Sooner or later, almost everyone needs a local jeweler. Maybe Grandma’s ring needs an appraisal, or you need to have a diamond set into a mounting, or you need to buy an anniversary gift. Jewelry is expensive and usually has a lot of sentiment attached to it. Whether you want to purchase a special gift or need your own jewelry repaired, it can be daunting to find someone you can trust.
Here’s how to find a great, reputable jeweler in your area:
Ask your family, friends, and colleagues.
This can often be a good place to start. You should still apply the following tips and questions to their suggestion to make sure the recommendation is very qualified.
Once you have a recommendation, or if you still need a couple of names, there are some jewelry industry organizations that can be a good screening criteria. One of the first things I look for is membership in the American Gem Society. It’s a jewelry trade organization that requires high levels of product knowledge, and very strict ethical standards regarding representation and pricing. Jewelers who are members must be tested every year to maintain their membership. Another organization is the Jeweler’s Vigilance Committee, or JVC. This non-profit helps jewelers maintain high ethical standards by keeping their members up-to-date on all the legal compliance rules within the jewelry industry. JVC members pay dues and agree to uphold the ethics established through their own business practices. You can also contact JVC to find out if a jeweler has had a complaint lodged against them. Not all reputable jewelers are members of these orgs, nor does membership automatically guarantee a great customer experience, but it’s a good place to start.
Check for an online presence.
Once you have a couple of potential names, google or bing them. Some local jewelers are not terribly tech-savvy, but I prefer companies that have at least a decent online presence for a couple of reasons. First, it shows a certain commitment to innovation that I think is indicative of how they run their business in general. And second, if they are online they are one click away from any of their on-line competitors, and hopefully understand competitive pricing of diamonds and other jewelry basics that consumers are shopping for online. If they have some sort of verbage on their homepage or “About Me” that says they are committed to competitive pricing, so much the better. Once you have found their website, you can see what designers and jewelry lines they carry, and if their hours and location will work for you.
Now some questions for them…
Do they have a Certified or Graduate Gemologist on staff? A bench jeweler on-site for repairs? On-site jewelry appraiser? These criteria can predict a higher level of service for the customer. A GIA-educated salesperson (with a certificate from the Gemological Institute of America) can give you the best product knowledge and help you with your purchase. A bench jeweler located in the store can set, size, or repair most jewelry without it having to leave the store, and sometimes they can do it while you wait. An appraiser on staff can help assign a replacement value to your own jewelry or answer detailed product questions you might have.
How competitive is their pricing?
When I do my screening for my Local Jeweler recommendations, I will call potential jewelers to ask them about a certain size and quality of GIA or AGS-certified diamond. I do a lot of research online, so I know competitive pricing for online merchants and I feel that physical jewelers should be within about 15% of online diamond pricing. If they are much over that, it’s just not competitive for consumers and I move on. Physical jewelers have some good reasons to charge a little more for their diamonds: they keep some diamonds in stock vs. the feeds (lists) of diamonds that online loose diamond suppliers–most online retailers don’t actually have any diamonds in house. Carrying that inventory is capital-intensive for the physical jeweler. Good, reputable physical jewelers also have an educated staff to show you those actual diamonds and explain the quality and value differences to you. They can also help you select the best setting, and size and set it all for you. That’s a lot of overhead compared to lean online operations. For a recent post about on-line versus off-line mark ups, click here.
Once you have a couple of names, head in to the store.
Making an appointment isn’t a necessity, but it might be more efficient. A good jeweler will ask some key questions and really listen to what you’re looking for, and then can do some research before you come in. Set aside some time to really look around and talk to the salesperson. This is about a relationship. If you feel rushed, or feel like they have an agenda to stick something down your throat that is NOT what you are looking for, MOVE ON. You should be able to think things over and take your time making a decision. You should feel appreciated, taken care of, listened to, and leave feeling that you got a great VALUE. If there is something in your gut that doesn’t feel right, trust yourself and your instincts. There are lots of great jewelers out there; you will find one.
Dollar for dollar, sometimes the best value can be found at a local independent jeweler. You get the value of their knowledge and experience firsthand. The best jewelers are committed to their community, and often support important local philanthropic causes. They are nice people trying to make a living in a challenging industry, and truly want you to get the best quality and value. I have had opportunities to work with some great jewelers and have assembled a list of qualified referrals in a number of metro areas in the country. I am happy to pass along my vetted names of jewelers to those who need it. Submit a request for me on my Local Jewelers tab, and I would be happy to recommend someone in your area. Happy (Local) Shopping!