When you are considering a jewelry purchase, your most important decision should not be based on price. Your choice should be based on style, quality and then budget. The design of the jewelry must fit the recipient’s personal style. If the selected jewelry is the wrong style, then it will sit in the drawer and never be worn.
This is worse than not purchasing jewelry at all. Jewelry should be worn, adored, admired, treasured and enjoyed by the owner and friends. It should make the owner feel good to put it on and wear it with pride. If you understand the quality of the jewelry you own or purchase, your enjoyment level will increase dramatically. This essay will help you select the best quality jewelry for your budget, based upon the knowledge of what to look for in fine quality jewelry.
The first important jewelry purchase, for most people, is an engagement ring. There are many different styles of rings: engagement rings, wedding bands, colored stone rings, mens signet rings, mens stone rings, ladies gold rings, ladies cocktail rings, and more.
Each ring has its own different style arrangements, yet they all have one thing in common; the amount of precious metal, how the stones are set into the ring and the quality of the design used in manufacturing that ring. You will find that most volume mass sales jewelry stores will sell a ring style that looks great, but is very light weight. Most upscale custom couture jewelry stores sell heavier more robust rings. How can you determine the quality?
Here is a step by step process to analyze the quality of the jewelry you are considering for purchase.
Pick up the ring and feel the heft of it in your hand. Does it feel heavy or does it feel light in your hand? Look under the ring to see if it is solid or hollow and carved out. If it is carved out, look at the thickness of the sidewalls under the ring. Are they razor thin walls or thick walls? If the ring has stones set into it, look at the metal under the stones. Is there any metal support under the stones or is it fully cutout and open under the stones?
Look at the bottom of the ring, called the shank. This is the underside of the ring that goes around your finger. Is it very thin, or does it have some depth. Hold the ring on its side and look at the ring as if you are looking thru the hole that your finger goes through.
Study the profile of the ring and look for a heavier gauge of metal. By going through these exercises at the jewelry store, you will see the quality of the ring. Most jewelers who sell low quality rings will not like your studious attention to their jewelry, but that is their problem. You are now an informed consumer.
Ask the jeweler for a ten power magnifying glass, called a loupe. If they don’t supply you with a loupe when you ask them, please be forewarned. They should be happy to supply you with a magnifying glass for you to inspect their jewelry. Rest both elbows on the counter, hold the ring in one hand and the loupe in the other.
Bring the loupe ½ inch from your eye, and bring the ring to about 1 inch in front of the loupe. The ring should now be in full focus for you to study the worksmanship of the ring. If it is an engagement ring, look for the following details:
Look closely at how the center diamond is set into the prongs. Is the edge of the diamond (called the girdle) fitted directly against the vertical section of the prong, with no space visible between the diamond and the prong? Is the seat on which the diamond sits where it meets the prong a straight line or jagged?
Is the diamond sitting perfectly level in the prongs? Look at how the prong is soldered to the ring at the base. Is there rough areas around the prong base? Is there unpolished metal bumps around the base of the head (called solder)? A good craftsman will set the diamond straight into the prongs, with perfect polishing at the base of the prongs.
You will see this for yourself and any poor worksmanship will be self evident. Remember, if it doesn’t look good to you, if you question the quality when viewing it, then most likely there really is a question of quality.
If the engagement ring has side stones set into it, this section will describe what you should look for. Study the ring with the loupe. If the side diamonds are channel set, look at the channel walls holding the diamonds in place. Are the walls straight, without any jagged edges?
Are the diamonds set correctly, touching each other without overlapping? Look under the stones at the underside of the ring. Under each side stone should be a metal support that gives the ring strength and supports each stone. If there is no metal under the side stones, the ring could have very little structural integrity.
The side stones could come out of the ring if the ring is hit while wearing. Look at the thickness of the sidewalls under the ring that touch the finger. These walls should be thicker and wider. A thin wall could cut into the finger if the ring is hit while wearing. If you study the worksmanship of the ring, you will know if your jeweler is supplying you a finely made ring.
Now look at the surface of the ring with the magnifying glass. Let the light reflect off the surface of the metal (either gold or platinum). You want to see a perfectly flat surface that reflects the light perfectly. Look for any waves in the surface of the ring, any pit marks or holes.
Waves on the surface of the ring indicate a poor polishing job. Pitmarks and holes in the surface indicate poor quality casting of the ring. The ring can easily be repolished to remove the waves, but the pitmarks (called porosity) can not be easily removed. Porosity occurs when air bubbles get trapped in the ring during the casting process, or poor quality alloys are mixed with the gold or platinum during the casting process. If the porosity is spread out through out the ring, I recommend asking for a new ring.