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Jewelry shopping tips: How to avoid rip-offs

Knowing what to look for can help you avoid getting swindled when shopping for fine jewelry this holiday season.
December 19, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
If you're shopping for jewelry this holiday season, you may not be able to distinguish a real gem from a fabulous fake unless you're a gemologist. But knowing what to look for can help you avoid getting swindled.

Few purchases are as emotional as fine jewelry, but shop with your head and you'll be less likely to overpay. Consumer Reports' Amanda Walker knows how to get a great deal on jewelry and avoid costly rip-offs.

"Fine jewelry is generally one of a kind, so you can't shop for the best deal like you can with a vacuum or a TV. So you need to know what to look for, especially if you shop online," said Walker.

How pure is that gold bracelet? It may not even be real. Emeralds can often be enhanced by filling them with oil. But over time, the oil can leak out. And a diamond can appear more brilliant through what's called fracture-filling. But this also makes diamonds more likely to shatter, so you have to be careful when they're repaired and cleaned.

"You should ask if a gemstone or a diamond is imitation, treated or synthetic. And if the jeweler can't or won't tell you, that's your cue to shop somewhere else," said Walker.

Buying gold? Look for a karat mark, which indicates quality and a manufacturer's trademark, so you know whose work it is. Consumer Reports says protect yourself by dealing with a reputable company. Members of the American Gem Society must abide by a strict code of ethics.

Michael Wilson with Wilson & Sons Jewelers said you can go to AmericanGemSociety.org to find a reputable jeweler in your area. Whatever you buy, make sure you get the details in writing.

Consumer Reports also says to consider an appraisal from a certified jewelry appraiser. Be sure the return policy gives you at least enough time to return something if it isn't what you expected.

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