When purchasing jewelry, by all means do look for discounts—but care must always be exercised in this regard. There are exceptions, but for the most part, manufacturers do not have “list prices” on fine jewelry, as there are on, let’s say, name brand watches, and with the exception of big-name designer pieces, shopping by comparison (the way you might shop for a car) is often next to impossible. 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 are not familiar with the store, you have no way to determine what the actual price of the item was to begin with.
Let’s say you’ve seen and admired a bracelet in a jewelry store, 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 great discount! The problem lies in the following situation: You see a sale in an unfamiliar store, and the sale promises a discount of “40% OFF.”
Okay, here’s the catch: “OFF” what? Is it 40% off the price at which the store had previously offered the items for sale? Is it a discount off the MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price), or was the price some made-up figure that that was only there for the purpose of making you think that the discount was a bargain? With electronics once again leading the field for holiday gift purchases, most stores will be offering discounts (one way or another) on merchandise they have on hand—and especially with a downward trend in the current gold market, jewelers are anxious to “move” inventory that they already own. (I would be remiss in offering holiday shopping advice without adding a reminder that it’s always a good practice to learn what the store’s return policy is before making a purchase.)
I should mention that there are companies that will actually run big sales for jewelry stores (notoriously “Going Out Of Business” sales), where they bring in merchandise that’s marked up sky-high, just so they can offer an absurdly large discount, and you wind up paying closer to regular retail than to a “fire sale” price! Sure, there are laws against this sort of thing, but they are rarely enforced, except perhaps in cases where mass merchandisers (such as the large chain stores) are involved. Finding a great price is always a good thing, but when looking for bargains, there are four words that you should make every effort to remember: Don’t buy the discount! (Buy the item, not 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 [email protected] or contact information will not be used for publication, and all inquiries will be answered promptly.