Shopping for Jewelry

Shopping for Jewelry

When shopping for gemstone set jewelry you should keep in mind that quality of workmanship can affect price almost as much as the quality of gemstones.  As you consider a piece of gemstone set jewelry, listen to your own common sense.  You are not going to get a finely crafted gold bracelet set with one carat of diamonds as a tennis bracelet for $199.00.  A red flag should be going off in your mind.   The simple fact is, you get what you pay for.

What every mother should do is set her daughter down and teach her that there are two types of  jewelry in the world.

  1. Mass produced cast jewelry with lab created gemstones, usually produced by the thousands by unskilled workers.
  2. Fine jewelry which is hand-crafted, custom designed by an artist who chooses quality gems.  Creating a piece of one of a kind art, usually one piece at a time, spending hours to get it just right .  Beauty that lasts a lifetime.

The difference in the two extremes listed above can affect the price of a jewelry item by as much as 30 percent. For while the tennis bracelet will have been made by a high volume casting process able to turn out hundreds per hour, the hand crafted jewelry item will be made by a goldsmith who takes a great deal of time and effort to make sure that the work on this one item is done to the highest degree of quality.

How to buy Fine Jewelry…………..

When considering a jewelry item take time to inspect the pieces from every angle. While quickly made, mass produced castings will be polished on the outside, handmade customer designs will usually be finely finished throughout the piece top to bottom.

If this is a Gold item make sure that it carries the hallmark of the manufacturer, as well as the gold content stamp that will be marked with 14kt or 585, 18kt or 750 or comparable stamps depending on the country of origin.   All CGI Jewelers are required to have these clearly marked on all pieces of gold jewelry in order to be a member of the association.

Proper representation of all merchandise and adherence to rules and regulations of the FTC is a strict standard followed by all CGI Jewelers.   Look for the CGI stickers on the doors of the jewelry stores you visit.  Ask if they are current CGI members and shop with confidence.

Next, look at all the gemstones carefully. Make sure that all of the stones are matched for size, color, shape, and that they are uniformly set. Make sure that no stones stand out as mismatched.  Never buy jewelry with loose stones.

If you are considering a bracelet or necklace, gently pull on the clasp to make sure that it holds properly. Also, make sure that the clasp is large enough to withstand the weight of the pendant or bracelet, yet not so large that it takes away from the beauty of the piece.  Try the necklace on to see if the length is right for you.

If you are considering a set of earrings, check to see that both stones are properly matched for size and color.  Some gemstones, like salmon topaz, emerald, or ruby, can be difficult to match perfectly. And since you will be wearing them on either side of your head it will not be quite so important to have absolutely perfect matches. Gemstones such as amethyst, blue topaz, citrine, and tourmaline, however, should be very well matched.

If you are looking for  a ring, try it on.  Sounds simple, however you would be surprised how many people do not even try rings on while choosing.  Does the ring go on your finger, over the knuckle, well.  If you shake your hand, does the ring fling against the wall?   Move your hand with the ring on in common gestures to test the comfort.  Hold a pen and write, shake your friends hand, put on your sweater.  Is it comfortable, will the ring fit into your life well?  An uncomfortable ring will only end up in your jewelry box, instead of your hand.

Jewelry is a very personal item.  It adorns your body, and sometimes pierces your body, so before you spend your money try it on!

Ask questions, what is the difference in the value of the stones by color, why is this stone more expensive than that stone, does this piece of jewelry come with a quality report, is it a designer piece.    Your jeweler is there to help, they understand this is a big decision for you and you deserve to have questions answered.


How to Stretch Your Budget

One of the finer points about Caribbean jewelry shopping is that island jewelers have very fine merchandise to fit every budget. Whether you have $25,000.00 or $250.00, the islands will have something just for you.

A good example of this is for anyone looking for a nice colored gemstone set ring with some side diamonds, but who needs to work within a careful budget. For this shopper you should consider a ring with a center stone of amethyst, tourmaline, citrine, or blue topaz, surrounded by a nice array of small diamonds. This will make a very impressive looking jewelry item that can be purchased in the $300 to $3,000 price range.

The point is that by choosing a jewelry item that has a center stone of the lesser priced gemstones that is surrounded by small diamonds, the result is a larger, more impressive jewelry item than you could afford with just diamonds, for example.

If your heart is set on Diamonds and your budget is limited you may wish to consider a diamond a little farther down on the color scale.  Diamonds in the D, E, or F color range will be expensive, they are colorless and in high demand.

I have seen some stunning jewelry made with diamonds of color range in the L, M , or lower range.  These have a slight yellow color to them, which diamond purist’s don’t like.   Their price is lower.   However if you take this diamond and put it in a gold setting, and it has a cut that you like it is a warm, rich look about it.   In silver it just won’t look right and you’ll be disappointed.

When shopping in the stores ask to see some diamonds in the L and M range.    Don’t confuse a slight yellow hue with the fancy color diamonds.  Fancy colored diamonds have bright colors, intense yellow, pinks, orange,  blues, lavender, and even Red .   These are in high demand this year and may be highly priced.   Its what makes shopping for jewelry FUN ! !

Another important point will be that any item with a lot of detailed gold work will increase in cost rather quickly. So if you are looking to stretch your budget think big colored gemstones, small diamonds, and a minimum of gold work in the item.


For Those Who Appreciate the Finer Things

Of course, if your budget is in the $25,000 range this is also the right time to look for an important item of fine jewelry. The Caribbean jewelers offer some of the finest emeralds direct from the mines of Colombia.   A couple of CGI member stores actually own the mines.    Emeralds of the size and quality  offered by the islands jewelers are very rare and very hard to find in other areas of the world, so this is the right time to seek out that special gift.

Or you might want to consider a fine Paraiba Tourmaline. These gemstones are of an extremely rare variety of tourmaline. And yet they are available in many Caribbean jewelry stores.

Alexandrites are among the rarest stones in the world and among the most unusual.   Amsterdam Sauer in St Thomas has possibly the largest collection of Alexandrites on the planet.   They own several mines.  As of October 18, 2000 they have on public display the largest uncut alexandrite in existence.  It weighs in at 122,400 carats (55 lbs) and is priceless.

In one of the member stores in St Thomas there was a wonderful chess set.  Now what made this chess set unique was that it was one foot square, complete with all of its chess men.  Now you may ask what’s so unique about that?   What made this chess set a one of a kind was that it was totally covered in black and white diamonds, the game surface, the sides, and all the kings horses and all the kings men.  The sparkle was blinding.  It was priced at $250,000.   Our gemologist went in a few days later to photograph it for the website and inspect it.  It was sold!   But take heart, the store has on order another fabulous gem piece to dazzle their customers.  St. Thomas and St. Maartin are known the world over for the “wow factor” jewelry and gems.

Conch pearls in a variety of colors and emeralds from the famous Spanish treasure ship, the Atocha, can be found in Key West. To see the locations of these stores, go to the CGI members page .

The list can go on and on. The fact is that the Caribbean islands offer the world’s finest jewelry and gemstone shopping and can meet any budget or any taste.

No wonder that the Caribbean Islands are known as  “Americas Jewelry Box.”