Trusting Your Jeweler
Your relationship with your jeweler should be a long-lasting one. When seeking a jeweler, you should look for an established store that has a proven history of expertise, skill, fairness, and integrity. Word of mouth is often considerably more accurate than any advertising you may come across. Asking your family and friends to recommend a jeweler is a great place to start.
When visiting your prospective jeweler, you should have an open and frank discussion about your needs and expectations. The answers to your questions should be offered with confidence and sincerity. However, no jeweler knows everything about the industry, and “I don’t know, but I can find out and let you know” is a perfectly acceptable answer when it is appropriate.
The manner in which you are treated on your first visit to a jeweler will tell you much about the value you can count on (or not) in the course of your relationship. Are you greeted with enthusiasm? Is the jeweler interested in who you are and what your tastes and needs are, or simply interested in making a sale and moving on to the next customer? Are you treated the same way when you enter the store in jeans and a T-shirt as when you are dressed in business attire? When you have a problem is it handled cheerfully and with respect? These are some of the elements of value that are remembered far beyond the dollars spent for merchandise and service. Be sensitive to the overall impression that is made upon you when you “interview” your prospective jeweler. If you have doubts, do not ignore them. When building a relationship with a prospective jeweler, we recommend that you:
- Select a full service jeweler, who offers a variety of services and is expert in a wide range of merchandise. One who not just sells jewelry, but provides the repair, restoration and other services that jewelry lovers so often require.
- Shop for value rather than price. Value comes in many forms. Ongoing service and the willingness to back up one’s products is a key to value. Ask yourself if you would rather pay $1,000.00 for an item that has the backing and follow-up support of the jeweler, or pay $800.00 for the same item, only to be told later that it is “out of warranty” or that the jeweler’s responsibility has expired.
- Start small. Begin with a small repair or purchase, and build your confidence slowly and over time as you would in any other relationship.
Repair, Restoration and Care
Many gems, and particularly diamonds, attract dust, soap film, and even oil from your skin. Some of these substances are easily removed with a soft brush and a mild solution of soapy water or diluted ammonia. However, cleaning must be done with caution. Many gem materials, particularly organics such as amber, ivory, coral, and pearls, can be damaged by ammonia. Ask your jeweler about methods you can safely use to clean jewelry yourself, and at the same time discuss having your jewelry professionally polished and cleaned periodically. Ultimately, your jeweler’s training and experience provide for the safest and most effective cleaning of your jewelry.
Regular examination of the prongs on your ring will not prevent wear, but it will prevent the unpleasantness of losing your diamond. When your ring is new, having the prongs checked every six months is probably sufficient. However, if you know that you are not gentle with your jewelry, either because you work with your hands or perhaps because you never remove the ring for any reason, greater frequency might be advisable. By noting that a prong is bent or wearing thin, your jeweler can help you prevent a loss by performing restorative procedures on your ring.
With repeated wear the thread that secures beads and pearls, knotted or strung without knots, stretches and loses its strength. If your necklace or bracelet is strung with knots, watch for fraying of the knots and increasing spaces between beads or pearls. Every wearer treats his or her beads differently, so there is no predictable time frame during which the piece will have to be restrung. If you watch for the signs described above or simply have your jeweler check your necklace or bracelet regularly, you can avoid the unpleasant surprise of having your pearls break at an inopportune time.
The basic procedure for ring sizing involves the cutting of the bottom of the shank with a fine saw blade, followed by the adding or removing of matching metal to enlarge or decrease the size of the ring. After being enlarged or reduced, the shank is fused back together using the appropriate solder (i.e., gold, silver, platinum). Precious metal solders are formulated to melt at a temperature slightly lower than that, which the article of jewelry will melt, so that the solder can effectively fuse without the danger of melting the shank. For the purposes of this discussion we will refer to gold only.
Enlarging a ring size involves the spreading of the shank to accommodate a piece of gold that is the fused permanently by applying the heat from a torch to fuse the solder with the ring shank and added gold.
Reducing the ring involves cutting away the appropriate amount of gold, then bending the shank inward to create enough tension to hold a piece of gold solder.
After soldering has been successfully completed, the excess solder has to be filed away, and the remaining gold sanded and polished. Occasionally a ring’s design (such as an extended area of channel set diamonds) may create difficulty in the sizing process because opening or closing the shank might disturb gemstone settings, enamel, or the integrity of the ring’s structure. In such a case, your jeweler should advise you of the danger so you can make an informed choice as to whether or not to proceed with the sizing.
Often you will find new rings on display in a jeweler’s showcase that cannot be sized at all due to their design intricacies or stone setting style. When that is the case, the ring can be obtained in the customer’s precise size by having it manufactured to the specific size, on a special order basis.
In some cases it may actually be safer to stretch or shrink a ring rather than cutting and soldering to change its size. Tools are available that will allow the jeweler to enlarge the ring size by tapping with a special hammer or literally stretching the metal on a special cylinder designed for the process. In most cases this process thins the metal so minutely that the difference in thickness is hardly noticeable, and its strength is not decreased. Some rings such as plain wedding bands can be shrunk by using special equipment to compress the metal. Generally, stretching or shrinking rings are processes reserved for small changes in size.
What do I do when I can no longer wear my ring, because it can’t pass over my knuckle?
There are many reasons why a ring might not pass over your knuckle as easily as it used to. Stress, medications, pregnancy, hormonal changes, arthritis, weight loss or gain, injury, etc. can all affect the size of your finger and the way your ring fits. Whatever the cause, a ring that has to be pushed over a reluctant knuckle or a ring that twists and turns does not fit correctly.
We often recommend solving the problem with Superfit CliQ. Superfit CliQ is a patented solution featuring an invisible hinged design that allows your ring to open and close easily. Superfit CliQ can be used for new rings, heirloom rings, and rings of every width. It can be sized up or down like any other ring and comes with a 5 year guarantee. Ask your jeweler to access what the best solution will be for your particular ring.
In the hands of an expert, most costume jewelry is repairable, often nearly or completely to its original condition. Lost rhinestones can be replaced. Safety catches, pins, and other hardware are replaceable as well. The jeweler who is properly trained in the delicate processes required for proper costume jewelry repair and restoration can work magic on that special piece that might have sentimental value far in excess of its monetary worth.
Selling Jewelry or Gold
Gold buyer advertising is everywhere, but not all gold buyers are the same. Making sure that the gold buyer has a physical address (and not only a P.O. box) is the first step in determining who you wish to sell your gold to. Always verify the physical address through some other way other than their website (i.e. Superpages or the phone book). You do not want to send your gold off to someone without a verifiable physical address, as they may be difficult to get in touch with if problems should arise. Selling your gold in person to a jeweler you know and trust helps eliminate much of the potential worry that can arise when dealing with an internet business and people whom you do not know.
It is also worth considering what else the business does. At Hartley Jewelers, we have built a reputation for our talent in custom jewelry, repair and restoration. This means you have the option of trading in your gold or unwanted jewelry, for something updated, redesigned, or totally new.
Make an appointment NOW for your free assessment and no-obligation offer:
There are 3 variables that will affect the amount of money you will get for your gold:
- Gold purity (karat)
- Weight (grams)
- Daily spot gold price on stock market, live price for pure gold today:
The first two, purity and weight, will never change once your gold jewelry or items are measured and assessed. But the daily gold spot price will. As gold is sold daily on stock markets around the world, the price of gold will vary every day. You can see today’s value of gold in the chart above. It is important to understand that this is the price for pure gold. Pure gold is 24 karat gold, and can be thought of as 100% gold. But, you rarely see a “24k” stamp on a ring. Usually, you see “14k” on a piece of jewelry. This simply means that the ring is 14 parts pure gold, and 10 parts other metals. The math is simple, 14/24 = 58.3% pure gold. So, when you weigh your 14k ring, you have to understand that only 58.3% of that weight is pure gold. Jewelers and gold buyers use two different calculations, pennyweights (DWT) and grams (G) The value of your gold will be exactly the same regardless of what weighing method is used. One Troy ounce = 20 pennyweight (DWT). Or, as is currently popular, in metric in which 31.1 grams = one metric ounce. The conversion is 1.55 grams = 1 dwt (Troy ounce).
Every gold buyer will calculate the maximum value they can get for the gold based on grams and gold purity. Based on that maximum value they will discount what the gold is worth so they can take some profit, just like any business.
Any gold buyer will pay for the “melt value” of your jewelry – that is, the value of the gold itself once it has been melted down and sent to the refinery. Craftsmanship is not a consideration when assessing value of your gold.
Jewelry appraisers will appraise your jewelry based on “retail replacement value” – in other words, what will it cost to replace your jewelry if it is lost or stolen. Therefore, these appraisals do not consider the value of the gold itself and have nothing to do with payment you should expect when selling your gold.
Unfortunately, stamps in jewelry are not always reliable. Although most countries require manufacturers to stamp the gold content of their jewelry, very few countries (including the US) enforce these laws or require an independent third party to evaluate the item. While the stamp on your jewelry is most likely correct, it does happen that jewelry is fraudulently stamped.
Upon receiving your gold, a gold buyer will first look for a stamp on the jewelry made by the manufacturer indicating the karat. Three testing methods may be used to verify the gold purity of your items (acid/scratch test, electronic tester, and X-ray fluorescence scan).
Some of my old gold jewelry has diamonds, or semi-precious stones, in the settings. What happens to those when I sell my gold?
If you sell your gold to a jeweler with goldsmiths in house, diamonds and other stones can be removed and returned to you. There may be a charge to you for this service. Alternately, if the stones are tiny, scratched, or chipped, they may not be worth the cost of removing. It is important to note that not all jewelers make clear the option of getting your stones back. You should have this discussion with the jeweler if you are concerned about keeping your stones.
Appraisals and Gemology
Jewelry might require appraisal for a variety of reasons. The most common is for insurance. Insurance companies require formal appraisal reports for jewelry in order to “schedule” it, that is, add a rider to the policy that specifically covers the jewelry on an “all risk” basis. If your jewelry is not scheduled in this manner, it is likely that it is covered only against fire and theft (not breakage, mysterious loss or disappearance, or other perils) and is probably covered at a very low level under your homeowners’ policy. This level may be as low as $1,000, and might carry a deductible of $250 or $500 for which you are responsible.
Jewelry is also frequently appraised in order to determine estate tax liability as mandated by the Internal Revenue Service. Executors and attorneys frequently require such appraisals. Appraisals might also be required for the following functions:
- Charitable contribution
- Collateral loan
- Marital dissolution
- Conservatorship or guardianship
- Consumer resale
- Equitable distribution
- U.S. Customs issues
- Various legal matters
While this question begs several others and requires an elaborate answer in order to cover the subject thoroughly, there are certain basic signs to look for when qualifying an appraisal as “proper.”
First and foremost, you would never want to get an appraisal that values the cost of the appraisal on the “appraised value”.
Secondly, there is no such thing as a generic appraisal that serves all possible functions. It is common for a consumer to tell the appraiser, “I just want to know how much this is worth,” or, “It’s just for my own knowledge.” The professional appraiser will insist upon knowing specifically how the appraisal will be used. Does the client wish to insure the item? Is it being offered for sale? Are family members squabbling over an estate item? Is it being considered for purchase? Are there other possible uses for the appraisal?
The appraisal must state specifically what kind of value is reported (i.e., retail replacement value, fair market value, some form of liquidation value), and an assigned use (i.e., to secure insurance, to determine estate tax liability, to inform the seller as to selling price expectations). This helps to ensure that the appraisal is not misused, and that any third party that might rely on it knows why it was prepared.
Photographs are essential, particularly in an insurance situation where the appraisal report may very well serve as the sole evidence to be employed in the settlement of a loss claim.
The methodology used to determine value will vary depending upon the kind of value being sought (i.e., retail replacement value, fair market value, etc.) and the assigned use of the appraisal. Of critical importance is the fact that appraisers do not create value. Rather, the appraiser reports value, based upon reality in the marketplace.
Retail replacement value for insurance should be based upon typical or “modal” selling prices in the marketplace or at the market level appropriate to the specific item.
Fair market value, on the other hand, is a legal concept with its definition sometimes varying from one jurisdiction to another. The Internal Revenue Service has carefully defined fair market values for use in appraisals for Charitable Contributions, Estates, and other tax related functions. Some states defer to federal guidelines for fair market value, while others have adopted their own, albeit similar, definitions.
Accurate appraisals are dependent upon research conducted by the appraiser with regard to value. This does not mean necessarily that the appraiser must specifically research each item being appraised. This would create prohibitive fees because of the time involved. Research can be generally divided into two categories: Ongoing, and Specific.
Most of the items commonly submitted for appraisal, such as diamond engagement rings, tennis bracelets, stud earrings, and other conventional, “staple” items, can be dealt with through the appraiser’s ongoing research. By participating in the jewelry industry and appraisal profession, attending trade shows, subscribing to trade publications and price guides, talking with manufacturers and jewelers, and “shopping” in jewelry stores, appraisers can keep track of many kinds of jewelry, and typical selling prices.
However, faced with an unusual item such as a fine Art Deco diamond bracelet or an 1860’s Cartier brooch, the appraiser is likely to have to conduct specific research relating to that particular item. This research can be time consuming, and clients should be prepared for the fees that are a part of this process. In some cases, the professional appraiser may have to pay an expert in a particular field, for access to that expert’s knowledge. These fees must of course be passed along to the client or built into the charges for the appraisal.
In our store, we have insurance for all items left with us. We can assure you we use the utmost care and respect for your precious jewelry and it is stored in our vault at night and on weekends.
It is also advisable that you inquire of your own insurance company as to whether or not your jewelry is covered while in the control of a jeweler who does not have any insurance or is not adequately insured. It is better to be informed and know where you stand with regard to insurance before you act, rather than finding out after the unlikely but unfortunate events of an uninsured loss.
As noted in previous discussions of appraisals, “value” has many meanings. If you are interested in the jewelry’s monetary value to you when you wish to sell it, you have a number of options. Perhaps most obvious is your ability to simply solicit offers from several jewelers who are interested in purchasing previously owned jewelry (also known as “estate” jewelry).
If you have the time and the inclination, you can “shop” for jewelry similar to your own. In doing so be sure not to occupy too much of a salesperson’s time without first mentioning that you are not a potential buyer, but rather trying to determine the worth of your own jewelry. Many sales associates in jewelry stores are paid in part by commission, and this makes their time valuable and critical to their ability to make a living.
If the jewelry’s potential value is great enough to justify the expense of doing so, it is important that you consider having a qualified appraiser render a multi-market consumer resale appraisal. The multi-market resale appraisal examines several selling options such as cash sale to a jeweler, consignment sale, auction, or sale to a private consumer.
Authenticity and Disclosure
First of all, the word “genuine” means different things to different people, and changes according to the situation. Generally gemstones are divided into three categories:
For example, a ruby that comes out of the ground and is faceted and polished in preparation for sale (or simply left in its rough form) is considered natural.
Laboratory grown (aka synthetic)
Rubies are also grown in laboratories, often employing methods that closely simulate the natural process that occurs when rubies form in the earth. Chemically, optically, and structurally, these laboratory-grown gems very closely resemble their natural counterpart.
Additionally, red glass or other materials that bear no gemological or chemical resemblance to ruby can be used to simulate ruby.
Thus the three categories: Natural, laboratory grown, and simulated. The three categories noted above also exist for sapphires, emeralds, diamonds (though laboratory grown diamonds have yet to break into the jewelry market in a meaningful way), and a variety of other gemstones. All of that said, the best way to determine whether or not your gemstone is “genuine,” (to determine whether it is natural, laboratory grown, or simulated) is to have a qualified gemologist examine it.
Most gems are readily identified with standard gemological testing. Those that prove more challenging can be submitted to highly sophisticated gemological laboratories for identification and in many cases, determination of the country of origin. Country of origin can be a significant value factor in certain categories, such as Burmese ruby, Kashmir sapphire, and Colombian emerald.
We are always happy to provide an opinion on individual stones based on visual inspection. However, visual inspection alone does not always provide an accurate identification. We are also able to provide (at a cost of $15.00 per stone) the results of a refractive index reading. This reading may allow us to identify the stone, but not in all cases. There are lab created stones which have the same refractive index as naturals. If we are unable to make a determination which we know to be accurate we may provide a referral to a reputable gemological laboratory for identification and evaluation. We are sometimes able to make a quick determination without charge to the customer, but multiple stones are evaluated based on an hourly basis with an estimate provided prior to providing service.
First of all, let’s distinguish between the three. Natural pearls are just as the words indicate. These pearls form naturally when an irritant such as a grain of sand enters the mollusk, which secretes “nacre” (pronounced nay-ker) to protect itself from the foreign matter. The nacre forms what is eventually a pearl.
Cultured pearls are formed in much the same way, but the irritant, or “nucleus,” is implanted in the mollusk by human beings, which then harvest the pearls at varying levels of maturity. The size of the pearl is determined by both the size of the nucleus and the time allowed for the nacre to grow thicker around that nucleus.
A simulated pearl is any material that is meant to look like a cultured or natural pearl. Such simulants usually consist of a plastic or glass bead coated with a pearl-like skin. The Federal Trade Commission Guidelines for the Jewelry Industry address disclosure and terminology issues with regard to pearls.
There are ways in which to examine pearls gemologically in order to determine their identity as natural, cultured, or simulated. However, a reasonably reliable test can be performed by the untrained consumer. If you have pearls in your possession, carefully run one or more across the edge of one of your front teeth. If the surface feels slightly grainy, like very fine sandpaper, you have confirmed that the pearl is cultured or natural. Any simulant will feel absolutely smooth as you run it across the edge of your tooth. If you are still in doubt, consult with a qualified jeweler or gemologist.
Differentiating between authentic antique (defined by U.S. Customs as 100 years or more in age) or period jewelry and modern reproductions is a skill that is developed only through extensive experience and research. There are various clues that indicate an item’s age, and with time the student of antique and period jewelry learns to recognize many of these signs. For example, a certain kind of mechanical safety catch replaced the simple wire “C catch” around 1896 in Europe, and a few years later here in the United States. If the observer can be sure after thorough examination that a safety catch is original to the piece, and it is mechanical, the age of the item can be estimated within a very few year period. Other characteristics such as the delicacy or heaviness of the piece, the quality of workmanship, the cutting style of diamonds or other gemstones and the manner in which they are set, and hallmarks and date letters, all provide clues as to an item’s age and perhaps country of origin as well.
Fracture filling, sometimes known as “clarity enhancement,” is a process whereby any surface-reaching fissure in a gemstone can be filled in order to enhance the gemstone’s beauty, durability, or both.
It is important to note that gemstones have been treated in a variety of ways for hundreds and in some cases, thousands of years. Emeralds were oiled to enhance their beauty as long ago as the days of Cleopatra, if not before! Enhancing techniques in and of themselves are not necessarily detrimental or unethical. Failure to disclose their presence, however, is another matter.
Oiling of emeralds has continued to this day. However, modern technology has allowed producers to go further in the enhancement of emeralds as well as many other gemstones. Various substances such as polymers (colorless or dyed) are now being applied to a variety of materials. Treatments in many cases benefit the consumer, as in the case of polymers that strengthen emeralds while enhancing their beauty. One such filling material, known as the Gematrat® treatment, is so stable that it allows treated emeralds to be ultrasonically cleaned. Oiled emeralds cannot be cleaned ultrasonically because the cleaning action damages or removes the oil and negatively affects the appearance of the emerald. Stable or not, polymer or oil, dyed or not dyed, any and all of these treatments must be disclosed to consumers by the seller.
Fracture-filling in diamonds is a process invented during the 1980’s, and involves the infusion under high heat and pressure of a compound that fills surface reaching fissures, thereby making them less visible. An experienced gemologist will detect the filler in the form of bright blue and/or orange flashes visible under magnification under proper lighting, viewed at a particular angle to the filled fissure. Various studies of the filler material seem to indicate that it may change color with age. Also, the filler will be melted or burned by the torch heat required to 3affect certain repairs such as prong re-tipping.
On the positive side, fracture filling dramatically improves the appearance of otherwise unattractive diamonds, and allows consumers with a limited budget to purchase a great deal more “look” than they might otherwise be able to afford.
Disclosure of compounds used to fracture-fill diamonds and other gemstones should include information about the care required to ensure the maximum life span of the filler material.
This is perhaps the most far reaching question among all of those posed here on our website. Disclosure issues are probably most pronounced with regard to gemstone enhancements-those processes applied to gemstones in order to enhance their appearance, durability, or both. Disclosure is also critical in the antique and period jewelry arena. If a Victorian brooch has been fitted with a modern safety catch, for example, its desirability to collectors and its value are diminished. Perhaps an antique cut diamond has been replaced with a modern diamond that does not match those others remaining in the piece. This also should be pointed out to a potential buyer.
Back to gemstones for a moment: It is important to know that the Federal Trade Commission’s Guidelines for the Jewelry Industry has established clearly stated rules for the jeweler, specifically regarding disclosure and the use of proper terminology. Some forms of disclosure may not be required by the FTC. One example is the diamond that has been drilled with a laser beam and treated to remove internal discoloration. The fact that the Guidelines do not require disclosure does not necessarily mean that the jeweler is not ethically and morally obligated to disclose the existence of the laser drill holes. Wouldn’t YOU want to know? The consumer can only make an informed buying decision if the consumer is informed! At the time of this writing the FTC is reconsidering the issue of laser drilling and its disclosure.
Other issues are not so clearly defined. For example, most blue sapphires are heat treated to enhance their color, clarity, or both. Because this form of enhancement is common and widely known and accepted in the jewelry industry, and also because the heat treatment is permanent and stable, it is often ignored during the sales presentation. This is not necessarily meant to deceive the buyer; it is often an honest oversight by the jeweler.
For a copy of the complete Guidelines for the Jewelry Industry contact the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C.
Custom jewelry comes in many levels and prices ranges from the most common jewelry assembled from standardized parts, to lost wax castings, to the high end hand-fabricated jewelry.
Creating a piece of high end custom jewelry may start with a series of hand-drawn design sketches. If your jeweler offers completely hand-crafted custom jewelry, he or she can design your piece. You may also have some ideas yourself that you wish to bring to life. Once you select and approve a design, your jeweler (or goldsmith) will transform the sketch into a wax prototype for your approval, and then will cast, set stones and polish your brand new piece of wearable art!
A new piece of jewelry can be made using your gemstones, or your jeweler can provide those for you using long standing relationships with some of the best stone cutters in the world. You can also take your old, rarely worn jewelry, and use it to create a new piece of jewelry that you will be proud to wear every day.
Custom jewelry gives you the opportunity to bring your own story, emotions and desires to life in jewelry designed just for you. Not only will your personal jewelry design be a unique representation of your ideas, it will also give you an heirloom quality creation of art that you will be proud to pass down through the generations of your family.
Before sitting down with your jeweler to talk about having a custom piece designed, it is helpful to have considered certain basic features of the desired piece. What color of gold do you prefer? What type and color of gemstones would you like to include in the design? Do you wish to incorporate any symbolism in your piece (i.e. figurative elements, birthstones, themes etc.)? Do you want anything engraved in your piece? Do you have precious stones with special sentimental value (i.e. from inherited jewelry) that you wish you use? Do you have any unwanted gold jewelry you wish to apply towards the purchase of your custom piece? Having clarified some of these questions in your mind will help you convey your wishes more precisely to the jewelry designer and in turn help him or her create the perfect design.
Yes, a custom piece can be reproduced. Should you ever have the misfortune of losing your custom piece, your jeweler should be able to reproduce it for you.
Can my custom piece be duplicated for others to wear? Most jewelers respect the fact that your custom piece was designed just for you, but whether or not your custom piece may actually be duplicated for other customers is solely a matter of business ethics. If you know and trust your jeweler, chances are he or she would never reproduce it other than with your permission or upon your request. However, you may want to have a conversation with your jeweler about this before ordering a custom piece, so your expectations are expressed and made known from the beginning.