“Am I getting ripped off? Am I getting a good deal? Am I overpaying?” These are the questions many people ask themselves when they purchase jewelry, and they are completely valid things to wonder. In most cases, jewelry is not exactly an inexpensive investment. So I’m here to help. The answer is… yes and no.

Helpful, I know. Let me break it down for you as I’ve come to learn it.

Why You’re NOT Getting Ripped Off

Both clothing and jewelry retailers mark merchandise up about the same.

Jewelry is just like any other business industry: it needs to make a profit to survive. However, jewelry is a product that does seem to come under more scrutiny than other purchasable items. This is most likely because gems and precious metals are rare commodities…and pricey, to boot. People don’t think of a car or clothing—or even the materials they’re made of—in the same way, though. A customer in a clothing store does not look at a shirt they’d like to buy and think “Hmm… Is that cotton going to hold its value if I want to sell it in a year?”

But the truth is, a jeweler and a clothing retailer are marking up their merchandise about the same percentage: two to three times (on average) the wholesale cost. Every business has to make money, whether that business is Citgo, Macy’s, Panera, Tiffany’s, or your local jeweler. Without profit, no business can keep its doors open. The customer will always pay more than the retailer did for the products they sell. Period. It’s not a rip-off in that regard; it’s just the way of the business world.

It’s also important to remember that, just like a car, your jewelry will likely never be worth more than it is on the day you buy it. There are exceptions, of course, like a large-carat diamond, rare gemstone, collectable designer pieces (Cartier, Van Cleef and Arpels), or a gold piece when the price of gold simply increases enough to make up for the retail mark up. But all those investments take time to appreciate. So, generally speaking, buying jewelry is much like buying a car. You drive it off the lot, the value goes down. And just like in any commodity-based industry, when you purchase jewelry, not only do you pay for the jewelry itself, the material its made from, and the labor it took to create it but you’re also paying for the brick-and-mortar business to have electricity, insurance, and employees, among other expenses. (Yes, even online companies have physical locations.)

David Yurman’s iconic cable bracelet.

Plus, many jewelers are brand names, and you do pay more for that, just as you would a designer handbag. Let’s take David Yurman, for example. His jewelry has been wildly popular over the last decade or so. However, a silver bracelet from David Yurman will cost two to three (or more) times the price of a similar bracelet from a no-name brand. It doesn’t mean the no-name is bad, it’s just the nature of designer brands. You pay more for them, whether it’s for a purse, shoes, or jewelry.

Why You COULD BE Getting Ripped Off

As with anything, there are definitely times when people pay too much for jewelry. Retailers can be dishonest and deceptive, or just flat-out charge more than the guy next door for no other reason than that they can. I know people who have been swindled into paying more than they should have for a piece or have been mislead to believe they were buying something they’re not. Its very unfair, but it’s an unfortunate reality.

A large percentage of the time, if a customer is overpaying for something there are two factors at work:

1. The individual, sales associate, or retailer is intentionally—and successfully—misleading and/or rip off the customer. Whether it’s by selling a moissanite as a diamond, overcharging, or flat-out stealing it does unfortunately happen.

2. The customer hasn’t done his or her homework. While you can’t always tell who is going to try to rip you off, you don’t want to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on anything without doing a little research. You’d be surprised how often people don’t do this. Oftentimes, you can find out quickly if a particular jeweler is known to overcharge and find reviews by previous customers. If someone has been ripped off, he or she is likely to tell the world. Doing research on what you actually want to buy is also important. Know your stuff before you go shopping so you can spot anyone who might be trying to take advantage of you.

The best way to protect yourself from both factors is by educating yourself before making a purchase, especially if you’re gearing up for a big purchase.

1. Go to a reputable jeweler. No matter what your price range, you can find a jeweler to suit your needs. There are good and bad jewelers at every price point, so know who is who.

2. Know what you are buying. If you’re in the market for a new watch, understand what the differences are between the types of watches before purchasing. Or if you’re shopping for a cocktail ring with a blue gemstone, for example, know that blue topaz costs less per carat than a blue sapphire. Diamonds? Know the 4C’s, etc!

Lower quality rubies before glass-filling treatment.

3. Know what you are paying for. Are you paying more for quality craftsmanship? For higher-quality diamonds or gems? A brand name? Or are you being swindled into overpaying? Are you paying less because the jewelry was poorly made or the gems are treated (for example, glass-filled rubies)? Are the diamonds of lesser quality? A non-brand name? Or did you just find a good deal? These are good things to ask and to know.

4. Price shop. Do a little research, price things out, call or shop around and check online. You can also compare

The same rubies after glass-filling appear to be much better quality than they actually are.

brands and visit different stores. This helps put pricing into perspective, especially between stores that sell similar quality products.

5. Ask for help from experienced, knowledgeable sales associates. A good sales associate can steer you in the right direction. Plus, even if you end up buying elsewhere, at least you got the information you needed!

6. Set a budget and stick to it. This way, you’ll be able to see more clearly what’s available in your price range. And even if you don’t get the deal of the century, at least you won’t be overspending and there’s no worry about being coerced into spending more. Because you will stick to your budget…right!?

So, there you have it! I hope you found this helpful, and if you have any specific questions, please feel free to email me!

Jess the Jeweler

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