CBSN

Buying jewelry

They say diamonds are a girl's best friend and between Valentine's Day and other occasions, consumers are expected to spend more than four billion dollars on jewelry this spring.  But buying jewelry doesn't have to tarnish your savings.  Kelli Grant, Senior Consumer Reporter for SmartMoney.com offers some tips on how to get the best deal.

Firstly, factor in rising prices.  If you were planning to make a major jewelry purchase this year, like an engagement ring or just an expensive gift, now is probably the time to do it. Gold is up nearly 30% compared with last year, and the price of one-carat diamonds is up 19%.  Experts say it's only going to get more expensive. Your budget will buy more now than in six months.

Don't be afraid to stack discounts.   Jewelers have offered more discounts in print, mobile and online formats in recent years, hoping to appeal to coupon clippers and to make people more comfortable buying jewelry online. Zales and BlueNile, for example, both have coupons for 20% off select purchases.  You may not be able to combine some deals with sales or pricey engagement rings, so read the fine print before shopping.

Also, consider silver.   Ounce for ounce, gold is more than 50 times as expensive than sterling silver. Designers are increasingly incorporating the inexpensive precious metal into valuable diamond and gemstone pieces. Silver can be prone to darken, so ask if the piece has a tarnish-resistant finish.

When you make a big jewelry purchase,  double-check quality.  Shoppers who are spending more than $500 on an item with diamonds or other gemstones should get an independent appraisal and gem grading report. Diamonds and colored gems often undergo treatments in a lab to remove flaws, but that lessens their value on the resale market. That 50% off sale may still have an asking price of more than the gem is really worth.

And finally, remember to  comparison shop.  There's a growing online market for both loose stones and finished pieces online. Competition means many stores and web sites will match prices on pieces of comparable quality. Some also offer extra discounts for paying with cash or buying a completed piece instead of having them set a gemstone purchased elsewhere.

For more tips on how to get the best deal on jewelry and other consumer advice, visit www.smartmoney.com.