How to Shop for Jewelry Online

If you're considering a gift of jewelry for someone special or as a treat for yourself, take some time to learn the terms used in the industry. 1. Gold Gold means all gold or 24 karat (24K) gold. Because 24K gold is soft, it's usually mixed with other metals to increase its durability and hardness. If a piece of jewelry is not 24 karat gold, the karat quality should accompany any claim that the item is gold. 2. Platinum, Silver and Other Metals Platinum is a precious metal that costs more than gold. It is usually mixed with other similar metals: iridium, palladium, ruthenium, rhodium and osmium. Different markings are used on platinum jewelry as compared with gold jewelry. These quality markings are based on the amount of pure platinum in the piece - based on parts per thousand. 3. Gemstones Natural gemstones are found in nature. Laboratory-created stones are made in a laboratory. These stones have essentially the same chemical, physical and visual properties as natural gemstones. Laboratory-created stones do not have the rarity of naturally colored stones and they are less expensive than naturally mined stones. By contrast, imitation stones look like natural stones in appearance only, and may be glass, plastic, or less costly stones. Gemstones may be measured by weight, size, or both. The basic unit for weighing gemstones is the carat. 4. Diamonds A diamond's value is based on four criteria: color, cut, clarity, and carat. The clarity and color of a diamond usually are graded. However, scales are not uniform: a clarity grade of "slightly included" may represent a different grade on one grading system versus another, depending on the terms used in the scale. Make sure you know how a particular scale and grade represent the color or clarity of the diamond you're considering. A diamond is described as "flawless" if it has no visible surface or internal imperfections when viewed under 10-power magnification by a skilled diamond grader. Diamond weight is usually stated in carats. 5. Pearls Natural or real pearls are made by oysters and other mollusks. Cultured pearls also are grown by mollusks, but with human intervention. Because natural pearls are very rare, most pearls used in jewelry are either cultured or imitation pearls. Imitation pearls are man-made with glass, plastic, or organic materials. Cultured pearls, because they are made by oysters or mollusks, usually are more expensive than imitation pearls. A cultured pearl's value is largely based on its size, usually stated in millimeters, and the quality of its nacre coating, which gives it luster. Jewelers will usually tell you if the pearls are cultured or imitation. To get the best deal on a piece of jewelry for yourself or someone you love, shop around. You should compare quality, price, and service. If you're not familiar with any jewelers in your area, ask family members, friends, and co-workers for recommendations. Always check for the appropriate markings on metal jewelry and find out if the pearls are natural, cultured, laboratory-created or imitation. Also, Find out whether the gemstone has been treated. Is the change permanent? Is special care required? Shop with companies you know or do some homework before buying to make sure a company is legitimate before doing business with it. Get the details about the product, as well as the merchant's refund and return policies, before you buy. Look around the website for an address to write to or a phone number to call if you have a question, a problem or need help.