- Beloved...Bejeweled...Be Careful!
What to Know Before You Buy Jewelry
Planning a gift of jewelry? Whether it's for sweetheart or
yourself, build in time to compare prices and quality. A gift of jewelry can be expensive.
If you're not familiar with any jewelers in your area, ask family members, friends or
co-workers for recommendations. Also, when ordering
online and you've never heard of the seller, check on its reputation with
the Better Business Bureau or the state attorney general's office.
When you're shopping, ask your salesperson to write down any information you
might rely on to make your purchase. And before you buy, ask for the store's
refund and return policy. When ordering online, keep
printouts of the web pages with details about the transaction, including
refund and return policies if you're not satisfied.
The Federal Trade Commission has a few additional pointers for jewelry shoppers who are
in the market for gold, watches, gemstones, pearls or diamonds:
There's a big difference between 14 karat gold and gold-plated jewelry. Fourteen karat
(14K) jewelry contains 14 parts of gold, mixed in throughout with 10 parts of
base metal. Gold-plated describes jewelry with a layer of at least 10K gold bonded to
a base metal. Gold plating eventually wears away, depending on how often the item is worn
and how thick the plating is.
If you're buying a watch, determine whether you want one that runs on a battery or one
that must be wound daily. Ask if a warranty or guarantee is included, how long it lasts,
and what parts and repair problems it covers. Also ask how and where you can get the watch
serviced and repaired.
Know the difference between laboratory-created gemstones and naturally mined stones.
Stones created in the lab are visually identical to stones mined from the earth. The big
difference is in the cost: laboratory-created stones are less expensive than naturally
mined stones. But because they look just like stones mined from the earth, they must be
identified as lab-created. If you want a naturally mined stone, ask if it has been
treated. Gemstone treatments -- such as heating, dyeing or bleaching -- can improve a
stone's appearance or durability. Some treatments are permanent; some may create special
care requirements. Treatments also may affect the stone's value.
Ask whether pearls are imitation or real. Real pearls are made by oysters or other
mollusks; imitation pearls are man-made. Cultured pearls are made by mollusks with human
intervention; an irritant introduced into their shells causes a pearl to grow. Real pearls
that are not cultured are fairly rare and expensive. The cost depends on the size, usually
stated in millimeters, and the coating or "nacre" on a real pearl, which gives
it its iridescence.
When you're buying a diamond, consider four criteria: cut, color, clarity and weight ,
usually stated as carats. Each factor affects the price. Color is sometimes
"graded" on a scale. However, scales are not uniform: a "D" may be the
best color for one scale, but not for another. Make sure you know how a particular scale
and grade represents the color of the diamond you're considering. A diamond can be
described as "flawless" only if it has no visible surface cracks or other
imperfections when viewed under 10-power magnification by a skilled diamond grader.
The FTC works for the consumer to
prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the
marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and
avoid them. To file a
complaint or to get free information
on consumer issues, visit
call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The
FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft and other fraud-related
Consumer Sentinel, a
secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law
enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION
FOR THE CONSUMER