How to Buy Jewelry from Flash Sale Sites Like Gilt Groupe, Hautelook, Ideeli, Rue La La, Ajaline and More…

It seems like a perfect fit: you, a retail-is-for-suckers kind of person, plus gorgeous designer jewelry at 25-75% off the suggested retail price should equal a match made in heaven, right? But the reality of buying fine jewelry from flash sites is still a little dicey. Here’s what you should know before you click to buy.

Flash sale sites offer designer merchandise to members for a limited time at a steep discount. Most sites started as ways to clean out designer overruns and out-of-season items, but have now morphed into an efficient moving system for all kinds of merchandise. The sites that are best known, and also have regular jewelry offerings, are Gilt Groupe, Beyond the Rack, Hautelook, Ideeli, Modnique, Rue La La, My Habit, and the jewelry-specific site Ajaline. (Note: if you need an invitation to check out these sites and their offerings, email me here and I can send you an invite or code). Most sales run for a specific amount of time, usually a few days, and then it’s over. Many items sell out; those that don’t sell for the main event might show up later in a special blow-out sale.

It’s a great concept, and one that obviously works well, or we wouldn’t see so many companies in this space. When you know the brand, know your size, and the item is returnable (return policies vary from site to site), it’s a fantastic way to shop. For buying fine jewelry, however, there are some caveats.

Product Representation: Do You Have All the Facts?

On most flash sale sites, they have a sale for a specific designer, with a detail page for each item. They often photograph the jewelry from a couple of different views, include a description, and show retail versus sale price. Some sites have a lot of detailed information, depending on the sale. I have seen some sites, however, that do not have carat weight breakdowns, quality information for the gemstones listed, gold weights, etc. If it’s a non-branded item, it is hard to adequately compare price on something without these details. Even if the basic facts are there, it still doesn’t tell you how the piece is finished, or how it feels when it’s on.

Robert Wander Multicolor Tourmaline Pendant, recently featured on Gilt Groupe for $3590, 50% off retail.

Scale: How Will It Fit?

Some of the flash sale sites, like Gilt Groupe, try to show scale with the item superimposed against a generic form of a face or neck. However, it’s hard to get a sense of how that looks against skin, or on your body specifically. It would be ideal if someone photographed the item on a model, but I think only My Habit does that currently. Scale is always a challenge while ordering online, and with jewelry it’s particularly tricky. Is the ring a comfortable size 6, or will it be a tight fit due to the construction? How will you have it sized (no flash selling site offers sizing at this time)? Will the necklace hit your collarbone at the precise spot you are hoping? It’s hard to spend $2000+ on that pair of South Sea pearl and diamond earrings with those questions unanswered.

Turquoise, Sapphire and Diamond Ring by Vendoro, recently featured on Gilt Groupe for $4740, 50% off retail.

Returns? What Returns?

Of course, the above issues of details and scale are totally surmountable with a great return policy. But here’s the thing: many flash sale sites don’t allow returns on jewelry, which is often lumped into the accessory category. Hautelook, recently purchased by Nordstrom, doesn’t offer any returns on jewelry, period. A few, like Ideeli, offer store credit if you return the new, unworn item within 14 days. My Habit, which is Amazon.com’s recent entry into the flash sale world, will pay for your return shipping for unworn items returned within 21 days, and the refund is in the form of an Amazon Gift Card. Ajaline, a flash site created especially for the jewelry category, allows site credits or refunds through a specific process, where you must contact them within 2 business days of receiving the item to get a Return Authorization. On May 16th, Gilt Groupe announced here that they would now accept returns on jewelry, and offer full refunds if new merchandise is returned within 21 days. As one of the first and most respected flash sites, they are considered the industry leader, and we may see more sites follow their lead.

Bottom Line

Jewelry is an expensive, personal, and high-touch purchase that usually requires some research.

You should buy it…
when you see a trusted brand like Lagos, Mikimoto, Amrita Singh, BoChic, Robert Lee Morris, Gurhan, Sethi Couture, Roberto Coin, David Yurman, John Hardy, Judith Ripka, Temple St. Clair, Alexis Bittar, Jamie Joseph, or any watch brand (this is by no means an exhaustive list, just brands I have seen on the big sites). This is especially true if the site is very customer friendly in their policies, and you can return the item if there is a problem with quality, or fit. You will feel great about purchasing that item at an amazing price–and there are some truly great deals out there.

You should think twice and read the fine print…

if it’s a site that doesn’t accept jewelry returns,
if it’s a non-branded item that has scant information,
if you’re not totally sure about the size or if it can be sized,
if the quality/value ratio is hard to figure out.
If you really don’t feel comfortable enough to purchase, you can hold off. Chances are, the same designer will be featured again at a later time or on a different site. You could also try shopping locally: you might find that if your local jeweler carries the same brand, they’d offer you a nice price, or at least more education and the ability to return or size the item.

How about you? Anyone have a story, positive or negative, about buying jewelry from a flash sale site?

Amethyst Pendant in 18kt White Gold by Very PC, offered on Ajaline for $415, more than 50% off retail.

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