Not everyone inspects their jewelry like they should. It's understandable: When admiring a glittery diamond or exotic gemstone, it's easy to find yourself distracted from what's going on under the surface.
But what if you are concerned with getting the highest quality pieces that you can? Here's a quick guide to shopping for fine jewelry.
- Clarity. Ask to look at the piece under at least 10x magnification. Check carefully for imperfections and damage, ie scratches, chips and bubbles. Keep an especially sharp lookout for "feathers," or hairline fractures under the surface that make the stone more vulnerable to future cracks.
- Cut. All cuts should be symmetrical and well-proportioned, and girdle outlines should be exactly the right thickness for the stone in question, because a too-thin girdle is like to break and a too-thick girdle will make the piece heavy and unbalanced.
- Flashing. There's a difference between a shimmering diamond and the flashing of a untended mounting. If it hasn't been properly cleaned, you'll see the residue of non-organic metals in the piece.
- Glue. You'd be surprised how many pieces of fine jewelry still have visible tracks of glue when viewed under magnification. It should go without saying that this is completely unacceptable.
- Country of origin. Where did the stones originate? Where was it crafted? If it's from an exotic location, how was it shipped and what protection did it receive during transport? A reputable jeweler will offer a 100 percent guarantee of the integrity of the piece: Art Kimia jewelry, for example, comes from all over Latin America, yet their surfaces are unchipped and their cuts are flawless.
- Chains. Examine all the links for missing or broken pieces, because that's a sure sign of insufficient crystallization. They should also lie evenly on a flat surface with no bumps or twisted links.
- Plating. Bring back out the 10x magnification and inspect carefully for spots, voids or signs of early matting. If 100x magnification is available, you can also check for micro-cracks that are an indication of faulty plating.
- Solder. Ideally you'll see no evidence of solder at all, because its colors should match the piece and all tarnish should have been well-removed. It can be difficult to achieve this with fragile or complexly-cut stones, however, so it's really up to you when deciding how much visible solder is too much.