Why to Give Real Gold or Silver Jewelry (or Not)

Updated on November 11, 2019
Hat Whit profile image

Hat is a GIA certified diamond appraiser who has worked for over 13 years in jewelry sales and repair.

When confronted with a case of jewelry where each piece is locked away under glass and sparkles on its own velvet cushion, many of us are simply intimidated. We don’t want to look ignorant or just plain cheap. There is a time to spend big on the real thing and a time to opt for the less-expensive jewelry on the department store counter.

Precious Memories Deserve Precious Metal and Stones

If worn carefully and looked after, that solid gold ring will look pretty much the same when it is passed down to the next generation 30 or 40 years down the road. It will (with a bit of maintenance) hold its color and look over time. Fine stones will return to almost new with a good cleaning.

When to Buy Real Gold/Silver/Gemstone Jewelry

  • The gift marks a special occasion and the item will serve as a vessel for memories of the event well into the future.
  • it is an item you expect to be worn well into the future.
  • You want it as a legacy item to be handed down for generations.
  • You simply want to make the point that the occasion demands something precious and you wanted your gift to be particularly meaningful.

Gold Endures, Fashions Do Not

Unless your budget knows no bounds, you don’t want something enduring if you are looking for the latest fashion trend. If the style is short-lived, you won’t want or need to spend that extra money to get the real thing.

Why Not to Buy Real Gold/Silver/Gemstones

  • That large or flamboyant statement piece is going to be that much more pricey in solid gold and precious stones, but the statement it makes will quickly become a question.

  • A bracelet in the latest fad may still look as shiny and new in ten years, but will the trend that it set tarnish overnight? “Retro” happens fast to the trendiest styles.

And when you finally fish that statement piece out from exile at the back of the sock drawer, you may rather sell it than wear it.

The dregs of fashions past will dwell forever in the tangled mess of the old jewelry box. This is no big deal if they weren't pricey to begin with!
The dregs of fashions past will dwell forever in the tangled mess of the old jewelry box. This is no big deal if they weren't pricey to begin with!

The Hard Truth

While fine jewelry is an investment in the future, it is not one that will offer monetary returns. If you are looking to get your money back or earn more, jewelry is not the way to do it.

Gold Jewelry Is Not a Monetary Investment

Unless you have a buyer in mind, the solid gold ring with genuine precious stones you bought last year can’t be resold as gold and stones for anywhere near its original purchase price. You paid for a ring, not just for the gold. Even if the market price of gold doubles or triples, the piece of jewelry you bought was worth more than the sum of its parts when you bought it.

Understanding the Business Can Help You Make a Good Choice

Markups on jewelry are almost always much higher than other retail items for many good reasons. You pay for many realities here.

Why Is High-End Jewelry So Expensive?

  • Someone designed and manufactured it.

  • The store has invested in it for the long term (meaning less fluid cash on hand). Even less expensive jewelry items are not high-volume sellers. A special piece of jewelry waits a while for the special customer who wants it.

  • All retail jewelers (even those at the department store) have a higher than average overhead (in terms of security, insurance, and maintenance).

In the end, if you held onto a gold ring long enough and it never suffered any wear or tear (yes, real gold and stones can be damaged or worn over time) you may be able to recoup its value by selling it privately as jewelry, but that is a tricky road to travel. The intrinsic worth of simple metal and stones will only rarely be anything close to your original purchase price.

Balance Your Budget With Style

While budget may dictate how modest a piece you buy, its quality will dictate how long it endures. That is the trade-off you will need to make.

If you do indeed want to give a gift of fine jewelry, realize that a traditional style will endure as long as the precious materials it is made of. Consider the person who you are buying it for. Will the “traditional” look suit him or her? “Traditional” is not just one style but can embody many styles. To find the right style, consider their taste in apparel or home decorating.

  • Do they like tailored suits and modern furnishings?

  • Or do they prefer intense detail and flowers?

Use that sense of style to find the right jewelry while staying with a design that will last as long as the jewelry.

This pendant is small, simple, and quite old but still very wearable.
This pendant is small, simple, and quite old but still very wearable.

Buying the Real Thing For the Trendsetter While Staying on Budget

If you are buying for the trendsetter and you still want your gift to be enduring, then put the bulk of your investment in precious stones.

While the setting (whether bracelet or ring or earring or nose ring ) may well go out of fashion, the stone or stones can be transformed into a completely different piece when trends change. In this way, you can offer that special gift that will endure and stay closer to your budget!

Make Mine a Combo

Sometimes the best gifts are two gifts. Some of the most successful gifts I helped customers buy were “combo” gifts. There was that smaller, more modest, traditional piece that was both fine jewelry and remained in budget. However, it was joined by a second “fun” piece in costume jewelry meant to satisfy that playful, pop-culture part of their personality. Both were cherished as gifts, but one lived on well into the future as a reminder of both.

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