a lady eyeballs a rare pink diamond
Black Friday ads are filled with supposed deals on jewelry. The ads have pages and pages of diamonds and semi-precious stones at 50%, 60% even 75% off the regular price. But how to know if it's a deal, or even real, for that matter?

"If it looks too good to be true, it probably is," says Kevin Adkins, a graduate gemologist claims replacement buyer for USAA, the agency that insures valuable jewelry. Sounds trite, but it holds true, especially for diamonds. "A lot of people are buying online and we have seen a number of fraudulent representations of jewelry," he said.Insurers are often called in to asses the value of an item after it's purchased, and Adkins recommends that consumers ask for a gem's certificate of authenticity from the American Gem Society or the Gemological Institute of America before buying. Ask a lot of questions and make sure an item can be returned for a full refund.

Be especially careful about buying jewelry online or from an unfamiliar, or unestablished retailer. "So many companies are fly-by-night -- they're out there on the Web, and then gone," says Adkins. "Look for a long-standing company that provides the materials to back what it's selling, that gives you the best credentials you can possible have for that gemstone."

Buying a nice piece of jewelry isn't as easy as a TV, camera or car. There are no reviews to read and few national retailers with longevity. But since a diamond is meant to last forever, and jewelry one of the biggest investments or purchases a person can make it, it pays to think twice before getting sucked in by a low price.

That 5ct tennis bracelet you see online may say it has a suggested-selling price of more than $14,256, but is there any way to truly know? Not with authentication, says Adkins. "I found a 1ct total weight diamond ring for $431," he says. "Many people think it should be at least $1,000 for a good quality diamond."

Inferior diamonds abound these days. Adkins calls these "promotional quality goods. These are things that 20 years ago, normally would not have even been used in jewelry."

When shopping for Black Friday deals on jewelry, some things to look for, include:

Tennis bracelets. Typically, when there are many diamonds used in a single piece, it's easier to hide flawed pieces in inferior settings that won't hold the stone. Jewelers save the higher quality stones for single stone pieces.

Colored gemstones. Even on colored gemstones there are grading systems. In many cases, particularly with online retailers, the description is vague and misleading, according to Adkins. A 2ct emerald could be worth anywhere from $600 to $6,500. "Make sure you're getting a more detailed description," Adkins says. And that it can be returned if the stone doesn't meet expectations.

Invisible set jewelry. These are typically several small, princess cut diamonds placed together to look like one big diamond. Jewelers cut a groove into the bottom of the stone and don't use prongs. Trouble is, the stones fall out. "We're getting more and more claims that they don't hold up under normal wear and tear," says Adkins. "A lot of companies are not guaranteeing the item or taking returns."

Don't be discouraged. There are plenty of reputable jewelers and good prices. Consider buying loose stones to ensure their quality, and have them put in the setting of your choice. A piece of jewelry should be something unique, and a potential heirloom.

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