We're going to help you become a smarter jewelry buyer right in time for Valentines Day or any other time of the year.
Today, we'll turn the BostonZest keyboard over to the experts at the North Bennet Street School, who offer the following tips to buy better, stretch your dollars, and make someone very happy.
We want to suggest that you try out your new expertise at the Gallery & Store at the school in the North End of Boston. You will be supporting local craftsmanship and a wonderful local resource.
Introducing the Expert
Rosemary Trainor, the lead instructor at North Bennet Street School’s jewelry-making and repair program in Boston, advises consumers to do their homework before hitting the stores. “Jewelry is too often an impulse purchase,” says Trainor. “A little research will help you avoid a decision that you may regret later.”
Trainor offers these additional tips to help smooth the way to a successful jewelry-buying experience:
- Buying from a big brand name will cost you more. You may be comforted by well-known brands like Cartier and Tiffany, but it will cost you anywhere from 30 to 80 percent more for a piece that you may find at a local jewelry store for a lot less.
- Pay attention to the craftsmanship. Make sure the piece is well made by examining the setting, the clasp(s), the overall finish, and other details. Stone-holding prongs should be identical in size and securely tightened, with the stone held firmly in place. Avoid bracelets or necklaces with clasps that are hard to operate, or seem flimsy. Think about whether the piece will be only for special occasions or worn every day, and choose something that will stand up to that use.
- Silver is the new gold. With gold prices at historically high levels, silver continues to be an affordable – and fashionable – alternative, and certainly worth considering. Sterling silver is the highest grade used in jewelry making; a piece marked with the word “sterling” or the numbers “925” is 92.5 percent pure. “Nickel” or “German” silver has no silver content at all.
- When shopping for diamonds, know the four C’s. Diamonds are valued according to their cut, color, clarity, and carat weight. Materials such as cubic zirconia resemble diamonds closely but are much less expensive. Certain laboratory-created gemstones also resemble diamonds. Take the time to learn the differences and comparison-shop before making a decision.
- Gemstones can take your jewelry-buying budget farther. Precious stones like rubies, emeralds, and sapphires can be an affordable option, provided you know your stuff. Natural gemstones are mined from the ground; synthetic stones are identical to naturals, but are grown in a lab. Imitation stones are assembled from less valuable materials – glass, plastic, or lower quality stones. If you go this route, ask for a written appraisal of the stone’s quality along with your sales receipt.
- Buy from a reputable source. Finding a trustworthy jeweler is perhaps the biggest key to having a good jewelry-buying experience. Ask family and friends for sources they trust. Ask similar questions of the salespeople you talk to during your comparison shopping. And be sure to inquire about the store’s workmanship guarantees, repair services, and store return policies.
- Consider a custom designed and made piece. Custom jewelry isn’t necessarily more expensive. Find a creative jeweler to design a piece that has special features unique to you and your loved one, and will be treasured for years to come.
We're gathering all our Valentine posts at the bottom of this one:
If you clicked over to the North Bennet Street School, it may have made you think that you'd like to learn a new skill or give someone you love the chance to explore the life-changing opportunities inside those walls.
Here are some books to inspire you to do just that, at any age!
Words: Rosemary Trainor with intro by Penny & Ed Cherubino
Photography: Courtesy of the North Bennet Street School
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