of unfamiliar terms. However, with a little preparation, you’ll know exactly what to find in quality jewelry.
Before visiting your local jewelry store, determine whether you’re looking for costume jewelry or fine jewelry. While they both offer glamor and style, they are very different purchases.
Costume jewelry is less expensive, and therefore requires less careful deliberation before buying. This can be perfect for trendy statement pieces, or for jewelry that you wear regularly. However, costume jewelry is usually made with cheaper metals, which will grow dull or wear away over time. Also, the stones are usually glued into place, which can likewise wear away. The downside about costume jewelry is that it has a timeline, and it won’t last forever.
For the beauty that costume jewelry offers, without the expiration date, consider choosing fine jewelry. At a higher price, it’s requires more forethought, but the rise in quality is significant. Within the category of fine jewelry, there are still many aspects to consider. If it’s expensive, learn what contributes to the price tag. Things to observe include type of metal, type of gemstones, and the craftsmanship of the brand.
Gold, platinum, and silver are the metals most often used in fine jewelry. Pure gold is 24 karats; that is all 24 parts are made of gold. Gold is such a soft and malleable metal that for jewelry, it’s usually mixed into an alloy with other metals. The ratio is measured by karats. For instance, 14 karat gold contains 14 parts gold and 10 parts of another metal. If a piece is labeled “solid gold”, that doesn’t mean that it’s 24 karat gold, but that the jewelry is solid, not hollow.
Silver’s purity is measured by parts per thousand. In order for jewelry to be labeled “silver” or “sterling silver,” it must contain 92.5% pure silver, or 925 parts per thousand.
High quality fine jewelry is usually marked with a hallmark, which will show the purity of the metal. Often, the designer’s name, symbol, or country will also be included. This hallmark may be found inside the band of rings and bracelets or at the clasp of a necklace.
Not all gems are created equal. Even within fine jewelry, stones can be natural or synthetic, treated or untreated. Some stones have imperfections filled with glass, which will diminish their value, and size and cut will also affect a gem’s price.
Synthetic gems contain the same mineral composition as natural gems, and are considered “real,” but they are manmade within a controlled environment, as opposed to being mined from nature. In addition, some natural stones are heat-treated, which will brighten or alter the color. Untreated gems are more valuable than treated gems. Cubic zirconium is the name for imitation diamonds, which look similar, but are less valuable. Natural pearls from oysters or mollusks in the wild, are extremely rare, and most pearls used in fine jewelry are cultured from mollusks through human intervention.
Some gemstones are more valuable due to their rarity or desirability, and others are more expensive due to size. Gemstone weight is measured in carats, and the average engagement ring size hovers between 1.08 and 1.2 carats. (While they sound the same, carats and karats are not interchangeable.)
The craftsmanship of the jewelry will likewise affect its price. Handmade jewelry will cost more than mass-produced jewelry, and designer labels will generally cost more than a lesser known brand. More intricate pieces will tend to cost more than their simpler counterparts. For quality jewelry, look for the prongs that hold the gem in place. (Pearls are the exception.) Glue tends to wear off, but gems set in prongs guarantee a piece that will outlast its wear. Check that each stone is set individually.
When buying fine jewelry, think in terms of a lifetime. The higher cost for precious metals, beautiful gems, and good craftsmanship will purchase a piece that won’t fall apart or diminish in value. For something meaningful that will become a lasting heirloom to pass on, pursue quality.
Finding your style of jewelry can be a challenge. Try taking this quiz to help you figure out the perfect pieces that resonate with who you are.