Columnist – Gayle Lynn Falkenthal
Love can get expensive, especially when it comes time for the all-important proposal. An engagement ring can be a major investment.
Are there ways to be thrifty when buying a piece of jewelry that will last a lifetime? Yes! There are several ways to do it.
Consider buying from a pawn shop. Perhaps you don’t like the thought of buying “used” jewelry. But most jewelry is used in some form. Stones are set and re-set. The price of gold is up significantly so chances are good the gold in your jewelry came from being melted down and reformed. And then there are those heirloom and antique or estate pieces. Their value comes precisely from their rich history.
The other worry people have about pawn shops is whether items are stolen merchandise. That may have been true at one time, and it does happen today. But pawn shops must follow strict law enforcement rules in most states.
When pawn shops take in an item, it must be held for between 30 and 120 days to pass a police check, especially when it is something valuable like jewelry. In most cases buying jewelry from a pawn shop is perfectly safe.
If you go into a well-established pawn shop in your community in a nicer neighborhood (yes, you can find them!), and get acquainted with the owners, they will help you find a terrific bargain. Pawn shop owners know how to spot fakes and poor quality merchandise. They don’t want to take something in that turns out to be worthless and lose money on a deal. So the quality is generally decent, and can be exceptional.
Pawn shop jewelry prices are normally about half of the retail price you would expect to pay The quality is just as good. Do your homework, know what the retail prices are for what you’d like to buy, and see what you can find.
Do keep in mind most pawn shops have a “no cash back” policy. If you do have to return something, at best you will probably only get back the money you spent in the form of a credit that can be used at that store only. Most pawn shops also have very limited return policies. Be sure to inquire specifically about all aspects of any return policy they may have.
Ebay and Personal Ads
It’s possible to get a good deal on quality jewelry from online auction sites like Ebay, or when buying from a private party via advertising on sites like Craigslist. But you must be a smart buyer, know what you’re looking at and take precautions to guard against spending too much for an inferior purchase.
First, read the fine print… and if there isn’t any fine print, ask for it. Get an exact description including the type and quality of the precious metals and their weight; the grading of the diamonds or other jewelry. Ask for photos if you can’t see the piece in person.
A good way to protect yourself if you see something you like is to pay for an independent appraisal. The buyer may have one and that’s a plus, but don’t trust it completely. You can offer to put the purchase price in escrow held by a third party for a small fee. The seller only receives the payment if the appraisal and any other conditions you set are met.
The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) recommends using an independent gemlogist who is also an appraiser. Gemologists have completed an accredited or graduate program through GIA. You can find them through the American Society of Appraisers at www.appraisers.org, or The American Gem Society at http://www.ags.org
Consider paying with a credit card if you don’t use an escrow service for an added level of protection, or via Pay Pal.
Estate sales offer the potential of finding true one of a kind pieces of jewelry. But the good stuff can be mixed in with complete junk, so you need to know what you’re looking at. Become knowledgeable about how cut, clarity, and color are judged. Bring someone with you if you aren’t sure.
Estate sales are advertised online or in publications. Sometimes a professional company will be hired to take care of selling estate items. If so, this offers some reassurance about what you are buying. If you see diamond jewelry at an estate sale, ask to see a jewelry certification or appraisal documents. If nothing is available, see if you can work out an arrangement to secure an appraisal with the buyer. Otherwise, you have to take a chance. If you are able to bargain a low enough price worth the gamble, give it a try. Then once you have made the purchase, get your appraisal. You might have ended up with an extremely good deal, or found out the value of your item was not what you hoped.
Shopping for diamond jewelry at an estate sale takes time, patience, and luck. But you might end up finding a real treasure you would never see anywhere else.
So do your homework, take precautions, and verify what you’re getting, and you could save hundreds or thousands of dollars. There’s no reason something so sentimental and precious should to bring you to tears over spending too much!
Visit my eBay store “TNBB” for some fun items I’ve picked out just for you. My finds are your finds!