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Ask Anything: 10 questions with N.C. Jewelers Association

Posted June 2, 2009
Updated December 16, 2009


How often should I get my wedding ring cleaned? Do you damage your rings if you over-clean them? – Kelly, Raleigh

Having your rings frequently checked and cleaned by your jeweler is a sound practice. Have them cleaned and inspected for loose stones, worn or missing prongs or cracks in your mountings. No damage should occur for standard cleaning. Soft stones such as emeralds and opals take special care. Your jeweler can examine your ring and advise you on proper cleaning for your specific ring. Sterling silver, white gold and platinum should be rhodium plated periodically to restore their luster.


How can you be sure that what you are purchasing is a genuine stone? – Jennifer, Cary

Purchasing your stone from an established, reputable jeweler is your first safeguard. Disclosure laws help dictate synthetic, laboratory-created, clarity or color enhancement or other stone treatments. Today, there are many good look-alikes for genuine stones; testing is often needed to identify a stone. Your trained jeweler can verify a stone’s authenticity. If you are buying from an individual or online, “certificates” are oftentimes used lend credibility to the transaction. If you read the fine print on the certificate, most clearly state that there is no guarantee in the certificate. Your best bet is to take it to a local jeweler who is trained in gem identification.


There have been several ads recently about companies buying old gold. Is this a scam? If not, what is the going rate for old gold? – Melodie, Franklinton

Good question. Many jewelers are buying old and unwanted gold now and in most cases, they provide the best return. The price of gold on the world market changes daily. The purchase price is based on the actual gold content (10K, 14K, 18K, etc.) and the weight of each piece. Quality of workmanship brings no value if you are selling the piece for scrap. It is always a good idea to compare prices. Ask your jeweler for an estimate. The purchase price you are quoted may not be exactly the same from each dealer, but they should certainly be comparable. Selling old, broken or unused pieces is a great way to get cash to buy yourself new jewelry that you will wear and enjoy!


I just recently purchased an engagement ring for my now fiancé. While shopping around, I quickly became overwhelmed by all the different types, cuts, clarity's, etc. of diamonds. I quickly realized that I needed an IGI certified diamond. My question is: What are the standards that the people at IGI use that make the price of diamonds what they are? I almost felt that the entire thing is a conspiracy. Thanks. – Jeff, Fayetteville

IGI is one of several gem laboratories which provides grading certificates for diamonds and other precious stones. Some labs provide an opinion of the stone’s value while others do not. There is a standard grading system, accepted worldwide, which is provided by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) or the American Gem Society (AGS). It is important to remember that certificates are intended to be the opinion of the laboratory to be used for comparison purposes when making a purchase; it should not be used as a guarantee. The majority of the world diamond market is controlled by the DeBeers Corporation where the initial value is determined. Individual diamond dealers can determine their own pricing structure. As with any major purchase, we would suggest comparing quality and price.


I have an old engagement and wedding ring I wanted to do something with. Will most jewelers buy the settings and remount the diamonds into a pendant or earrings? How do I know if I am getting a fair price? – Cindy Bentkowski, Chapel Hill

Most full-service jewelers will either buy your used mountings outright, or give you the recycle value to credit toward the cost of new mountings. Compare the value the jeweler is giving you with the amount another gold dealer will pay you. It costs nothing to shop for prices and it is fun, too!


I have a lot of uncut stones from panning in the mountains – topaz, rubies, garnets. I realize it is hard to determine without seeing them, but is it usually financially worthwhile to have them cut? – Kathy Parsons

Our state is blessed with a variety of indigenous stones. My best advice is to let a qualified professional lapidary examine your stones to determine which ones might yield a quality gemstone. They will be able to predict the approximate size and shape of stone that each rough stone may provide as well as the cost to cut and polish. The cost is normally reasonable. Most locally mined stones that I have seen have not been high quality stones, but the stone makes a nice memento of a fun family trip. Your local jeweler can put you in contact with a lapidary.


Is it true if you keep sterling jewelry in an airtight baggie it will not tarnish? – Lynn Pickett, Fayetteville

Keeping your silver in an airtight bag will certainly delay, if not prevent, the tarnishing process. Silver tarnishes due to a reaction with chemicals in the air, particularly sulphur. Keeping it sealed can reduce the likelihood of oxidation. There are pre-treated tarnish-resistant cloth bags available which are perfect for storing and protecting your silver jewelry and tableware. Be sure to wipe your silver jewelry down thoroughly with a soft cloth after wearing to reduce tarnishing.


Is it possible to resize sterling silver rings? If so, are the results good? – Connie Crumpler, Raleigh

As a general rule, sterling silver rings can be sized as necessary without any effect, depending on the design of the ring. When done properly, there should be little to no evidence of sizing of a sterling ring. Given that most sterling rings are inexpensive, you may pay as much to have the ring sized as you actually paid for the ring itself. Any jeweler would be happy to provide an estimate for sizing your rings.


I have watches from my parents. My father's watch and band is solid gold with diamonds around the face and it's a Longene. My mothers watch and band are both solid gold with diamonds all around the band. I need to have both cleaned and repaired. Where can I bring these watches? Both watches are at least 50 to 60 years old. – Fran Arsena, Cary

It sounds like both of these watches are special family heirlooms with much sentimental value. There are a number of qualified/certified horologists (watch repair specialists) who can help repair your watches to nearly new condition. Ask your jeweler for a referral to a horologist if they do not have one on staff. They will provide detailed estimates for the necessary repairs, as well as an approximate completion date.


Mr. Wally, I'm kind of a watch guy, OK fanatic. I love the look of a big chronograph watch with all the bells and whistles. My question is this – are the high end watches like Breitling and Tag Heuer REALLY worth the big bucks, or is it just the name? Are brands like Swiss Army, Citizen, Luminox, ESQ and others in the price range of common people a lot less superior? What kind of watch do you wear? I'm all ears (or eyes) on this question! – Frank, Apex

In most cases, the “high-end” watches are constructed of very high quality components to exacting standards. Watches which are not mechanical (automatics or manual-wind) are powered by quartz crystal movements. While the quality of the movements may vary from brand to brand, they each perform the same basic functions. There are several factors that determine the cost of a watch:

  • Case Construction – plastic, plated base metal, stainless steel, gold or platinum. Further, is the case comprised of one or several pieces?
  • Movement type – quartz, self-winding (automatic), manual, chronograph
  • Degree of Water Resistance – type of crown (screw-down locking crown or standard)
  • Type of crystal – plastic derivative, glass, sapphire
  • Number and variety of functions
  • Bracelet composition – type of metal, components, guage of metal, leather or plastic
  • Warranty length
  • Quality of materials

It is difficult to say whether a certain brand of watch may be “better” or “worth the extra cost” versus another brand. This purchase is a personal choice, dependent upon appearance, budget and purpose (sports, dress, casual). My advice is to choose a watch whose functions and appearance suit you, in a price range that is comfortable for you. The warranty will protect you in the event the watch does not perform as it should. Personally, I wear several different watches of varying brands, including Bulova, Seiko, ESQ and Wittnauer. I like them all for different reasons. I know many men who collect different watches like my wife collects shoes!

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  • Glass Half Full Jun 9, 2009

    I used to do all my jewelry business with Hincamps until Wally Hincamp called to tell me that they had broken the stone in my most loved ring while fixing the prongs on my ring. Then he proceeded to replace the stone with one that was nowhere near as beautiful. Not that it mattered since breaking the stone in the first place ruined the sentimental value of the ring for me. Ironic that he's president of the NC Jewerler Assn. Love his answer to Question #1.