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Jewelry Buying Guide | Your Essential Handbook to Sparkling Choices and Timeless Elegance

on June 27, 2024

Whether you're looking for your first piece of fine jewelry for an elegant outing, an engagement ring, or a truly memorable gift for someone very special in your life, here’s a detailed jewelry buying guide to help you take those first steps with confidence. At first, it might seem like a lot of information, but trust us, this summary will leave you well-prepared to make a conscious and satisfying purchase. Let’s get started!

Jewelry Buying Guide


Main Precious and Semi-Precious Gemstones

The world of precious and semi-precious stones is as vast as it is fascinating. Each gem has its own story, unique characteristics, and cultural significance. Understanding these differences is essential to truly appreciate the value and beauty of each stone. Let's explore some of the most popular and coveted gems in the jewelry world.


1. Diamond

The diamond, known as the "king of gems," is perhaps the most famous and sought-after precious stone. Formed under intense heat and pressure deep within the Earth, the diamond is renowned for its extreme hardness (10/10 on the Mohs scale) and its unmatched brilliance.

Although colorless diamonds are the most common in jewelry, they also come in a variety of colors, including yellow, pink, blue, and black. These colored diamonds are classified differently.

While diamonds in general are not rare, large, high-quality white diamonds with perfect natural characteristics (no inclusions) are indeed rare.

Diamonds have been symbols of eternal love and commitment for centuries, being the traditional stone for engagement rings in many Western cultures. They are also associated with purity, strength, and invincibility.


2. Ruby

The ruby, with its intense red color, has captivated humanity for millennia. It is a variety of the mineral species corundum, just like sapphire. Ruby follows diamond in hardness, making it very durable.

Rubies are characterized by their intense red color, which can range from pinkish-red to deep blood-red.

High-quality rubies, especially in large sizes, are very rare and can surpass the value of diamonds.

In many cultures, ruby symbolizes passion, love, and vitality, and in ancient times, it was believed to have protective powers and bring good fortune to its wearer.


3. Sapphire

Although often associated with the color blue, sapphire actually comes in a wide range of colors, excluding red (which is classified as ruby).

Sapphires can be blue, yellow, pink, orange, green, and even colorless. The most valued are the blue sapphires from Kashmir.

High-quality sapphires, especially in unusual colors or with special optical effects, can be extremely rare and valuable.

These gems have traditionally been associated with royalty and nobility. They also symbolize wisdom, truth, and fidelity, making them popular for engagement rings.


4. Emerald

The emerald, with its incomparable and characteristic green color, is one of the most admired and coveted precious stones. It belongs to the beryl family.

Generally, all emeralds are highly appreciated in the market, but those with the most intense and saturated color fetch the highest prices, especially those that are large and clear.

With a 7.5-8 on the Mohs scale, emeralds are softer than diamonds, rubies, or sapphires, but still suitable for jewelry.

High-quality emeralds, free of visible inclusions and with an intense color, are extremely rare. They have been associated with fertility, love, and rebirth for centuries. In many cultures, emeralds are believed to have healing properties and enhance intuition.


5. Pearl

Pearls are not stones per se, but they are often categorized as gems in the jewelry market.

They are created by a living organism, can be synthetic, recycled, or cultured in controlled environments, and come in various colors, including white, cream, yellow, lavender, and black.

The characteristic luster of pearls is one of their most important attributes.

Natural pearls are extremely rare. Most pearls on the market today are cultured, which greatly influences their value.

Pearls have been symbols of purity, perfection, and protection in many cultures. They are often associated with the moon and water and are believed to have calming properties.


6. Amethyst

Amethyst is a variety of quartz known for its distinctive purple color. With a 7 on the Mohs scale, it is hard enough to be used effectively in jewelry.

Although not as rare as some other precious stones, high-quality amethyst is still highly prized.

Historically, amethyst has been associated with royalty and spiritual power. It is believed to have calming properties and enhance intuition.


7. Aquamarine

Aquamarine is another variety of beryl, like emerald, known for its light blue to greenish-blue color.

Its striking clarity, combined with its crystal-clear tones, high light reflectivity, and general attractiveness, has made it one of the most appreciated gems on the market.

With a 7.5-8 on the Mohs scale, aquamarine is suitable for jewelry use and offers interesting durability as a long-term investment jewel. Although not as rare as emerald, high-quality, large aquamarine can be quite valuable.

Aquamarine is often associated with the sea, believed to have protective properties, and has traditionally been used as a talisman for sailors.


Each of these precious and semi-precious stones has its own unique beauty and significance. When choosing a gem, it is important to consider not only the aesthetic aspect of the stone but also its durability, rarity, and the personal meaning it may have for the wearer.

Whether you prefer the unmatched brilliance of a diamond, the fiery intensity of a ruby, or the shifting tones of an aquamarine, there is a perfect gemstone for every taste and occasion.

Keep in mind that this description is not intended for you to know all the gems on the market, which can be extremely vast, but rather to notice the final impact they can have on jewelry and the main details to look for when choosing.

A gem is valuable not only for its color or brilliance but for the sum of all the factors that comprise it: rarity, popularity, size, specific tone, and more.


Cuts and their properties

The cut of a gemstone is one of the most important factors influencing its beauty and value. A well-executed cut can maximize a gem's brilliance and appearance, while a poor cut can significantly diminish its appeal.

Let's explore the different types of cuts, their characteristics, and how they affect the appearance of the stone. If you want to delve deeper, we recommend reading our content on diamond cuts, where we detail each one extensively. But, in general, you’ll get to know:


1. Brilliant Cut

The brilliant cut is the most popular for diamonds and is also used in other precious stones. It is characterized by its round shape and large number of facets.

  • Generally has 57 or 58 facets.
  • Designed to maximize brilliance and light dispersion.
  • Ideal for stones with high transparency and brilliance.

The brilliant cut is designed to return the maximum amount of light through the table (the top facet) of the stone. This results in exceptional brilliance and impressive "fire" (light dispersion into colors).


2. Princess Cut

The princess cut is a modern and popular cut, especially for engagement rings. It has a square or rectangular shape with pointed corners.

  • Generally has between 50 and 58 facets.
  • Combines the brilliance of the round cut with a more contemporary geometric shape.
  • Efficient in terms of retaining the weight of the rough stone.

The princess cut produces intense brilliance and impressive "fire," similar to the brilliant cut. Its square shape makes it ideal for modern and geometric jewelry designs.


3. Emerald Cut

The emerald cut is a step cut, producing an elegant and sophisticated appearance. As the name suggests, it is commonly used in emeralds but also in other stones.

  • Rectangular shape with truncated corners.
  • Large step-like facets.
  • Fewer facets than the brilliant cut, generally between 50 and 70.

The emerald cut creates a "hall of mirrors" effect, with long, elegant reflections. It is particularly effective in highlighting the clarity and color of the stone.


4. Oval Cut

The oval cut is an elongated variation of the brilliant cut, combining the brilliance of the round cut with a more unique shape.

  • Similar to the brilliant cut in its facet pattern.
  • Elongated shape can make the stone appear larger.
  • Generally has 56 facets.

The oval cut can make fingers appear longer and slimmer when used in rings. It provides excellent brilliance and can minimize the appearance of inclusions.


5. Pear Cut

Also known as the teardrop cut, the pear cut combines elements of the oval and marquise cuts.

  • One rounded end and one pointed end.
  • Generally has 58 facets.
  • Ideal length-to-width ratio is 1.5:1.

The pear cut can create an elongating effect on the fingers when used in rings. Its unique shape combines the brilliance of the round cut with a touch of sophistication and originality.


6. Cushion Cut

The cushion cut, also known as the pillow cut, is a classic cut that has experienced a revival in modern jewelry.

  • Square or rectangular shape with rounded corners.
  • Generally has between 58 and 64 facets.
  • Combines elements of the old mine cut and the modern brilliant cut.

The cushion cut produces a soft, romantic brilliance with larger, less defined flashes than the brilliant cut. It is particularly effective in highlighting the color of colored stones.


7. Marquise Cut

The marquise cut, also known as the navette cut, has an eye-shaped or boat-shaped form.

  • Elongated shape with pointed ends.
  • Generally, has 56 facets.
  • Ideal length-to-width ratio is 2:1.

The marquise cut can make the stone appear larger than it actually is. Its unique shape can create a dramatic and elegant effect, ideal for cocktail rings or earrings.


8. Baguette Cut

The baguette cut is a simple rectangular cut, often used as an accent stone.

  • Elongated rectangular shape.
  • Generally, has only 14 facets.
  • Can have straight or slightly tapered sides.

The baguette cut produces a more subtle and elegant brilliance. It is excellent for highlighting the clarity of the stone and is often used in Art Deco style designs.


9. Heart Cut

The heart cut is a specialized shape, popular for romantic jewelry and sentimental gifts.

  • Symmetrical heart shape.
  • Generally, has between 56 and 58 facets.
  • Requires exceptional skill to execute correctly.

The heart cut, when done properly, can produce impressive brilliance. Its symbolic shape makes it ideal for romantic gifts and themed jewelry.


How does the cut affect the appearance and brilliance of the gem?

The cut of a gemstone dramatically affects its appearance and brilliance in several ways:


  1. Light Reflection: A well-executed cut maximizes the amount of light that is reflected back to the observer's eye. This is achieved through the precise angle of the facets.
  2. Brilliance: Brilliance, or the light reflected from the surface of the gem, is directly related to the quality of the cut. A superior cut will produce more intense brilliance.
  3. Fire: "Fire" refers to the dispersion of light into its component colors. Certain cuts, like the brilliant cut, are designed to maximize this effect.
  4. Scintillation: Scintillation is the contrast between light and dark areas of a gem as it moves. A good cut ensures a balanced and attractive scintillation pattern.
  5. Apparent Size: Some cuts, such as the oval or marquise, can make a stone appear larger than it actually is.
  6. Color: In colored stones, the cut can affect the intensity and distribution of the color. For example, the emerald cut tends to highlight the color in darker stones.
  7. Clarity: Certain cuts can help disguise inclusions or imperfections in the stone.


It is important to understand that each cut you choose will have a clear effect on how the gem looks, how it reflects light, how it appears in the jewelry, how the jewelry enhances different parts of the body, and even the price.


Considerations when choosing a cut based on the type of stone and personal style

Knowing what type of jewelry to choose based on personal style and cut is simple if we take into account the following:


  1. Type of Stone: Some stones are more suitable for certain cuts due to their physical properties. For example, emeralds are often cut in the emerald style to minimize the risk of damage due to their relative fragility.
  2. Color of the Stone: For stones with intense color, cuts with larger facets like the emerald or cushion cut may be preferable to highlight the color. For lighter stones, cuts with more facets like the brilliant cut can enhance the brilliance.
  3. Clarity of the Stone: For stones with inclusions, cuts with more facets can help to conceal these imperfections.
  4. Personal Style: The cut should complement the wearer's personal style. For example, someone with a more classic style might prefer a round brilliant cut, while someone with a more modern style might opt for a princess or radiant cut.
  5. Shape of the Hand: For rings, it's important to consider how the cut complements the shape of the hand. For example, elongated cuts like oval or marquise can make fingers appear longer and slimmer.
  6. Occasion and Use: Some cuts are more suitable for certain types of jewelry. For example, the baguette cut is often used as an accent stone, while the heart cut is popular for romantic gifts.
  7. Trends: While it's important to choose a cut that you personally like, considering current jewelry trends can also be helpful if you care about fashion.
  8. Durability: Some cuts, like the princess cut, have pointed corners that can be more prone to chipping. This can be an important consideration for everyday jewelry.
  9. Price: Some cuts require more skill and result in more material loss during the cutting process, which can affect the price.
  10. Rarity: Certain cuts, like the antique European cut, are rarer and may be preferred by collectors or those seeking something unique.


Ultimately, the choice of cut is a personal decision that should balance aesthetic, practical, and emotional considerations. An experienced jeweler can help guide this decision, taking into account the specific properties of the stone and the individual preferences of the customer.

Remember, the best cut is one that enhances the natural beauty of the stone and resonates with your personal style.


Types of gemstones by origin

After exploring the different gem cuts, it's crucial to understand that gemstones are also classified by their origin. This categorization not only affects the value of the jewelry but also has ethical and practical implications for the informed consumer.


Natural gemstones

Natural gemstones are the pure product of Earth's geological processes, formed without human intervention and extracted from mines. These stones are prized for their rarity and uniqueness, each with its own characteristics and inclusions that tell the story of their formation. For example, diamonds from South African mines, rubies from Burma, or sapphires from Kashmir.

Their value lies not only in their beauty but also in their scarcity and the complex operations required for their extraction. However, it's important to consider that gem mining can have significant ethical and environmental implications.


Synthetic gemstones

In contrast, synthetic gemstones are created in a laboratory, replicating the natural conditions of mineral formation. They possess the same chemical composition and crystal structure as their natural counterparts but are produced through human intervention. Examples include lab-grown diamonds and synthetic rubies.

Although chemically identical to natural gems, synthetic gemstones are often more affordable and can offer greater uniformity in color and clarity. They represent an ethical alternative for those concerned about mining practices, though their market value is usually lower than that of natural gemstones due to the rarity factor associated with natural mineral formation.


Modified gemstones

Modified gemstones occupy an intermediate space in this classification as natural stones that have undergone various treatments to enhance their appearance or durability. These processes may include heat treatment to intensify color, common in many sapphires, or fracture filling with oil to enhance clarity, typical in emeralds.

While these treatments can significantly enhance the beauty of a gemstone, it's crucial to be aware of them as they can affect both the value and the required care of the stone.


Substitute or simulant gemstones

Finally, substitute gemstones, also known as simulants, are materials that mimic the appearance of precious gemstones but have a different chemical composition. Common examples include cubic zirconia and moissanite, often used as substitutes for diamonds.

These alternatives offer the aesthetics of more expensive gems at a more accessible price point, making them popular in fashion jewelry or for those with limited budgets. However, it's essential that they are sold with full transparency about their nature to avoid confusion or disappointment.

Understanding these different types of gemstones will enable you to make more informed decisions, aligning your choices with your values, budget, and expectations.


Main metals and their purity

Choosing the right metal is as crucial as selecting the gemstone when creating quality jewelry. Each metal has unique characteristics, advantages, and considerations, so it's key to explore the main metals used in jewelry, their purity grades, and how these factors affect the final pieces.


1. Gold

Gold is perhaps the most associated metal with luxury jewelry. Its enduring beauty, corrosion resistance, and malleability have made it popular for millennia.

Purity Grades and Alloys:

  • Pure Gold (24 karats): 100% gold
  • 22 karat Gold: 91.7% gold
  • 18 karat Gold: 75% gold
  • 14 karat Gold: 58.3% gold
  • 10 karat Gold: 41.7% gold

Pure gold (24 karats) is too soft for most jewelry applications, so it is usually alloyed with other metals to increase its hardness and durability. These alloys also allow for creating different colors of gold:

  • Yellow Gold: alloyed with silver and copper
  • White Gold: alloyed with palladium, nickel, or silver
  • Rose Gold: alloyed with copper

Higher purity means richer color and greater resistance to tarnishing but also implies that the metal is softer and more prone to scratching. 14 and 18 karat gold offer a good balance between color, durability, and affordability for most jewelry applications.


2. Silver

Silver is valued for its bright luster and affordability compared to other precious metals.

Purity Grades and Alloys:

  • Fine Silver: 99.9% silver
  • Sterling Silver: 92.5% silver, 7.5% other metals (usually copper)
  • Britannia Silver: 95.8% silver

Sterling silver is the most common standard in jewelry due to its enhanced durability compared to pure silver. However, silver is prone to oxidation, which can result in darkening of the surface over time.


3. Platinum

Platinum is valued for its hardness, density, and resistance. It is rarer than gold and often considered more prestigious, thus found in higher-value luxury items.

Purity Grades and Alloys:

  • Pure Platinum: 99.9% platinum
  • Platinum in Jewelry: typically 95% or 90% platinum

Platinum used in jewelry is usually alloyed with other platinum group metals like iridium or ruthenium to improve its hardness. This metal is naturally white and does not require plating. It is denser than gold, meaning a platinum piece will weigh more than a similarly sized gold piece. Platinum develops a patina over time that many find desirable.


4. Titanium

Although not a traditional precious metal, titanium has become popular in contemporary jewelry due to its strength, lightweight nature, and corrosion resistance.

Titanium used in jewelry is typically Grade 1 (99.5% pure) or Grade 2 (99.2% pure).

This metal is extremely strong and lightweight, making it ideal for large rings or jewelry pieces that would otherwise be too heavy. However, it is challenging to work with and cannot be easily soldered, limiting design possibilities.

When choosing a piece of jewelry, consider not only the initial appearance of the metal but also how it will behave over time and with use. The choice between different metals and purity levels will depend on factors such as budget, personal style, practical considerations for wear and maintenance, and any sensitivity or allergy to specific metals.

An experienced jeweler can provide guidance on which metal and purity level are most suitable for a specific piece, considering the design, intended use, and personal preferences of the customer. Generally, higher purity levels offer more beauty but are delicate and costly, while lower purity levels provide a more rugged appearance and are less resistant to daily wear and tear.


Factors to Consider When Buying Jewelry

Purchasing jewelry is a significant investment, both financially and emotionally. To ensure you're making the best possible decision, it's crucial to consider several key factors. These factors not only affect the value and quality of the piece but also its suitability for your specific needs.


Quality of metal and gemstones

The quality of materials used in jewelry is perhaps the most important factor to consider. Regarding metal quality, pay attention to:

  • Purity: As discussed earlier, metal purity affects its color, durability, and value. Make sure you understand the different purity grades and their implications.
  • Finish: A high-quality finish should be uniform and free of visible imperfections.
  • Markings: Look for marks indicating the metal's purity (e.g., 18K for 18-karat gold).

For gemstones, we'll focus on the famous "4C"s of jewelry:

Quality of metal and gemstones
  • Cut: Directly affects the diamond's brilliance and overall appearance.
  • Color: Colorless diamonds are generally the most valuable, although fancy colored diamonds are an exception.
  • Clarity: Refers to the absence of inclusions and imperfections.
  • Carat: Measures the diamond's weight.

For colored stones/non-diamonds, the same principles apply, but instead of carat weight, we'll focus on design, and for "Color," we'll look at its intensity.



Design and style are crucial aspects that determine not only the jewelry's appearance but also its suitability for different occasions and personal tastes. A piece of jewelry will have good design for you if it balances:

  • Aesthetics: The design should appeal to you and reflect your personal style.
  • Functionality: Consider how and when you'll wear the jewelry. Is it comfortable? Is it suitable for daily wear or only for special occasions?
  • Versatility: Think about how the piece will complement your existing wardrobe and other jewelry.
  • Trends vs. Classics: Decide whether you prefer a current fashion design or a more classic one that will stand the test of time.
  • Craftsmanship: Examine the quality of workmanship, including stone setting and finishing details.


Quality-Price relationship

Understanding the relationship between quality and price is essential to ensure you're getting good value for your money.

First, do a general survey of jewelry prices in the high-end market to get a general idea of how much a particular piece might cost initially. If in doubt, check the price of the stone separately and the weight of the metal. Add to this the value of the setting, whether it's handmade or prefabricated.

Keep in mind the rarity of the metals and gems you select for your jewelry. Remember that two diamonds may look identical to the eye, but their natural origin and lack of imperfections can make one significantly more valuable than the other.

Also, consider whether you're sacrificing durability for size when paying. Sometimes, smaller jewelry pieces make up for their delicacy with beauty and brilliance that are characteristic of exceptionally high-quality elements.


Warranties and certifications

Warranties and certifications provide an additional layer of security and confidence in your purchase.


  • Return policy: Make sure you understand the jeweler's return and exchange policy.
  • Manufacturer's warranty: Many manufacturers offer warranties against manufacturing defects.
  • After-sales services: Some jewelers offer free or discounted cleaning and maintenance services.


  • For diamonds: Look for certificates from recognized gemological laboratories such as GIA, AGS, or IGI.
  • For colored stones: Certificates from laboratories like GIA, AGL, or Gübelin can provide valuable information about the stone's quality.
  • For precious metals: Look for stamps or marks indicating the metal's purity.
  • Ethical sourcing: Consider certifications that guarantee the stones and metals have been ethically and sustainably sourced.


Occasion and Intended Use

The occasion for which the jewelry is being purchased and its intended use should significantly influence your decision.

  • Daily vs. occasional use: Jewelry for daily wear should be more durable and comfortable.
  • Lifestyle: Consider your lifestyle and activities when choosing jewelry. For example, someone with an active lifestyle might prefer more robust jewelry.
  • Symbolic meaning: For special occasions like engagements or anniversaries, the symbolic meaning of the jewelry can be as important as its appearance.


Required Care and Maintenance

Different types of jewelry require different levels of care and maintenance. For example, purer metals are generally softer and will withstand daily use less well.

Some designs may also have intricate patterns that are troublesome to clean and maintain if not properly cared for.

You should also consider whether the jewelry you want requires special storage, such as protection from heat to avoid damage, as can be the case with pearls.


Compatibility with Existing Jewelry

If you plan to wear the new jewelry piece alongside pieces you already own, it's important to consider how they will complement each other.


  • Style: Does the style of the new piece complement your existing jewelry?
  • Metal: Consider whether you prefer to maintain consistency in the metals of your jewelry.
  • Versatility: Think about how the new piece can be combined with different outfits and other jewelry.

By considering all these factors, you'll be better equipped to make an informed and satisfactory decision in your jewelry purchase. Always remember that the perfect piece of jewelry is not only beautiful and high-quality but also fits your personal style, practical needs, and budget. Thank you for joining us in this Jewelry Buying Guide, and don't hesitate to take your time and ask us questions in the process of selecting your ideal jewelry piece.




  • How do I buy a nice piece of jewelry?

    There are several key factors to consider. First, decide on your preferred metal; be it gold, silver, or platinum, taking into account factors such as color, durability, and price. Next, think about style and personality - choose a design that reflects your personal taste and suits the occasion for which you're buying. It's important to set a budget before you start looking, as jewelry prices can vary significantly.

  • What are the key factors to consider when buying jewelry?

    Key factors include the metal, style, quality, and price. Your choice of metal will depend on personal preference, budget, and practical considerations (for example, if you have allergies to certain metals). The style should reflect your personality and be suited to the occasion. Quality is important; look for well-crafted jewelry with high-quality gemstones, if they are included. Lastly, set a budget and compare prices between different jewelers.

  • What should I look for when buying jewelry?

    In addition to the above factors, look for a reputable and experienced jeweler, such as Albert Hern. They should be willing to answer all your questions and offer options that fit your preferences and budget. Research proper jewelry care and maintenance, and inquire about warranties or care plans for future repairs or adjustments. Ensure that the jewelry piece comes with appropriate documentation, such as authenticity certificates for gemstones.


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