What do I need to know about fine (and faux) jewelry?
July 14, 2010 1:50 PM   Subscribe

What do I need to know about fine (and faux) jewelry?

I'm sort of new to shopping for fine jewelry and I have a lot of questions. What sets apart high quality jewelry from other jewelry? How can you identify good quality stones/construction, etc?

A second question is, where can one find good quality faux jewelry? I will pay more for a faux piece that is beautifully constructed (i.e. in platinum) but I'm not sure if there is such a thing as a high quality fake. Do fake stones age well or if will they discolor? Are there different types of faux stones?

I'm also considering adding to my collection through Ebay but I have no idea how I can know that I will actually get something of any value since I am not a jeweler.

I'm interested in sapphire, ruby, tanzanite, and moissanite, if that helps. Thanks!
posted by mintchip to Shopping (6 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Etsy is wonderful for shopping for jewelry. Look for sellers who give detailed information about what kind of metals they use and where their stones come from or how they are made.
posted by two lights above the sea at 2:11 PM on July 14, 2010

Fake stones are hardly ever set in precious metals; however, man-made ones are. You can find synthetic (not fake) sapphires and rubies easily. They are lab grown and have the same chemical makeup as the real stones. I don't think they've managed to synthasize tanzanite yet, but there are some simulated ones made of cubic zirconia that are quite nice. Try shopping at antique shows, or contact a local rockhound group for information.
posted by lazydog at 2:20 PM on July 14, 2010

Speaking as a total jewelry hound, I'd recommend going for the real stuff to begin your collection. You'll develop an eye for good quality costume stuff -- which normally does age quite well -- when you've had enough experience with the real thing. And as for the real stuff, although I've had some excellent experiences with buying opals (from an Australian jeweler) on Ebay, and have picked up a couple of nice amber pieces there, I'd recommend beginning by buying in person. As for where . . to start with, you want to find a good, trustworthy, and knowledgeable jeweler. Another good, trustworthy source that is reasonably priced is the International Gem and Jewelry show, which has a lot of shows around the U.S.

Have fun. Don't rush. Then you can love your hoard and gloat over it, my favorite pastime.
posted by bearwife at 2:33 PM on July 14, 2010

Also -- of your favorites I know sapphires, rubies and tanzanite best. (I'm partial to colored stones and diamonds and pearls myself.) I really hate the artificial stones . . . they look incredibly fake to me. I'd recommend learning more about your favorite gems by looking at them loose and unset, through a variety of vendors -- the gem and jewelry store is a good place to do that -- and reading up on line. In very general terms, natural stones without obvious flaws and which have a good deal of light or fire to them tend to to be the best quality.
posted by bearwife at 2:39 PM on July 14, 2010

You should really think about what you want this jewelry for. Is this use of your money for something very trendy, that you think you might discard next season or in a year or two? In the answer is yes then you should definitely consider shopping at a second hand store for some antique deals. Antique jewelry is actually a huge trend in this market and you can find some truly timeless pieces.

If you're looking for more "fine" jewels, make sure you go to a reputable jeweler and ask questions about the cut, clarity, color, and carat weight (if you are dealing with diamonds and gemstones). And just be sure to shop around! This will be an investment that is yours to have forever.
posted by HStern at 4:32 AM on July 15, 2010

If you live in a big city, you might go to an Antiques & Collectables Fair. There's usually lots of jewellers there and they'll be happy to let you look at anything you're interested in. This is a great way to get a feel for how things are made and what quality looks and feels like. Sapphires, for example: the best sapphires are not the dark opaque blue you commonly see, but a brighter, clearer blue. Once you're familiar with what quality looks like, you realise how crappy most modern jewellery is.

Places to shop:
- Antique/vintage stores and fairs.
- eBay. Be especially on the lookout for dealers. Their prices will be higher than random sellers, but there's more assurance you'll get what you paid for.
- Jewellers who make their own pieces. Etsy is awesome for this, but you probably also have some locally.
- High-end jewellery stores.

Places to avoid:
- Markets that all sell the same pieces (usually from Thailand or India).
- Chain jewellery stores.

If you like gold jewellery, I think you'll especially like buying antique. Modern gold jewellery is often either a really bright yellow or a really coppery rose, and I think it can sometimes look tacky. Antique gold is much softer in colour. Antique rose gold is especially gorgeous, and the stuff they did with inlay and decoration back then was incredible.

Jewellery is such a fun thing to collect, because you get to wear it every day. Enjoy!
posted by Georgina at 2:29 AM on July 17, 2010

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