It wasn’t that long ago that buying jewelry online was considered strange and uncommon. With nuances in craftsmanship and aesthetic appeal being the primary focus when choosing a specific piece of jewelry, the challenges in doing so online through basic photos and a brief description of the item can be tedious and frustrating. Regardless of buying online or from a jewelry store, the same basic focus and due diligence remains equally critical to ensure that a smart purchase is made in regards to quality, beauty, and value. Below will hopefully shed some insight, as well as a provide a crash course on buying jewelry online in a safe, practical, and worry-free way.
First, let’s start with WHY buying jewelry online can actually be incredibly beneficial if approached in the right way: Well, it primarily comes down to price. And who doesn’t like a good deal, right? The one key variable that separates an online boutique from a physical store-front is OVERHEAD. A jewelry store has an unfathomable amount of expenses each month just to keep its doors open. From security systems, which in some stores means actual armed security. Insurance that ranges in the millions in coverage. Employees that need to be paid, and of course, rent and utilities, just to name a few. In addition to the basic operating costs, the production costs are astronomical for a physical store as well. Unlike an online store, a physical jewelry store often has multiple sizes, metal types, and qualities in the styles it offers. Even in your most modestly sized brick and mortar stores, there are dozens or even hundreds of design options, all of which require the item to be physically present in order to sell to their perspective client base. Online stores, on the other hand, usually only make a sample or two in each style since a simple click of the mouse produces a drop-down menu, representing all of the different size options, carat weights, and several other customizable details that will be made to order. These extra production costs for traditional brick and mortar stores get factored into the company’s overall operating expenses, thereby getting factored into the pieces they sell so their overall margin requirements are met in order to maintain an annual profit.
There are certainly many other benefits to choosing to buy online, like just the simple convenience of buying jewelry from the comfort of your couch, or having a broader range of options to choose from. Whatever the motivation to purchase jewelry online, you’ll still want to educate yourself on the basics before clicking that “buy” button. So let’s dive in:
First and foremost, and I can’t stress this point enough. Know what the return policy is. Let’s be very clear about one thing, photos can be deceiving. With the advancements in digital photography, and the ability to edit these images to show off only the most flattering aspects of the item, it isn’t at all uncommon to receive the piece you thought you were purchasing, only to realize the stones are cloudy, the color isn’t as bright, or the craftsmanship isn’t nearly what the photos depicted, once you opened that anticipated box to arrive in the mail. If the company isn’t direct and and doesn’t explicitly state the details of their return policy, I would be very hesitant to buy from that company. A simple, no questions asked, 15-30 day return policy is sufficient enough to review the item(s), and determine if it is right for you. If no return policy is offered, it is often a red flag to move on to the next option.
Next, be sure that the website or listing service you are buying from, whether it is listed on Ebay, Etsy, Amazon, or from the designer’s own online retail shop, has online reviews for that particular jeweler or designer. No, this method of checks and balances isn’t perfect and there are sometimes issues of fake reviews, but with a little vetting, it will at least give you a sense of what others have to say about the seller and their quality of work. The one caveat is that if the designer is an up-and-coming jeweler, plentiful reviews may not always be possible to find; however, with today’s wide use of social media, it is almost a mandatory requirement for any business, whether well established or new to the scene, to be active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram…etc. Basically, if their content is up-to-date and they actively engage their followers with new posts, updates, images of their line, and as long as the return policy is clearly stated, there’s a higher likelihood that the seller is legitimate.
Okay, so this one isn’t unique to just purchasing online, or jewelry for that matter, but its just good sense. Unless you’re searching for a branded item with the pretty blue box, there are often more than a couple sources with similar items and often times, varying degrees in price. If you’re looking to purchase something of great value, say in the $10,000 + range, it also doesn’t hurt to check the major auction house’s historical price records. Christie’s and Sotheby’s have an amazing database of all their past auctions, and a simple search of some narrowed key terms will typically yield a pretty close comparison for those rare and harder to find items that aren’t plentiful enough to find comparisons elsewhere online. By the way, these auction houses have also recently started online auctions as well, and I have personally met with dozens of people who have had a lovely experience buying jewelry this way. Many of the professionals that work for these major auction houses are some of the most well educated and informed people in the industry, so don’t be shy about reaching out to them on a particular auction listing on their site that you might have questions on. The descriptions aren’t always the best, but they will usually have this information at their disposal should you be inclined to reach out to them for further information.
Let’s face it, no matter how much due diligence you put into finding a reputable, online retailer, it is still possible to get scammed; however, don’t let this deter you. Although an utter and complete pain in the neck to deal with, online scams have become an unfortunate and regular occurrence. So here’s my simple advice: DON’T USE YOUR BANK CARD TO PURCHASE ANYTHING ONLINE. Just don’t. It’s 2021 folks, which means there is an entire department within credit card companies that are set up to offer some of the best, most reliable and frequently used fraud prevention services available. Yes, your bank likely offers this as well, but they’re not nearly as quick and efficient in dealing with scammers and it ties up your money until they resolve the issue. I don’t know about you, I’d rather scammers tie up credit that I don’t necessarily rely on, so that I have full, unrestricted access to the money in my bank account. Credit card companies know this, have setup services specifically for this purpose, and have, for the most part, done it in a way that makes it as stress free as possible. For example, I use a Chase rewards card for virtually every purchase I make online. It’s linked with my PayPal, Amazon, iTunes, and various streaming accounts, as well as all of my online bills. Not only can I setup my card to alert me for any purchase over a certain amount, or in a region that I haven’t authorized, but these specialty cards almost always come with a fraud hotline where their sole objective is to alleviate the headache of fraudulent charges that you may incur over time. And the best part, since more often than not, these charges are removed within the same billing cycle, it doesn’t even appear on my statement as owed. Yes, getting a new credit card and changing all of your services that are using that card number is a pain, but personally, I’d rather go through this process once every year or two (yes, that’s about average for me, personally…ugh.) for the convenience and savings of making purchases online. Not to mention, if you’re a really savvy buyer, you’ll know which card to use on specific types of purchases if you use a rewards card, but that’s an entirely different blog altogether, so I digress.
So you’ve made your decision, you think you paid a fair price, and the item arrived as expected (hopefully better.) Now what? You know that important point above about knowing the return policy? This is your final chance to take advantage of that small window to determine if everything that was represented is, in fact, accurate. At GAL, this has become one of the most frequented reasons for our guests to come see us. We offer a verbal authentication service, which offers an inexpensive way to simply go over the details of what it is that you purchased. We’ll review the quality of the gemstones, purity of the metal, craftsmanship, and answer any questions you might have about the item, and then provide an estimated value so you have a frame of reference for a fair price. Of course, you may choose to get the written evaluation to be provided to your insurance company, but that’s up to you. This service is specifically designed to give you, the buyer, peace of mind for what you purchased matches the description that was represented to you. Let us help you taking the guess work out of the equation after the purchase. We’d love to help! An appointment is just a click away!
THE FUTURE OF BUYING ONLINE:
Business Wire Insider recently posted an article covering the fast pace growth we’re expected to see in online jewelry sales, and according to Technavio’s market research, through 2024, we will see nearly and additional 20 billion dollars being channeled through online jewelry purchases, which is an average growth of 15% year over year. If the trend continues, buyers will have more options, which means an increased ability to find better prices for quality jewelry items. Buying online is easy, convenient and usually ends up saving quite a bit of money. With a little research and some simple precautions to ensure you’re buying from a reputable company, and a little quality assurance after the purchase is made, this is quickly becoming the most sought after way of buying jewelry today.
In the next post, I’ll dive more into the technical jargon, which will help you navigate your jewelry buying experience a little easier as well. Knowing the difference between “Karat” and “Carat” and what the quality grades mean when trying to decipher these seemingly cryptic letters and numbers that are used to express diamond quality, will make buying jewelry a little less monotonous so that you can focus more on the beauty of the craftsmanship and gemstones, rather than becoming overloaded with nomenclature and trade specific terms.
I hope you follow along!
Joshua D. Lents FGA, GG