Saturday, December 10, 2016

10 Tips for Buying Jewelry from Online Stores

There used to be only a few options when buying jewelry gift items: shopping mall jewelry store chain, stand alone retailers or catalog’s, to name a few. If you preferred handcrafted jewelry and meeting the person who created your piece before you buy, there were arts and craft events. Many discount stores offered a wide array of jewelry in varying qualities. These ways of shopping required driving around, running in and out of stores, burning up lots of gas and the possibility of still coming home empty handed.

For the average shopper, gas, time and money are in limited supply these days; they no longer wish to indulge in that kind of run around shopping. If you fall in this category, online shopping is the option for you. Buying jewelry items on line has moved from the experimental stages a few years ago to a modern, fast and easy way of getting your shopping done. All it takes is a shopping list, a bit of browsing, and a few mouse clicks to shop without leaving your house.

Whether you seek finished jewelry-store quality items, artsy hand-crafted, one of a kind pieces, or you are a jewelry maker yourself and looking for materials and supplies, it doesn’t hurt to have a few rules to follow before you set out on your online shopping experience. I have been creating jewelry for years and taught many women about stones, jewelry and various terms used by traditional retailers and auction sites where you might be buying from a total stranger. I offer these ten tips for you to keep in mind when buying finished jewelry or component parts.

1- Know the correct name of the precious metal you want-

If you are buying Silver, look for Sterling Silver or 925, Fine Silver or 999; for Gold, 14k, 18k or 24k designations are the correct precious metal terms. Look for these terms if you want precious metals and not just a coating that may wear away with the first cleaning. Except for some handcrafted pieces, these items carry stamped-on marks to verify the metal.

Be particularly cautious if the seller refers to an item as simply ‘Gold’ or ‘Silver.’ If your online retailer doesn’t define the metal further, there’s a good chance the metal you are purchasing could be ‘Silver-Toned’ or ‘Gold-toned,’ a composite metal with little or no precious metal content at all. The name might be an honest description of the color of the metal and not the content.

If you want purest versions of Silver, avoid metals called ‘Silver Washed,’ ‘Silver-Plated’ or ‘Silver Filled.’ If you are seeking pure Gold, avoid buying ‘Gold-Plated,’ ‘Gold Washed’ or ‘Gold-Filled.’ These items contain layers of precious metal over a base metal. There is nothing wrong with these products, the ‘filled’ process is held to a legal definition of weight to gold ration and holds up particularly well; but if you want purer versions of the metal, look for the right terms to make sure you are getting what you want and not paying more than you should.

2- Know the names of the stones you want-

If you are a frequent stone buyer or an artisan, you may know enough to purchase a stone by name; but if you don’t buy stones on a regular basis, you should find an online resource such as who has a color guide to help you identify the name and look of the stone you are seeking buy.

For jewelry makers, major catalog houses such as http://RioGrande.com and Indian Jewelry Supply at offer online catalogs with a wide variety of beads, cabochons and jewelry making supplies.

3- Know Stone Grading-

Like diamonds, other semiprecious stones have quality ratings. The system is letter-based, A, B, C, etc. Triple A (AAA), for example, means you have a stone of extremely high quality. An E rating means your stone is at the lower range of quality.

While you may find these ratings on store sites that specialize in selling stones for jewelry makers, you will rarely see this grading used on an online website that sells jewelry alone. If you are interested in knowing the alphabetic rating of a stone for sale, ask; but they may not know. Often it is the use of lower rated stones that enable a seller to offer their items at a lower price.

4- Know that there are lots of retailers selling simulated gemstones-

Scientists have perfected the process of creating lab-grown gemstones with properties similar to the natural kind. Since some supplies of natural stones are running out or difficult to fine, the man made varieties are everywhere. There are man made diamonds also. One called Moissanite has a composition so close to the real thing, jewelers had to create a special tester to tell the difference. What does that mean to you?

Since these man-made stones are so close in composition, it is hard for ordinary people, even experienced artisans to tell the difference in most cases. You must rely on the dealer who sells the stone originally to pass the information along to the person creating the jewelry and then rely on that person to pass it along to you, which doesn’t always happen.

As an artisan and teacher, I know large catalog houses advise the buyer when the stones they sell are imitation. But when other sellers do not carry the IMIT designation, it’s anybody’s guess. So I will tell you that IMIT means the stone is imitation, and should you see those letters next to the stone, or Lab Created, you will know what that means and decide to purchase or not.

5- Know the correct necklace, bracelet and ring size-

If you buy a beautiful size 7 ring at a great bargain price but later it needs to be sized up to a nine; that will cost you extra and that bargain price won’t look so great after all. Most on-line retailers do not include ring sizing in their bargain-ship-in-one-day price. If you need sizing, you’ll have to find someone to do the work then pay extra for it.

Know the size you need and buy it. Some retailers have a ring sizing guide to walk you through measuring your finger the right way. has a pdf ring sizing guide you may download. has an online conversion chart to convert your size to measurement systems used in other countries. Don’t guess at it. It could cost you in the long run.

Size 7 is the average bracelet size; but many people have larger or smaller wrists. You need to know the proper bracelet or necklace size as well. The process of resizing these items can be less expensive than a ring resizing, but it will cost you nonetheless.

5-Make sure your ‘handcrafted’ jewelry is handcrafted by an artisan and not mass produced-

More and more people are seeking jewelry items made in America by an artisan they can meet at an art event or at least communicate with on line. But some importers take advantage of that desire for ‘Hand Made In America,’ and will list their items as handcrafted, leaving you to assume the rest.

I’ve sold handcrafted jewelry for years and it used to make me upset that some “Jewelry Artists” would sell pieces obviously mass produced overseas. Eventually I stopped letting that bother me; but some of those same people who used to sell imported goods at Art shows are now offering their wares on line as “Handcrafted.” So if you want handcrafted that for you means made in America, or at least made by an artisan and not manufactured or mass produced, ask questions like who? When? Where?

6- Know the shipping policies before you order-

Many jewelry sites sell items at a bargain price but have high shipping fees, sometimes higher than the cost of the item you’re purchasing. A popular on-line auction site has recently taken steps to make sure their independent sellers are not overcharging on shipping. They offer better search placements for those offering free shipping.

Before you buy, make sure you understand the shipping policies. If the on-line retailer has a customer feedback system, check to see what they say about shipping times.

7-Know your online payment system. consider or similar sites for buying security-

To keep your credit card numbers secure, consider using an on-line system like When you sign up with their service, you list your credit card, bank account or other personal account with them; and instead of providing credit card numbers to retailers all over the Internet, you go through Paypal. When your Paypal balance is exhausted, they will automatically transfer the purchase amount from the back-up account you’ve listed.

Paypal also offers a customer guarantee policy that will guarantee the purchase up to a certain dollar amount. Because of the security features, more and more on line retailers are offering Paypal as a safer payment option. If that’s important to you, look for the Paypal logo before you buy.

8-Look for ‘VeriSign Secured’ check mark at the bottom of an on line retailers site- B

VeriSign means the site can secure your private information with SSL encryption which goes a long way toward preventing your personal information from being hijacked.

9- Before you buy from an Online retailer, check out their return policy-

If an item isn’t the right size, the right stone, the right color or just not right; you want the option of returning it for a refund or at least a credit. Make sure returning is an option before you click the pay button. All though many stores allow returns, some sites and individuals on auction sites have an ‘all sales final’ policy.

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