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Clicks or Bricks: Jewelry Stores Real and Virtual
Just ten years ago, going to the jewelry store meant getting in your car and driving down to a brick-and-mortar jeweler, where you could then pick out your precious purchase with the help of a human clerk. While that option's still available, it's a lot easier to fire up the Internet and peruse the jewelry stores that have staked their glittering claims on the World Wide Web. Even high-dollar jewelry stores like Tiffany and Co. have their own little niches on the Web, since not everyone can hop on an airplane and hightail it to New York on a whim.
For every Cartier or Birks and Majors, however, there are plenty of small retailers and mom-and-pop jewelry stores to keep everyone happy. In fact, you may have problems choosing the proper store for your tastes, needs, and budget, no matter what any of those may require. We're here to help you narrow down the choice a bit.
Your first determiner will be your budget. If yours is limited, it won't help you to head to the fine jewelry counters at Sac's or Nordstrom's, since you probably won't be able to afford even the cheapest things there. Stores like those, whether online or physical, depend on their cachet and the cha-ching factor of expensive gold and diamonds to keep them alive. While they may not actively be rude to you as you shop, to them you're just another looker. You need to be realistic; if it's all you can afford, there's no shame in going to the Zale's in the nearest mall. Even if you can afford the best, you might be able to get it at a less-expensive jeweler -- even a mom-and-pop outfit -- for a much better price.
As for taste: some of us have expensive ones, but some of us are happy with a solid, understated investment; say, a plain gold band rather than a diamond-encrusted behemoth. Sometimes jewelry stores are divided by style, though not so much as by price. Many stores won't care if a ring is outrageously ugly because it's overburdened with stones, as long as the purchaser is willing to pay a premium for it.
Kudos for the 'Net -- and some warnings
The best thing about Internet jewelry stores is the huge selection you'll find there. Everything from the smallest gold-washed diamond-chip ring to the biggest diamonds and rubies in the world can be had. Prices vary too, because the selection is global. It's possible to purchase a diamond ring from Indian or Russia if you like, not to mention raw diamonds and diamond beads pre-drilled for your convenience. On the other hand, if you deal with jewelry stores from another country, you have to proceed with extreme caution. Frankly, little (if any) international law governs the Internet, and with jewelry they're a huge incentive to cheat. If you purchase online, do so from a reputable dealer in your home country so that you have some legal recourse in case they do try to cheat you. Even so, you'll need to keep in mind that classic law of the marketplace: caveat emptor, or "let the buyer beware."