How You Can Safely Buy Jewelry Online

An anniversary gift of fine jewelry is a cherished gift, so make sure to buy jewelry online securely. Buying online saves you time, you get better deals and can save on taxes. But you want to be sure your jewelry gift is all it should be.

How To Choose An Online Jeweler

Maybe you aren't familiar with a particular vendor, but see a piece of jewelry you adore (and especially at a price you can afford). Or you know you can get great jewelry discounts by buying online. Do you have a problem with a piece of jewelry you purchased? Here's how to resolve it. Apply a little caution and review these tips before you buy any jewelry online:

  • The vendor should have an address, phone number and contact info listed.
  • Review their privacy policy to see what personal information is collected and how it will be used.
  • They should display a certificate, sticker or logo to show a professional trade association or affiliation, such as the Jewelers of America (JA) or Jewelers Vigilance Committee (JVC).
  • Small, custom design jewelers may not have this affiliation. This doesn't meant they aren't reputable. Get referrals if you plan to buy a custom jewelry piece online.
  • They should display a security logo to ensure that your transaction is secure. You should also see either a URL that begins with "https" and a "lock" icon on your browser's status bar.
  • Online stores approved by the Better Business Bureau can post its logo. Make sure you can click it
  • You'll almost always use a credit card online. A disreputable dealer, offline or online, may tempt you to buy jewelry with a "pay cash and pay less" offer. How could this happen online? You may decide to call for more information and be presented with a verbal offer on the phone. Resist. Hang up. You'll have no chance of getting your money back in case of a dispute.
  • What is their return and refund policy? You should be able to receive a full refund, not just an exchange. How long do you have to return your purchase? Do you receive store or card credit? Read the fine print or make sure it is in writing.
  • If you speak with a customer rep and receive verbal assurances about their jewelry, get it in writing if it isn't posted online.
  • Ask if any unusual treatments have been used on a gemstone, and if there are any special care instructions. Whether or not a gem has been treated must be disclosed to you and stated in writing.
  • Does the vendor offer any other warrantees or guarantees?
  • Always keep the original packaging and an itemized receipt whether you buy jewelry online or off.
  • Keep all e-mails and printouts of your online jewelry purchases. Never e-mail credit card or other financial information as this is not a secure method.

Do your research before you buy jewelry online or off. Even reputable jewelers do not always hire knowledgeable salespeople. View this hidden video made by Michael Rogers, a noted jewelry appraiser and graduate gemologist with his own radio show, and a San Diego news investigative team as they attempt to shop at several local jewelry stores. Be an informed consumer whether you buy jewelry online or at a retail store.

How to Resolve Jewelry Purchase Problems

Most recipients are thrilled with their gift, but problems do occasionally arise when you buy jewelry online. Always contact the jeweler first to try to resolve your dispute. Reputable jewelers want to maintain their hard-earned reputation and want to work with an unsatisfied customer. They know that bad word of mouth can really hurt them.

  • If you can't come to a satisfactory agreement, then contact your local Better Business Bureau. Check your Yellow Pages for other local consumer protection agencies.
  • Another valuable resource when you buy jewelry online and can't resolve a dispute is the Jewelers Vigilance Committee (JVC) which, for a $50 filing fee, will investigate and mediate your complaint. They are a non-profit trade association supported by the jewelry industry.
  • Submit your complaint in writing and mail or fax it (if less than 5 pages). Attach all documentation, such as ads, invoices, receipts, order forms, and any correspondence. Make sure to include your contact information. Their address is: 25 West 45th Street, Suite 400, New York, NY 10036, fax: 212-997-9148. They contact you when they receive new developments.
  • The small fee for their mediation service is a much more inexpensive alternative to litigation fees.
  • Your jeweler does not have to be a member in order for the JVC to respond to your complaint, nor does this mean the jeweler is not reputable if they aren't a member.
  • The Federal Trade Organization (FTC) helps to protect the consumer from fraudulent and deceptive business practices. Visit their web site, www.ftc.gov for free information about consumer issues and filing complaints.

The laws apply to both online and offline purchases, and if you take the above precautions before you buy jewelry online, you have protected yourself well. Here are more general jewelry buying tips.

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