Diamonds are forever. At least, after an ad campaign by De Beers Consolidated Mines, Ltd. transformed the jewelry market from the 1930s (when almost no one proposed with diamonds) to three-quarters of American brides wearing diamond engagement rings today.

The jewelry you love most often has memories attached to it. It makes you feel beautiful and powerful. But when you’re buying jewelry, it’s important to keep in mind that, as with that century-old ad campaign that transformed diamonds into a rare item essential for showing prestige, jewelry sales are a lot of hype. If you want a piece you love, you have to know what you’re looking for.

Here are six tips on buying jewelry to help you find an item tailor-made for beautiful memories (without breaking the bank in the process).

  1. Avoid Prestige Names

While a sparkling diamond with an iconic name on the box has a thrill of romance (just ask Priyanka Chopra), even the cheapest Tiffany rings aren’t going to work for an average gal’s budget.

Here’s the thing. Brands like Tiffany and Cartier spend a lot of time, money, and effort to give themselves a reputation for quality. But that label does not mean they’re the best quality on the market–or that you can’t get a quality piece for a fraction of the price. Plus, if you can’t find any markers of craftsmanship other than a name brand stamp, you might be overpaying (remember, anyone can make a stamp).

If you love prestige names, start by window shopping (in stores or online) for styles you like. Then, look for the same styles with a smaller retailer.

This could be a small online jewelry seller you know and trust, like It could be a slightly bigger but well-known retailer, like Zales or Jared. It could even be a local jeweler, so long as they’re reputable (Jewelers of America offers an index of licensed local jewelers). When you find someone you trust, stick with them.

  1. Know What You’re Shopping For

In much the same way you should go to the grocery store with a list, you should always shop for jewelry with a clear idea of what you’re looking for.

For example, are you looking for an understated everyday item? A special occasion statement piece? A keepsake to pass down to your kids? A piece like the one your mother treasured for decades?

These are all very different pieces. The problem is that it’s easy to be swayed by trendy items once you’re in the store. If you already know what you want, you won’t have to waste time or money on anything else.

  1. Do Your Research

To that end, it pays to do your research–on jewelry, on reasonable pricing, and on the business selling it.

If you’re shopping for someone else, for example, it helps to know if they’re allergic to any metals (if someone is allergic to fake jewelry, it’s most often because they’re allergic to nickel). If that’s the case for a loved one, you’ll have to learn how to read the product details carefully and always buy from reputable dealers.

You should also do your homework on the retailer themselves. Look for sellers with certifications from recognized professional organization, like Jewelers of America. Any reputable jeweler will be quite happy to show you this certification.

  1. Find a Real Gem

Gemstones never go out of style, but you have to make sure you get the right one.

There are three classifications of gemstones:

  1. Natural (dug out of a hole in the ground)
  2. Synthetic (grown in a laboratory)
  3. Imitation (made in China)

Unfortunately, there are almost no au natural stones on the market. If a jeweler says a stone is completely natural, smile and say, “Oh, it hasn’t even been heated?” Heat treatment is a wildly common technique used to deepen the color of gemstones, even natural ones dug out of the ground. Nearly all gems, including natural ones, receive some sort of lab treatment, and that’s perfectly fine.

What you don’t want is a stone that’s been irradiated or injected with silicon or colored glass. The only way to verify this is to ensure you can return the stone after purchasing it and having it appraised by an independent expert (the chemical test drains the colored glass, so jewelers won’t let you do it before purchasing).

  1. Look for an Appraisal or Gem Certificate

If you’re paying more for a pricey piece of jewelry, you should always review one document before purchasing: the appraisal certificate.

A jewelry appraisal is a process by which a professional states a piece’s monetary value. For a piece with precious stones, that should include attributes like color, cut, clarity, and carat weight.

If you’re paying serious money for a serious stone, you should also ask to see its gem certificate. A serious diamond should have Gemological Institute of America (GIA) papers. A serious colored stone (including pearls) should have American Gem Society (AGS) papers.

That said, keep in mind that any certificate can be faked. If you want to verify a serious stone’s papers, check with the certifying agency and check the stone against its certificate. Ask for a millimeter gauge and check its measurements. Ask for a loupe and check its imperfections. Ask for a scale and check its weight. This isn’t bad manners, it’s good business.

  1. No Piece of Jewelry is an “Investment”

Last but not least, keep in mind the simple truth that no piece of jewelry is an investment.

Yes, a stone might increase in value in 50 years if the stone is unusually rare and the piece is truly exceptional. But most stones aren’t that rare and most pieces are not that exceptional. Don’t let a jeweler sell you on a high price by arguing it’s an investment. Jewelry is not an investment–it’s a luxury item.

Instead, approach jewelry by looking at the quality of the materials, including the quality of the gemstones and the purity of the material, but don’t let that trick you into thinking of it as an investment piece.

Buying Jewelry Should Be Fun!

Everyone has a fond memory attached to jewelry, whether it’s a Mickey Mouse watch you wore every day of seventh grade or your grandmother’s beloved string of pearls. Buying jewelry is a serious business, but it should also be enjoyable. After all, you’re buying something to make memories in. If you want to get more tips about buying the latest design jewelry, then click here for more details.

And if you loved this post, make sure to read more from our jewelry category.