Of the millions of things available to buy online, perhaps none is more fraught with the potential for misrepresentation, disappointment, and fraud than fine jewelry. Shopping for fine jewelry online means a huge and diverse selection of items to choose from, allowing the buyer to comparison shop from the comfort of their own home.
But with literally thousands of online jewelry merchants, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, nearly snow-blind with diamond rings, gemstones, earrings, and necklaces. How can you sift through all the possibilities? In this brief article, we’ll look at some tips for buying fine jewelry online, and compare a few of the most well known online retailers.
Tip 1: Make Sure You Trust The Online Fine Jeweler
When buying jewelry online, it is probably more important than with any other transaction to “buy” the seller before you buy the jewelry item. Take your time and do some research into the online retailer before you hit the “confirm purchase” button. Trusting the seller is absolutely key to a satisfactory shopping experience.
As a shopper, you have a huge advantage when looking into a particular seller. A simple google search will reveal all sorts of information, including how long they’ve been in the business. Ideally, they should have a relatively long and proven track record. New businesses may not have years worth of reviews, but you should be able to glean what sort of merchant they are by the opinions of previous buyers.
Also, you should be able to contact the seller directly. Any retailer you choose to deal with should be professional, knowledgeable, and fully capable of answering any questions you might have. Even small interactions with the seller can reveal a great deal of information about how knowledgeable they are. Consider asking questions about a piece you are already familiar with in order to gauge the quality of the response. If they don’t know as much about emeralds as you do, you should probably shop elsewhere.
Another way to confirm the reputation of the seller is to check their ratings with consumer advocate organizations like the Better Business Bureau.
Tip 2: Check the Online Fine Jeweler’s Return Policy
You should always expect a reputable online merchant to offer a full refund if the jewelry item is not what you expected. Any seller who doesn’t offer a refund simply doesn’t believe in the product. Even if the item simply doesn’t look as good in person as it did online, the merchant should offer a reasonable amount of time for you to examine the piece and make sure it’s exactly what you wanted. If possible, confirm this policy verbally with the retailer. A short conversation with the seller can go a long way toward building the trust that is so important when making a decision to buy jewelry online.
Tip 3: Buying Jewelry: Homework, Homework, Homework
When considering buying fine jewelry online, one of the most important tools a buyer has is the ability to do research. Learn everything you can about the jewelry you’re interested in buying. If it’s a diamond ring, study the 4Cs so that you know which factors affect the stone’s value.
For colored gemstones and other fine jewelry, learn about other factors that can affect value, like any sort of treatments the stone might have been subjected to. Another factor that can affect a stone’s value is its country of origin. You might be surprised to learn how much more valuable an emerald is when it is from Columbia. Check out our Jewelry Knowledge area for a variety of useful articles.
In addition to carefully reading the the seller’s online listing, checking lab reports, and looking at the seller’s Terms of Sale, buyers can also research the market. What is a fair price? Rather than trying to negotiate a fair price, find out what is setting the price in the market by looking at similar pieces from multiple retailers. Once you know what you’re paying for and what the fair market value is, you can rely on a trusted seller’s price.
Tip 4: Jewelry Shopping: Expect Plenty of Photographs
Since you’re not able to handle the piece of jewelry you’re considering buying, it’s important to have as good a look as possible at the piece. Photographs should be high quality, and there should be plenty of them. Any jewelry item you’re considering should be photographed from many angles, and depict any imperfections, or scratches and other damage, if you’re buying a vintage piece. Notable details should be highlighted, like maker’s or fineness marks, unique design aspects, or artist’s signatures.
If possible, ask the merchant to have a model wear the item you’re interested in. Often, a piece that looks great against a velvet background might not look quite as nice when worn.
Tip 5: Look for Detailed Written Jewelry Descriptions
A picture might be worth a thousand words, but you should expect detailed written descriptions of any jewelry item you consider buying online. A good description can provide details that not even the best photographs can reveal. Gemstones should be identified and described, and their measurements should be provided.
Also, any descriptions of the piece’s quality should be backed up by lab reports or professional appraisals. Any grading reports should be explained, and for vintage and antique pieces, any special history or provenance should be detailed.
Tip 6: The 5th “C” — Diamond Certification
When considering diamonds, understanding the 4Cs—clarity, color, cut, and carat weight—is vitally important, but don’t forget the 5th C: Certification. Grading reports by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) or the American Gemological Society (AGS) are really the only way to be sure about the quality of the diamond or other gemstone you are buying.
These independent laboratory certifications contain unbiased, scientific analysis of diamonds and colored gemstones, and function as an indispensable ‘guarantee’ of the stone’s ultimate quality. For more information, read our article: Understanding Diamond Certificates.
Now that we’ve covered a bit of what to consider when shopping for fine jewelry online, let’s look at a few of the biggest online retailers to see how they compare.
Buying Fine Diamond Jewelry at Blue Nile
As the largest retailer of certified diamonds in the world, Blue Nile is well known for its massive selection of loose diamonds and engagement rings, but the Seattle based online retailer is also a fantastic resource of educational materials and guidance on how to buy fine jewelry online. Blue Nile was established in 1999, and has built a solid reputation both with its customers, and within the industry.
Blue Nile is now larger than the next three online jewelers combined. Forbes Magazine named Blue Nile one of the 100 Most Trustworthy Companies in America, and Bizrate.com awarded them the Circle of Excellence Platinum Award, recognizing their excellent customer service as rated by customers themselves.
While most online jewelry stores offer some educational articles like how-to guides or buying guides, Blue Nile goes far beyond the usual, providing shoppers with in-depth articles on how to select diamonds and other gemstones, as well as information on various precious metals and their care and cleaning.
All of the diamonds sold by Blue Nile are certified by the Gemological Society of America (GIA), or the American Gemological Society (AGS). These grading reports are included with each diamond purchased, assuring customers of the stones’ quality and allowing for easy comparison. Shipping is done via FedEx, and provided free of charge, though they only require a signature with jewelry items worth more than $1,000. All diamonds are also certified as conflict free.
The return policy at Blue Nile is generous, allowing customers to return any jewelry item for up to thirty days for any reason, excepting of course engraved pieces or special order items.
Buying Fine Jewelry From Zales Online
Since its founding in 1924, Zales has been one of the largest and best known jewelry retailers in the United States. The huge network of brick and mortar stores first succeeded with its liberal credit policy or “a penny down and a dollar a week” that allowed average working Americans to buy diamond and other fine jewelry. Now with an online presence that rivals the best, Zales has established itself as a respected internet retailer distinguished by its huge online inventory, unrivaled return policy, and easy to use interactive features.
Zales offers a wide variety of fine jewelry, including full lines of bridal and fashion jewelry, as well a large selection of men’s jewelry and watches. Their services also include custom designing, in-house financing, and a “Lifetime Diamond Commitment” program. This program guarantees that any eligible diamond that is damaged or lost from its original setting will be replaced at no charge to the customer. The loss must be a result of normal use, and to maintain the warranty coverage, the owner must have the item inspected and cleaned every six months at a Zales outlet.
The return policy at Zales allows the buyer to return any jewelry item for any reason within 60 days, as long as the piece is in good condition with all its original certificates. Unfortunately, buyers may want to use this policy, as some of the diamonds sold by Zales may not be exactly as expected. All diamonds sold by Zales come with certificates, but many are certified by the International Gemological Society, an independent laboratory well known for ‘liberal’ grading policies. IGI certificates can sometimes indicate that a diamond is as much as a full grade better than the more widely respected AGS and GIA certificates.
Another reason for a possible return is the actual carat weight of the diamond. The Zales disclaimer indicates that the “carat weight (CT.) represents the approximate total weight (TW.) of the diamond in each setting and may vary by no more than .07 below the stated weight.” What this means is that a diamond that is advertised as 1 carat can actually be below 0.96 carats. While this may seem a small amount, it is important to remember that any time a diamond drops below the 1 carat threshold, the price can drop by as much as 20%.
Buying Diamond Jewelry From James Allen Online
James Allen was founded in 2006 by a group with over 60 years combined experience, and has grown into the world’s largest privately held online diamond retailer. With a mission to simplify the buying process and educate the shopper about fine jewelry, James Allen specifically caters to a group who knows they can use the internet to educate themselves about how to find the best in selection, quality, and price. The business model is simple: provide quality merchandise, customer support, and seamless functionality on their website.
What distinguishes James Allen as an online retailer is their proprietary Diamond Display Technology: a 360 degree view that magnifies the images 20x to 40x—more than the normal 10x jeweler’s loupe. Customers can see in more detail exactly what they’re buying. The staff at James Allen is carefully trained to educate their clients, and they work in a commission-free environment, ensuring that customers get valuable information that is not influenced by the transaction.
All the diamonds sold by James Allen are certified, although some carry the IGI certification, typically more lenient than those provided by the GIA or the AGS. Any jewelry item can be returned for any reason within 30 days, as long as it is in new condition. Return shipping is offered at no charge through FedEx.
Where to Sell Your Fine Jewelry Online
If you own expensive fine jewelry that you would like to sell for a generous cash offer, contact Diamond Estate Jewelry Buyers today. We are widely recognized as the best place to sell jewelry in the country, and our jewelry buyers specialize in high-brand designer jewelry with appraisal values into the five and six figures.