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5 sneaky jeweler tricks of the trade

A little education can go a long way to protecting yourself from an unscrupulous jeweler when you're looking to buy bling for the holidays.

By MSN Money Partner Dec 19, 2013 5:04PM

This post comes from Susan Ladika at partner site Money Talks News.

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyThe lights and tinsel may not be the only things glittering around your Christmas tree.

Jewelry is a gift-giving favorite, and nearly one-quarter of shoppers plan to give a little bling this holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation.

If you're planning to buy your loved ones jewelry, some simple knowledge will help you keep more gold in your pocket, and not in the pocket of some unscrupulous jeweler.

Find reputable jewelers

A good starting point is asking friends and family for jewelry store recommendations. Look for membership in the American Gem Society. Also, check them out with the Better Business Bureau and search for online complaints.

5 in-store tips

We'll get into more detail about what to look for when you're buying a diamond, another gemstone or gold. But here are some jeweler tricks of the trade to be aware of when you walk in the store:

  • Inflated discounts. If the clerk is saying the ring has been discounted by 50% or more, be wary. The profit margin in jewelry is not high enough to make a discount like that probable. Also be on guard for a high appraisal and a low selling price.
  • Hidden flaws. The setting of a ring can be used to hide flaws in a diamond or other gemstone. When you're buying a diamond, you'll want to examine it with a jeweler's loupe. Ask the jeweler to show you how to use it properly.
  • Tricky lighting. Make sure you examine the diamond or other gem in different types of lighting, including natural lighting. The store's lighting might make cloudiness or other imperfections difficult to see.
  • Enhancements. Has the stone been treated to remove or hide imperfections? You’ll want to ask. Consumer Reports says:
Sapphires and rubies are often subjected to high heat to improve their transparency and color. And there are a number of techniques to improve the clarity of diamonds, including laser drilling, which can vaporize tiny carbon specks. The holes are so small they're very difficult to see. But if you look at the side of the stone in very bright light it might show some thin "threads." Sometimes a chemical is used to fill small cracks in a diamond to make it appear more brilliant.
  • Pressure sales tactics. Beware of jewelers who pressure you to make a purchase. Instead, take the time to compare jewelry at several stores.

Couple in store shopping for a ring, smiling © Rob Melnychuk, Digital Vision, Getty ImagesNow, let's look at what you'll need to know after you've decided what type of jewelry you'll be purchasing and before you head to the store. You've got to study up to be sure you're getting a quality product at a fair price.

Both the American Gem Society and the Jewelry Information Center, which is run by the Jewelers of America, have extensive guides to buying diamonds, gold and other high-end jewelry.


Don't rely on the salesperson behind the counter to tell you how beautiful a stone is. You need to know how to recognize quality yourself. See "A Man's Guide to Buying Diamonds in 5 Simple Steps." But, briefly, here are some tips:

Focus on the four C's -- color, cut, clarity and carats. These determine the value of a diamond.

  • Colorless diamonds are the most valuable, and the most rare. The Gemological Institute of America developed a color scale, ranging from D (meaning the diamond is colorless) to Z. Those further down in the alphabet are more yellow. To see a diamond's true color, don't look at it against a black background. Instead, look at it against white, so you can see how the diamond contrasts with the white background.
  • Each stone should be cut using a precise mathematical formula, which is designed to bring out its brilliance and fire. If the cut is too deep or too shallow, the diamond will lose some luster.
  • Clarity describes a diamond's imperfections and irregularities, and is graded from flawless to imperfect. Examine the diamond with a loupe to look for flaws.
  • Carats indicate the weight of a diamond, and 142 carats equals 1 ounce. Larger diamonds are rarer, making them typically worth more per carat.

Other gemstones

Jewelry with colored gemstones, such as rubies, sapphires and emeralds, also are popular gifts. Keep these things in mind:

  • Natural gemstones have been mined, and some may be enhanced to improve their color and durability. But the treatment may reduce the gem's value. The effects of some treatments also may wear off over time, or mean your piece requires special care, according to the American Gem Society.
  • The seller should disclose whether the gemstone has been enhanced, and if any special care is required.
  • You also may encounter synthetic stones, which have been created in the laboratory. They're identical to natural gemstones, but because they haven't been mined they aren't as rare or as costly.
  • There also are imitation stones, which resemble gems, but could actually be glass, plastic or an inexpensive stone.


If you're in the market for gold:

  • A karat mark disclosing the percentage of pure gold in the piece is very common, although its not required. Consumer Reports says:
But any piece of jewelry that displays a karat mark must also be stamped with the manufacturer's trademark. A piece that has a karat mark but no manufacturer's trademark should always raise a red flag.
  • While pure gold is 24K, it's very soft and easy to damage, so gold is usually alloyed with other metals, such as silver and copper, to make it more durable. An 18K gold piece is 75% pure gold.
  • The higher the karats, the more expensive the piece will be.
  • Jewelry must be at least 10K to be sold as gold in the U.S.

Keep your records

To protect yourself, make sure you get all the details of your purchase in writing. Your sales receipt or an appraisal is considered a contract and can be used to prove what the jeweler told you.

With diamonds or gemstones, request a grading report from an independent gemological lab, and be sure to keep it with your new treasure.

Karen Datko contributed to this post.

More on Money Talks News:

Dec 19, 2013 7:01PM
The only time a diamond is worth anything is when its on the end of a saw blade.
Dec 19, 2013 7:19PM
Most of the jewelry industry is based on artificially inflated pricing. 
Diamonds and most other stones are neither rare nor precious. 

People buying $10K rings typically can't resell them for much more than 1/10th the value. 

Dec 19, 2013 7:52PM
Find yourself a good, local jeweler and we will look after you because we rely on your recommendations and endorsements.  Even better is a jeweler with a microscope on the sales floor and in-house shop.  That way you can inspect your jewelry and when it needs repair your jewelry never leaves the store and is returned to you quicker when you need a repair.  With a good local jeweler some of the "tricks" mentioned in the report are not tricks and are fully disclosed when consulting with a customer.  The customer can then make a decision and have intimate knowledge of the piece of jewelry or diamond they are wearing.
Dec 20, 2013 12:18PM
So if synthetic stones are identical but cheaper...why buy the real ones?
Dec 20, 2013 12:29AM
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If you are buying for an investment, then forget it. Buy from a reputable jeweler that has been in business for years, even if you have to travel for the purchase. My uncle was a jeweler and taught me allot about gem stones and mountings. All things considered, most people buy for the flash and bragging rights. Again, beauty is in the beholder's eye and a piece might be junk but a treasure to the owner. I gave my wife a engagement ring. 1.75 karat total wt. in a platinum setting. That ring is in vault and she wears and just loves a cubic zirconium ring she bought for under $100.
Dec 20, 2013 4:21PM
Anyone buying jewelry as an investment is an idiot. If you can't tell the difference by looking at it, your spouse cant tell the difference, or your friends cant tell the difference , why would you pay more for a better stone? In case  you run into people with loupes at parties?
Dec 19, 2013 6:43PM
Doesn't sound like they're ripping on the jewelers like they always do the car dealers. 
Dec 19, 2013 10:17PM
A Timex wristwatch, with 2 pointed zarconia stones, date, and a plastic band is one of the best pieces of jewelry one can own, Price $14.95. I've had mine for over 23 years,,,still ticking. Casio Forester without the zarconia is the next best at an amazing setback of $9.95. Go whole hog...splurge on the both. Merry Christmas.
Dec 23, 2013 11:56AM

The markup on jewelry is high, without even considering the inflated prices of diamonds due to the cartel's control of supply.  A jewelry shop or department can go days without selling anything; that overhead has to be taken into consideration through pricing.  Doesn't mean their profit is high, just overhead.  50% off isn't a loss on that piece.

Of course flaws are hidden in settings, that's actually the best way to cut a diamond.  It's a naturally occurring substance, there will be flaws --- would the author rather they be on the plateau? 

"Make sure you examine the diamond or other gem in different types of lighting, including natural lighting."  Right.  Take that puppy outside or just to those big windows (because turning your back to the salesperson with a piece doesn't arouse any suspicions of switching at all).  Then explain to Security and the cops what you learned on MSN.

I love articles on diamond buying that don't mention the most important "C": Cost.  Can't tell you how many people come in asking for "A carat to a carat and a half, D or E and nothing under VVS" because that's what they've read they should be looking for on the internet.  They have, however, just described a $27,000 stone.  When they realize what their budget will buy them, it's a disappointment ---- or they seem to be under the impression they can get a Jaguar, but pay for a Kia.  Research what you can buy for the money you intend to spend before you shop, just as you would with any other major purchase.

Dec 20, 2013 12:09PM
"There's not that kind of margins in jewelry like people think there are".

But if you walk in in big  fat and stupid with money to spend,  there will be.

Dec 19, 2013 6:16PM
Dec 29, 2013 9:26AM
personally, I think buying real gems is stupid. the fake ones look like the real thing and at a very small cost. most people buy jewelry for show. no one will pay you much if you want to sell your stuff- at most about ten cents on the dollar( if your lucky). never buy jewelry in foreign countries, most are fake. I did and found that out later. the markup on jewelry here is many hundreds of a percent. whatever makes you happy, I guess.
Dec 29, 2013 7:56PM
Hopefully, by the time our 50th wedding anniversary arrives, we will be able to afford a nice set of wedding rings.
Dec 20, 2013 3:47AM
Well well, I am glad some are waking up to the reality that most of what is being sold a precious is a FARCE and cooked up in some lab somewheres! Even gold I am beginning to wonder about, there is a new ROSE colored gold? REALLY? WOW! All this time and nobody had ever discovered it tll now?
I noticed a comment about the Jews and the diamond industry. You must have no money or are jealous. Why do you care  who owns what?
Dec 20, 2013 1:08PM

I bet MSN Money will be hearing from some national jewelry retailers association about why their member were maligned by such a sweeping headline.
Dec 20, 2013 4:20PM
 Remember Diamond is a piece of coal that stuck to it job (also an impose item,with a 55% make up) But there is nothing that says it all like a good diamond  Happy Shopping. BYE
Maybe the person  who is selling the diamond is a Christian or some other faith and want's to make a good commission just like anyone else. 
Dec 19, 2013 10:24PM
When I bought my wife her ring I told the sales person don't lie to me or ill come back to get even. He got the hint her turned real white so he knew I was no fool that I would hurt him. So we got a great ring has all the bling, And to this day I still use him to sell me stuff. But you as a cconsumer needs to make them know you wont play games or be made a fool. Then they will be honest, But most sales people have the control due to people will buy anything. Being nice only makes you look like a fool be honest tell the sales people what will happen to them will make them honest real fast.
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