'Tis the season to buy jewelry, especially diamonds

Saturday, December 15, 2007
Sara Turner, an employee at J.C. Penney, shows a customer a piece of jewelry Thursday afternoon. (Tim Jaynes, Staff)

SIKESTON -- If this Christmas you plan on buying an engagement ring or a piece of jewelry for the first time, there are a few things you should know before stepping up to a glass-enclosed counter, experts say.

Terri Hurley, owner of Bo's Jewelry and Pawn Shop in Sikeston, said she's been showing lots of wedding sets and engagement bands this month.

"It's a time of year people tend to upgrade (their jewelry) as well as get engaged, and diamonds are a neat Christmas gift," Hurley said.

According to Conde Nast American Wedding Study, 15 percent of engagements happen in December, making the month one of the busiest of the year for jewelry shoppers.

"This is really a busy time of year for jewelry retailers, with a lot of first-time buyers making big purchases, but it can go much more smoothly if the consumer is well educated about the process," said Susan Eisen, an accredited senior appraiser and master gemologist appraiser with the American Society of Appraisers, in a news release.

Tami Heavener, supervisor of fine jewelry at JC Penney in Sikeston, said she's also witnessed a surge in ring purchases this month.

"We have had several men come in and say they want an engagement ring but have no clue what size, whether they want white gold or yellow gold or solitaire or clusters," Heavener said.

Have a dollar amount in mind, Heavener said. Don't wait until Christmas Eve to purchase a ring.

Think unique, said Sam Thomas, owner of Sam's Fine Jewelry in Sikeston. "Don't buy something that they made 10,000 of it," Thomas said. "... When you go to buy the stone, you need to speak to someone who has the knowledge on jewelry."

In addition to rings, lots of gold earrings and bracelets are being purchased for women this Christmas, Heavener said.

"We do have women who buy a lot of chains and bracelets for guys this time of year," Heavener said.

Heavener also suggested taking advantage of care and insurance plans offered by jewelers.

"It's a wonderful thing. If you lose a diamond, you send it in and get it replaced," Heavener said. "... It's really worth it."

Hurley said someone shopping for jewelry doesn't necessarily have to be educated about diamonds or gold.

"I think if they know what they want, that's good enough. As a salesperson, you have to be willing to let them know all the ins and outs. You need to help them so they're not making a guess, but a decision," said Hurley who has worked in the fine jewelry business for 20 years.

Some men do know what they want and some don't, Hurley said, adding a larger percentage of men know which color and which gold they want.

"I had a gentleman come in today wanting diamond earrings. He knew the size he wanted, and he wanted a princess cut," Hurley said. "... Let them become comfortable with you, then they will open up and it's easier to help them."

Some men like to surprise, and some women like to be surprised, Hurley said. "Some women would be happy with whatever their husband or boyfriend brought to them," Hurley said.

Jewelry-buying tips

-- Know what quality of stone you are buying. All stones should carry documentation about any treatment the stone has received to improve its appearance. Most expensive diamonds are sold with a grading report noting the quality of the stone. For diamonds, look for a report from an independent lab like the Gemological Institute of America or the American Gem Society. If the diamond you are considering doesn't have a report, then you should get one. However, the grading report will not tell you the value; you need an appraisal for that. Colored stones seldom carry an independent grading report and should also be appraised. -- Know the value of what you are buying. To understand the value of jewelry, consumers need to get an appraisal. Even before you go shopping, an appraiser can help you get the best value for your money and can give advice as to what styles best hold their value over time. Most reputable jewelers will let you borrow the jewelry to take them to an appraiser. Some require that you purchase the item and then allow you a period in which you can have it appraised and return it for a full refund if it doesn't meet your expectations. Be sure to ask about a store's refund/exchange policy in case you have to return the item for any reason. -- Choose an accredited appraiser with professional credentials. The appraisal should be done for a set fee, not for a percentage of the value of the property -- that's unethical.

"When making a fine jewelry purchase, make sure you understand the return policy, have a thorough description of the item written on your receipt and get it appraised right away," said Martin Fuller, ASA, master gemologist appraiser, in a release. "An appraisal at the time of purchase will give you confidence and peace of mind, as well as documented evidence if the item is ever lost, damaged or if you want to sell it.

Source: The American Society of Appraisers

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