As long as you’re going to buy or own fine jewelry, there are a few ruses or deceptive practices you should be familiar with. Some are fairly common, and some that you may believe to be common, but are actually extremely rare.
When purchasing jewelry, or having it repaired through a legitimate source (such as your local jeweler), there is little worry about. Deception or unfair trade practices are as rare as hen’s teeth; these are dishonest, unethical, and simply bad for business — but if you’re traveling (particularly overseas or away from the continental United States), buyer beware, because retailers can spot a tourist in a heartbeat, and the chances of them ever seeing you again are slim to none. Knowing this, jewelers will sometimes adopt poetic license to tell you anything you want to hear: lifetime warranty, fantastic bargains, very high quality and craftsmanship — which all sound great, but are not necessarily true. Of course there are exceptions, but without a reliable recommendation, you would be best advised to stick with inexpensive souvenirs.
I have previously addressed the issue regarding having a diamond switched during repair, but just for the record, the chances of having this actually happen are less that those of getting hit by lightning. Not that it’s never happened — but the odds against it are staggering. Think about the reality. If you were a jeweler, would it be logical to put your entire business and livelihood at risk for a relatively small gain? The answer is no, not by a long shot.
Everyone loves a bargain, and buying nice jewelry at a steep discount can be very rewarding, if the discount is legitimate — because sometimes, the largest discounts are a ruse. The most notorious of these are “Going Out of Business” sales. For the most part, take these discounts with a grain of salt. Merchants (especially local merchants) will rarely run a sale of this type by themselves, and firms hired to do this for them will often have things marked up sky-high, so that they can give you an absurdly large discount. Always make careful inquiries at venues like these — and remember, most sales of this nature are final sales. “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”
For any purchase, you need to know what store policy is regarding returns or repairs. I’ve heard any number of times about people being unpleasantly surprised when they have made an assumption regarding store policy. Money back return? Not necessarily. Something breaks a week after purchase and it’s not covered? It could happen. It is always your responsibility to know what’s what — and who is responsible. Whenever you leave anything for repair, it is strongly recommended that you get a receipt with a full description of the item you have left, as well as the work to be performed. (This is for the jeweler’s protection as well as your own.)
While on the subject of responsibility, it is your job (not that of your insurance agent) to understand what your insurance policy does and does not cover in regard to your jewelry. The last thing you need after a loss is to learn that you weren’t really insured — and the injury is only compounded if you learn that it’s because of something you hadn’t thought to do — or not do. Does all jewelry have to be listed on your policy? Are you covered for travel outside of the U.S.? Will your insurance pay you in the event of a loss, or will they replace the item? What if you lose the diamond out of your engagement ring? Just because your homeowner’s insurance policy covers jewelry, this does not mean that your jewelry is insured under any and all circumstances. Whether purchasing insurance or fine jewelry, always remember: Caveat emptor.
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 [email protected] Names or contact information will not be used for publication, and all inquiries will be answered promptly.