Whether this is your first trip to the islands or you are a seasoned island traveler, at some point in your trip you will probably go jewelry shopping. And at some point in your shopping some merchant is going to make a statement or claim to you that is going to make you stop and say to yourself, “Is that really true?” Before you get to that point let us answer some those questions for you.

Why should I shop for jewelry in the Caribbean?

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IMG_0145In two words: selection and price.
The Caribbean island jewelers offer more selection on more lines of jewelry, gemstones, and watches than any other region of the world.  Walk into your local jeweler in the US and ask to see their Tanzanite or Emerald rings.  They may show your twenty or thirty more or less.  In the Caribbean the jewelers will literally show you three hundred or more!  The more choices you have, the better chance you’ll find that special treasure you’ve only dreamed of.

Many manufacturers represented in the islands are not found in the United States so this is your chance to take home a special gemstone or jewelry design that no one else will own.   And even better, they are all available at duty free prices so you will save by buying in the Caribbean.   By not having to pay the sales taxes imposed in the US many a smart shopper has paid for their Caribbean vacation.

What is “Hot” for 2007?

Fancy colored Diamonds are extremely hot, especially bright yellow, orange, pinks and blues.   Ever since J-Lo came out with her pink diamond they are very hard to find.   Fancy cut diamonds are in demand.  Combine a large brightly colored fancy Diamond with an unusual cut and you now have the “wow” factor.

Possibly the hottest item for 2007 are large colored stones, rubies, sapphires and Emeralds.     Most shoppers are not finding themselves restricted to buying gemstones which are their birthstones, but are venturing out and experimenting with the endless varieties of gemstones which are available.

The hot look in diamonds for this year will be the “Journey” design   This follows on the heels of the Past, Present and Future design for diamond jewelry.   While the PP and F design held three diamonds, the Journey design holds  numerous diamonds of varying shapes leading to endless possibilities of design.

Vintage diamond cuts are also in demand.   Many years ago jewelers could hardly move an old mine cut diamond or an old European cut.   Now customers are searching cases looking for these cuts of diamonds.   They look very nice set into a vintage ring or necklace.  Asscher cut diamonds or the Flanders cut are  harder to find due to the huge demand.

Pendants are making a comeback.   Most of the Hollywood celebrities are sporting huge pendants on their jackets, hats, belts and purses.   The designers have taken note of this and are incorporating them into their Fall line.    The vintage broach is hot, hot, hot!   The hot colors for broaches are pink, blue and purple.

Tennis bracelets were the rage for the last twenty years, however the new trend is towards wide “carpet” bracelets, which  are adorned with maybe 200-500 very small diamonds.   Not the small little chips or melee, these must very distinctly have the look of diamonds.  Either straight rows of different cuts of diamonds, or swirled into patterns.   Some add a geometric pattern of fancy diamonds ( pink is hot ) to generate excitement.  There is nothing better in a nightclub than this wide swath of diamonds on a perfectly turned wrist, catching the spotlight.

For those on a limited budget many are getting the wide bracelet look with multi-colored sapphires, again hot pink being the most sought after color.  Sapphires come in a wide range of colors for those wishing to add to their “Fun Jewelry” collection.

Multi-colored Pearls have been big on the fashion runways of New York, Miami, Milan and Paris.  The look is for large pearls, on long, long strands to loop around the neck, drape across a backless dress and just have FUN with.

The trend in the Caribbean is that higher priced items are flying out of the cases.  The hunt is  on for the larger Diamonds ( 3 – 10 carats) and the jewelers are responding by stocking their cases to bulging with Fancy colors and cuts.   Remember when a one carat diamond was special?   Many jewelers carry these now to act as side stones.

The metal which is leading the way this year is definitely Platinum.  It durability,  strength and beauty makes this metal the natural choice for many designers.  To add depth and drama to a piece they may combine several metals such as white gold, 18 karat yellow gold and platinum.

For more info on “whats hot” and any available sales coupons CLICK .

What is “Duty Free?”

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“Duty Free” refers to the fact that no government tax or duty is placed on the merchandise when it is brought onto the island to be sold to you. This is something of an oversimplification of a concept that differs from island to island but its important to know the rules of the game.    The following is merely a guideline, we urge you to check the actual duty imposed by each individual island or country you are returning from to know where you stand.


The U.S. Customs service is stationed at our border entry points to search for illegal drugs and to “safeguard the revenue.” They require that you declare the total value of all articles acquired abroad that accompany you, including:

Items you purchased Gifts you received Items you inherited Repairs or alterations made while you were out of the United States, even if they were performed free of charge Items you intend to sell or use in a business must be declared separately.


You will be required to pay duty (cash, check, and in some cases charge) on anything you didn’t have when you left the United States that exceeds your exemption allowance. Family members who live in the same household and return together may combine their personal exemptions.

If you are a returning U.S. resident who has been out of the country at least 48 hours, your duty-free exemption is:

  • $400, and may include 100 non-Cuban cigars and 200 cigarettes (one carton), regardless of your age, as well as one liter of wine, beer or liquor if you are at least 21 years old. Visitors to the United States are also allowed these exemptions, although only $100 is duty-free.
  • $600 if you are returning directly from one of the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act countries, including: Antigua, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Costa Rica, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Granada, the Grenadines, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Montserrat, Netherland Antilles, Nicaragua, Panama, Saint Kitts, Saint Lucia, Saint Nevis, Saint Vincent, Trinidad and Tobago.If you visit somewhere outside the Caribbean Basin Initiative during your trip, you can still bring $600 worth of goods duty-free to the United States, but no more than $400 may be from a country outside the Caribbean Basin. You many also include two liters of alcohol with this $600 exemption as long as one liter was produced in a CBI country.
  • Travelers returning directly, or indirectly, from American Samoa, Guam or the U.S. Virgin Islands may take an exemption of $1,200. You may include 1,000 cigarettes (five cartons), as long as at least 800 of them were acquired in one of these possessions. You may also bring back five liters of alcohol, but one must be produced in one of these countries.
  • However, if you leave the country for less than 48 hours or more than once in a 30-day period, during which you used up your exemptions, you are only exempt $200, Also, family members may not group their exemptions. Products allowed are: 50 cigarettes, 10 cigars and 5 oz. of alcoholic beverage, or 5 oz. of perfume containing alcohol. Also, if you bring back more than $200 worth of dutiable items, duty will be charged on the entire amount rather than having $200 deducted off the top as in standard duty exemptions.Send Stuff HomeIf you trust the postal system in the country you are visiting, the best way to bump your exemption allowance up by $200 increments is to mail things home. Mailed items do not affect your duty-free allowance on your return. Packages sent via mail marked “personal use” are duty-free up to $200. Keep in mind that if you label the package “gift” your duty-free exemption will drop to $100. A description of the items and their retail value must be listed on the outside. You are limited to one parcel per addressee per day (and no alcohol or tobacco products, or perfume worth more than $5).Any duty owed on a mailed package must be paid after the package arrives in the United States. No matter what a shop owner abroad may tell you, you cannot prepay duty. If the package requires duty, Customs will attach a form with the amount required, along with a $5 handling fee. When the post office delivers the package, it will also charge a handling fee, so if saving money is your goal, items should not be mailed together that will exceed the exemption amount.The price of dutyIf the value of your goods is $1,000 more than your duty-free exemption, you’ll have to itemize them on the back of your declaration form.The customs officer will place the items that have the highest rate of duty under your exemptions. Then, after subtracting your exemptions, and the value of any duty-free items, a flat 10 percent rate of duty is charged on the next $1,000 worth of merchandise. The flat rate of duty is only 5 percent on items purchased in American Samoa, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Any dollar amount beyond this $1,000 will be dutiable at whatever duty rates apply. This rate varies, depending on where you got the item, where it was made, and what it is made of. A complete list of duties can be found in the complex, mega-coded Harmonized Tariff Schedule published by the International Trade Commission.Free entry certificatesIf you travel with a Swiss watch or a Japanese camera, you should know that foreign-made items are subject to duty each time they are brought back into the States, unless you have acceptable proof of prior possession. Documents that fully describe the article, such as a bill of sale, insurance policy, jewelers appraisal, or receipt for purchase may be considered acceptable proof, but your best bet is to obtain a Certificate of Registration (CF 4457) from your nearest customs office or at the U.S. international airport before you leave. This certificate is given for items that can be readily identified by a permanently affixed serial number, or markings, to expedite the free entry of these items when you return. The certificate is valid for as long as you own the articles, and it’s a good idea to have if you frequently travel abroad with the same item.Duty-freeItems purchased in duty-free shops are only free of duty and import taxes on the initial purchase. Items bought in American duty-free shops that re-enter the country are not only subject to duty, but also to federal tax. Items purchased abroad in duty-free shops are subject to customs duty, though they may be included as part of your exemption.Antiques, which the U.S. Customs Service defines as objects more than 100 years old, as well as original works of art done entirely by hand, including paintings, drawings, and sculptures can clear U.S. Customs completely duty-free and are not counted toward your exemptions. Folk art and handicrafts are not considered fine art, and are dutiable. Household goods are also free of duty if you have used them abroad for at least one year.Art and antique items free of duty do not include cultural artifacts and property that is restricted by law from leaving the country of origin. Pre-Colombian artifacts from Central and South America, Native American artifacts from Canada, Colonial objects from Peru, and Byzantine ritual objects from Cypress are restricted by U.S. law entirely.Duty discounts!

    Most products of Israel may also enter the U.S. free of duty, or at reduced rates and the North American Free Trade Agreement allows free or reduced duty rates on products that are grown, manufactured, or produced in Canada or Mexico.

Your Responsibility in Duty Free Shopping

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Responsibility? Me…the customer? You bet. You have the obvious responsibilities to save your receipts, properly declare your purchase with customs etc.

But you have an even greater responsibility to yourself! You must remember to use good judgment and common sense.

Be an informed consumer. Shop around at home first. Have an idea of what you want and what it should cost. The United States Federal Trade Commission says that you bear responsibility when you shop to make certain decisions for yourself. The determination of what is a good price for any item is yours to make before you buy.

So…use your common sense. The decision to buy at a certain price is…yours.

How much can I expect to save by shopping in the islands?

The fact is that you can expect to save from 10 percent to 40 percent off the normal retail price of comparable quality merchandise in the U.S. and other regions.

Why do some island jewelers hate it when we say that?   Because some of them make outrageous claims that their merchandise is up to 60 percent, and even 70 percent, off the “U.S. Retail Price” of their merchandise. However, when asked to show exactly where in the United States that merchandise is actually selling at the higher price…they get very quiet.

Let’s face it, if you were told that you were legitimately going to save 20 percent on the purchase of a new car you would think that you were getting a great deal…which you would be. So if you find that you have saved 20 percent off the price of your jewelry purchase…know that you are getting a good deal here also.

But claims of 60 percent off are just not true. Basically, you get what you pay for. No one is going to sell you a diamond at 60 percent off the true value. And when I see someone shopping at a store offering diamonds at 60 percent off the supposed retail I know that this is where two very foolish people have met. One for claiming to sell it, and one for agreeing to buy it.

The Jewelers in the Caribbean, especially the islands frequented by cruise-ships, get huge volumes of people intent on buying Jewelry.  Many stores report the majority of their sales are repeat customers who come back year after year.  They can offer reasonable prices because they make it up in volume.   Because they have literally thousands of customers walking through their stores every week from all over the world, they must carry in stock a wide variety of jewelry and gemstones.  These customers cannot come back next week after the jeweler orders the gem.  The customer wants to be able to take their purchase with them, that day. To be competitive they must  carry in stock items to please almost everyone.  This is where the consumer is the winner.  The best selection of thousands of up-to-date styles, the widest selection of loose gemstones, at all price ranges.

How do I know that I am getting a good deal?

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If you were shopping at home for a new car wouldn’t you shop around to see what was on the market before you decided which car gave you the best value for your money? The same applies to jewelry. Shop around at home before you leave on your trip. Make notes at what prices certain pieces of jewelry are being offered so that you can make a qualified decision as to whether or not you are getting a good deal when shopping in an island jewelry store.

Ask questions,  better yet,  print out this guide and bring it shopping with you.  Sit down with your Island Jeweler and review, ask questions.  Ask if they are current CGI certified Jewelers.   Word of warning, we shop extensively at jewelry stores in the islands and have asked this question of many jewelers.  A few have claimed to be current CGI certified and in truth were not.  Ask to see a current year  CGI  store certificate.    The CGI certified Jewelers have worked diligently to uphold the strict standards of the CGI and are proud to display their store certifications.

If they are quick to lie about being CGI members when in truth they are not, what else will they lie about?

How do I know that l am getting the quality that I am paying for?

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Generally you can’t. That is why you need to shop with the CGI Certified Jewelers. All of these jewelers are listed by invitation only, have been shopped and tested for proper representation of merchandise, and will take care of any problems that you have, even after you return home.

logoCarigem approved Jewelers are the only listing of jewelers who have been actually tested for quality. In fact, the Carigem approved Jewelers are tested more strictly than any U.S. jeweler belonging to any U.S. professional retail organization. So look for the Carigem logo in the store you are shopping with. It is your guarantee of quality. Do the Jewelry stores in the Islands all haggle over prices?

Some of the larger world wide jewelry stores in the Islands, and those which offer custom design work do not haggle over prices.   The price on the tag is the price you will purchase it for.   You can offer lower, but don’t be offended if the salesperson politely shakes their head.   They basically have cut out the haggling element which most Americans are uncomfortable with, price it at their lowest price and call it a day.

Other jewelers in the islands will put a price on the tag anticipating that they will be haggled down.   Don’t be intimidated by this.  This is their culture and traditional way of doing business.  Look at the piece and decide a price in your mind that you would be happy to get it at.  Then haggle away.   But be realistic.  If you haggle in good faith, you will get a decent price.   If you truly want the piece and the salesperson truly wants the sale, you will come to a fair agreement.

Our best advice is before your trip research out the price of jewelry and gemstones of the quality you wish to buy at home.  Visit your local hometown jewelers and have them show you their line of Emeralds, Alexandrites, Topaz, fancy Diamonds and Tanzanite.  Bring a notebook and jot down notes.  Take this with you on your trip.  When you arrive to the jewelers in the Islands ask to see what they have.   The selection in the Islands is incredible.  We have had several shoppers who have printed out this guide and taken it with them.   By looking for the certified Jewelers on this list they have saved time, worries and have demonstrated to the shops that they are informed consumers.

Once your armed with knowledge of the pieces of jewelry you wish to purchase, haggle away.   If you haggle well and know what price you feel is fair, you will get a wonderful deal.  If you have not done your homework, are not prepared to bargain, and assume the passive role, DO NOT buy jewelry.  You will not get a wonderful deal.

One tip;  the merchants in the Caribbean hold  to tradition.  It is strongly felt that the first customer sets the tone for the day.  If they buy something, business will be good.  If they leave with nothing, business will suffer.  Historically the first customer of the day, if they are bargainers, WILL get the best deal of the day.   Find out when the store opens, and BE THERE!

What if I get home and find that I have been ripped off?

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The first step is to make sure that you have, indeed, been ripped off. No one wants to accuse a merchant of misrepresentation unless they are sure that the misrepresentation has actually happened.

What would happen if you demanded a refund based on a hometown jeweler’s evaluation of your island purchase, only to find out later that your hometown jeweler’s evaluation was wrong? And during the course of that demand you made charges of misrepresentation against the island jeweler, only to find out later that you, yourself, were wrong and only voiced the accusation based on what your local jeweler told you’?

Its like when you buy that new car you’ve always dreamed of.   If you took that car to the dealer in the next town its only human nature for him to tell you how he could have “gotten you a better deal” and how horrible that other dealers service department is etc.    So please, do remember this scenario when your local jeweler says he could’ve “gotten it for you for less”   If he insists this is so,  have him put his reasoning in writing.  You may be surprised when he declines.

So before you make any accusations of misrepresentation you should first get the opinion of an independent, certified gemologist, and not a local retail jeweler who is either not qualified or is jealous at losing a sale to an island jeweler.

Then, if you do indeed have a problem, you can contact the CGI office and we will make sure that you are treated properly and are given every consideration to solve the problem to your satisfaction.   You can also visit our site at www.jewelersmediation.com for more information

Do the cruise ship recommended stores give the cruise lines “kick backs?”

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The promotion of jewelers by the cruise lines is a paid commercial advertisement just like the commercials on television. This is all above board.   The fact is, without cruise line promotions the system would run on kick backs.

It is very important to the cruise lines that travelers find their trip exciting and enjoyable.  Part of the attraction of a trip to the Caribbean is the shopping and Jewelry.  The jewelers , cruise lines and the whole economy of the Caribbean Islands depends on tourists being happy.   In general they work together to achieve this goal.  In the end the one who comes out the winner is the consumer.

The port lectures are meant to get passengers excited about buying certain products, they also encourage impulse buying.    Impulse shopping is not a good idea, especially when buying high dollar items.  This is why Carigem encourages people to research jewelry and diamond purchases prior to their cruise

What is meant by an “Independent Appraisal” of Jewelry?

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An independent appraiser is a professional who is trained to appraise and evaluate diamonds, gemstones and jewelry.  For this they need to have many years of experience and specialized training within the field.   Being an independent appraiser means that their ONLY business is appraising.   They do NOT buy or sell jewelry.  This is important because they will not show bias in their evaluation of the piece. Beware of the appraiser who will offer to do better for you than the jeweller who sold the item to you in the first place; or who will suggest another jeweller that you might go to for a “better deal”. Not only is this behaviour totally unethical, this “appraiser” obviously has a serious vested interest, and his opinion of grade can hardly be considered objective.

Most Insurance companies are now requiring documentation of quality and value from an independent appraiser who also has a gemological degree from GIA (Gemological Institute of America)

While most jewelers are quite reputable, the majority of jewelers sell jewelry only, and are NOT trained in appraisal science, and there are unfortunately ones who will tell you the jewelry or diamond you bought is problematic just because he/she wants to sell you one of his/her own diamond or jewelry items. It is a good idea to steer clear of jewelers who offer “FREE Verbal Appraisals”.

An actual appraisal document is just that, a document which sets a basis for value, most often for insurance replacement purposes in the event of a loss. A verbal appraisal gives the consumer no legal documented proof of the specific details about and detailed description of an item which is absolutely necessary for insurance replacement in the event of theft or loss. Jewelers who give verbal appraisals do NOT have the best interest of the customer in mind.

A good written jewelry appraisal from an independent appraiser should include the following:

  1. The date the appraisal was done.
  2. The name of the person requesting the appraisal.
  3. What purpose / function the appraisal will serve – ex: whether the appraisal is for insurance replacement, estate (taxation) or other purposes.
  4. A full typewritten description of the item being appraised, complete with weights, measurements, gemstone weights, measurements, color, clarity and all other descriptive information necessary for a complete and accurate description of the item.
  5. Large diamonds should be plotted in order to allow for future identification.
  6. At least one detailed photograph of the item.
  7. The final component is the value conclusion – an explanation of what the value represents, for Insurance documentation,  replacement cost, liquidation cost etc., and how the value conclusion was reached.

Please keep in mind that a  jewelry appraisal from an independent trained appraiser will not be free.  A qualified appraiser has spent many years learning his profession, requires certain instruments to complete his examination and is dependent upon payment to keep the business going.

Carigem Inc. is currently the ONLY independent appraisal company operating within the Caribbean and Alaska.  We currently evaluate diamonds, gemstones and jewelry items from over 92 stores, many which have several stores scattered thru-out the Caribbean.   We know and understand this market.  Prices of Diamonds and gemstones change almost on a daily basis.   Because we operate directly within this market Carigem is a wonderful resource for those seeking current values on items being sold within the Caribbean and Alaska.

Click HERE for more information on appraisals.

Travel Insurance:  Do I need it?

Travel insurance is highly recommended for travelers for a wide variety of reasons.  The price is so low for insurance that it is worth it just for the peace of mind.  One bad incident can ruin your vacation, cost you money or perhaps leave you in a foreign country with no ability or contacts to receive adequate medical care.  For more info click here to go to the Carigem Travel insurance information page.

International Customs

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The first rule is to never try to smuggle jewelry and gemstones into your home country. Customs agents are very good at spotting new merchandise.   cbpKeep your sales receipts where they can be easily accessed if you are questioned.   They are there to do a job and not out to ruin your vacation.  Being straight forward and honest with them will end your vacation on a happy note.   If you are evasive, rude, intoxicated, or just joking around they can “ruin your day.”   The law is totally on their side.

And the second is to register any new camera, watches, etc. with your customs office before you leave. This will keep you from having to pay duty on a purchase made at home…when you return home.  It takes a few minutes of your time before your trip but it can save much time and trouble later.

I have an anniversary coming soon and would love to know the “traditional gifts.”  Where can I find the list?

We have a complete list of anniversary gifts, both traditional and modern.  You will also find the birthstone list & metaphysical properties of stones.

Click here for more info.

Please send your questions to Info@carigem.org