Understanding Celebrity Jewelry Pricing – What is the Real Worth?

Lauren Conrad may be best known as a television personality for her work on Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County, and The Hills. Like many before her, she has used her notoriety to pursue the business of being a celebrity. Recently, LC has ventured into the jewelry business, with a new line that includes a “fine jewelry section.” But as gemologist Danielle Miele reports in her blog, Gem Gossip, the “fine jewelry” of the Lauren Conrad collection might not be so fine.

The first issue Ms. Miele has with the LC collection is with the gold itself: the rings are fashioned from 10k rose and white gold. While the colors of the gold might be fine, she notes that 10k gold is “the lowest karat gold alloy out there to still be considered “fine” jewelry” in the United States.” Though the rings are clearly stamped “10k,” Miele reminds buyers that “10k gold means that 41.6% of that ring is actual gold, the 58.4% is other metals.” She goes on to note that rings of this quality are typically sold at stores “like Walmart and department stores,” and should be priced accordingly.

The stones used in the LC collection are also up for scrutiny. Featuring a “mix of commercial grade diamond melee, ranging in full cuts and single cuts, and gemstones like morganite, green quartz and blue topaz,” the stones simply aren’t what one might typically find in “fine jewelry.”

The jewelry items just don’t measure up to their price tags. In fact, Ms. Miele calls the prices, “astronomical.” Though she doesn’t hold Ms. Conrad “personally responsible for these overpriced items,” Miele does feel obligated to educate the public, and she does so by offering her take on a few individual jewelry items, including what she thinks the “retail replacement value” would be.

One piece she looks at in detail is a ⅛ carat diamond band done in 10k white gold. In addition to the low quality of the gold, Miele points out that the ring features a total diamond weight of just ⅛ carat, but has fourteen diamonds in the band! Each stone weighs roughly 0.13 carats—extremely tiny diamonds indeed.

The quality of the tiny diamonds is called into question as well. The clarity rating for these diamonds is I-1-I-2, meaning there are visible inclusions in the small gems. In Ms. Miele’s words, “eye-visible inclusions abound. We’re talking commercial grade, on-the-brink industrial grade diamonds.” Her estimated retail replacement value for the ring that sells for $800 is only $250.

Another piece up for scrutiny is a morganite ring in 10k rose gold. Despite the appeal of the blush color of the stone, Miele points out that morganite varies widely in price, “on average anywhere from $70-$200 per carat.” Somehow this 1.87 carat morganite set in low quality gold is fetching $2,000. Ms. Miele’s retail replacement estimate? Just $375.

Regardless of the value of celebrity endorsement, Ms. Miele remains deeply skeptical about the LC Collection: “It is high-end prices with low-end products.”

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