Where to buy fine jewelry without the designer brand markup?
August 15, 2017 8:55 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to buy my mother a very nice piece of jewelry (gold, gems, etc.), and I can't seem to bridge the gap between department store jewelry counters (or online counters) and designer brand stores likes Tiffany and Cartier. The former seems to be of questionable quality, and the latter appears to have a huge markup for the brand name and box. Any recommendations for lesser known jewelry stores with high quality pieces? Thanks a bunch!
posted by dumbasamuppet to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (17 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I'm decidedly not an expert, but I have both heard good things about and had good experiences with overstock.com for jewelry.
posted by dbx at 9:05 AM on August 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think of places like Jared and Kay as occupying this space. More expensive than department store jewelry counters, less expensive than the designer brands. But it would be helpful to know how much money you're looking to spend.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 9:10 AM on August 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

It depends on what you buy at the department store. For something like basic, solid gold (earrings, chains, etc.) a place like Macy's or Lord & Taylor's or Nordstrom's is just fine. And if you can wait until they do one of their big jewellery sales even better. Even some of their gemstone stuff is okay, the trick is you just have to know what you want to buy and how to judge its quality.

Ditto for online places, and even for expensive, high-end jewellery stores. Just because it comes from Tiffany's doesn't mean it's going to be flawless, especially if you're buying gemstones or pearls--you still have to be able to sort the wheat from the chaff on your own and feel confident in your appraisal skills.
posted by sardonyx at 9:12 AM on August 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

I don't know if you have an Ashcroft & Oak retail store in your area, but I happened to be in the Buffalo area fairly recently, and I was impressed with the quality of the items I looked at there. I haven't purchased anything from chain, but a really nice tanzanite ring caught my eye, and for the size and quality of the stone, the price was reasonable. There was also a lovely kunzite that seemed to be of better quality than I'm used to seeing, along with a few other attractive pieces with more unusual stones.

I don't know what you think about cross-border shopping, but maybe take a look at Birk's. The exchange rate (while not as good as it was a few months ago) favours you, and the company has a reputation for quality that should make you feel better about your purchase (although the same warning applies--not everything Birk's sells is something I'd want to own based on the price and/or quality).
posted by sardonyx at 9:23 AM on August 15, 2017

Most major cities have a so-called Diamond District. Selling good quality jewelry without a crazy mark-up is their stock-in-trade.
posted by DrGail at 9:28 AM on August 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

This tends to be small, non chain stores, totally area dependant. On the other hand, we got our wedding bands at Costco, and I was super impressed with the quality and selection
posted by Valancy Rachel at 10:02 AM on August 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

Would you consider supporting an independent jeweller? You could even get something unique custom-made for her.

For example - my SO and I got our engagement/wedding rings made by Justin Duance (a recommendation from this very page!). They are totally unique to us and I love them.

If you want to give us an idea of what you're looking for, maybe we can give you some good recommendations for independents?
posted by greenish at 10:21 AM on August 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

You might also consider buying brand-name used on ebay or the realreal.

I don't know anything about jewelry, but I like high-quality, durable handbags, and have gotten nice things used for about 75% off what they would have cost new.
posted by mrmurbles at 10:47 AM on August 15, 2017

There's definitely emerging market for small, independent jewelers... many of whom sell online, such as:

Catbird NYC
Erica Weiner

One trick I have is to find a retailer who carries several jewelry designer lines eg. aforementioned Catbird NYC or Of a Kind (which has a fine jewelry section).

When you see an individual piece that appeals to you, do an online search for the name of the designer who made the piece - odds are you'll find the designer's own website where you can look at/ purchase other pieces (or find the names of stores who carry their pieces).

I've found lots of jewelry designers whose work I love this way eg.

Satomi Kawakita
Blanca Monros Gomez
posted by kitkatcathy at 11:07 AM on August 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

Doyle & Doyle has wonderful vintage jewelry and they also make some new pieces in-house. I have two pieces from them that I love - one is new and one is reconstructed from ugly/damaged vintage jewelry.
posted by snaw at 11:19 AM on August 15, 2017

I would check out independent jewelry stores that carry smaller designers, figure out what kind of aesthetic you want, and then pursue that.

Catbird NYC (already mentioned).

If she prefers a more classic look but you want to avoid the Tiffany upcharge:

Blue Nile made their name on selling high quality jewelry for less than the usual retail markup. (lots of engagement rings, but lots of other jewelry too).
I've never bought anything there, but Pearl Paradise seems to have nice things for less than you would usually pay in a store if your mom likes pearls.

I originally discovered both independent stores when I was looking for engagement and wedding rings, so checking out wedding planning resources may get you additional suggestions.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 11:35 AM on August 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

In the jewelry world there is a major markup on new jewelry so you might want to look at vintage pieces. Check in your area for jewelry retailers that list estate jewelry, they will have examined, cleaned and fixed any loose settings etc, you would get a much better piece for your money.

If you decide to go the eBay or other non-jeweler route just note that if you are going for strung pearls or other gems make sure they are individually knotted. You may want to get them re-strung as you don't know the age of the silk.
posted by IpsoFacto at 12:21 PM on August 15, 2017

Nthing local independent jewelrymakers. The one where we bought our wedding jewelry not only did custom designs but also sold selected vintage pieces and their own pre-made jewelry.
posted by wintersweet at 12:54 PM on August 15, 2017

Nthing Costco. I trust that they are selling me quality jewelry at a reasonable price. For example, here's a comparison of Tiffany and Costco diamonds where the Costco stuff did surprisingly well.
posted by jazzbaby at 4:20 PM on August 15, 2017

SingleBBeautiful is an Etsy seller who makes gorgeous pieces.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 4:44 PM on August 15, 2017

If you want untreated/non-irradiated gems, you'll want stones from vintage jewelry, probably pre-1900. You can then have them reset. Here's an info link about untreated gemstones with lots of data on all types of gems.
posted by MovableBookLady at 1:07 PM on August 16, 2017

If you're interested in gold body jewelry, I'd take a look at http://hindged.com
posted by infortunity at 2:06 PM on August 29, 2017

« Older Just to be abundantly clear, there is no porn...   |   Will I qualify for New York State paid family... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.