The retail industry, across verticals, is undergoing a dramatic shift:
e-commerce is capturing a larger share of sales than ever before. The e-commerce revolution has transformed the way we all shop.
Developers and designers have come a long way in replacing the “human element” of the in-store shopping experience such that consumers are not limiting their online purchases to “budget” items and are increasingly moving to the purchase of “luxury” goods online.
The Jewelry industry has not been immune to this trend and has in fact taken to the e-commerce revolution more rapidly than most experts would have expected. Gone are the days when jewelry was bought only in stores. Now you can buy jewelry online, on mobile devices and on the TV as well. From reputable jewelers to designers and lesser-known brands, almost everyone has a website or is connected to an online retail portal.
Even though buying online has it’s advantages, if not done right can lead to customer dissatisfaction. There of course is a risk with every purchase, especially one made online, but there are some guidelines that one can follow to ensure that one is happy with the purchase.
Listed below are some of the basic guidelines I feel are important when buying jewelry online. These are not industry practices, just my points of view on the subject matter.
1. Not everything should be bought online
I personally do not encourage buying very expensive jewelry online since it’s important to be a 100% sure when you are spending a large amount of money. I also do not encourage people to buy diamond solitaires online, as most people are not familiar with the process of buying a diamond. Even with the knowledge of the 4 C’s (cut, clarity, color, carat), the stones should be viewed in natural and yellow light. When bought in person, you can see how a stone looks in a white setting or a gold setting (both of which play a part in the over all look of the diamond).
2. Know your product
Are you buying costume jewelry? Silver? Gold? Brass?
Costume jewelry is usually inexpensive and works well if you are looking for something to make a statement for a short time. Costume jewelry in most cases has a short life.
– Silver is classified as a “precious metal”. When buying silver, please take note if the product description says “sterling silver”
or simply “silver”. Sterling silver is 92.5% silver mixed with other metals, which is the highest content of silver found in jewelry. 99.9% silver is not used as it is too soft a metal. Anything less than 92.5 is not sterling silver and will tarnish faster since it has a higher content of other metals.
– Silver gold plated or vermeil or gold dipped is silver with a plating of gold on it. This gives the color and look of gold but does not cost as much. Buyers should be aware that all kinds of plating whether gold on silver or silver and gold on brass is not permanent. Depending on how you store the jewelry the plating can last a couple of years or a few months.
– Brass jewelry has gained massive popularity especially since gold and silver prices skyrocketed. Despite not being a precious metal, brass jewelry is not necessarily cheaper than silver jewelry. It is very often also plated with silver and gold.
– Gold is a precious metal that retains its value and look. When buying gold jewelry take note of the karat and weight, as that will determine the price and durability of the piece. 24k gold is extremely soft and is usually mixed with other metals to make it durable. 22k, 18k and 14k gold jewelry is more stable. Diamonds and gemstones are best set in 18k gold as gold at 18k is very strong and durable. Gold jewelry is also sold by weight. When buying items like rings go for a higher weight as it better withstands daily wear and tear.
3. Gemstone jewelry
The world of precious and semi precious gemstones is vast and quite confusing. Gemstones that in the “precious” category are Diamond, Emerald, Ruby and Sapphire. The Semi precious category is extremely vast but some of the popular stones are Tourmaline, Aquamarine, Topaz, quartz, Citrine, Amethyst, Peridot, Agate and chalcedony. Gemstone prices differ a lot depending on the quality of the stones and the size. A high-grade tourmaline or aquamarine will cost you more than an average ruby. Most gemstones in the world are now treated for stability and looks. Rubies and emeralds are dyed and filled to better improve their color. Chalcedony is dyed in various colors as a natural industry practice. An untreated gemstone (not common and sold in very high end stores) will be a lot more expensive than the treated stones. When buying online, look for declarations of treatment stated by the designer or jeweler.
There is also a large industry for man made gems, stones manufactured in a laboratory. Many reputable sites will declare this information. If the stone is listed as Hydro, simulated, lab-made, synthetic and imitation, it is not a natural stone (stones formed in the earth naturally). These stones are still beautiful and widely accepted, but you should be aware of the fact that you are purchasing a man made gem.
Make sure the site that you are buying jewelry from has a safe and well reputed online payment system.
When the item is shipped out, you should request a copy of the waybill so that you can trace your package.
Most reputed jewelers and designers will have a return policy where if you receive the good in a damaged state, your money will be refunded.
Read up on customer feedback of the particular store. It’s always good to know what other people’s experience has been like.
Most jewelry websites hire professional photographers to photograph their jewelry for the website. Pictures are also edited to improve the cosmetic look of the piece and to make it more attractive online, since the customer cannot physically see and touch the piece. Do not expect the same shine or brightness, or sheen as in the picture. Be aware that the look of the product has been elevated for the purpose of displaying it online. This by no means is done to mislead the customer. It is a very common practice for all products sold online and in advertising, not just jewelry.
Concluding part 1 of this series, I would like to say that the online market for jewelry has opened doors for tons of new consumers. From people who are intimidated by big brand names and wouldn’t necessarily go to the store to buy any jewelry, to many who love the efficiency and the ease of access to thousands of jewelry designs at their finger tips. There is quite a thrill in shopping online and of course in opening that very special package that comes in the mail. Don’t take online shopping for granted, do your research, read the fine lines and click away!
Shikha Sawhney Lamba
Jewelry Designer and Gemologist (G.I.A.)
Originally from New Delhi, Shikha currently lives in Hong Kong where she runs her own jewelry business.
Her silver jewelry can be purchased online from her website -www.shikhaslamba.com
She also retails from “Sanskrit” (No.1 Lyndhurst Terrace, H.K.)
She consults by appointment only and can be reached at – firstname.lastname@example.org