If you are thinking about adding jewelry to your shopping list this holiday season, the concept most certainly has my full support, and I have several things that you may wish to consider.

First, it’s an excellent idea. Jewelry (fine jewelry, as opposed to “costume”) may be used and enjoyed for many years, sometimes being passed on to the next generation in your family. Unlike most electronics,  jewelry will not be obsolete a year from now, six months after the next version is produced.

Unlike clothing, jewelry may be enjoyed at any time of day throughout the year; it is unaffected by the change of seasons, and styles of jewelry remain constant for long periods of time. If it becomes damaged or worn, jewelry can usually be repaired without having to spend more than you paid for it to fix it. If it ever outlives it’s usefulness in it’s current form, jewelry can often be repurposed or converted into something that is more in line with your tastes, while still retaining it’s original value—and (talk about value) unlike electronics, clothing, or most anything else you can think of, the value of fine jewelry never drops to zero; in fact, the value of most jewelry has historically risen over long periods of time.

Joe Brandt

Second, it would pay for you to do a bit of homework before making a purchase. If it’s for a gift (or even if it’s for yourself), you should be clear about the company’s return policies, without assuming anything. If the item can be unconditionally returned, great. If the item can be only returned for store credit, that’s OK too but you should know this beforehand. How long do you have for the return or exchange? 10 days? 30 days? 90 days? Don’t guess. Most items today are purchased using a credit card, so a return transaction will normally require not only a store and credit card receipt, but the actual card as well— which means you will have to be there. Does the merchant offer any guarantees? If so, what are the terms? If a return for repair or exchange is involved, will you have to ship the item somewhere, or can you simply bring it back to the store?

The other thing that you may wish to consider is the choice between an online purchase, or a purchase through your local jeweler—and I should mention that there are several drawbacks involved in making an online purchase of fine jewelry. Unless you’re buying a name brand item of a particular make and model number (which is nearly impossible with most jewelry), you cannot know anything about the quality you’ll be getting without seeing and feeling the item in person, and even if something you find online is identical to what you could buy in a local store, there are still differences that should be taken into account. Rings, necklaces, earrings, and even watches can look entirely different when worn than they do online.

Retail jewelry stores offer a wide range of services, such as repairs, inspection and cleaning (often free of charge), as well as live people to answer questions and offer advice if needed. If an item purchased online needs to be returned or repaired, then what? Most online retailers must offer some sort of return policy (normally 30 days), but here’s the problem: online merchandisers know that as a general rule, you will simply not bother with a return because of the inconvenience involved, unless it’s a piece that’s really expensive, actually defective, or something that you truly hate. If it’s not exactly what you expected, or the quality obviously isn’t the best, you’ll probably keep it anyway. In the trade, it’s a well-known fact that online merchandisers will often purchase manufacturer’s rejects or “seconds” that cannot be sold to stores, because jewelers have a more discriminating eye than online buyers. Lastly, the owners of jewelry stores are in business for the long haul, whereas with an online entity, you never know. “Here today, gone tomorrow” is pretty much standard on the Internet.

Jewelry for the holidays? It’s a great way to boost holiday happiness to new levels! Until we “meet” again, I would like to wish everyone a safe, healthy and joyful holiday season, and a bright new year! If there are any questions or topics related to jewelry that you would like to see addressed in a future column, please let me know— and for those of you with questions of a more personal nature, I am always pleased to respond directly and confidentially to inquiries from readers.

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.