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Pro Tips for Purchasing Luxury Jewelry

Make sure your gift will be your loved one’s favorite through time and (ever-changing) trends

Everyone loves a gorgeous diamond necklace, precious metal bracelet or sophisticated ring, making a piece of jewelry a classic gift for anniversaries, birthdays and Valentine’s Day. Yet jewelry selection is probably the most hit-or-miss gift you can give because keeping an item in a wearer’s rotation depends on a piece’s quality and the wearer’s forever tastes.

Here, a complete guide for making a purchase that the guy or girl in your life will love—and actually wear. 

Think about the wearers individual style; not yours.

Removing your own preferences from the jewelry selection process is the most difficult aspect of it. You may not be as enamored with your gift as the recipient. “Most of all, a piece of jewelry should reflect the taste and personality of the wearer,” says Jeffrey Bennett, Market Vice President of Tiffany & Co. in New York City. Jewelry is a personal buy; think about the wearer’s usual preferences, and choose in accordance. Here are some questions to ask yourself: Does she normally wear silver, gold or rose gold? Does she like gemstones or diamonds, or mostly just precious metals? Does she generally wear necklaces, earrings, rings, watches or bracelets? 

Not sure? Ask her best friend or close family member—or, better yet, go with your instincts. “In life, our gut feelings lead us to the perfect answers,” says Tawnya Warren, owner of Zoe Fine Jewelry.“Pick a piece that resonates with you while you are thinking about the person’s best qualities—what makes you smile when thinking about them? You will likely gravitate to the piece.”

Tiffany bracelet and ring

Tiffany & Co. bracelet and ring

Do your homework.

A jeweler can help, but walk in the door with some idea of what you want. “Quality and craftsmanship should also be taken into consideration,” says Bennett. “If a piece contains diamonds or gemstones, the four c’s (cut, color, clarity and carat weight) as well as presence are important terms to familiarize yourself with.” 

Here’s the 411: Presence refers to precision of the diamond’s cut and its polish, which influences the overall beauty. Cut is not the shape of the diamond but the proportions and symmetry; the more light it reflects, the better. (“Excellent” is the highest grade.) Clarity refers to how many imperfections the diamond contains; the fewer, the better. Color refers to the faint yellow tint that can accompany a diamond; the less color, the better. (Grades D, E and F are considered “colorless.”) Carat weight is based on preference. (Remember, bigger is not always better for an understated woman.) And every facet influences the price. Nail down some quality basics going in, and be willing to adapt once you get there.

A Cartier bracelet

A Cartier bracelet

Versatility is king.

When in doubt, choose classic styles, colors and symbols—round or square diamonds, gold and silver, hearts, bars, links—that will never go out of style. These days, it’s also important that the wearer can mix and match if necessary, so a piece that works with other items in a person’s collection is a good way to go. The Amulette de Cartier sautoir necklace and bracelet, for instance, can be layered or worn alone.

Bennett says Tiffany’s T Collection is the most versatile the brand has to offer and can work for any woman (or man). “I would suggest the T smile pendant in 18k yellow or rose gold. It’s a charming piece that women of all ages can pair with other personal jewelry,” he says. “For men, I would suggest the T square bracelet in 18k gold. It adds a sophisticated look when paired with a watch or ID bracelet.”

Piaget earrings

Piaget earrings

Avoid trendy pieces.

New jewelry filters in and out of fashion all the time, but you don’t want your gift to one day seem unstylish. “Avoid the trap of buying jewelry based on what’s trending,” says Bennett, who advises that a good gift has two qualities. “It should reflect the personality of the wearer and it should stand the test of time.” Hearts in a precious metal can be elegant if you’re looking for a symbol of love, especially for anniversaries or Valentine’s Day, as Bennett says they are “a timeless design.” If she’s into gems, birthstones are perpetual favorites.

For style, ask yourself: have I seen it before? If so, that’s likely a good thing. “Some of the most cherished items are those passed down through generations,” says Warren. “Think hoop earrings, studs, classic eternity bands, and bangles that can be layered.” And lastly, if you think you’ve got it all just right, consider an engraving. An “I love you” message will help that piece secure a special place the wearer’s collection for years to come.

No time to spare? Lynn Yaeger explores the trend of making your big jewelry purchases on the web.