10 Things You Should Know Before You Buy Fine Jewelry

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Ara Vartanian Diamond and Emerald Earrings
Ara Vartanian diamond-and-emerald earrings

Long gone are the days when fine jewelry would conjure up images of older women lunching in grand salons or mingling in black-tie finery. Heirloom pieces have been replaced with hip, modern designs, and what once seemed like an unattainable status symbol has become the mark of a younger generation of wealthy, successful professionals.

Buying fine jewelry, however, is a slightly tricky process with a long list of things to consider. With that in mind, Savoir Flair tapped Patti Worth, a former fine-jewelry buyer for Net-a-Porter, for her top tips.

  1. Don’t be afraid to mix your gold.
    If you find it hard to choose a gold, just wear them all together! If you wear a stack of smaller rings on one hand, it looks more fun and less contrived if you mix and match your pieces.
  2. Remember that you aren’t a gemmologist.
    Don’t worry too much about cuts and colors, and focus instead on falling in love with a piece. Choose a stone that really resonates with you rather than one that has the perfect color or the best cut proportions. It may be one which, by official stone grading standards, isn’t the best, but it just speaks to you.
  3. Know your stones.
    It’s really important to understand what stones will work best for what piece of jewelry and how to take care of them once you have them. For example, if you’re looking for an emerald steer away from a ring and opt for earrings instead. Emeralds are softer stones and can get damaged if your hand knocks a surface. With earrings, it’s much easier to avoid damaging the stones. Opals, for instance, shouldn’t be stored in a very dry area or in direct sunlight, as they’re susceptible to cracking. Pearls are another stone that should be looked after carefully. Chemicals can damage them, so you should always put them on last when getting ready. Spraying perfume onto a pearl can damage its luster, so it is better to add these once you are ready. Gems are extremely durable, as long as you know how to look after them!
  4. Buy pieces you will wear.
    Jewelry is for wearing – not for keeping in a safe. Ask yourself if you can see yourself wearing a specific piece. It has to be comfortable and you have to be able to imagine going about your everyday life in it – unless it’s a special-occasions piece.
  5. Antique jewelry is great fun and a great addition to your fine-jewelry collection.
    There are few things more exciting than sitting with an antique fine-jewelry dealer and rummaging through their treasure chest of jewels. Knowing the story behind the piece you are buying makes it even more special and exciting.
  6. Ask questions and build trust.
    It’s always a good idea to find out as much information as possible about a piece before purchasing There are thousands of brands in the fine-jewelry market and some of them just aren’t good quality or worth the money you are spending. Ask as many questions as possible, like can the ring be resized? Do you have earrings that match? Are you able to make it in rose gold with champagne diamonds instead? Ninety percent of the time, what you see initially is only an extremely small fraction of what they have in their collection, so if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
  7. Don’t be afraid to mix costume jewelry and fine jewelry.
    Although costume jewelry is more seasonal, it can really compliment your fine-jewelry wardrobe.
  8. Big brands are great, but the independent designers are truly special.
    No one would say no to a pair of Graff earrings or a Cartier bracelet, but there really is something to be said for the creative and beautiful jewelry from independent designers. They work with the most wonderful stones and create one-of-a-kind pieces. Plus the prices are generally more in line with what they should be.
  9. Layering is fun!
    One fine-jewelry trend for a while now has been stacking your jewelry, which is a great way to showcase your favourite pieces. When layering necklaces, make sure that the chains have adjustable fastenings. Generally they will have adjustable chain lengths at 16 and 18 inches, which means that your pendants will sit together at different levels.
  10. When it comes to gifts, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
    When buying fine-jewelry gifts, avoid rings as there is a risk that they may not fit. Bracelets and necklaces generally tend to work best. Don’t try to go for something too different if you aren’t 100 percent sure of the recipient’s taste. Finally, when given the option of plain gold or pavé, go for a piece with diamonds, because, let’s be honest, who doesn’t appreciate diamonds!

Patti Worth is a personal shopper and fine-jewelry consultant. To find out more about the services she offers, e-mail patti@pattiworth.com.


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