We are safe to assume for the purposes of this article there are three types of jewelry: Quality Jewelry, Respectable Jewelry and Fast Sale Jewelry. There are various shades of these one sees and are often identifiable by the price tag, but not always. All of these want to look like quality jewelry, so the consumer needs to know which kind he or she is in the market for and how to tell the difference. Unfortunately, because most jewelry must have a high polish at the time of purchase and be in a lighting situation the consumer possibly isn't accustomed to, many times the difference only becomes noticeable through the wearing of the article.

Right from the start, accept that the person you speak to behind the counter may not know the answers to your questions no matter how slick, professional, or rich they may look. This is not their fault if they have just been hired on. It is their fault if they make up answers rather than referring the question to someone who should know, or if they have been working there for sometime and haven't done their homework. The employer also is at fault for not being proactive enough to ensure that the staff is knowledgeable about the job and the stock.

First decide how much you are willing to spend. A lot of your time and the jeweler's will be saved if you state this. The jeweler can let you know if it is feasible. If your ambition is to fill up your fingers and thumbs with 10kt product then your most effective inexpensive route is simply shopping at the big discount department stores. Don't be deceived. This is NOT quality jewelry so don't expect your local independent goldsmith to want to compete with them. Such jewelry is just what is needed to fill the fast-sale niche in the market. Also, no experienced goldsmith looks forward to working on that stuff. The reasons most common are that it is thin (less metal = lower price to the consumer), often brittle (alloy problems) and often pitted (casting problem). Any one of these things can give the goldsmith more trouble than the job is worth to him. These are just a few of the reasons why better jewelry costs more, takes longer to need repair and yet is so much more worthwhile to repair.

At this point I should say something about family rings. Because they usually carry quite a number of stones and different kinds of stones, the repair costs are high. If the ring is a 10kt. special out of a department store catalogue you can almost guarantee the reprong job will be higher than what the customer originally paid for it. For that job the stones have to be taken out. They often need replacing because by this time many of the stones whether natural or synthetic will be scuffed and worn. Once the prongs have been replaced the stones need to be set in the ring again. That is a load of work that never has to be done for a diamond ring since the soldering torch will not damage an untreated diamond and the repairs can be done with diamonds still in the piece. (In the case of a Platinum piece the stones should be removed for repairs, because the heat required for Platinum is too intense for diamonds). Most people take this as a matter of course and don't complain but this explanation is addressed to those who see this as a "rip-off".

The family ring is pure sentiment all the way, so it is probably a good idea to pay a fair amount for it in the first place. It will take longer for it to get to the place where it needs repair, and you'll feel better about looking after a quality product when the time comes.

Happy Trails