Most Common Questions when it comes to Jewelry Shopping
By Devorah Isenberg , Wednesday, January 25, 2012 3:00 AM
When buying jewelry, like other major purchases, it is a good idea to acquaint yourself with the industry and key terms before handing over your credit card to make the purchase. Just like you wouldn’t buy a car without reading up on various makes and models, and learning about key concepts like fuel efficiency and horsepower, you shouldn’t buy fine diamond jewelry without understanding essential terms like the four C’s, karat levels, settings, and diamond certification.
Before getting started with your jewelry shopping, take some time to browse the most common questions other people have asked regarding each kind of diamond jewelry. You may have wondered some of these things yourself, or you may not have realized that some of them were important points to consider. Either way, you’ll be adding to your diamond education—and being educated is the first step towards making a diamond purchase that you will be happy with for years to come. You may even find yourself sharing jewelry shopping tips with friends and family!
Q: Is it safe to buy jewelry online?
A: Thanks to extremely reliable data encryption programs, and the general increase in transparency in web-based business, purchasing diamond jewelry online is safer than ever. Fine jewelry sites are equipped with the latest in web-shopping security programs, and many sites are happy to use money orders for large purchases. Plus, in the age of consumer review sites, you can read reviews and make sure the site you are purchasing from has a proven track record of customer satisfaction.
Q: How do you know which diamond is better quality, when they all look the same to me?
A: First-buyers are often stumped by the challenge of choosing the right diamond. To the untrained eye, diamonds of various quality levels may look similar at first, but once you learn a little about diamond grading procedures, you’ll realize that you don’t actually have to rely on your naked eye to judge which diamond is the best buy. Also, the truth is that not all diamonds are created equal—a high-quality hearts and arrows diamond sparkles and shines in a way that is noticeably different than other stones, even if you are not a trained gemologist. But for your first jewelry shopping experience, make sure you are familiar with the Four C’s—cut, clarity, color, and carat—and you’ll be all set.
Q: I’ve seen the words “karat” and “carat” when jewelry shopping. Are these the same thing?
A: No! Although pronounced the same, these two words refer to two completely different, and important concepts. Karat refers to the percentage of gold that is pure gold—since pure gold is too soft for use in jewelry, the gold in your jewelry is going to consist of pure gold mixed with other strong metals. 24-karat gold is pure, unalloyed gold, with 14-karat and 18-karat alloys being most commonly used in fine jewelry. Carat, on the other hand, is a unit of weight used for diamonds and other fine gemstones, equal to 1/5th of a gram. While the carat weight does give you some indication of the diameter of a diamond, it is a unit of weight, not measure. A stone with a very shallow cut can have a wider diameter for its carat weight than one with a deep cut.
Q: What is a diamond certification, and is it important?
A: Just like you wouldn’t buy a car without a title, or a house without a deed, you should not biy a diamond without a reliable diamond certificate from a reputable independent lab. All those Four C’s—color, clarity, cut, and carat—need to be evaluated by an extremely experienced and independent professional for you, the inexperienced diamond buyer, to know that you are purchasing the diamond you think you are purchasing. The certification is like the diamond’s birth certificate—it tells the unique story of your stone’s characteristics, qualities and flaws. Although many labs certify diamonds, the most reliable are the GIA, the world’s largest lab, and the AGS, a smaller boutique lab specializing in diamonds of the highest cut quality.
For more specific questions ask our experts