Buying jewelry is a big investment both financially and, in some cases, emotionally. There are so many things we honor with jewelry: engagements, weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, new babies, graduations, and retirements – just to name a few!

With all this on the line, is it better to buy from a private jeweler or a big name chain jewelry store? The answer depends on how you feel about quality and service.

Specific Pros And Cons

Although a great deal does depend on your own experiences, here is what each seller brings to the table.

Quality:

  • Private jewelers buy their metals and gems from reputable sources, hand-picking what they’ll sell in their stores. They strive to maintain a reputation for outstanding quality and to ensure that your piece will retain its value year after year.
  • Jewelry store chains buy in bulk, which means sometimes the quality might be lower than that of a hand-selected piece.

Price:

  • Because private sellers offer such a high level of quality and have limited quantities, their prices can be higher; however, some private jewelers actually charge less than the large jewelry stores which is why it’s good to visit several shops before deciding where to buy.
  • Prices in the jewelry store chains are often lower because they buy in bulk to stock many stores simultaneously, but lower prices can sometimes come with lower quality. Be sure to do as much as you can to ensure you’re getting the best value for the piece you’re buying, especially in something like an engagement ring.

Service and Atmosphere:

  • Often you can schedule an appointment with a private jeweler so you get their full attention for as long as you need it, with no interruptions from other customers. Private sellers will be meticulous in helping you find that special item. In addition, repairs are generally made right in the store.
  • It can be very romantic shopping in a large store with your fiancé, looking at all the beautiful choices. However, you may have to wait a bit to be served if there are many customers there at the same time. Repairs after buying often take longer as the items are sent off-site to be fixed.

Style Choices:

  • For a unique, hand-made item, a private jeweler is your best choice. You’ll own something that is made to order and belongs to no one else.
  • Items at the big-name jeweler are beautiful, but they are generally mass produced so the same pieces are sold in every store. However, if you’re willing to spend a bit more you might be able to create a more individualized piece with the store’s help.

Shop Around

Whichever type of jeweler you prefer, it’s important to shop around for the best bargain and to get exactly what you’re looking for. Both private and big name jewelers have been known to overcharge and sell imperfect merchandise, so compare prices and quality at several stores–especially if you have a good idea of what you want.

After you buy, plan to have the piece appraised. You’ll learn not only what it’s worth but whether or not you got a deal that’s good enough to make you shop at the same store again. Big name or private jeweler, it pays to do your homework.

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