Just over 3 years have passed since I walked out of college with degrees in Psychology & Philosophy and into the custom design, fine jewelry industry. It was quite a change in direction from my education and, suffice it to say, I had much to learn about diamonds, jewelry manufacturing, and the art of selling an engagement ring. Here is what 3-years of full immersion in the fine jewelry industry has taught me and why many of my pre-conceived notions have disappeared.
Tradition & Trends
Our jewelry store specializes in custom design. Starting with the center diamond or gemstone, we work entirely ground-up and can bring our customers’ dream rings to life! As you can imagine, my mentality when working with our customers is whatever you want and the world is your oyster. Therefore, something surprising to me which I had not anticipated was the alarming frequency of customers asking me what they should or should not do; or worse, what they Can or Cannot do. Am I supposed to solder my engagement ring & wedding band together? Can I wear white gold and yellow gold together? Or my personal favorite… If I buy a band for one side of my ring do I need to buy the matching band for the other side?
3 years and a shocking number of these encounters have thought me; while tradition & trends still play a notable role in our industry, the “rules” hold no more meaning than you choose to place in them. One customer’s very special “something borrowed” is another customer’s cliché to be avoided. One customer’s admiration of antique, art-deco pieces is opposed by another’s opinion that they appear old and out of style. At the end of the day I tell my customers this, the only thing that matters is what YOU will be happiest wearing and looking at on your finger. What speaks to YOU? Forget the rules… make your own and be a fashion trendsetter!
We all know the old saying; A man should spend 3-months salary on an engagement ring. Personally, I don’t know if there is a more antiquated or out-of-touch belief in our industry! For many young men, an engagement ring may be the first of life’s larger purchases. So, how do you establishing an appropriate budget when engagement rings can range anywhere from $1,000 to $100,000? Easily… what budget is comfortable for you?! The name of the game is NOT spending more but spending SMARTER. There is no sense in stretching your budget or overextending yourself to try and afford a ring you fell in love with out of a jeweler’s display case. Instead, stick firm with your price point and identify the characteristics of the ring that are most important to you. What are your priorities?
The price of an engagement ring can vary significantly by changing a few surprisingly minor details. For instance, that ring you love in the case may be made in platinum, and it’s identical counterpart in 14K or 18K white gold could run anywhere from 25%-50% less! Or, slight adjustments to the carat weight, color, or clarity of the diamonds in a ring can also drastically alter the price.
What is most important when considering budget is finding a jeweler who will help you understand exactly what it is you are paying for, and will help you Put Your Dollars In The Right Places! Once again… what are your priorities? You may want the largest diamond for your dollar OR you may be more inclined to spend less on a smaller center stone and put more money into the surrounding ring. There is no right answer… only the benefit of allocating your dollars to the elements of the ring you personally prioritize.
A fine piece of jewelry is like a fine automobile, though most people do not treat their jewelry as such. It is not uncommon for jewelry stores to see a steady influx of individuals needing loose stones tightened, missing stones replaced, or a rigorous deep-clean and polish to bring their favorite piece back to life. Surely there must be an easier and more cost-effective way?! There is… care for your jewelry properly and save yourself extra trips to the jeweler for repair work.
Start with knowledge of the basics. You may be one of the many individuals committing everyday atrocities against their favorite pieces of jewelry without even knowing it! Are you following these BIG 3 rules of proper jewelry care?
No Sleeping in Fine Jewelry
It’s easy to be cautious about dropping your ring or banging it against the grocery cart, but sleeping with your jewelry on can be just as damaging. As you move throughout the night, micro-fibers in your sheets and pillowcases will begin to tug and pull at prongs, causing diamonds and gemstones to loosen or worse, fall out.
No Swimming, Showering, or Hand washing
Chlorine will eat away at your jewelry! Exposure to chlorine, such as in swimming pools, will have slow yet significant deteriorating effects on your silver, gold, and even platinum jewelry. In addition to swimming pools, you will want to avoid wearing your jewelry in the shower and wearing rings while washing your hands. Although hand soaps & shampoos will not have the same deteriorating effects as chlorine, soap-scum gets in between gemstones and the prongs holding them causing looseness and stones to fall out.
Keep‘em Clean & Shining
The best thing you can do for your favorite pieces of jewelry is Keep Them Clean! Keeping your jewelry clean will accomplish two things. First, it will prevent dirt, soap, and other foreign agents from getting in-between the gemstones & prongs and causing stones to become loose and fall out. Secondly, it will keep your jewelry looking its best and shining like it does when you first get it from the jeweler! Although this seems quite obvious, I cannot tell you how often I return a piece of jewelry from a quick soak & steam to a customer who cannot believe how it looks. It doesn’t even look like the same ring, is a quite common response. That is because 9 times out of 10 when we receive a customer’s piece it is very dirty and frankly, often borders on being gross! This is no way to treat your favorite pieces of fine jewelry! Keep a jar of jewelry cleaner at home to drop your favorite pieces in at night. This simple act of keeping your pieces clean will add to their lifespan & keep you from having costly repairs.
While there is no substitute for having your fine jewelry inspected frequently by your jeweler, following these steps will ensure your jewelry looks its best and lasts longer with less-frequent & less-costly repairs.
My first 3 years in the fine jewelry industry have taught me a lot. Mostly, I have learned Just How Little I truly knew before entering the trade! The best way to effectively navigate fine jewelry purchases is to find a jeweler you can establish a trustworthy relationship with and heed their knowledgeable advice.
Author: Will Patrick