Many of us enter adulthood knowing a thing or two about jewelry. Some people have a lot of experience buying jewelry because it’s been their favorite thing to shop for—and other people might not buy anything beyond a watch until their late twenties.
But no matter when you’re a beginner when it comes to shopping for your own jewelry, you could always stand to learn a thing or two about the process before you start. Knowing the difference between items of jewelry will not only help you to make the right purchase the first time, but will pay off dividends as you make more purchases in the future as well.
Step One: Know Your Metals
Before we even talk about specific jewelry pieces, remember this: all jewelry is made out of something. Sure, you can learn a few gemstones—and we recommend that you do read up on those to find out more about them—but there’s something even more basic that will be key to understanding how jewelry works and why prices sometimes are the way they are: metals.
Gold is the, ahem, gold standard of metals because it has a number of qualities that make it ideal for jewelry: it’s attractive, it’s highly malleable (bendable) in its pure form, and it tends to get along just fine with our skin (heck, it even works in dental work). Silver has similar human-friendly properties with the advantage of being far less expensive to procure. Platinum resembles silver in many ways but can be expected more in the price range of gold, give or take.
“24-karat” gold is pure gold; however, since pure gold is so malleable, most jewelers combine gold with another metal in order to enhance its strength. You can typically find a “14K” imprint on the inside of a wedding band that indicates that the item is actually 14 karat gold thanks to this process.
Step Two: Know Your Pieces
You know what an earring is, sure. But what’s the difference between a necklace and a pendant? Both of them hang around the neck. The pendant actually refers to the piece of jewelry that accents a particular gemstone or design, and it can actually hang from a bracelet as well. The necklace goes around the neck.
These are the kinds of distinctions that will help you tell between two pieces of jewelry and know which kind you want to purchase. Sure, if you’re buying for yourself, you should already have a good idea of where your taste fits and what you want to procure. But buying a gift for someone else can be a little trickier. That’s why we recommend browsing our jewelry section to get a visualization for each different type of piece. Having a photo to match the name will be important before you pick any individual item out.
Whether you’re looking for a watch, a ring, a necklace, or a pair of earrings, your shopping excursion for new jewelry should start from a foundation of knowledge about metals, jewelry pieces, and more. The more you know about jewelry, the more likely you are to make the right choice on a major purchase.