If there is one item that seems to always spark an island shopping frenzy it is gold. Which is no surprise since the islands offer very fine gold jewelry from some of the world’s finest goldsmith’s from Italy, New York, and many other major gold manufacturing centers.
If you believe all Mexican Jewelry is made of heavy silver and decorated with Aztec motifs and green and black stones, you are mistaken. That primitive style was developed by the tourist industry during the 1920’s and has become the equivalent of American costume jewelry. You will find it, and lots of it. This is not fine jewelry, it is mass produced articles geared to appeal to tourists.
The contemporary silver and gold jewelry of major Mexican cities today is not very different from jewelry found in New York or Rome. The fine jewelry sold in the cities is international in scope and style.
If you travel away from the cities of Mexico you will pass thru villages where ways of living have not changed for generations. Mexicans are strong lovers of tradition. A woman may wear the exact style of ear-rings her grandmother wore. These would be crafted by the village silversmith in the traditional designs the smith has used season after season. These are the villages where jewelry styles are the same as they were four hundred years ago. Each village has its own style. You can tell which village a person comes from by the style of their jewelry. Many travelers have amassed wonderful collections of jewelry from different villages thru-out South America. This is where the journey to find the pieces is the real treasure. Memories to last a lifetime.
When shopping for gold there are several quality checks that you will want to make before you buy.
First, you should know that there are several ways to manufacture gold jewelry. One is to CAST the item. This method is used to mass produce many items of the same design and is the most cost effective.
The next method is DIE STRIKING. This uses a ring casting that is approximately 20 percent larger than the finished piece will be. It is placed in a machine that strikes it, compressing it to the actual size of the ring. The result is a ring of greater density of gold that will wear longer.
The final method is to HAND CRAFT a jewelry item from individual pieces of gold bars, plates, or rings. This jewelry will be of the finest quality, but will also be the most expensive owing to its unique design and custom creation. Ask your jeweler how your gold item was manufactured.
For information and tips on Custom designed jewelry CLICK here.
Your next quality check will be to look at the gold item to make sure that it carries a hallmark of the manufacturer, as well as a content stamp that will be marked 14kt or 585, 18kt or 750, or comparable stamps based on the country of origin. These stamps let you know the gold content of the item. Fourteen karat means that the item has 14 parts of gold and 10 parts alloy. Eighteen karat means 18 parts of gold and 6 parts alloy. And in spite of an old story that many jewelers in the United States tell their customers, 18 karat gold wears longer and is more durable than most 14 karat gold.
One other IMPORTANT note about gold content stamps. Anyone can take a buffer and buff off a 10kt gold stamp and re-stamp the item with a 14kt stamp. And yes, this is done not just in the islands but also in the United States. All CGI Certified Jewelers have been tested for proper gold contents so we urge you to stay with these jewelers, particularly when shopping for gold.
Now, look at the gold workmanship. This is where a gold chain weighing 20 dwt. (penny-weights) can be priced at up to 20 percent higher than another chain of the same weight. Some chains are hand made and will reflect a higher price, while others are machine made and will be sold at the lower price of the lower quality production. They are both nice jewelry items, but if you want the quality, you will have to pay for it.
YOU CANNOT GET THE HAND MADE CHAIN FOR THE MACHINE MADE PRICE.
Beyond that, check for porosity holes in the gold. This will be areas where too much air was allowed into the gold casting process. Too much porosity in the gold can weaken the gold and has been known to allow a ring to break in half due to the weakness caused by the excess porosity.
Finally, check for a smooth even polish on the gold item. Rough, unpolished areas show an item that was made quickly and did not receive a proper finish. Smooth, even surfaces, however, usually means that the item was carefully made and will generally be of better quality. Hold the jewelry in your hand and close your eyes. Run the item across your hand, if it feels nice and smooth, no rough edges and “feels right”.
One last word about gold shopping. The world gold price is set in every country of the world at approximately the same level. No one, and I mean no one, can buy gold at 60 percent off the world gold price. And no one has to liquidate a gold inventory because all they would have to do is to sell it for scrap. Gold is money. So if anyone makes claims to you to be selling gold at 60 percent off, you can be pretty sure that either they are selling it at cost as a loss leader item to get you into their store. Or else they have marked the item up by 600 percent to make it look like you are getting a discount. Those little red flags in your head should be waving like wild.
Your best way to tell is to compare actual selling prices among jewelers. If a discount jeweler’s selling price is the same as a reputable jeweler’s regular price, you will know who is being truthful, and who is trying to mislead you.
Ask questions, inspect, use your common sense.