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Be confident in the jewellery you’re buying – questions to ask your jeweller

Hello everybody, it’s August and I’m back in the UK for a lovely break with my family. It’s been a few months since I last saw them and I always love coming back to the beautiful Welsh countryside. As always, a lot has been happening at Liri and if you’ve subscribed to our newsletter, I hope you enjoyed the latest edition. If you’ve not subscribed but would love to keep up to date with us, head on over to www.yourliri.com to sign up ☺

So, this week’s blog could be described as a bit of a rant, and I make no apologies because it’s on a subject very close to my heart. As you’ve noticed from recent blogs and social media posts, I’m passionate about making sure we, at Liri, have as transparent a relationship as possible with you. On Instagram stories, I let you in behind the scenes, and I’m open and honest about how our jewellery is made (see our FAQ tab on our website). Unfortunately, not all jewellers share the same approach and, I’ll be honest with you, it makes me angry. The misinformation out there regarding the jewellery you buy ranges from being vague about the materials used in the jewellery to completely inaccurate information purposefully being given. So how can you be sure you are buying the jewellery you think you are buying? You just need to ask these questions…

Is it handmade?

In recent years there has been a huge growth in the popularity of ‘handmade’ jewellery and jewellers have been quick to use this word when describing the jewellery they sell. However, the word is used in a variety of ways and doesn’t’ always accurately describe how your jewellery has been made.

In reality, it’s almost impossible for a piece of jewellery to be completely handmade, a tool or a machine will have been used at some stage, whether it is faceting the gemstones (or other beads), braiding the thread used, making the perfectly round silver beads….I could go on. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, as many things just cannot be made to a good enough standard by hand, and a machine is needed. But the problem arises when the jeweller is making a false claim about the level of ‘handmadeness’ of the jewellery. Many contemporary jewellery designs can, at best be described as ‘hand assembled’, where the beads have been assembled onto a bracelet. Again, absolutely nothing wrong with this, I assemble gemstones in the same way. But unless that jeweller handmade the beads or the beads were handmade by someone else, they cannot claim the bracelet has been totally handmade. This may sound like a pedantic point but you must be clear on what ‘handmade’ means for you and what you expect when a piece of jewellery is described to you as handmade. Ask your jeweller what elements have been handmade and by whom, just so you are happy with what you are buying.

Is it unique?

In a time where we’re all looking for that piece of jewellery that no-one else has, we’re seeing jewellery designs regularly marketed as ‘unique’. However, let’s be honest, it’s very rare these days that anything is truly unique. Ideas are shared, designs are replicated, fashions are followed and designers can be inspired in the same way, leading to similar designs. Again, this is not a problem, but it becomes a problem when a designer is marketing their products as unique without saying what is unique about them. If someone tells me a piece is unique, I get the impression that there is no other piece like it in the world, it is a complete one off, so question your jeweller on what elements of that design are unique – is it the actual design, the materials used, the combination of gemstones, the fact that no two gems are the same, the fact it has been engraved by hand, whose handwriting cannot be replicated? You just need to ask, to ensure you are getting an accurate description of what you are buying and that, again, you’re happy with your purchase.

What is unique about this necklace is that the shell has been made from a mould that was made from an actual shell found on the beach.

What do you mean when you say you’ve used stones?

As you know, I’m completely obsessed with, and passionate about, using only genuine gemstones in our jewellery, so when I see a jeweller claiming to use gemstones when in fact it’s nothing more than cut glass, not only am I shocked that a jeweller can lie so blatantly, but I’m also frustrated on behalf of the client. Take for example, the trend for wearing jewellery that includes our birthstones. A birthstone is a genuine gemstone, a natural material, so when a jeweller claims to be selling a piece with a birthstone in it, but which is in fact nothing more than a piece of glass in the colour of the birth gemstone, I get annoyed. We wear a birthstone because it has a very personal meaning to us, we may also wear it because we are told it has healing properties, a piece of coloured glass has neither of these features! Next time you’re looking for a piece of jewellery with your birthstone, please ask if it is in fact your actual, genuine gemstone birthstone. Apart from what jewellers are claiming, if they’re offering you a genuine Ruby for July, Diamond for April, or Tanzanite for December at a bargain price, your suspicions should already be aroused.

This ring contains a genuine Amethyst gemstone rather than a piece of purple coloured glass

What do you mean when you say it’s made from gold or silver?

You would think that saying something was made from gold, silver or any other precious metal was straight forward, but, like the word ‘stone’, all may not be what it seems. When we think something is made from a precious metal, we think of 925 sterling silver, 999 fine silver, 9, 14, 18, 22ct gold, in other words ‘real’ gold and silver, the precious metals mined from the earth. However, many jewellers will say something is silver or gold, when in fact it is just a base metal (copper or brass) covered with a silver or gold colouring. Unless you see the words ‘sterling’, ‘fine’, ‘925’ or ‘999’ accompanying the word ‘silver’, or there is no carat weight accompanying the word ‘gold’, your suspicions should be aroused. Another indicator is price. Gold and silver don’t have to be expensive, but something sold for the price of costume jewellery should be investigated. Again, there is nothing wrong with non-precious metal jewellery, it’s just that customers should not be misled into thinking they’re getting something they are not.

Even with such tags, if you are in doubt, you can always have your jewellery tested at a laboratory.

The devil is in the detail

As a general rule of thumb, the more vague the information, the less you can generally trust its accuracy. Just think of the level of detail now needed on food packaging in some countries – customers want to, and are seen to have the right to know what is in their food, whereas past labelling was seen as vague and misleading. There should be the same approach for the jewellery we buy. In reality, we’re not all experts on the meaning of the different terminology used in the jewellery world and I’m afraid, some jewellers may take advantage of that gap in knowledge. When we hear the word ‘silver’ it’s natural we think it’s ‘real’ silver, and many jewellers know this. Detail can often be kept to a minimum to tap into our pre-existing assumptions about what words mean. And these assumptions are so strong, we never question further. For you to be truly confident that you’re buying what you are being led to believe you are, please ask questions of your jeweller. Jewellery is such a precious thing that we buy for a whole host of emotional and personal reasons, and it’s only right that we have full confidence that we are buying what we think we are buying. And keep asking until you’re satisfied with the answers you’re getting!

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