A Real Jeweler vs a Jewelry Counter Clerk for Your Engagement Ring

Marla’s Broken Engagement Ring Story

Real Jeweler vs a Jewelry Counter Clerk

Personal Jeweler Going Over Details With Lisa.

I’m a Personal Jeweler in Santa Barbara, and I get questions daily. Recently Marla came to me with her sad story. Her tanzanite engagement ring had cracked. At first she thought her tanzanite was just dirty. Her fiancé sent her to the jewelry counter where he’d bought it to get it cleaned. It ended up looking just as bad.

She was referred to me by a friend that had just had me custom design her engagement ring. I was the one who told her it was cracked and showed it to her under magnification. Marla had been wearing her engagement ring for about five months.

Satin Finish Calla Gold Jewelry, Tanzanite and Diamond Enhancer Pendant with Satin Finish

This Gorgeous Tanzanite is in a Pendant for Lori, Because it is Safer as a Pendant

“Did they tell you that tanzanite is a poor choice for daily wear because of its fragility? She checked with Todd.

“Not a word about it. He had to look at the receipt to see what kind of gem it was.”

“It would have been nice if they told him that that gemstone could break your heart with daily wear.”

“Oh and two of the tiny side diamonds have already come out.” I looked more closely and saw that the prongs were really tiny. And not beefily enough designed for daily wear. I wrote an earlier article on this topic called the The Four Pillars of a Daily Wear Ring.

Marla and Todd Rethink Her Engagement Ring

Sapphire and diamond engagement ring by Calla Gold Jewelry

Custom Made Engagement Ring With a Sapphire Center Gemstone

We had another appointment with Todd present and they decided to replace the tanzanite, size it for her right hand so it wouldn’t be worn daily and designed a new daily wear appropriate engagement ring with a center blue sapphire which is hardier than tanzanite.

Todd had told the sales clerk that he was looking for an engagement ring. The sales clerk said “what grabs you?” Not advice on the fact that a daily wear ring needs to be sturdier than an occasion-wear ring.

“It looked like an engagement ring, so I just figured it’d work.”

Their story prompted me to write this article. I feel that a guy is better off dealing with a real jeweler as opposed to a jewelry counter clerk when embarking on a big decision like an engagement ring.

Looking at the Real Jeweler and What They Offer

Real Jeweler vs a Jewelry Counter Clerk

A Personal Jeweler Helps You Re-Purpose That Diamond From Mom's Ring into Your Taste and Style

The difference between a jewelry store and a big box store with a jewelry “department” or counter is huge.

When you are thinking about a jewelry purchase, that personal touch, the questions answered, or the story of the gemstone that you are interested make it more fun. And helpful.

Let’s Start With the Jewelry Store and Why They are so Great.

To start with, more often than not, the owner and the employees in a jewelry store are professional jewelers.  Many have been in the business decades.  Often, the business is family owned and has been passed down from father to son. Or mother to daughter.

One of my Jewelry Designs Made it to the Cover of This Jewelry Booklet

Your jeweler should know everything there is to know about jewelry.  Jewelry is their passion.  It’s what they do.  Jewelers don’t sell anything else.

Jewelers keep up with the latest trends. Jewelers set trends with their designs. A good helpful jeweler won't point you toward a ring that isn't going to work with your girlfriend's lifestyle.

If the store doesn’t have what you’re looking for, they may know who does and may be able to order it for you, frequently within the next few days.

Jewelers Don't Just Sell Jewelry

Jewelers know all about repairing jewelry, too.  Their store is a place you can bring your ring to be sized or your earrings to have a new post soldered on.  Many jewelry stores work with bench jewelers (a jeweler who makes and repairs jewelry) on the premises or nearby.

master bench jeweler

Esteban Working on a Ring at the Jeweler's Bench.

A real jeweler has a stock of gemstones in his safe in the back room.  It’s not a problem if you don’t like the blue topaz that’s in the particular setting you love.  He or she can show you an amethyst or a citrine or an emerald that can easily be set in that fabulous setting.

Maybe you can’t manipulate the small clasp on a chain you love but haven’t been able to wear?  A real jeweler will discuss the various types of clasps and help you to choose the correct one so it’s easier for you to handle.  He’ll put it on your chain, as well.

The point here is that the staff in a jewelry store are knowledgeable about all aspects of their trade and are able to offer a full range of services that some big box or counter in a department stores can’t provide.

Are All Jewelry Stores Perfect?

This doesn’t mean that all the staff in all the jewelry stores on planet Earth are great and know what they’re doing.  Some are bozos, just like in any profession.  Some owners are extremely experienced but have the personality of a badger.

And that girl behind the counter may have only started work at the store the day before.  She’s beautiful but dim witted and only got the job because she’s the owner’s niece.  If this is the case, walk up the street to a jewelry store on the next block.

Let’s Talk About Jewelry Counters and Big Box Store Options

Many jewelry departments in department stores or big box warehouses simply don’t have the expertise and broad range of services that a jewelry store does.  Often times, they’re staffed by people whose training in jewelry is minimal. In many cases the jewelry counter is part of a large jewelry business and they contract with a particular department store to have their counter in each outlet of that store.

Appraisal diamond diagram

A Real Jeweler Can Explain the Angles and Percentages of a Diamond.
Image-Reusch Jewelers

The guy behind the counter may just be filling in for the regular girl who’s out sick.  Ask him about hardware and he’s a wiz.  He knows all about how to hang a ceiling fan. Ask him why the 1.01ct. diamond is so much more expensive than the .95ct. one even though they look the same and he’s doesn’t have a clue.

These stores don’t have on-site bench jewelers, as well.  They send out all their repairs.  Where?  And to whom?  Good question.  I have no idea, either.

Moreover, if the person behind the counter is poorly trained and doesn’t know exactly what needs to be done, he won’t know what to write on the repair envelope into which your valuable ring resides.  It’s up to bench jeweler, Joe, in Kansas to decide what to do with it now. If he's not sure, he may just guess.

Endless Sales Do Not Spell ‘Good Deal’ For You

Why is it that these department jewelry counters always seem to be having a sale?  Why does their diamond jewelry always seem to be marked down 50%?  I’ll tell you why.

They often mark up their jewelry twice as much as what would normally be expected.  Then when they have their sale and mark it down 50%, they’re actually setting the price at the level it should have been to begin with.

By law, stores are only allowed to have a sale or put things on sale, a certain number of days per month.  That’s why stores aren’t having a sale 365 days a year!  They legally can’t! Now if they were selling rugs…… I bought the rug of my dreams from a store that's been going out of business for years. I'm sure when my son needs a rug he can get in on the same going out of business sale.

Can You Find a Deal at a Department Store?

This doesn’t mean you can’t get find a good deal at a department store.  You might find a ring that really is on sale.  It really has been marked down to a very good price.  And the girl behind the counter really is nice and she really does seem to know her stuff.

Real Jeweler vs a Jewelry Counter Clerk

Couple Looking at a ring wax from jeweler Calla Gold Jewelry

Looking at the Wax model of Their Custom Designed Ring Together

The bottom line, though, is that dedicated jewelry stores or Personal Jewelers, who come to you, on the whole, offer more services and are staffed by more knowledgeable people than department and big box stores.

Most owners of a jewelry store has made a career in the jewelry business.  The person behind the counter at the big box store may be just working there for the summer to help pay for tuition in the fall. They may be a super nice person and really wish you well. But that enthusiasm and sweetness doesn’t replace experience.

If something awful happens to your ring—your diamond falls out!—and you can’t find your receipt, who are you going to want to see: the knowledgeable and professional jeweler in the jewelry store who knows you or the girl at the counter in the big box store (who probably isn’t there anymore anyway)?  Need I say more?

Your Personal Jeweler,



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About Calla Gold

Calla Gold is a Personal Jeweler and Author who takes pride in working with clients one-on-one to integrate their personal sense of style and taste into custom designed jewelry and repaired jewelry pieces.   Unlike typical Santa Barbara jewelry businesses, Calla Gold has no brick-and-mortar location. Calla Gold comes to you, bringing you the jewelry collection you want to see and collaborating with you to create unique custom jewelry. Calla also works with at-a-distance clients.

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Patricia Schwartz
7 years ago

The personal touch is always nice, but it’s absolutely essential for something as important as your engagement ring! Daily wear is tough on jewelry, and some lifestyles, work, etc is even tougher. I love that you take the person and their life into account when working on their jewelry. Makes a world of difference!