When shopping for jewelry, by all means look for discounts (and there is no downside to asking for one), but care must always be exercised in this regard, since (for the most part) there are no manufacturer’s “list” prices on jewelry, as there would be on, let’s say, name brand watches. If you know what the price of an item was before it went on sale, that’s great, but if you don’t know (and if you’re not familiar with the store), you have no way to determine what the actual price of the item was to begin with.
You’ve seen a bracelet in a jewelry store and admired it, but for $900, it was more than you wanted to spend. The store then runs a “40% off” sale on selected merchandise, and the price is reduced to $540. Now that’s a good discount! The problem lies in the following situation: You see a sale in an unfamiliar store, and the sale promises a discount of “50% OFF!” OK, here’s the catch: Off what? Was it the price that the store has offered the merchandise for previously, or was the price some made-up figure that was only there for the purpose of having you think that the discount reflected a genuine bargain? Oh, 50% off the price on the tag? That still does not mean the sale was legitimate, and it’s sad to say that there are companies that will actually run big sales for jewelry stores, where they bring in merchandise that’s marked up sky-high, just so they can offer you an absurdly large discount — and you wind up paying pretty much the “regular” retail price!
Sure, there are laws against that sort of thing, but they are rarely enforced, except in cases where mass merchandisers (such as national chain stores) are involved, some of which appear to offer almost constant discounts, because the merchandise has been priced to do exactly that. Finding a great price is always a good thing, but there are four words that you should try to remember: Don’t buy the discount! (Buy the item, not the discount!)
When I used to manufacture jewelry in New York, I was always amazed by stores that would open on 5th Avenue, selling cameras and electronics at highly inflated prices. They would stay open just long enough to satisfy legal requirements, then run a huge “Going Out Of Business” sale. The floors would instantly become covered in torn newspaper, and handmade signs would go up in all the windows, proclaiming a desperate urgency to sell, and all at BIG discounts! Local jewelers don’t generally follow this sort of modus operandi, but it always pays to be careful about discounts, particularly when you don’t know what an item cost to begin with!
While on the subject of discounts, I should mention the practice of “discounting” the price of loose (unmounted) stones, especially diamonds. Finished jewelry sometimes has manufacturer’s suggested retail prices (MSRP’s), but this is not true for loose diamonds; those prices are always established by the retailer. One of the most effective tricks when shopping for jewelry is comparison, although care must be taken to insure that you’re actually comparing “apples to apples”. When you find something that is identical to the one being discounted, it becomes evident what the extent of the discount actually is. If you remember nothing else, please try to keep this in mind: Don’t buy the discount!
Joe Brandt is a local resident, and President of J.L. Brandt Company, offering diversified fine jewelry advisory services to the general public since 1928. Readers are invited to submit questions or comments to JLBCO@hotmail.com. Names or contact information will not be used for publication, and all inquiries will be answered promptly.