Avoiding disappointment when buying jewellery online

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How to try to avoid disappointment when buying jewellery or Don't let "occasional lemon" sour your eBay experience.

This guide is really about buying solid gold and precious stone jewellery, NOT costume, plated, or other styles of jewellery, as that's what I deal in. However a lot will still apply to other categories.

So you want to buy some jewellery on eBay? How do you avoid disappointment? Reality says you can’t BUT if you follow a few simple ideas, your disappointments should be very few and your eBay experience should be sweet. In fact the few lemons that you will purchase should not matter compared to the bargains and beautiful things you will also buy. If you are wise you will win more than you lose. If you win more than you loose, you should be happy. That has always been my attitude as a dealer. Mistakes cost you but the lessons learnt will not be forgotten.

Firstly, buy with your head and not your heart. It’s very easy to find amazing things on eBay that you simply "must have". Let your heart find them but your head buy them. Don’t let the adrenalin get the better of you.
You might find it hard to believe, but I have been embarrassed on more than a few occasions when a couple of bidders have lost it and one of them has paid, in my opinion, far to much for a particular trinket. A great deal for the seller but the buyer most probably won’t be happy.
Feedback now comes into play. A buyer opens a parcel and finds that they have paid too much. Is that the sellers fault? I don’t think so, but that might no be reflected in the feedback left. Refund is a possible option but will the seller want to lose a large profit which, he knows, will never be seen again.
So please don’t get carried away, control that mouse.

Putting a value on an item is difficult. There is no rule of thumb. I won’t go into details on that and let my other guides help. However it needs to be said that doing your homework goes a long way. Next time you are passing a Jewellery shop, Pawnbroker or Cash Converter, go in and have a browse, get a feel.
Use eBay’s “completed listing” search. It will prove invaluable.
Research, knowledge and gut feeling are my guides. In the end you have to have a go or you'll get nothing, just like trying to wait for THE latest model computer.

eBay is huge. There are plenty of fish in the eBay sea. I prefer to buy locally but even then the selection is large. And not only is it large, it also never stops. So if you find something you like but then discover something that worries you like, low or bad feedback, no Paypal, bad or lacking descriptions, or anything else look for another fish.

I find that, as an Auctioneer, I can’t help but use some adjectives when I’m cataloguing or describing. I mean, what’s a steak without the sizzle BUT amongst the sizzle you will find I have left all the meat you need to give you ALL the information about an item. Just get read in between the sizzle. I find it difficult to buy from a person who is vague about a description of jewellery. Either it is or it isn’t. It’s no good saying you think something is gold, or the stone scratches glass so it’s a diamond or that your mother said it belonged to great grandmother. I look for facts, not opinions.
Speaking of mothers, have you ever noticed how many people are selling up the estate of a recently departed mother, gran or uncle, sometimes for years. It also helps to develop healthy cynicism on eBay.

It goes without saying that you can ask as many questions you like. But first, please make sure you have thoroughly read the description and noted all the important details. I can't think of the number of times I have been asked questions that, if the person bothered to read the details, the answer is clearly stated. That person is just asking for trouble because they will eventually miss something important.


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  • Feedback and not just a quick look. How long a member, how much selling, type of items, value of items, star ratings, and VERY importantly, the actual feedback words left by buyers? All these will give you a picture of the seller. If it doesn’t look OK, look elsewhere. Please remember only God is perfect and a sprinkling of red and grey feedbacks should not matter. Look between the lines and know no one can satisfy everyone, every time.
  • All the fine print that might hide words like simulant, plated, or many other terms that may disguise or mislead. I know it’s a bore but be very careful and read every word, never ever presume.
  • Finer detail like size, dimensions, carat, weight, gem size, materials. I find that having a pencil and ruler is invaluable. A photo virtually NEVER gives you the right idea of size. A lot of things look much bigger on a monitor. Draw a rough picture to scale. You will be surprised at how much better an idea will get with something so simple. You will never have to say…”I thought it was bigger”.
  • Ring size is most important. Chains and bracelets can be measured using a simple tape measure, adequate for most purposes. Rings are a bit more difficult. There is not a lot of room for error. Be sure! One of my other guides does go into more detail on that subject. Resizing can be an option but you have to be careful. In my experience it is simply not worth the time or money for a cheaper ring.
  • Look at the pictures closely. Many sellers say that the photos are part of the description believing that they don’t have to mention a fault because you can see it in the picture.
  • Many jewellery sales are final, no returns, especially overseas. As a seller I have seen my fare share of “buyer’s remorse”. I understand it can be difficult to buy jewellery online but when you ask for a refund don’t expect one unless the description is wrong. AND don’t expect the seller to accept the cost of ANY postage or fees because, and I quote, “it wasn’t what I thought”. Sometimes you just have to wear it and be more careful next time.
  • Payment methods. There was a time when I was very sceptical about PayPal, but really, for the seller, there is no better way. They offer substantial protection even if they are a part of eBay, who constantly promote it, ad nausium. Credit cards are good. A simple phone call to the seller who offers it and the transaction is paid AND you card provider does offer the protection of “charge back”. To accept credit cards you have to be a merchant with the a bank so that in the event of problems the bank can issue a charge back and get your money back. Ask your bank. Any other form of payment, including direct deposit, money order and especially wire transfer, is really casting your fate before the winds. I have used then all without problems but there will be little you can do if something goes wrong.
  • The seller description style is well worth noting. I like to buy from buyer who shows an understanding of the English language, whose descriptions are well written and who have some understanding of what they are selling. HOWEVER, that can be a two edged sword. If a seller knows what they are selling then chances of a real bargain are slimmer BUT you do know exactly what you are getting. On the other side of the coin, those dodgy descriptions, misspellings and low feedback numbers are just the sellers that can offer the biggest bargains. I have purchased from both and done well. Just remember, as long as you win more than you lose, however the risk is increased.
  • Postage is not a major issue. Just make sure it’s registered. You have to sign for it and it allow the post office to track it. Security at both ends and it doesn’t cost much. Don’t send without it. Insurance is up to you and/or the seller. As a seller, I insist on it, as a buyer I don’t care never having had a missing parcel. Postage cost is generally very cleary stated. Don't complain if you later think it's too much.
  • In the end it’s down to you and the choices you make based on the effort you put in. The more effort the better the result so spend some time and then be bold.

    “Caveat Emptor"...Let the buyer beware!
    I have been am a pawnbroker and second hand dealer. I have been regularly selling jewellery on eBay for the last couple of years.
    SEE MY OTHER GUIDES FOR OTHER INFORMATION ON JEWELLERY. Vote as appropriate.
    © 2010 Edward Vabolis
    I seem to have used an awful lot of mixed metaphores in this guide for which I apologise.

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