Insider Tips For Buying Jewelry

The diamond industry is a big stinking sham, but if you’re stuck in a relationship where you can’t get away with a plastic spider ring for a gift—well, first of all, we feel sorry for you, but second of all, here are some great tips to help you save money when jewelry shopping.

If you’re already shopping for a ring, you probably already know about the “Four C’s”—cut, color, clarity, and carat weight. But to get the most bang for your buck, remember that it’s the cut of the stone, not the clarity, that determines how much it sparkles. Also, if you want a small stone to look larger, go for cuts other than round. If the stone has a yellowish tint and you want to make it look whiter, set it in yellow gold.

Read the full article for more information, including how to shop for platinum and gold, and how to find the best place to shop.

“Experts Reveal Jewelry Shopping Secrets” [NBC11]
(Photo: Getty)

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  1. bbbici says:

    The diamond engagement ring tradition is a complete sham, invented in the early 20th century by DeBeers to sell more diamonds. Diamonds have no intrinsic value, are poor investments, and their mining is bad for the environment.

    Yet, even (seemingly) intelligent women and men capable of understanding these concepts still buy in to the nonsense. Here’s how to save money on diamonds: don’t buy them. Instead, offer your mate an interest-bearing investment.

    Diamonds aren’t forever.

    Diamonds are for suckers.

  2. skittlbrau says:

    Or when shopping, you can ask if a diamond is really what the gift recipient wants… my engagement ring is a sapphire, and i couldn’t be happier with it.

  3. stpauliegirl says:

    We bought simple silver wedding rings and put the big bucks down on a house instead. (For the record, we also got married by a judge and honeymooned in Vegas in lieu of a lame, expensive reception.) I don’t regret a thing and agree with BBCICI 100%.

  4. I know it was just a movie, but after watching “Blood Diamond” and reading various other sources on the subject of the diamond trade, the engagement ring I bought for my wife last year was the last diamond I will ever buy.

    Diamonds are up there with sugar and petrolem when it comes to inflated prices here in the USA.

  5. gabi says:

    They have a really terrible website, but Shelby Gems ar awesome.

    [www.shelbygemfactory.com]

    They make gems that are chemically identical (or really close to it) to rubies, sapphires, diamonds, etc. but for a fraction of the price. I have yet to meet someone who can actually tell the difference.

  6. wring says:

    @rainmkr: that movie totally killed my longing for a diamond ring. sure debeers is saying that some diamonds are “clean” but how can they be sure? gimme some cubic zircona, nobody can tell teh difference.

  7. UpsetPanda says:

    One problem we had was our age. We’re in our early 20s but I guess we didn’t look “serious” enough because 4 out of 5 places we went to in the mall treated us like we were either joking or weren’t serious. I mean, it wasn’t like we were going to plunk down the money that day but if we had found a good deal, we would have definitely gone back for it.

    I ended up not going back to any of those places because they just didn’t show a customer the respect they should, and they seemed to make assumptions based on the way we were dressed (casually – it’s the mall) and our age.

    My tips:

    1) gauge customer respect.

    If they don’t respect or they make assumptions, they probably won’t show you the good stuff because they don’t think you’ll be able to afford it and they may feel as if they are wasting their time.

    2) Also, in my experience, if you know what you want, stick to it but keep in mind a few other options.

    We weren’t in the market for a very expensive ring, but I had very set ideas of what I wanted and they kept showing me basic solitaires, which was NOT what I wanted. The last store I went to showed me all the solitaires AND the more contemporary or fashion type rings and I fell in love with this one ring that looked so art deco and vintage. It was exactly what I wanted, and I would’ve never spotted it if I hadn’t put my foot down to tell the sales people up front that I was open to looking at ALL of the merchandise but that a solitaire wasn’t my first choice.

  8. kelmeister says:

    I have a gorgeous two carat engagement ring that gets complements from strangers–and it’s a complete fake. Ten dollars with shipping on eBay. And no one’s noticed the difference. My husband was actually congratulated with a “good going” by a salesman for “having the money to get it.”

    The joke is that my husband and I blew a quarter of our small wedding budget having custom rings made when we were married (they’re our birthstones; we’re total saps), and then after the ceremony we both got fat and our rings no longer fit. Acutally, after some months of dieting his fits, but I still have a ways to go. Anyhow, since my finger looked so sad without a wedding ring, I went online an blew a whole $10 on the gaudiest (yet most tasteful) ring I could find.

    I think it helps me get waited on faster in shops, even when I’m dressed pretty much like a bag lady.

  9. DeliBoy says:

    @bbbici: I read opinions like yours time to time, and, while I can’t disagree with the logic and ethics behind it, you’re forgetting one critical thing:

    The purpose of purchasing diamond jewelry is typically for a gift. Ergo, your personal politics and opinions take a back seat. If the intended recipient wants a diamond, are you going to argue with them that an municipal bond is better in the long run? Ask yourself if you really want to have that debate every few months for the remainder of your relationship.

    It’s easy enough to avoid purchasing ‘conflict’ diamonds, just ask your jeweler or search Google. And don’t get a synthetic diamond instead of a ‘real’ one unless you are positive it’s OK, regardless of the multiple benefits.

    Take it from me – gifts purchased for your significant other should fit their tastes. Don’t try to change their taste to fit the gift, no matter how noble your goal.

    - The Voice of Experience

  10. vanillabean says:

    I buy vintage jewelry and reset it or buy labmade (everything, not just diamonds) and wear it with pride.

  11. alhypo says:

    I think people have the perception that diamonds are valuable because they believe them to be rare. The problem is, they aren’t rare at all. If the diamond industry were to relinquish their hegemony on the diamond trade (which they maintain through political manipulation and violent military campaigns) diamonds would become virtually worthless.

    Once I get out of college, I’m going to be pretty well-off, so the cost of an engagement ring will not be an issue. But I’m also an economist, and therefore I will refuse to buy such a worthless and immorally obtained commodity. Damn, it feels good to be up on this high-horse.

  12. alhypo says:

    @kelmeister: I don’t want to split hairs here, but aren’t “gaudy” and “tasteful” nearly mutually exclusive? I just can’t imagine anything satisfying both those criteria.

  13. dandd says:

    I think it is funny that people have such strong opinions about diamonds and jewelry in general. If you like it, buy it. If you don’t…

  14. oneswellfoop says:

    If the girl I’m going to marry must have a diamond, then I guess I won’t be marrying her. As much as I think they are beautiful, appreciate what they symbolize, and value the people I care about enough to spend that sort of money on them….Anyone who really knows what it takes to get a stone out of the ground and over to the states is too horrified at the process to buy a precious stone.
    Purchasing stones helps perpetuate the slavery of tens of thousands of people, civil war(and sometimes ethnic cleansing/genocide), and helps prevent the possibility that the diamond producing areas of the world will ever be politically and economically stable. I don’t think badly of people that buy stones, but I will never take part in that.

  15. myrall says:

    I sold jewelry (of the mall and estate kinds) throughout college and witnessed about every varying type of diamond purchaser imaginable. I saw women dragging men and men dragging women into my store(s) for rings.

    I’ll share one anecdote…Imagine my horror one day when a mother came marching into the store with her 16-year old son to return the diamond engagement ring he had bought from me the day before. She balled me out for nearly an hour for “how could I let a KID spend that kind of money ($700 if I remember correctly) on an engagment ring?!” It was his money that he’d earned working a part-time job.

    I politely responded that he and his girlfriend had not looked out of place and it was not my job to ask someone’s age before they plunk down a wad of cash for a diamond that was obviously wanted. Suffice to say, mom was less than thrilled with my response. I gave him his money back.

    That poor kid looked like his world had just caved in. Wonder what happened to him and said fiance.

  16. bbbici says:

    @DeliBoy:

    With regard to buying a monetary or real estate investment instead of a diamond engagement ring, I would set up the account and give the recipient sole access after one year. Then the recipient can decide if she likes seeing a big pile of money growing every month, or a worthless rock on her finger.

    If she chooses the diamond, so be it. Mind you, I’d probably think very poorly of her after that.

  17. JulieG says:

    I’m surprised that no one has brought up the secondary market for jewelry. Stones mounted in old jewelry can be bought for a fraction of the price of new jewelry. You simply bring the old piece to your jeweler and pick out a new setting from a supplier catalog. I’ve been doing this for years with natural stones and have saved a lot of money.
    Don’t go to pawn shops though, they inflate prices unreasonably. Estate sales and jewelry shops that specialize in estate items are the best bet for old jewelry.

  18. MeOhMy says:

    For *any* jewelry, find a good and reputable jeweler. Hint: They probably won’t be operating in a shopping mall.

    Also, if you stay off the beaten path you are more likely to find unique and interesting stuff…and cheaper.

  19. anonymouscoworker says:

    I bought a diamond for my wife when we were engaged with the understanding that it would be the ONLY diamond we’d ever buy. I shopped around online, studied the four Cs (as well as some other criteria you don’t normally hear about) and bought a stone off of Amazon (that was allegedly “clean”) for about 5 grand cheaper than it would have been in a store, and 3 grand cheaper than it would have been buying the ring and stone together. The ring appraised for almost three times what I paid for it.

    Yes, it’s a horrible industry, but there are ways to compromise.

  20. ret3 says:

    My lovely bride got a big, beautiful pearl to mark our engagement. Its setting has a few small diamonds in it, as does her wedding band, but the many compliments she receives on her rings are invariably about that irridenscent wad of oyster snot.

  21. monkey33 says:

    Thanks, Deliboy, for pointing out that its a gift. I explained to my fiance why I didn’t want to give her a diamond, that in my opinion they aren’t all that pretty, the deaths that diamonds have caused, the inflated prices. Didn’t matter, she still wanted the diamond and the tradition, even though we’re a nontraditional couple. I ended up getting her a smaller diamond with side stones, which she likes even more than a large solitaire.

  22. UpsetPanda says:

    @Troy F.: Don’t knock shopping malls – Tysons Corner in McLean, Va. is home to plenty of reputable jewelers, as are other malls in the area. Reputable isn’t going to guarantee the best prices or customer service though.

    @bbbici: One would imagine that any romance would be completely zapped after you reveal your pitch. “Look honey, I opened an account and after waiting for a while year, look at how awesome all that money is” …which is fine, but certainly NOT something that will win many points with very many people. It’s not a matter of reason, as it is a very good idea – just not in lieu of an engagement or a marriage proposal.

  23. EvilTapioca says:

    “Don’t go to pawn shops though, they inflate prices unreasonably”

    I got my rings from a pawn shop for $45 and yes they are real. :)

  24. Beerad says:

    @MissJ: You might think the romance was zapped by “Here honey, I bought you a gift that symbolizes civil war, greed, violence, artificial value, and conspicuous consumption! I love you SO much!” But apparently not.

  25. MeOhMy says:

    @MissJ: Maybe Tyson’s Corner is different. I live near one of the nation’s other bigass malls and every single one of the jewelers is a chain jeweler – Gordon’s, Kay, Milanj, Nahoku, Tiffany’s, Helzberg, blah blah blah. Smaller malls in the area, same story.

    One question though…how is a jeweler “reputable” if it does not have good prices OR customer service????

  26. Chicago7 says:

    @gabi:

    You mean that giant 200 carat ring I saw you wearing the other day is a fake??

    /And I was going to steal it!

    :D

  27. UpsetPanda says:

    @Troy F.: Well, I look at reputable as several different things. Good merchandise but possibly not the best prices (cause I saw a beautiful diamond but it was $7,000) and the customer service, IMO was fine, but a little pushy. But they’re still reputable because many of my friends liked their experience there.

    The first mall I visited on my research was a suburban mall, and the chains were there too – the quality was okay, the service was horrendous. I know one person who has bought anything from any of those stores. I know at least three who got their jewelry from where I got mine.

    @Beerad: If there’s a qualm about it, buy a non-conflict diamond. Buy a “non-diamond” like a sapphire or a ruby. Buy a pearl, like ret3 did. My point is, put this person first because it is a gift, like deliboy and monkey33 said. It’s not about you, it’s about the one you love.

  28. Kimli says:

    My husband and I recently bought me a Moissanite anniversary ring. It’s friggin’ gorgeous, cost less than a quarter of what the same ring in diamonds would have cost, and there’s no chance of Leo DiCaprio showing up at my door to yell at me for my blood diamonds. I love it. I’ll never buy diamonds again; it’s so much cheaper and prettier to buy man-made!

  29. @oneswellfoop: “and helps prevent the possibility that the diamond producing areas of the world will ever be politically and economically stable.”

    Yes, that Canada is coming apart at the seams. :)

    Seriously, though, MOST jewelry can be produced in horrible exploitative and environmentally unfriendly ways. And MOST of the time there are alternatives that avoid or minimize those problems.

    For those hatin’ on jewelry as frivolous, of COURSE it’s frivolous. That’s the point of it. We spend all kinds of money on all kinds of things with hyper-inflated false value, including sports cars and consumer electronics. What’s wrong with liking your hyper-inflated toys to be sparkly? They last a lot longer than cars or electronics and make much nicer heirlooms.

    Immediately writing someone off as too shallow to be of any interest to you because they like sparklies seems just as shallow!

  30. morganlh85 says:

    @alhypo: EXACTLY! If diamonds are so rare, how come there are 15 stores in every shopping mall with 1000 diamonds inside? We have truly been duped by their marketing gurus.

  31. Geekybiker says:

    Check out http://www.pricescope.com if you must buy a diamond. Its by far the most useful site I’ve run across. You’ll save a lot of money, and get a stone with exactly the specs you want.

  32. goodguy812 says:

    buy pawn shop jewelry. its the best deal.

  33. Dervish says:

    One way to save money is to go to an independant, local jeweler. My fiancee bought my engagement ring from such a guy near us. When we went back to get our wedding bands (straight-up simple gold), he didn’t charge us for mine, since we were repeat customers. Plus we got awesome, one-on-one service. If I ever get the sudden hankering for more jewelry (not likely) I know where to go.

  34. NightSteel says:

    There are other outfits who make completely synthetic diamonds. The diamonds are real, just made in a lab rather than mined from the ground I’ve seen lots of articles about them lately. Wired’s article is old, but a very interesting read:

    [www.wired.com]

    They make mention of two companies, Gemesis and Apollo Diamond. I personally have been a customer of Apollo, and I would recommend them.

    [brochure.apollodiamond.com]

    Gemesis:

    [www.gemesis.com]

  35. phildeaux says:

    I second the http://www.pricescope.com if you must buy a diamond.

    That is what I used to buy my wife’s engagement diamond. I then worked with a jeweler to create a custom ring.

    The fiance, now wife, loved it, and she loved the fact that I had a hand in designing the band (based on her suggestions of course)

    Bottom line, do not shop at the mall. You pay for real estate there, you do not pay for diamonds.

  36. Anonymous says:

    Yeah, screw diamonds. When my boyfriend first asked me about
    engagement rings I made it clear I wouldn’t stand for a diamond. His
    mom bitched at me because she’s convinced a man MUST spend two month’s
    worth of wage on a engagement ring. She has a gaudy ass large honking
    diamond ring that she has worn once in all the four years I have been
    with my man. Now we are engaged and he gave me amethyst with cubic
    zirconia. People think the cubic zirconia are diamonds thus thinking
    it’s a expensive ring. Hell I bet it’s shinier than diamonds anyway. I
    love my ring and wouldn’t wish for anything less. Like a diamond. You
    wanna give something that’ll last forever? ok how about styrophoam. or
    twinkies. Everyone loves twinkies and I heard they can survive a
    nuclear blast. LOL.

  37. smartwatermelon says:

    I bought my wife’s wedding ring at an estate jewelry shop–the ring is vintage 1920s and she loved it. We’ve since purchased other vintage and estate jewelry from this shop ( [www.diannesestatejewelry.com] ). For various reasons–most of which are mentioned above–I would not buy new diamonds.

  38. Sonnymooks says:

    There was a jewler I used to know years ago.

    He said it best, “They are rocks, they are not rare, they are not very usefull, and they are not even the best looking stones, their value is only based on what people will pay for them, based on the limited supply by the major suppliers”.

    He then had me cracking up when he also went on, that in his line of work and in many cases (not the majority) they do not even have value to the person who is paying for them, but that person is doing so, because they feel they have no choice (i.e. they gonna get they ass dumped if they don’t get a diamond ring for their fiance).

    He told me horror stories of guys buying other types of stones instead of diamonds, and having the fiance, family members or others come storming back in, and the poor guy having to spend more money all over again.

    The best part of all this, I asked him what he got his wife (i.e. engagement ring), knowing what he did, he told me he got her a diamond ring (granted he got a good deal, but anyways), I asked him why.

    “What am I stupid? I went out with her for 5 years, and I am going to have kick me to the curb because I am to stubborn to get her the same kind of ring her friends have, her friends would make fun of her if she got something different, and we would not be getting married.”

    FWIW, even though he was a jeweler, that line of work never did seem quite right for him. But damn, he had some funny stories.

  39. darb215 says:

    I read over everything everyone has posted and noticed you guys are missing the boat completely. Sure diamonds have cause blood and turmoil but what hasn’t in our history, every aspect of wealth has done the same. Diamond “material” is far from rare, less than 10% percent of diamonds material is used for jewelry. It’s used for commercial uses; bits, grinders, etc. The diamonds business is all sold on emotion; the emotion of love, workmanship, nature, precision. I CAN understand how people have posted using logic but it’s not a logical decision to purchase jewelry, a fine car, a precise time piece or any other luxury. All jewelry, no matter what it is, even a straw wrapper you twisted around your first loves finger “crystallizes” a moment in time, a memory. A diamond is forever, even stolen or lost, “the diamond” isn’t the rock -it’s the memory ,the statement. A diamond on your loves finger reminds her everyday of you, sparkling at her. It tells her how you both worked and made your relationship strong and lead to marriage. Any big purchase a man makes give him euphoria, power, the feeling of success. This one purchase is, in a lot of cases, the only big purchase a man ever makes for another human of this caliber. Any other purchase, be it a car, a home, an investment, is almost entirely for himself. Men have no use for diamonds, the purchase can only be looked as an investment if you will, a life investment. Diamonds are natural, they are rare in the sense that it takes more than 1000 tons of earth to be moved to maybe find a 3/4ct piece of rough diamond good enough to polish and become jewelry. The craftsmanship in creating a piece of jewelry has been a tried tradition for thousands of years. This is art, do you pay for a painting because of its material?

    Anyone that tells you a man made stone or a Moissanite is anywhere near the same reward, is flat out lieing to you. People wear REAL jewelry and diamonds for their own personal satisfaction. People wear fake jewelry for everyone else, show boat, etc. Can’t you always spot the tarnished fake gold chains, and big gaudy plastic stones? Imagine the different feeling those folks would have if their jewelry were real? Jewelry marks milestones in life, be it; a fine watch or a pair of matched flawless 2ct total weight earrings. Any large purchase reminds you of your accomplishments even the ring on your wifes finger.

    Many hours of hard expertise work go into producing a watch or a diamond, they are well priced considering the labor. Thats why you can find that good deal, because it was poorly manufactured. With anything, you always get what you pay for. The best diamonds out there now-a-days are hand polished at 100x magnification with the help of technology, imagine the quality of product and cost of labor in that diamond vs. a diamond cut and polished by an 18 yr old in China working 60 hours a week night shift. Retail vs. cost is an assessment only a retailer can justify but you see the difference now? Every diamonds is unique, each one has its own characteristics that define its value past the details of the 4c’s. No one ever gets a “good deal” in the diamond business. Everyone walks out of a store honestly knowing 2% on the details of what they really just purchased. If you got a diamond for $1500, you got a $1500 diamond, not a $4000 diamond. When you give it to her, your giving her your “good deal”, not a $4000 diamond. That isn’t the great feeling I was talking about earlier. People seem to always focus on the $$ side of diamonds and try to compare apples to apples and be educated about their purchase -but in all reality, it’s people your buying, since your NEVER dealing with apples to apples you have to feel comfortable with the business and the people your dealing with. In the end create a relationship with a family jeweler who has been in business for a long time, tell them your budget and have them show you the ropes. Details are just that, details. There’s no reason to know them all, just find something that’s attractive and feel good about your purchase for the right reasons and not because you got a good deal but because you care enough for the person to make a monumental life changing step in both of your lives with a beautiful piece of nature. At this point in your life you will want to give her the ring, no real man would marry ANY woman who demanded one.

  40. darb215 says:

    I read over everything everyone has posted and noticed you guys are missing the boat completely. Sure diamonds have cause blood and turmoil but what hasn’t in our history, every aspect of wealth has done the same. Diamond “material” is far from rare, less than 10% percent of diamonds material is used for jewelry. It’s used for commercial uses; bits, grinders, etc. The diamonds business is all sold on emotion; the emotion of love, workmanship, nature, precision. I CAN understand how people have posted using logic but it’s not a logical decision to purchase jewelry, a fine car, a precise time piece or any other luxury. All jewelry, no matter what it is, even a straw wrapper you twisted around your first loves finger “crystallizes” a moment in time, a memory. A diamond is forever, even stolen or lost, “the diamond” isn’t the rock -it’s the memory ,the statement. A diamond on your loves finger reminds her everyday of you, sparkling at her. It tells her how you both worked and made your relationship strong and lead to marriage. Any big purchase a man makes give him euphoria, power, the feeling of success. This one purchase is, in a lot of cases, the only big purchase a man ever makes for another human of this caliber. Any other purchase, be it a car, a home, an investment, is almost entirely for himself. Men have no use for diamonds, the purchase can only be looked as an investment if you will, a life investment. Diamonds are natural, they are rare in the sense that it takes more than 1000 tons of earth to be moved to maybe find a 3/4ct piece of rough diamond good enough to polish and become jewelry. The craftsmanship in creating a piece of jewelry has been a tried tradition for thousands of years. This is art, do you pay for a painting because of its material?

    Anyone that tells you a man made stone or a Moissanite is anywhere near the same reward, is flat out lieing to you. People wear REAL jewelry and diamonds for their own personal satisfaction. People wear fake jewelry for everyone else, show boat, etc. Can’t you always spot the tarnished fake gold chains, and big gaudy plastic stones? Imagine the different feeling those folks would have if their jewelry were real? Jewelry marks milestones in life, be it; a fine watch or a pair of matched flawless 2ct total weight earrings. Any large purchase reminds you of your accomplishments even the ring on your wife’s finger.

    Many hours of hard expertise work go into producing a watch or a diamond, they are well priced considering the labor. That’s why you can find that good deal, because it was poorly manufactured. With anything, you always get what you pay for. The best diamonds out there now-a-days are hand polished at 100x magnification with the help of technology, imagine the quality of product and cost of labor in that diamond vs. a diamond cut and polished by an 18 yr old in China working 60 hours a week night shift. Retail vs. cost is an assessment only a retailer can justify but you see the difference now? Every diamonds is unique, each one has its own characteristics that define its value past the details of the 4c’s. No one ever gets a “good deal” in the diamond business. Everyone walks out of a store honestly knowing 2% on the details of what they really just purchased. If you got a diamond for $1500, you got a $1500 diamond, not a $4000 diamond. When you give it to her, your giving her your “good deal”, not a $4000 diamond. That isn’t the great feeling I was talking about earlier. People seem to always focus on the $$ side of diamonds and try to compare apples to apples and be educated about their purchase -but in all reality, it’s people your buying, since your NEVER dealing with apples to apples you have to feel comfortable with the business and the people your dealing with. In the end create a relationship with a family jeweler who has been in business for a long time, tell them your budget and have them show you the ropes. Details are just that, details. There’s no reason to know them all, just find something that’s attractive and feel good about your purchase for the right reasons and not because you got a good deal but because you care enough for the person to make a monumental life changing step in both of your lives with a beautiful piece of nature. At this point in your life you will want to give her the ring, no real man would marry ANY woman who demanded one.

  41. thekizerman says:

    Ok, I know this is a little late, but I just wanted to point out a few things…

    1) Not EVERY diamond comes from conflict areas, in fact there are numerous programs that are very strictly enforced to prevent conflit diamonds from reaching the retail level in America. (Kimberly Process)

    2) Although diamonds are not the rarest thing on earth, they are not plentiful. ESPECIALLY considering that diamonds coming from conflict areas (where the most diamonds come from) are not considered salable in the United States, cutting down the supply (in America) even more.

    3) A huge part of a diamond’s price is the cost of excavation. On average, it costs $1,000,000,000 in mining/excavation expenses before 1 diamond is excavated.

    4.) There are plenty of good jewelery stores in malls, just don’t go to “Fancy Jeweler’s” or “Elegant Jewelery Express” or anything else that sounds sketchy, stick with the big guys, Helzburg, Kay, etc…

    The tips in the article were very good, but I can’t say that I agree with the comments that degrade the entire industry based on a DeCaprio movie…