The BBB offers a checklist to help consumers find the finest quality jewelry at the best value.
To locate a reputable jewelry store:
* Check a store's reputation by consulting friends, relatives or coworkers who have shopped there.
* Be sure the store has a long-standing, solid reputation in the community.
* Obtain a report on the business from BBB (www.cencal.bbb.org) in order to get better insight into the company's past performance history.
* Find out what organizations the jeweler belongs to and their membership requirements. Many trade organizations require strict adherence to good business practices before accepting a store for membership.
* Ask about the gemological and appraisal education of the store's salespeople.
Before making a jewelry purchase:
* Educate yourself about the special features of the particular jewelry (ie pearls, gemstones, gold, platinum, etc) you are considering. The Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov) offers an online booklet on buying jewelry, as does BBB (www.cencal.bbb.org).
* Shop around. Compare quality, price and service.
* Ask about the store's refund and return policy. Carefully read all warranties and ask questions if the terms are unclear.
* Make sure the jeweler writes on the sales receipt any information you relied on when making your purchase, such as the gem's weight or size. Some jewelers will supply a grading report from a gemological laboratory.
If you are shopping for jewelry online:
* If a store is unfamiliar, check with BBB for a report. Stores that meet standards for ethical online business practices are authorized to display a BBBOnLine Reliability seal on their web site.
* Get product details, as well as the merchant's refund and return policies.
* Look for an address to write to or a phone number to call if you have a problem or need assistance.
* Print out a copy of any transaction receipts for your records.
Remember that online shopping has changed the way most people shop for goods and services. And while it has put thousands of vendors at your fingertips, the Internet has certainly opened the door to scams. It has never been more important to know what you are buying and who you are buying from. While virtual stores may offer some good values, you simply won't have the same personalized shopping experience that you can get sitting across the counter from someone who knows your taste and style. Examining, touching and trying on the jewelry right in the store will help you select a piece that you will enjoy for many years to come.