Saturday, September 25, 2010

5 Steps to Buying Jewelry - The Jewelry Buying Process

All jewelry shoppers follow a five step buying process. How this process plays out and over what period of time totally depends on the type of jewelry purchase that you are making. It is important for jewelry shoppers to understand this process in order to get the best deals and best jewelry designs. An inexperienced salesperson will have you believe that best deal and design is dependent on time and place (in other words luck). But the fact is that luck has very little to do with finding the best design that you want at the best price that you are willing to pay. Below is the short guide to the buying process that you always follow (knowingly or unknowingly) and if you understand this process better then it will help you get the best jewelry designs at best affordable prices.

You are in one of two categories of jewelry shopper - either (1) You are in the market to buy that next piece of jewelry that will make you look great.  OR (2) You already have a collection of jewelry designs that makes you look great.

Step 1 - Identify the jewelry you want
It is important to figure out what you type of jewelry do you need before you proceed to the next step of the buying process. How you look for the best designs and best deals is totally dependent on what type of jewelry are you looking for. If you need a pair of earrings then you should understand if you need those in gold or silver.  It is not easy to figure out what is the next jewelry piece that you want and this is the step where you will spend the most amount of time.

The better you understand what jewelry you need, the better you will be in having a satisfying buying experience. To better explain this process, I will use the following example- you decided that you need a cuff with bold ascent to go with a wonderful evening gown that you just bought.

Step 2 - Gathering information (Window shopping is your best friend)
This is the step which helps you refine your understanding of needs. For example, if you decided that you need a cuff with bold ascent then the next step is to gather information about the cuffs that are in style and the locations where they are available. This step will then allow you to further refine your need. Suppose you choose to buy a gold plated silver cuff then you will need to do online research to find the best deals on that gold plated silver cuff that you need.

Step 1 and Step 2 are iterative process. The more expensive the jewelry that you buy, the more iterative the process will be. In case of an impulse buy, you will not spend more than 5 minutes on these steps.

Step 3 - Narrow your choices and evaluate
Once you have gather all the various choices available to you regarding your gold plated silver cuff, you want to evaluate the various choices. This is the place where you consider other very important aspects of your purchase such as price, brand, quality and service.

If you have spent enough time in steps 1 & 2, you will most likely narrow your choices to your initial goals of getting the best design that makes you look good and finding the best deals. If for some reason you are not satisfied with the pricing of your choices, then you can go back to steps 1 & 2 which is akin to "continue looking".

If you walk into a jewelry store then an experiences salesperson will try to get you to narrow your choices and move directly to step 4. On the other hand, a good salesperson will focus on your needs and provide you as much information as possible.

Step 4 - Closing the deal
Deciding to buy and closing the deal is more of an event in the jewelry buying process than a step. Once  you have understood your needs, gathered all the info and evaluated all the choices, then closing the deal is a mere event. Most experienced salesperson know that and there they only focus on the first three steps.

Step 5 - Assess your jewelry
After you buy the jewelry that you so carefully selected, it is very important to continue to assess how it is looking and fitting you. This assessment will help you immensely when you set out to buy the next piece of that great polki earring.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Is buying Silver jewelry from Costco a good idea?

Costco is the best buy
For all things in general, Costco offers you a good deal- the perfect blend of value, quality and price i.e for the same quality of product and same design you will probably NOT find any other place offering more value than Costco.. It is no wonder that Warren Buffet said that Costco is the "best business" in America in 2009.
Please note that the emphasis is on "same quality and design". But lowest prices on a product does not mean  necessarily mean that it is the best value.

What is a GOOD DEAL?
When it comes to Silver Jewelry, you would naturally think that Costco would give you a good deal. But at this point, one should stop and think again, what is value in terms of jewelry? If you literally split the price tag on any jewelry product, you would be paying for material, craftsmanship, design and last but possibly the most important, the brand.

Those who sell through Costco obviously realize this fact, but do those who buy it from them? In the recent past, there have been just 3-4 brands that have sold Sterling Silver jewelry through Costco, including Lucky Clover Jewelry, Jewelry to your Doorstep, Telesto Designs Jewelry and Kazia Digo Jewelry.

Let us look at each one briefly:

Kazia Digo Jewelry:
These guys at sell mostly Sterling Silver jewelry with colored stones and crystals.: contemporary, easy to wear every day jewelry. The style in general is trendy yet delicate. But prices for those styles which are not exceptional in design or material, are rather on the higher side.
They offer discounts upto 35% to Costco members. But despite that discount, I still feel that their  products are on the steeper side. But if you compare it with the jewelry sold in a regular mall chain store, it may still be considered as 'value'.
Of course if you buy it from another online store or the streets of NYC, you could get better deals. But at this point, I would say that the last factor, brand is really what adds to the price tag.
So at the end of the day, brand is really the only thing what you pay for when you buy Costco Kazia Digo jewelry.

Lucky Clover Jewelry:

Jewelry at your Doorstep:
Costco has been hosting special designer Silver Jewelry events (or trunk shows) at their prime locations in the North East. The silver jewelry available for sale at these events is of mediocre quality and tasteless design. It is certainly not representative of the highest standards of design and quality that Costco customers expect. The prices of these silver jewelry products are probably comparable if not lower than any place else. Costco bargains hard with these companies who are willing to host special events (trunk shows) at Costco. This allows Costco customers to get the benefit of lower pricing on these silver jewelry products as compared to the parent websites.
  • Material: Most of these jewelry pieces were Sterling Silver with semi-precious stones
  • Price: The prices ranged from $50 to $300 dollars - comparable rates to some online and local jewelry stores if not more
  • Service: The quality of semi-precious stones on sterling silver was not clear. I do understand that it is not practical to provide in detail the quality of each and every stone on the silver piece but if this a special sales event then the least that is expected is complete information on what you buy
  • Design: The design is rarely impressive or 'exclusive'
  • Exclusivity: These designs were not as impressive or exclusive as you may expect from Costco
It is for these reasons I believe Costco has to improve a lot when it comes to offer great deals on Silver Jewelry.

Costco, despite being my favorite store, offering great products with great quality, still  needs to do much better when it comes to selling silver jewelry. I am eagerly awaiting for that day when Costco can offer a great value on their silver jewelry collection.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Blackening or Tarnishing of Silver

Sterling Silver tarnished over a period of time
Over a period of time, silver jewelry and articles tend to blacken. The reason is very simple: even though silver is fairly inert, it reacts with the sulfur present in the atmosphere to form silver sulfide which is dark in color. This corrosion causes temporary surface discoloration of silver which can be simply washed away with luke warm water and soap or detergent.

While washing your silver jewelry in water, please be aware of any stones, adhesives, treatments or materials which may get spoiled in water. The soap or detergent you use may contain bleach which can cause corrosion in stones such as peridot and enamel work or it may bleach some colored treated stones.

One of the best solutions for cleaning silver is silverex, a commercially available cleaning agent for silver. Again, make sure you read the instructions before using silverex on your studded and treated jewelry.

The most common and one of the best home remedy for cleaning silver articles is fluoride based toothpaste and luke warm water. Soak your silver articles in a bowl filled with luke warm water and toothpaste for about 10 mins to ½ hr. Gently scrub off the extra soap and dirt and wash in luke warm clean water.

Some important tips while washing your jewelry…
  • The toothbrush you use should be very soft
  • Do not wash your jewelry in the sink without the drain plug for fear of losing the jewelry in the drain
  • The water should not be too hot because it may corrode some stones, affect color treatment and adhesives that may have been used in your jewelry
  • Count the pieces of jewelry before you begin washing them
  • Check your jewelry for loose stones before you wash them
  • Make sure your cleaning area is out of reach of little children
  • The best would be to let your jewelry air dry or else wiping gently with a paper towel should work just fine as well
  • Since silver is extremely soft, make sure you do not drop your jewelry and scratch it
  • Do not wash more than one piece of jewelry at a time since they could scratch each other and spoil the finish

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Neelam- Blue Sapphire

There are at least 3 varieties of Sapphire that run in the market...
Australian Sapphire surrounded with Diamond Polki
-Australian Sapphire
-Columbian Sapphire
-Kashmir Sapphire

Australian is the most commonly available sapphire and it is recognized by its distinct 'inky blue' color. It may be heat treated to enhance the color and remove 'patchy' discoloration.

Columbian Sapphire is much more vibrant in its color and hence a lot more expensive than Australian Sapphire. It comes in various sizes and is often heat treated to enhance color.

Kashmir Sapphire is the rarest and most expensive Sapphire that you may come across. It is a beautiful vibrant blue with a very exotic sheen in it. This cannot be treated and should be sent to the lab for authentication before purchase.

Sapphire may be treated to either enhance its natural color, to reduce unwanted inclusions or to even out the discoloration that is fairly common in natural Sapphire.
Hyderabadi Polki Ring with Australian Sapphire

Heat Treatment:
This is the most common kind of treatment on a Sapphire. Heat treatment is usually done under a very controlled environment with controlled pressure, temperature, carbon and oxygen.
Heat treatment is permanent and is so common now that almost all Sapphire are heat treated and the practice is not even declared though it is by law required to be declared.
You can see the heat treatment in Sapphire simply by placing the stone on a white sheet/ paper in white light and looking at the corners etc and inside the stone for heat traces.

Color Treatment
Under controlled temperature, pressure and air, Sapphire is color treated with cobalt and other elements. Not all Sapphire can be color treated and not all treatments are permanent. It is essential by law to declare color treatment in Sapphire.
Under close inspection one can see the color treatment in Sapphires.

This treatment is again done to enhance color. It is permanent but it needs to be declared.
Oiling or Fracture Filling
The very fine surface fractures on a Sapphire are gently wiped with oils or liquids with a thick consistency with or without heat. The liquid fills the fractures or feathers and the sapphire looks cleaner to the eye. If the liquid contains traces of blue color, the stone may even look vibrant in color and much prettier.
You can see traces of Oil filing in Sapphire fairly easily if you observe it from various angles in white light against a white background.

Ruby and Sapphire pendant in 18K Gold
The treatment on Sapphire may be permanent or temporary. Permanent treatment includes heat treatment and some irradiation treatment. Some color treatment may also be permanent but mostly fracture filling, color treatment and other forms of treatment on Sapphire are temporary and require special care.
Avoid extreme exposure to heat, bright light and sunlight. Keep your treated sapphire away from strong chemicals including perfumes, bleaching agents and cleansers.
Do not use ultrasonic cleaners for color treated or fracture filled stones.

Even though the worth of a natural stone is almost always more than that of a treated stone, in case of a sapphire which sometimes in its natural form looks either too pale, dark, included, or uneven, treatment may make the stone look more beautiful.
The price of a treated stone is much lesser than a natural untreated co-stone of the same clarity, color grade.
If you are buying your stone for its beauty, a treated stone may be a good option for you. If you are looking at collectors goods or as an investment, a natural untreated stone is a better option for you.

 It is fairly easy to create synthetic sapphire as compared to other syntheic stones. This is the reason why you will find a lot of Synthetic or man-made or artificial sapphire lingering around the market. It is essential to declare that a stone is syntheitc and it cannot be sold under the name of 'sapphire' alone.
Some synthetic sapphire look very pretty. One of the easiest way to find out if your sapphire is synthetic is to look for 'curved growth lines' in it. These are lines within the structure of the stone and sometimes fairly hard to find. But if your sapphire has curved lines then it is definitely a synthetic.

Beautiful Sapphire in Hyderabadi Polki style Ring
Imitations are stones that look like the more precious version. In case of Sapphire, the most commonly used imitations are blue glass, blue plastic,iolite, spinel, zircon, benitoite, indicolite and topaz.
Rarely Tanzanite is also used to imitate sapphire though now a tanzanite is fairly expensive and is no longer used as an imitation.
Sometimes doublets and triplets are also used as imiation of sapphire using a blue colored non-precious stone as the pavilion and a very fine slice/ chip of sapphire as the crown.

Sapphire also known as "Neelam" in hindi is a stone used to ward off the Shani dasha. It is considered to be a rather powerful stone. It is said that Neelam does not suit everyone and one must check their birth chart to make sure this stone will not cast a negative effect on the wearer.
If you are affected negatively by wearing a Sapphire, you may try wearing it along with a diamond of equal strength since a diamond is the absolute opposite of sapphire in its astrological powers.