6 Tips on What to Look for When Buying Quality Jewelry

Are you in the market to purchase a piece of fine jewelry with gems either for yourself or for that special someone?  Aside from the considerations of: design or look; gems of choice; and type of jewelry (Engagement Ring, Necklace, Pendant, Earrings, etc.), the quality of the craftsmanship should also be looked at carefully.  Some buyers prioritize on gem size and quality.  For those who do, I encourage you to review this article just so that you can understand some elements that will surround your gem of choice.  Some buyers prioritize the look of the jewelry: how blingy; how dainty; or how elegant, rather than the actual longevity of piece of jewelry.  For that special group that can afford that priority (Must be nice), I guess you can skip this article.  For all others who do want to prioritize quality but do not really know what to look for, this is the article to read.  Here are the 6 features or considerations to look for when looking for quality fine jewelry with gems.

This article is the bulleted summary of a longer article that will be posted in parts in future posts.  Please sign-up to receive the more detailed posts.  The following are 6 Quality Features to Look For When Buying Jewelry.

1.  Consider the brittleness and malleability of the jewelry you are thinking of buying.

Depending on the expected wear and the type of jewelry in consideration, some karats are better than others.  The proper mix of brittleness and malleability is important for the longevity of fine jewelry piece.

2.  Look at the brittleness of the settings in relation to wear.

18k gold and 950 or 900 platinum settings hold the gemstones better than 14k gold, especially 14k white gold. 14k white gold contains hard alloys that makes this metal karat too brittle for quality jewelry with gems.  This factor becomes more important in wear-heavy jewelry with settings holding gems.

3.  The type of setting matters for the longevity of your jewelry.

The bigger the gem/s the more the setting should cover the gem. There are many types of jewelry settings.  For quality jewelry that will last a long time, brittleness is enemy one.  So make sure that whatever style of setting you choose, there is a proportional amount of metal holding your gem/s and that metal should be malleable enough to hug the gem in the long term.  In cases of heavier wear jewelry, micro-pave and small prongs setting should have a buffer in the edges to protect the micro beads or prongs holding the gem/s.  Also, make sure that whatever metal is holding the gem/s, that there is no space between the gem/s and the metal.

4.  Look at the top thickness of the setting.

(Courtesy of Werkheiser Jewelers)

Check the thickness of the setting. It should have at least the thickness of your nail (about .5mm) of extra metal above the gem/s.  Micro-pave or pave settings are the exception as they are too small to have much metal.  The more metal you have above the gem/s in your setting, the more metal will hug your gem/s as your jewelry wears.  The more it hugs, the more it holds your gem/s in your jewelry.

5. Check metal thickness in key areas.

Check some key areas in the jewelry where there is movement and wear, to make sure that metal thickness is proportional and sufficient for a long-term life.  In rings, check the base of the shank so that it looks proportional.  In post earrings, check the quality of the posts and backs.  Ideally you should have medium to heavy weight friction posts and backs.  In pendants, check the bale, and clasps connections to make sure that there is not wear.  Lobster clasps or well made custom clasps are my choice.  Overall, make sure that the metal thickness is proportional in all areas where there is movement or friction.

6. Look for quality in the gem.

Diamond cut matters for sparkle; pure colors, enhancements, and cut symmetry matters in color faceted gems; everything else regarding gemstones and semi-precious stones, check the internet.


This is not an exhaustive list and I do expect that there is discussion where I can refine this article.

Topic for Further Discussion

One feature that I was tempted in including in regards to quality, is the feature of the quality of the designer/crafter him/herself.  Why did the designer/crafter make this piece?  What is the meaning of the piece of jewelry? What does he/she believe is quality?  How do they relate to society and its demands of fair trade, sustainability, and eco-consciousness?  Aside from following ethical practices (as we hope they do), what is the ethic of the designer/crafter?

After all, why not judge the craftsmanship of a piece of jewelry by the quality of the crafter/designer?

I felt that this element was better suited for another article on another time.  Especially because this type of quality feature would be important only if you want to buy a meaningful piece of jewelry.  If you want to buy a piece of jewelry that looks beautiful and has valuable, rare jewels without any particular meaning, then this feature would not apply.

At any rate, I wanted to mention it here as consideration or an invitation for further thought.

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