Whether treating yourself or splashing out on a gift for a friend or loved one, buying jewellery can be far from a simple process, especially when there’s a lot of money changing hands.
If you’re making a significant investment in an item, it’s important to guard against being ripped off.
Here are seven questions you should ask yourself before purchasing an expensive piece of jewellery.
How much is it?
There’s an old saying that suggests if something seems too good to be true then it probably is.
Before you enter a shop to make a purchase, do a little research.
How much are other places charging for the item you’re after? If the price you’re quoted is significantly lower than the figures you’ve seen previously then there should be a reasonable explanation.
The jewellery industry isn’t known for offering huge discounts, so be cautious next time you think you’ve spotted a bargain.
Who’s the seller?
These days, all kinds of shops stock jewellery and there’s no hard and fast rule to suggest which types of stockists are reputable and which aren’t.
But it’s worth researching the business before you make a purchase.
How long have they been trading? What do other customers say about them? Do they belong to any official organisations?
Be especially wary of buying jewellery from individuals on social media or online auction websites.
It’s easier to return an item you’re dissatisfied with to a shop or website than to an individual on Facebook, who could very easily disappear without a trace.
If you are buying from somebody online, make sure you check their reviews and always insist on real photographs of the item you’re buying – not stock images or snaps from a catalogue.
Can you return it?
Some shops operate a ‘no returns’ policy and these places are very much best avoided when purchasing expensive jewellery.
Many jewellers offer up to a month for returns, which allows you to change your mind, and gives you time to check the authenticity of anything you buy.
You may find that what you purchased wasn’t what you were expecting, so clarifying with the seller that you are able to bring it back, should you wish, is important.
All good jewellers will offer you the opportunity to return an item.
Can you spot the relevant hallmarks?
The Hallmarking Act dictates that all jewellery sold in the UK must carry hallmarking symbols that identify it as either gold, silver, palladium or platinum.
Hallmarks verify the metal purity of items and help you better understand the overall quality of what you’re buying.
So, before you head out to buy an item, learn the hallmark that relates to what you want, so you know what to look out for.
Also, be wary of fake hallmarks and pay close attention to fonts, layouts and spelling.
What’s the build quality like?
There are several ways to tell if an item of jewellery is of a low build quality.
Check the links of bracelets and necklaces for pinch points as this is a sign of poor construction. Chain links should be smooth and solid.
All stones in jewellery should be properly mounted, not just glued, though imperfections on the stone itself do not necessarily indicate poor quality.
Gemstones and diamonds are formed naturally, so don’t be alarmed if you spot the odd fleck or narrow angle.
If the stone seems overly smooth, it can sometimes indicate that it’s been created using a mixture of glass and plastic.
What paperwork comes with it?
All jewellery containing diamonds should come with a certificate of authenticity, ratified by a body like the GIA, IGA or EGL.
Be sure to ask for this if it isn’t provided straight away – and if the seller is unable to produce a certificate then it’s probably a sign that something’s amiss.
You should also request information about the manufacturer and enquire about cleaning instructions.
A good jeweller will have this information to hand and the documentation will be of a high quality.
Have you consulted somebody you trust?
If you’re lucky, you may already know and trust the seller, but often you are entering into a significant transaction with somebody you’ve never met, so don’t be afraid to get a second opinion.
Bring along a close friend or relative and get their view on any items you are considering.
As it isn’t their money, they’re in a better position to either provide validation that you’re doing the right thing – or convince you that you need to think again!
Can you tell the difference between real and fake jewellery?
Take our visual test: