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Jewellery Buying Guide

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Buying jewellery can be a fun and exciting experience, but with so many different pieces available, it can also be overwhelming trying to choose the perfect pieces to add to your collection. 

Whatever piece of jewellery you're shopping for, there are some common factors you'll need to think about, including what metal you should choose, if you'd like any gemstones in it, as well as how to establish its authenticity.  

In this guide, we will be discussing the things you should consider when buying any piece of jewellery, to ensure you find the perfect piece to complement both your preferences and your budget. We'll cover:

What types of jewellery should you buy?

With so many different types of jewellery available to buy, the first thing you should be asking yourself is what piece you're after. A few popular ones buyers tend to go for are:

Necklaces: These make fantastic finishing touches to simple outfits, and can be used to make a statement or add a luxury effect. Necklaces are usually given as keepsakes or a sentimental gift, and with so many styles available, you're bound to find one to suit yourself or your loved one. We have a great selection of necklaces for women and men, as well as unisex necklace styles that will suit everybody, so be sure to check these out.

RingsRings are typically given as a grand gesture of love, so consider shopping for one of these if you're looking to find a gift that will mean the world to that special someone. When paired with a precious gemstone like diamonds, rings can add class and sophistication to any look. Here at Ramsdens, we have a wide variety of rings for womenmen and children, as well as an impressive collection of engagement rings which will make your big moment even more special.

Bracelets: Bracelets are stunning accessories to include your jewellery box, and make brilliant keepsakes if you're planning to hand them down in the future. Whether belcher, plain or charm bracelets are your style, there are options to suit everybody. Our range of bracelets even includes bracelets with coloured stones so you can find something extra special. Alternatively, you can shop for bangles to add an extra touch of luxury to your look.

Earrings: If you're into smaller details, earrings can be just what you need to complete your look. Whether you're looking for some subtle touches from studs, or want to make a statement with hoops and drop earrings, they will look fantastic paired with any of your outfits. 

Pendants: Sometimes we need to invest in additional pieces for our existing pieces of jewellery, like pendants for necklaces. Popular pendant styles typically include cross/crucifixes, as well as heart and lockets. We have plenty of styles for you to shop, so don't miss out on finding the perfect pendant to complement your chain. 

There are plenty of other jewellery types you might want to shop for, but it's always a good idea to establish this before deciding on metals, gemstones and any other details you'd like it to include.

Choosing a precious metal

Any piece of high-quality, genuine jewellery will be made of one or more precious metals that can each give your piece a different look. Most commonly, platinum, silver and various versions of gold are used in jewellery, but, apart from the pricing and colouring, not many people know the more intricate, and often practical, differences between them. 

Platinum

Though it's a similar to silver in colour, platinum jewellery is actually a much brighter and shinier grey than its lookalike. 

The metal is best known in the industry for its durability and resistance against tarnishing, which makes it a great option for active and busy people. If you're particularly sporty or your job includes working with chemicals and cleaning products, opting for platinum will ensure you are investing in practical jewellery that's suitable for everyday wear. 

This white metal is usually up to 95% pure and hypoallergenic, meaning it will be a great, gentle option for those with allergies and sensitive skin. 

However, due to these attractive properties and the rarity of the metal, platinum does tend to be more expensive than other precious metals, including gold. So, be prepared to pay more this type of jewellery.

Gold

Gold is perhaps the most popular metal used and is one of, if not the most, precious metal available to us. We can get gold in several shades, depending on what alloys the pure form is mixed with. In it's purest form, it is too delicate for everyday wear, so it's typically combined with other alloys, including silver, copper and zinc to improve its durability and strength. As the ratio of alloy to gold increases the carat decreases and the metal becomes harder. For example, 9ct gold is much harder than 22ct gold.

There are three main types used in gold jewellery: yellow gold, white gold and rose gold. These all differ in the type and percentage of metal alloys included. 


Gold type


Properties

Yellow gold

·         This shade of gold is achieved by mixing pure gold with hints of red from copper and green from silver.

·         Yellow gold is close to that of pure gold and is usually associated with traditional jewellery, giving it a luxury look.

white gold

·         White gold is created by mixing yellow gold with copper, zinc and nickel. White gold is also coated with rhodium to enhance the white hue.

·         These imitate the appearance of silver but tend to be stronger, so are preferred by those with active lifestyles.

Rose gold

·         The gorgeous pink tone of rose gold is achieved by mixing yellow gold and copper to enrich the colour.

·         Rose gold adds a unique touch to any piece of jewellery, so it's great for those looking to pick something more adventurous.

What is a carat?

You will have heard this phrase when people talk about jewellery, and if you find yourself wondering what carat means, it simply refers to the purity and fineness of the metal. Gold is categorised in the following carats:


Gold carats


Properties

 9 carat

·         Equivalent to 37.5% pure gold

·         The most affordable and common type of gold

·         Has a light-yellow tone and is stronger compared to other carats as it's mixed with other metals

14 carat

·         Equivalent to 58.5% pure gold

·         Has a warm yellow tone

 18 carat

·         Equivalent to 75% pure gold

·         A more expensive carat due to its higher pure gold content

·         Has a bright yellow tone and can have white metals added to produce white gold or copper to make rose gold

 22 carat

·         Equivalent to 91.6% pure gold

·         Has a rich yellow tone

·         The purity makes it fairly soft, so this is better for plain jewellery than stone-set types

 24 carat

·         Equivalent to 99.9% pure gold

·         Has a natural yellow tone

·         This is gold in its purest form so it's highly valuable and more expensive than any other carat type

·         Its soft composition makes it unsuitable for jewellery and better suited to things like gold coins and bars

How many carats is pure gold?

Despite 24 carat gold being referred to as 99.9% pure gold, this form of gold is the purest on the market and is sometimes also referred to as 100 per cent gold.

Silver

A timeless classic with exceptional shine, silver jewellery is one of the most popular choices out there. However, as pure silver can be soft and prone to damage, most silver jewellery you see is combined with an alloy to create sterling silver — this is 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% of other metals, most commonly copper. 

Sterling silver is less expensive than pure silver, however, both of these are more affordable than gold and platinum due to the wider availability of this precious metal. 

Selecting a gemstone

Gemstones can add an element of fun and luxury to any piece of jewellery, and with so many different ones available to choose from, it's a great way to express yourself. If you're shopping for someone else, injecting some playful colour into their jewellery collection is sure to be loved — especially if you shop with their favourite colour in mind!

But, with so many available to shop, we know it can be difficult to find the perfect one. When picking gemstone jewellery, you might want to do the following:

Consider birthstones

Gemstones are a naturally occurring material that are stunning in appearance, making them the perfect gift for all occasions — especially birthdays. Every calendar month is related to a specific gemstone, which is said to be lucky for those born in that month. There is a wide array of gemstones available, however the most common gems we see in jewellery in the UK are as below:

Birth month 

Birthstone

January

Garnet

February

Amethyst

March

Aquamarine

April

Diamond

May

Emerald

June

Pearl and Alexandrite

July

Ruby

August

Peridot

September

Sapphire

October

Tourmaline and Opal

November

Citrine and Topaz

December

Zircon, Tanzanite and Turquoise


As these common gemstones are associated with birthstones, choosing the corresponding one to your loved one's birth month will make these a great gift. However, you can branch out and get creative with the gemstone jewellery you wear. When picking gemstones for your jewellery, it's worth thinking about the following:

Think about what gemstones best suit your skin tone

There are a wide array of gemstones out there, in both bright and muted colours so a good starting point is to select one that will complement your skin tone. If you have pink or red undertones, you have a cool skin tone. As these people tend to have paler skin, a contrast can be created with bright coloured gemstones like rubies, garnets and sapphires. In comparison, warmer skin tones that have yellow or gold undertones will look great paired with earthy coloured gemstones. This can include colours such as orange, yellow and brown. 

Consider both basic and statement pieces

With such a wide array of gemstones available, it's possible to shop both basic and statement jewellery, meaning you'll be able to find something to suit your style. Whether you're after bright stones that will create a beautiful statement piece, or you want something more muted that you can wear daily, there are options for you. You can use any of these to show your personality, too. 

See which gemstones will complement the precious metals

Different coloured metals will look better with different gemstones, so if you want to ensure you pick a stunning piece of jewellery you might want to focus on matching these. For example, yellow gold jewellery looks best paired with diamonds that are tinged yellow as it can make them appear whiter, while rose gold jewellery looks gorgeous paired with deeper gemstones like rubies and emeralds. If you prefer silver jewellery, you'll be pleased to know its natural white brightness goes with most gemstones.

Determine the quality of the gemstone

Being sure you're getting what you've paid for is the most important factor when shopping for precious gems and jewellery. In general, jewellers determine the quality of a gemstone using "the four C's": colour, clarity, cut and carat weight. These are generally very well-known when looking at diamonds, however for other coloured gems there are no clear universal standards for what you're looking for and it is more based on preference and budget. 

The Gem Society has a great guide to gem grading that will get you up to speed with gemstone quality, so consider taking a read of this. 

Choose between real or synthetic gemstones

If you're struggling to find a real gemstone that fits into your budget, you might be interested in looking at synthetic styles. These are manmade, rather than naturally-occurring and so aren't considered as precious, or expensive to buy, but still look fantastic and are high-quality. 

As well as satisfying lower budgets, synthetic gemstones are typically favoured by those who believe in moving towards a more environmentally-friendly, ethical and sustainable world, as the production of these doesn't include mining. We have plenty of ranges of synthetic jewellery on site for you to browse, including cubic zirconia, as well as created emerald, ruby and sapphire

Know that some gemstones are more costly

There are so many gemstones to pick from, with some more rare and therefore more valuable than others. When you're looking for gemstone jewellery, you need to be aware of the ones which will cost you the most and any alternatives you could choose which are just as beautiful. 

Some of the most desired gemstones include coloured diamonds and sapphires, each available in a range of shades and tones. If your budget isn't stretched, consider one of these for a true luxurious touch. However, if you're looking for less expensive gemstones which still look dazzling, try amethyst or citrine jewellery

Consider tastes if buying for someone else

If you're buying for a loved one, you'll need to consider their own preferences. To do this, it can help to look at their existing jewellery collection and the usual colours they wear, so that you can play it safe. However, if this is a special piece of jewellery, think about incorporating their birthstone into it, to make it even more sentimental. There are gemstones in such a wide array of colours, so you're bound to find one that will impress them. 

Jewellery hallmark meanings

When it comes to buying jewellery, you need to ensure you're paying the right amount for the quality and history of the piece. To do this, it's important that you know how to read hallmarks. 

What is a hallmark?

A hallmark refers to the symbols that are engraved into a piece of jewellery. The symbol gives the following information:

  • Who made the piece
  • Its guaranteed standard of fineness
  • The Assay Office where the article was tested and marked
  • The year in which the article was tested and marked (optional stamp)

There is a vast array of hallmarks that can be seen on jewellery. Here, we will be taking you through some of the most widely used ones:

The Sponsor's Mark

The Sponsor's Mark is a unique mark of a company or person who is responsible for sending the item for hallmarking. This could be a manufacturer, importer, wholesaler, retailer or individual. But, they must be registered with the Assay Office.

The Assay Office Mark

The Assay Office Mark shows where the piece has been hallmarked. There are four Assay offices currently open in Great Britain and below are their corresponding stamps:

The Standard Mark

The Standard Mark illustrates the fineness — or purity — of the metal used in the jewellery. In the UK, the purity of previous metal content is measured in parts per 1000. For example, 375 parts per 1000 by weight is equivalent to 9 carat gold standard.

Below, you will find some common hallmarks for precious metals, which indicate their carats, origin and composition.

Gold

As previously mentioned in our 'what is a carat' section, gold jewellery is measured by carats, and knowing how to read gold hallmarks will show you what the purity of each piece is. For example, the gold hallmark 375 shows that the jewellery is made from 37.5% pure gold, with the rest being made up from alloys.

Silver

Knowing how to read silver hallmarks is important as it shows you the composition of your jewellery, which can determine how you care for it. This system works differently to gold: it isn't measured in carats ¬— instead, the hallmark indicates what alloys the pure silver has been mixed with, and, therefore, which type of silver you're buying. For example, the hallmark 925 means that the jewellery is made from 92.5% pure silver, making it sterling silver.

Platinum

For platinum, the fineness marks tells you about the precious metal content, with there being four recognised standards of platinum, as shown above. These mean the following:

850 = 85% pure platinum

900 = 90% pure platinum

950 = 95% pure platinum

999 = 99.9% pure platinum

Palladium

The Palladium hallmark was made compulsory by the UK government in 2019 for all articles over 1 gram, where it had previously been voluntary. There are three recognised standards of fineness for palladium as shown above. These mean:

500 = 50% pure palladium

950 = 95% pure palladium

999 = 99.9% pure palladium

Hopefully, this guide has shown you what you should be looking out for, including how to make the choice between precious metals and gems, and the jewellery hallmark meanings you should be familiar with. 

Here at Ramsdens, we have a great selection of high-quality jewellery including bangles, pendants and rings in both new and pre-owned condition so there is sure to be an affordable piece to suit your style here. Our collections include plenty of birthstone and gemstone options, so whether you're shopping for the perfect gift for a loved one, or you want to treat yourself to some new jewellery, we are certain you'll find what you're looking for. 

If you have any questions about our jewellery, feel free to contact us or visit us in your nearest branch. We also have plenty of information in our jewellery and watch guides and our blog, so be sure to keep up to date with our posts.

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