'Overpriced' means that, given all components of value, the item is too costly.
'Overpriced' is a subjective judgment, and a call you must make unless money is no object. But even if you're a billionaire, getting an appraisal for considerably less than what you paid for your necklace, which happened to Oprah at Bulgari, takes the charm off your purchase.
Is the Skyscraper ring by Harry Winston, shown above, overpriced at more than $350,000, or just the price of poker in certain leagues?
Costly jewelry is not necessarily overpriced
You may be stunned by the price of rare opals or a conch pearl, but just because the price is higher than you expect, don't assume it's overpriced. Shown, rare natural 4-carat conch pearl, $3,582 from Pearl Paradise. (Not overpriced in my opinion.)
Some novice buyers compare everything to diamonds, a baseless comparison. Only compare diamonds to diamonds. (Some maintain that all diamonds, because of the diamond cartel's maintenance of artificial scarcity, are overpriced. But that's not going to stop women who love the gem from buying it, so again, know the value factors including price of different cuts.)
Another newbie mistake is setting a budget, then simply buying a piece that corresponds, regardless of value.
Less expensive pieces can be more overpriced than higher-priced jewelry.
I've seen mass-produced glass beads strung on tiger tail– not even knotted–selling for three-digit sums at craft shows, incredibly overpriced.
Women go kind of crazy at craft shows, and they see us coming.
If you're mad for the brand or a specific piece, you will not agree, and lord knows the stuff sells: David Yurman, Pomellato, a lot of current Tiffany, Cartier, Mikimoto, Bulgari and Van Cleef & Arpels production pieces.
Are those VC&A Alhambra clovers, a dozen or so mother of pearl stations on gold chain, worth over $10,000? Not only do I say overpriced, do I want something so ubiquitously knocked off?
Judith Ripka, Roberto Coin, Gucci.
In short, many of the "fine jewelry" brands like those you'll find at Saks are overpriced. I'm not saying these aren't pretty baubles, and if you're not dipping into your savings, you may not care. If you're value-conscious, check your local artisans and vintage dealers before shopping the big names.
For prestigious luxury brands, the quality is very high but you are still paying a hefty 'brand tax'. For example, Verdura, whew, stunning, but worth it?
I'd have to wear some for awhile, and after you resuscitate me from the thrill, would probably decide yes even though part of me knows I'm paying a huge premium for the name. Starting price for the Maltese cross cuff is around $12,000, and the one shown isn't a starter, honeybunch.
There are other jewelers not named here, both famous and lesser-known, whose prices do not remotely correspond to materials and workmanship. Perhaps they think highly of their reputations or are confident of our gullibility.
What jewelry brands or designers do you think are overpriced? And who is not?
Signed pieces by renowned designers will command a premium, and there is a resale argument for them. On the other hand, not all pieces created by the same house are equally valuable. A look at vintage jewelry sites like Beladora, 1st Dibs or Ruby Lane will be instructive; some designers hold their value more than others.
Just like other fine artists, there are unknown jewelers who make beautiful things. Anyone can sign their work, so "signed piece" alone should not be a selling point.
The brand premium
When you see full page ads, look out. You are paying for them.
A friend recently visited Mikimoto's Hong Kong boutique to buy a pair of pearl studs for his daughter's graduation. He admired their exquisite Akoyas, then visited a well-regarded Hong Kong jeweler without an internationally-known name, from whom he bought pearls of the same quality for over one-third less.
Finding good value
Build your eye by haunting the best vintage jewelery shops and museums; consult books. (Shown, "7000 Years of Jewelry: An International History and Illustrated Survey from the Collections of the British Museum", by Hugh Tait.)
Look for specials and sales. Jewelry is often an impulse purchase. The items I look at ruefully in my jewel box fit this (hefty) bill. Barney's after lunch with wine, oops.
But with some patience you can find good buys. Pearl Paradise, for example, offer monthly specials. This 35 inch 8-9mm, pink to peach AA+ freshwater pearl necklace is currently a $306 special, and I'd say, given their 90-day money back guarantee, an excellent buy if you long to be in the pink.
It is unwise to pay an inflated price for a generic design. Inversely, if the design quality is high, the price will reflect it.
Negotiating price in a shop is an art. I sometimes ask (if speaking with someone I don't know), "Does the boutique have a sale at a given time of the year?" This lets the vendor know that I am price-conscious and willing to wait. She might offer a discount or at very least say, "We always have a sale in August."
When your heart and bankbook are at odds
Because jewelry is usually a luxury item, the price receives more scrutiny than clothing. (Especially from men, I cannot help adding.)
Think of a dress that enchanted you. You probably didn't factor in the cost of materials and production when you looked at the price. You thought instead of how you feel in it, and how often you'll wear it: whether it complements or extends the rest of your wardrobe and fits your lifestyle.
The same "cost per wear" principle applies to jewelry.
A piece might be well-priced and still an unwise purchase if you don't wear it. And the major reason women do not wear their fine jewelry is "What if I lose this?" Get a safety clasp and enjoy!
Linda passed up the lemon quartz honker and is still hunting for her big ring. The more she looks, the more she's learned. Her choice will be not only a wise purchase, but an enduring delight.