5 Tips for Buying Quality Jewelry on the Cheap

NEW YORK (MainStreet)—You may want to surprise mom with a gold heart locket, bestow a diamond bracelet on your Valentine, or treat yourself to a new pair of earrings, but with a little forethought, you can save money. Here are some tips from industry experts on how to save money on something shiny.

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Know your metals

First and foremost, all the experts urge buying from a reputable source that isn't willing to risk its good reputation. Also, decide whether you want solid or plated jewelry. Pieces made from pure gold, silver or platinum, sell based on current market prices for the metals, which fluctuate on a daily basis, similar to a corporate stock, says Tam Tran, who teaches jewelry workshops and co-owns Lost Wax Studio in New York City. A piece made from a "base metal" like nickel, copper, or zinc and plated with gold or silver is more likely to be on sale, such as in a department store. But be aware that the plating will eventually deteriorate with wear, Tran said.

Time it right

Expert advice differs as to when you should buy. Jeanette Pavini, coupons.com spokesperson, said the slower jewelry-buying months of January, April and July may be a good time to shop. "Inventory will be picked over, but most stores slash prices dramatically after the holiday months to clear out what's left so they can bring in new merchandise," she said. On the other hand, jewelry sellers compete for dollars in the popular months of December, May and February and may offer competitive deals at those times, Pavini said.

Jewelers of America spokesperson Amanda Gizzi says the holidays are a great time to shop for jewelry, as jewelers often run promotions. Also, Gizzi said, during the holidays "jewelry stores are fully stocked and offer the most variety of styles than you will find at any other time of year."