March 12, 2011 1:31 PM   Subscribe

What are your pro-tips for haggling on jewelry purchases?

Everyone claims that when buying fine jewelry, it's essential to haggle because the prices get marked up so much. What advice do you have for doing that? My boyfriend and I are at the beginning stages of looking into buying ringsā€”him an engagement and wedding band for me, and me a wedding band for him.

I'd like to get him a simple platinum band from Brilliant Earth. Does a place like that negotiate? He's been looking at antique rings on-line and found one that we both really love. But since he originally looked at it a couple of months ago, the price listed has gone up a couple thousand dollars. What? At the original price, he thought he would be able to negotiate to a price within his budget, but now he doesn't think that is possible. The new price also seems higher than other comparable antique rings he's looked at. How would you approach this?

Help us not feel like we are going to end up paying more than we should!
posted by anonymous to Shopping (6 answers total)
I know nothing about Brilliant earth, but everytime I purchased jewelry, I have asked about the price.

First, I have predetermined the maximum amount I am willing to spend on the item. This is the amount over which I say, "No thank you." Then, I usually say something along the lines of, "Wow, that is a gorgeous ring. I would love to buy it for my gal, but $2,000 is out of my price range for this. Would you take $1,500 for it?" If he says no, I then ask where the $1,500 rings are. If he says yes, I internally kick myself and think I bid too high, but buy it anyway at that price because I am a man of my word or he says, "I cannot do $1,500, but I can go down to $1800." Then I say, "It is a beautiful ring. She will love it. It is a budget buster, but if you come down to $1650 and split it with me you got a deal"

I think the key is to be polite and frame it as a budget issue on your side not a value issue as in the ring ain't worth it type of thing.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 2:24 PM on March 12, 2011 [4 favorites]

If you can find a local dealer instead of anything with a company name, go for that. My engagement ring cost a fraction of what it would have cost at a store because I went with (ahem) the friend-of-my-mother-who-was-my-first-grade-teacher-whose-husband-is-a-wonderful-jewelry-guru-and-expert.

But you don't necessarily have to "know a guy" - just find a small jeweler. Avoid big jewelers. They're much more fun to deal with anyway!!
posted by carlh at 3:12 PM on March 12, 2011

I don't think there's any way to negotiate with an online retailer. Tiffany, Zales, etc.--no negotiation. But a fabricator, jewelry maker or a small, non-chain retailer probably will be willing to make a deal.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:47 PM on March 12, 2011

Prices for the raw materials (in this case Platinum) vary widely. Check online for the current price per ounce, ask how many ounces are in the ring and you can figure out the mark-up from there.

If it is an antique ring, you may want to bring a photo into a local store and ask if they can replicate it.
posted by cestmoi15 at 5:08 PM on March 12, 2011

Actually the stores like Zales have a certain % they can go off the basic price at pretty much any given time, or at least that was the case when my sister worked there (30% was the standard). It cuts into their commission, so they didn't always do it unless needed for that sale.

I do think you have a better shot generally with a local store, though, and more creative selections, but even chains can cut the price down.
posted by bizzyb at 8:15 PM on March 12, 2011

I've answered before along the lines of this topic, as a former jeweller/antique jewellery dealer/ business person who worked in the field for years and years. And, forgive me - I don't know, to this day, why people (in general) need to do this on one of the most romantic and significant purchases they'll make, drawing the process out into a game of one-upmanship and shopping around and bargain hunting. There is something to be said for just purchasing the symbolic thing you'll wear as the representation of your love and commitment with simplicity and pleasure as part of a lovely and enjoyable experience. Most people won't haggle on their dress, their shoes, their tiny sugared almonds or their priest - why is this the thing? /endgrump.


There is not much difference in a jewellery mark-up than one on towels, or Ikea's delicious Havreflarns or on those fancy Coach sneakers that eventually end up at TJ Maxx. It's just that people feel like they can, and have to in regard to expensive jewellery - so like many other things, some jewellery is priced with the knowledge that there will be a sale price (if it's that kind of business - not, say Tiffany & Co. or other places that don't have to bend and where they're not expected to) or a person who asks for consideration (to put it nicely). Jewellery is a luxury, and hidden in the price is also a guarantee of quality, good service, reputation, electricity bills, salaries, and many levels of people being paid for creating and representing it and all those good things. The way price comes down is by volume, being a dated design that needs to move, or by cutting some of those corners - and by profiting less.

So, you are not haggling. You are asking politely if there is a better price. "Is this your best price, please?" is the usual refrain. There is no trick. The person selling knows the least price for which they can sell it and still profit somewhat (or let go of a piece of old stock) and it will be your charming personality, your good manners and your earnest hopefulness that determines what percentage you'll get. And, if it's a local purchase, usually, your cash too - not your credit card that takes a cut and not your cheque which also costs a store somewhat. Taxes are collected, not charged and they need to be written back and that must be considered. These items are usually inventoried for insurance purposes.

You may have to ask two or three times. You may need to use silence as a tactic. You may have to walk away and find a place that can afford to accommodate your need for a discount.

But there is no likelihood that someone making a single significant purchase from a seller they have no prior relationship with is going to trick or deceive a seasoned jewellery dealer, who will be expecting this question and who will usually happily (and with only some slight show of resistance, for effect) play with the margins, into giving a bigger discount. Just make the polite request, and understand if they cannot afford to accommodate you.

To answer your other question of why the price changed: The answer is, platinum and other precious metals' prices have gone through the roof lately. The economy blah blah blah.

Simple wedding bands are often mass-produced (sometimes just blanks, cut from "tubes" of metal and finished, depending on the style) and are often priced by weight (a manufacturer will amortize the differences in costs over a few size ranges in the markup). So, if metal prices go up, the same amount of metal is worth more. Check the Gold Fix (at the bottom, you can click on "charts" and see the historical prices) and do the math to calculate the ring's make-up versus the mark-up, and leave the jeweller a little room to succeed and feed their family. They're not necessarily adversaries - they're just in business.

Well-made antique jewellery is something that is of finite quantity and usually better quality, and doesn't usually depreciate. That said, as precious metal prices have skyrocketed, a lot of dated (but not stylish vintage or period) high-quality jewellery has been broken up and melted down rather than languishing in stores. I have heard from jeweller friends that their boxes of scrap are refined with a higher turnover than years ago to take advantage of the higher prices, and that many of the simple things like chains and plain wedding bands on the secondary market are also getting scrapped rather than re-sold, since it's more valuable as metal and can't compete in price with mass-produced modern stuff.
posted by peagood at 10:16 PM on March 12, 2011

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