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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."

During the summer and other low-demand times, jewelers know they won't sell much and don't compete as fiercely for business, said diamond industry veteran Ira Weissmann. "If there ever is a time when prices are lower, it's actually at the busiest times of the year," he said. "Competition among vendors in the jewelry market is terribly fierce."

As for the gold- or silver-plated pieces, "sales are usually at the end of a fashion season, since most of the jewelry was bought to complement the current season's clothing trends," Tran said.

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Hit the web

The internet can be a great source for jewelry deals, but the experts agree that shopping with a reputable seller is very important online. Be sure to check buyer reviews for the seller, as well as the return policy, Gizzi said. "You want to ensure you can return it should it not fit or look in person the way it did online," she said.

Etsy.com can be a reliable source, Pavini said. But as with any website, be sure to read fine print and contact the seller with any questions about policies or the product, she said. Also, ask about delivery timing, delivery insurance and shipping discounts when buying more than one item, Pavini said.

"I'm a big fan of Bauble Bar," Pavini said. "They offer free shipping and free returns on reasonably priced jewelry. Plus, they are constantly updating their inventory to reflect the latest trends and offering special savings like the Buried Bauble, an item marked down to $10 or $20 every Friday and Monday." To boot, Bauble Bar has coupon codes for further discounts like 25% off."

Also, be sure to subscribe to newsletters and email lists for both online and physical stores, which may give notice of sale dates, Gizzi said.

Be flexible on style

Consider the style, says Gizzi. "Jewelry stores have a variety of jewelry styles that created to give a big look for a lower price," she said. "Talk to your jeweler about your budget and the jewelry style you are looking for, and they will find the perfect piece of jewelry for your budget."

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Check clearance

If immediate trends aren't a priority, look for deals in jewelers' clearance sections stocked with previous seasons' products, Gizzi said.

--Written by Sari Krieger for MainStreet

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