Buying jewelry abroad

March 7, 2010

By Judy McEuen
Travel Writer
Troy Media

Judy McEuen
Judy McEuen

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, Mar. 7, 2010/ Troy Media/ – Buying jewelry abroad can be tricky.

Most of us will freely admit that we don’t know anything about gems, whether they are precious stones or semi-precious, so when contemplating buying jewelry abroad, go for the fun, inexpensive pieces. That way you won’t make a purchase you will regret later.

Being a tourist may put you into a “foreign” frame of mind: You’re happy and relaxed, enjoying your escape from the daily grind; you’re spending “foreign money.” In fact, a vacation dollar doesn’t seem to have the same as an at-home dollar. It may almost seem like “play money”.

“Foreign money”

You’re in the mood to indulge yourself, and jewelry can be quite a temptation but you need to think this through because that’s real money your spending, and you want to get true value if you decide to buy.

Shopkeepers the world over are pros at convincing you that you can’t live without that ring or necklace and at convincing you that their country is the best place to buy it, whether it is tanzanite in Tanzania, emeralds in Brazil, or sapphires and rubies in Sri Lanka or India!

Cab drivers and tour operators all seem to have a cousin who has a jewelry store where you will get the buy of a lifetime.

Beware of your emotions and those shop keepers and those taxi drivers. The worst way to purchase jewelry is to let the tour operator take you to a shop and to let yourself be convinced that you really should get a tanzanite ring in Tanzania.

You don’t want to get caught up in the hunt and end up disappointed for having spent too much money or for having purchased something that you don’t really want, let alone need.

Once you’ve got your emotions under control, you want to make sure you’re getting the real thing. There are lots of synthetic gems out there, and there are natural stones that are sometimes substituted for more precious stones. Cubic zirconia and manufactured emeralds are hard for even experts to tell from the real thing. Other red stones like garnets may be substituted for rubies.

Sometimes the names will give you a clue that stones of lesser value are being offered with fancy names in hopes of fooling you into thinking they are more valuable. Mexican jade is probably dyed onyx. Smoky Topaz is probably just smoky quartz. And if the blue color of lapis comes off with water, it’s just a dyed stone no matter what it’s called. If you get home and find out it’s a fake, you’ll have a hard time returning it.

Don’t forget the custom duties

Remember that if you buy an expensive piece, there will be customs duty to pay on it when you return home. Check out customs charges in your country before you leave home to help you decide if that piece of jewelry will cost you more than you think.

If you are interested in buying jewelry abroad, do your research at home. Learn about the stones and what to look for. Search the internet for reputable dealers: There are some  out there. You won’t get the bargain the others are touting, but you will pay fairly for the real thing.

Buying jewelry abroad can give you a fantastic souvenir, just be aware of the pitfalls then enjoy that tanzanite ring!

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