It's incredible how much expertise you can build up without realising it. Like in any profession, so much is learnt by diving in, getting out of the classroom, and experiencing real-world interactions. Of course, making mistakes is part of this process, but every situation can lead to a new tidbit of knowledge you'll eventually use. I have spent my professional life surrounded by artist-jewellers, gemstone experts, high jewellers, designers, diamond graders, miners… it's safe to say I have learned by listening! I've channelled these conversations into a list of 10 things I would never do. If you avoid these common pitfalls, you'll be a happier, more confident, and more knowledgeable jewellery buyer and collector.
1 - Store jewellery haphazardly
Whether you've purchased a single piece or have a veritable treasure trove of jewels, careful and clever storage is essential. Jewellery hates being crammed into a single drawer – your pieces shouldn't rub against each other to avoid extra scratches on metal and gems. Some precious materials, like pearls and opals, have more specific conditions to keep them at their best. As a jewellery professional, I want to respect the hard work that's gone into each piece by storing them neatly, beautifully and carefully, and I have a mini collection of travel pouches in different sizes to take with me when I go away.
2 - Put your jewels on before perfume/cream is fully absorbed by your skin
There's an order for jewellery that can't be broken. It should be the last thing you put on and the first thing you take off. We see movie scenes with Hollywood actresses sitting in fluffy white bathrobes adorned with diamonds. And while this looks fantastic, it's far from practical. Perfume, body lotions, and makeup can damage pearls, opals and other delicate materials and should be applied way before you put your jewellery on so that your skin can absorb them. For harder stones like diamonds and sapphires, oils and grease can build up, form a layer and diminish their lustre.
3 - Clean jewellery only when it's visibly dirty
Jewellery can quickly look dull and lifeless if dirt and grease coats the surfaces of diamonds, gemstones and precious metals. This may happen after wearing your favourite pieces regularly or if lotions or creams get on them. If you wait until this grime is thick enough to form a visible layer, you've waited far too long! Jewellery should be cleaned regularly to maintain its brilliance and beauty! You can use a simple method of cleaning your diamonds with Fairy washing liquid dissolved in warm water and a soft brush or use professional cleaning materials from Town Talk, Connoiseurs, Goddard’s . I would always recommend speaking to a salesperson at the point of sale about the best cleaning method for the pieces you own. Remember, some gemstones may crack under the pressure of an ultrasonic, especially emeralds and opals.
4 - Put rings on the sink when washing your hands in a public place
When you go to a bathroom when travelling or out, it is very easy to take off your rings and put them on the sink while washing your hands…However, there have been several instances when those rings were left behind in a rush or even dropped inside a sink! It’s better to learn from someone else’s mistakes and always put your precious jewels in a zipped pocket of a handbag or in any secure pockets on your clothes. I always try to put my jewels in a pocket with a zipper because several times I forgot to put rings or bracelets on after washing my hands and only remembered about them when discovered in a zipped pocket sometime later. This might happen to anyone!
5 - Fail to consider security and safety
Before you even pay for an investment jewel, I suggest considering the breadth of your existing insurance policies and whether you have a secured storage for your pieces. For extensive (and expensive) collections, you will need to think carefully about a safe that's bolted to the wall or floor of your home as well as jewellery insurance. There are many different types of safes that are graded based on their ability to resist burglary. These grades are then associated with a 'cash rating' that explains how much monetarily they are designed to protect… there's a lot to consider! As a jewellery professional, I would always do my research and calculate risks when investing in an important jewel.
6 - Buy fine gemstones without a certificate
Even if an emerald, sapphire, ruby, tanzanite or spinel looks sensational, you may not know what's happening deep within its structure. Emeralds can be treated with oil, sapphires can be heat-treated, and others might be simulants or synthetics! As a jewellery professional, I would never purchase a gemstone without seeing its certificate from a reputable grading laboratory.
7 - Buy a diamond based on its certificate alone
Here's where things get interesting. I believe that gemstones have the power to draw us in. What pulls at the heartstring of one person won't conjure the same reaction in another. But there's another reason to see faceted stones in person, especially diamonds, before buying them. The 4Cs are important, but they aren't infallible. A certificate can only tell you so much about a diamond; you simply have to see its brilliance and light performance in real life to discern its quality and to see its ‘character’. Sometimes you might look at a certificate and feel that the stone is not good enough while in real life it might be exactly what you are looking for! For example, for my 30s birthday I purchased a D-colour diamond with fluorescence and SI clarity, which might feel like a poor investment based on the certificate, but in reality all inclusions were really small and not visible to the eye and fluorescence just added to the beauty of the stone making it whiter.
8 - Purchase an investment jewel on faith alone
Jewellery and precious gemstones as asset classes are notoriously tricky to navigate. As a jewellery insider, I would advise against purchasing a piece of 'investment jewellery' just because someone tells you it's worthy of investment. Nowadays, there are so many resources that offer educational materials (some of them are free) that it becomes your responsibility to do research before investing in a gemstone or a jewel with a high price tag. If you want to educate yourself about investment–level jewellery prices, you can always visit the websites of various auction houses to have an idea of what was sold in the past and how much for.
9 - Be worried about status or prestige
A surefire way to regret a jewellery purchase is to buy with your head and not your heart. I see many people with brand tunnel vision; they're only interested in big names and trend-driven designs that they've seen scattered across Instagram. As a jewellery professional, I want my personal jewellery collection to be filled with pieces that are nuanced, expertly crafted, well-designed and artistically composed. We can all spot a branded piece from across the room, but something unique will draw people into a conversation. That's the power of jewellery art.
10 - Skip the joy of discovery and research
Finally, I would never miss the opportunity to discover some new designs or designers either on Instagram, on the web or at exhibitions. Keeping informed on what exists out there in terms of designs and exploring your options before committing to a specific jewel helps to make a purchase that you will cherish in the years to come. Perhaps the story of a jeweller will inspire you, or maybe there's an unusual collection that sparks a memory from your life, making the jewel you wear more personal. As a jewellery professional, I want to open this fantastical world of jewels to everyone who reads KaterinaPerez.com or follows @katerina_perez.
Go on, admit it… how many of these mistakes have you made along the way? That's okay! One of the joys of jewellery art is that it's always changing, and we must learn and change with it. Next time you follow your passion towards a fresh purchase, I hope you remember these top tips so you can enjoy every bejewelled moment.