What you should know about buying jewelry

Not everything that sparkles is a good investment, says NAIT alum

Buying jewelry can be a difficult and – depending on the occasion – emotional decision. Not to worry. We talked to a NAIT alum who’s been in the business more than 30 years.

Barry Tough (Management ’71) is the owner of Adamas Goldsmiths, which sells some of the most recognizable brands of jewelry and provides custom craftsmanship in-house.

“Buying jewelry can be expensive. In some cases, it’s really no different than buying a house.” 

“Buying jewelry can be expensive. In some cases, it’s really no different than buying a house," says Tough.

Are you looking for diamonds or other gemstones? Do you care more about carets or the clarity of the gem? Is there a specific design you have in mind? Here are a few of Tough’s pointers to help make that decision.

Get to know the basics

Diamonds – and most other precious gems – are graded by the four Cs: caret, cut, colour and clarity, says Tough. The combination of these qualities determines the price. You need to be familiar with the basic terminology to make an informed purchase.

  • Caret is the weight of the diamond or gemstone. Bottom line, the more it weighs, the greater the cost.
  • Cut is not just the shape of the stone, but the facet, which ultimately determines its brilliance and brightness.
  • Colour also drives the price of the diamond. Unless you are buying a coloured gem, the less colour, the more expensive.
  • Clarity means an absence of inclusions, marks, breaks or imperfections.


Look closely at what you’re actually buying

Once you know the basics, you should be able to decide which qualities are important to you. If you are working with a smaller budget, says Tough, focus less on the colour and carets and more on the cut and clarity of the gem.

“It’s not necessary to spend too much on the colour quality,” says Tough. “At that point, you’re over-buying, essentially like buying a camera with too many features.”

If you are going to spend the money, you should see what you’re buying. “You can be told about all kinds of qualities that are available, but until you see it, how do you know what you really want?”

Make sure your jeweler is willing to take the time to educate you and show you these qualities under a microscope. If you are paying for clarity, you are only going to see marks or inclusions under magnification. The same goes for the quality of the cut.

For these reasons, Tough cautions against buying jewelry online. “Most diamonds come with a certificate. Certificates, depending on who is grading, can vary as well. The only way of really knowing is inspecting the jewelry.”

Consider customizing your own

Having a hard time finding what you want or within your price range? Surprisingly, getting your jeweler to work with you to custom design your own jewelry may be your best bet.

“If you can imagine it, you can make it."

“If you can imagine it, you can make it,” says Tough.

“You think custom, you think it’s going to cost more. A lot of times it doesn’t,” he explains. “It can be more economical to have it made for you here, rather than purchasing items that are coming from the United States, which businesses have pay shipping costs.”

In fact, nearly 20% of Adamas’s sales are from custom designs where craftsmen work directly with customers to create the design, develop a prototype and then cast the piece. The whole process takes anywhere from four to six weeks.

“We have rings that we made 20 to 30 years ago and people come in to have their rings polished,” says Tough. “They are so pleased and proud of their ring because it’s unique and expresses their creative side.”

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