True love or fake love— tips for holiday jewelry-buying
8 tips to help ensure authentic holiday purchases
Jewelry often signifies identity, commitment, and adornment. In humanity’s early days, our ancestors crafted pieces from varied mediums such as beads, shells and carved bones. In modern times, crafting and purchasing jewelry has gotten more sophisticated. When an important holiday approaches, many shoppers will find themselves searching for the perfect piece for a loved one — or even, to acknowledge their own self-worth and care. They will also find that their options to purchase are vast.
This range points to the ease of buying online, where advanced delivery systems, as well as influencer and social media advertising can result in greater visibility – whether you are a luxury brand, or an independent jeweler. The market reflects these factors.
The U.S. jewelry market made close to $58 billion in annual revenue in 2021, and online sales accounted for $7.6 billion, or about 7% of those sales.
Branded jewelry (think Tiffany & Co., David Yurman, Sophie Bille Brahe, etc.) comprise about 20% of the jewelry market. Both online sales and branded accessories will become more dominant portions of jewelry market growth in the next few years.
With such ease of purchase and an exploding market, it’s more important now than ever to ensure your jewelry selection is authentic. Read on for tips to keep your purchases verified and secured.
True love, or fake love?
The original Cartier LOVE bracelet was created in the 1970’s by Aldo Cipullo, and was a bracelet you literally screw onto your wrist, accounting for the screw imprinted design. Since then, the heritage French jewelry company has created unisex bracelet in various styles and metals, as well as other forms such as rings and necklaces. Unfortunately, the rise of strong jewelry brands with popular signature pieces like Cartier’s Love series makes consumers more vulnerable to fakes and forgeries.
In 2021 U.S. Customs seized shipments carrying over 500 items of counterfeit jewelry with Cartier and Hermes emblems in one raid alone. If the items had been real, the market value of the seized items would have been $32 million.
Ill-intentioned opportunists attempt to make copies of the designs of popular brands, often using cheaper materials and lower quality techniques. The stronger the brand, the more likely it is that their designs will be copied and sold fraudulently.
Evidence an item is a copy could include an incorrect logo, missing copyright, solder residue remaining from work to make the piece look authentic and asymmetry of features which are symmetrical on the authentic piece. A qualified appraiser can identify these differences and determine whether an item is authentic or not.
With the trends leaning toward more online purchases, and more purchases of branded jewelry, our risk management team has provided some tips on best practices for your future jewelry purchases.
- If the price is too good to be true, it probably is.
- Researching the market is key.
- When purchasing jewelry (high-end or not), it is important to do your research and educate yourself on the different materials, styles, and quality standards.
- Understand the value of different materials: diamonds, gold, and precious gems all have varying levels of value and quality. Here are a few best practices to keep in mind.
- Know the 4 C’s of diamonds
- Familiarize yourself with the 4 C’s of diamonds (carat weight, cut, color, and clarity). By thoroughly examining the 4 C’s of diamonds and understanding the value of different materials, consumers can help ensure they are getting a fair price for the quality of the piece they are purchasing.
- Understand gold
- All that glitters is not pure gold. When a jewelry is described as “gold”, be sure to find out if it is pure gold, or plated. Familiarity with different grades of gold (e.g., 18K, 22K) is also important. There is also a substantial price difference between pure gold, gold-plated, and various grades of gold.
- Look for certifications
- Reputable jewelers will often have certifications from organizations such as the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) or the American Gem Society (AGS). These certifications indicate that the jewelry has been evaluated by experts and meets certain standards of quality.
- Take your time
- High-end or not, jewelry can be a significant investment, so take your time to find the right piece. Compare prices and options from multiple sellers to ensure you are getting the best value for your money.
- Buy from an authorized dealer
- This is a good way to help assure the product you are purchasing is authentic.
- Research the dealer if you are buying it online. Check their reviews, ratings, and reputation. It will help you to understand their service and if they are trustworthy.
- Be cautious when purchasing from individuals
- Exercise extreme caution when purchasing directly from an individual – whether online or in-person. Attempt to have the jewelry authenticated by a professional jewelry appraisal before your purchase it.
- Certain online platforms such as Vestiaire and The RealReal have staff that authenticate items submitted for sale.
- Auction houses with jewelry sales also have professionals on staff and assess the authenticity of the objects they sell.
- Properly transport your jewelry
- Never pack jewelry into your luggage. Always pack it carefully and keep it close to you.
- For shipping high-value or irreplaceable goods, use an armored car courier service. If that is not available or impractical, contact your insurance company or agent for advice.
- Your insurance policy may contain provisions that require particular handling with respect to shipping goods. Please be sure that you are familiar with these provisions of your policy.
Now is the time to protect yourself from dubious bling. Do so by understanding the value of different materials, requesting certifications, and buying from reputable sellers. This will help you steer clear of fraud or poor-quality purchases and keep your holiday filled with hearts and flowers.
Katja Zigerlig is Vice President of Art, Wine + Collectibles Advisory at Berkley One (a Berkley Company).