Jewelry is magical. It can warm one’s heart, make a statement, or remind a special someone of a cherished moment. Jewelry also tends to be expensive, especially if you’re buying fine jewelry with precious metals and gemstones. Because of the expense, it’s important to shop wisely to ensure you’re getting the best deal, or employ some clever workarounds to save on pieces that would otherwise top out your budget. Here are some ways to save.
- Prices can vary widely from big retailer to small, so do your homework before making a purchase.
- While your instinct may be to shop in-store for jewelry, high-quality pieces can also be found on the Internet, sometimes at discount prices. While you have the disadvantage of not being able to examine items in person, you also don’t have a salesperson there who could potentially upsell you.
- When shopping online, research any unfamiliar sellers by Googling reviews, using a site like Trustpilot for reviews, or checking the Better Business Bureau for any complaints.
Plan your timing
- If your timing is flexible, you may find a better deal at these times:
- Black Friday and Cyber Monday: this can be a good time to hunt for sales on jewelry as retailers may offer sales for the holiday rush and a spike in matrimonial engagements.
- Valentine’s Day: Check the stores and online in the weeks before Valentine’s Day when engagements and jewelry gifts are at a high.
- Mother’s Day: Whether you’re shopping for mom or yourself, keep an eye out for deals in the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day.
Verify your purchase
- The American Gem Society and the Gemological Institute of America are two of the most reputable gemology organizations in the US. The American Gem Society is a jewelry trade organization dedicated to protecting consumers while the Gemological Institute of America is a nonprofit educational institution that trains appraisers and professionals in the jewelry industry. If you’re buying an expensive piece of jewelry, ask whether the piece is certified by the AGM or evaluated by the GIA.
- Once you’ve made a purchase, you can take your new piece and the written details to an independent appraiser who is qualified to assess your jewelry. This is essential if you plan to insure the item.
Consider the type of metal
- Silver is the least expensive of the fine metals. Keep in mind that silver is also soft, so it can scratch easily. Silver also tarnishes so it’s wise to have a silver cleaner on hand. The good thing about the affordability is that you may be able to purchase a variety of pieces over time, rather than committing to one expensive piece.
- Titanium or tungsten pieces can also be an affordable option. Both are especially popular in the men’s jewelry market. They look very similar to silver and are more durable. Titanium is more lightweight than tungsten, so you may enjoy tungsten’s weight if you want something that feels more durable and expensive.
- White gold is a mixture of pure gold and other metals. Jewelry that is pure gold tends to be higher in price, so you may save by choosing white gold instead.
Karats v carats
- Karats are a unit of measurement indicating the proportion of gold in a metal out of 24 parts. So, pure gold, or 100% gold, is 24 karats. If a gold ring is 18 karats, for example, then the ring is made up of 75% gold and 25% other metals like copper. (That’s 18 karats divided by 24.) Higher karats will naturally be more expensive. The untrained eye can’t distinguish the difference in karats at a glance, so you can save money by purchasing lower karats.
- Carats, on the other hand, are a unit of weight that measures the actual size of a gemstone like a diamond. But don’t let a higher carat diamond be an indication of value alone! Gemstones differ from precious metals in this way. Diamonds, for example, are also graded on color, cut, and clarity. The price of a diamond may increase with greater carat size, but it may be a lower quality diamond than a smaller one with more pure color, cut, or clarity. In other words, sometimes you can spend less for a higher quality piece when you consider all the factors that go into measuring a gemstone’s caliber.
Consider alternatives to diamonds
- Diamonds tend to be the most expensive of the gemstones, but they’re also the most common. If you want something that stands out from the crowd for a better value, consider a piece with a different gemstone.
- Rubies, sapphires, and emeralds are generally cheaper than diamonds. Take it a step further and get a garnet piece as a less-expensive alternative to ruby. The same can be said of a peridot piece instead of an emerald, a moonstone instead of a pearl, or a zircon instead of a diamond. (Zircon is not to be confused with cubic zirconia which is synthesized.)
If diamonds are a must, choose lab-grown over natural
- A lab-grown diamond may sound less romantic than a natural diamond, but they have the same look and feel as an earth-mined diamond, and they have almost identical chemical structures. More importantly, many natural diamonds are unethically sourced. Diamond prices are forever fluctuating, but lab-grown diamonds tend to be less expensive in general.
Buy used jewelry
- Just because a piece of jewelry is used doesn’t make it any less beautiful. Many jewelry shops sell vintage pieces and antique stores are an option. Online auctions and estate sales can also be good places to shop for used jewelry. Always ask if certifications are available. They aren’t always, but good to ask. You can also ask whether it’s possible to hold the funds in escrow while you have the jewelry appraised.
Consider fashion jewelry
- If you don’t have the budget for the real deal, there’s no shortage of fashion (or costume) jewelry out there. And if you really want to make a statement, you can go big without breaking the bank!
- Tips for saving on fashion jewelry:
- Shop around holidays like Christmas, Valentine’s Day, or Mother’s Day when costume jewelry is promoted as a gift item. Look for Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals as well when most major retailers host savings events.
- If you shop online, it’s easier to compare prices from a wide array of retailers online. Look for sale sections that offer even lower prices on costume jewelry. Belk, for example, has a clearance section on its site with thousands of pieces. Overstock.com is another great place to shop the clearance section for steep discounts on already low-priced pieces.
- Pro Tip: Try to pair your online purchase with a coupon from sites like CouponCabin.com. At the time of this writing, a coupon is available for 10% off at Pandora Jewelry and Kay Jewelers.
- Also, be very mindful of the size of items, as viewing jewelry online can be deceiving. Look for photos on models instead of product photos alone.
Work with what‘s available
- Hang onto your jewelry. Trends are always changing and those Peter Pan necklaces you bought a few years ago will come back around.
- Look at social media or in fashion magazines for ways to wear your pieces differently by layering, attaching pieces together, or wearing items in a different way, i.e. a necklace as a wrap bracelet.
- Ask a relative if they have old costume pieces that they no longer wear. You never know what kind of treasures lay in wait at the bottom of a jewelry box!
- Mix and match. Layer fine pieces with costume pieces. No one will be the wiser!