Purchasing handmade jewelry can be an expensive, and often intimidating, affair. Most people have little knowledge of the industry and its products, and this unfortunately makes them ripe for the taking by disreputable jewelry dealers. Here are a few tips to find a jewelry dealer in whom you can trust.
Find out how long a particular dealer has been in business, and check with the Better Business Bureau to find out if there are any complaints against them. Just because a specific retailer is new doesn't mean you shouldn't consider patronizing them. New dealers should be given extra scrutiny, however, since they don't have a track record to refer to.
Ask what gemological credentials the jeweler has. Also find out if there is a gemologist on staff at the jeweler's location, and if the store has its own laboratory. Determine if the store offers any special services such as custom design, unusual gemstones or photography. Some dealers even offer educational programs for their customers.
You must learn what the return policy is for the store you are considering. If you make a return, will you get a full refund, or store credit? How many days do you have to make a return? What are the terms to make a return? Also, what is the retailer's repair or replacement policy?
Don't be afraid to ask to take a piece of jewelry "on approval." This is analogous to an extended "test-drive." Chances are the jeweler will not agree to this, but it can't hurt to ask. If you don't ask, you won't know.
Very importantly, find out to what extent the firm will guarantee its merchandise to be as represented. Be sure all details regarding a piece of jewelry, as certified by a licensed gemologist, are included on the bill of sale. Failure to see to this point could lead to disappointment.
Finally, what is the atmosphere of the store? Are displays orderly and tasteful, or are they a jumble of marked-down items designed to lure you, the potential customer. How does the staff present themselves? Are salespeople informative, helpful and unassuming? Or are they pushy and manipulative?
If after performing thorough due diligence you feel uncomfortable with a jeweler, then move on to another. Following these tips will help a lot, but there is also much to be said for instinct. If a deal doesn't feel right, don't do it.