When it's time to shop for an engagement ring, there are endless options for finding the ring that's perfect for you. From custom jewelry to a big-name brand to a centuries-old antique, you never know where you'll find exactly what you're looking for! If you're in the market for an antique, vintage, or consignment ring, it's important to make sure that you're getting what you pay for. Michael Groffenberger, Senior Director of Fine Jewelry and Watches at luxury consignment site TheRealReal, gave us the inside scoop and tips for couples shopping for consignment engagement rings.
1. Transparency Is Key
"You need to know that what you're buying matches what is being described," says Groffenberger. A great example is the difference between "Art Deco" and "Art Deco Style." "The former carries a significant premium because it is original to the period, while the latter is a reproduction," Groffenberger explains. "Both are perfectly fine to purchase, but you want to make sure the price you're paying matches the product." Pay close attention to the language the seller is using and make sure the price seems like an appropriate match.
2. Understand Industry Speak
The jewelry industry is full of terms that might seem foreign to a consumer, so seek out an expert who adheres to strict GIA (Gemological Institute of America) standards. "If someone says a diamond 'faces up a grade whiter,' that may mean it will look nicer when properly set, but that doesn't impact the value of the stone itself," says Groffenberger. "You're paying for the actual stone, not what it looks like when it's well-set."
3. Size Matters
While engagement rings can be resized (especially if the band is plain instead of pavé'd), most wedding bands are harder to size. "If you're buying a consignment or antique wedding band, focus on the overall fit of the ring. Make sure it will fit you properly before you purchase it," Groffenberger advises.
4. Find a Company You Trust
"If you feel like you need to attend years of education at GIA in order to assess the authenticity of the vintage ring you're hoping to buy, you probably haven't found a jeweler you can trust and feel comfortable with," says Groffenberger. "You should feel confident that the company has your best interests at heart, and that they value the customer experience, service, integrity, and transparency." Not feeling like you're being well taken-care-of? It's time to take your business elsewhere.
5. Have Your Ring Authenticated
"Unfortunately, it is easy to get taken advantage of when you don't have as much information or expertise as the seller you're working with," says Groffenberger. "Given the complexity of diamonds and vintage rings, it isn't always in the seller's best interest to share all of the information in a transparent way." This means that there's a possibility that you (the buyer) aren't fully informed — and could end up with something other than what you thought you were buying. "If possible, have the ring authenticated by a third party before purchasing," suggests Groffenberger. "And make a point to purchase the ring from a company with a strong commitment to transparency and integrity."
How will you know if you've found a good one? "A great return policy is always a good sign!" Groffenberger says. You should be able to have your ring authenticated after you purchase it and take it back to the seller if it isn't what you thought you'd paid for. Groffenberger concludes, "You'll have the best experience (and get the best end result) if you work with a company that empowers the consumer with the tools necessary to make an educated decision."