Lets first look at buying online.
The main problem with buying online is you don't know who you are dealing with and what happens if you are not happy with their product. Apart from checking someones feedback on EBay or if the website has a bricks and mortar store you could visit for example you may be taking a risk. I would suggest that if you are after any expensive items lets say $100 +, I would by from a reputable retailer.
I have heard of very many so-called "rip-offs" from online sources. 18ct white gold 1 carat solitaire rings that people have paid thousands for only to find out that it is white gold plated on plastic with a Cubic Zirconia, and guess what who they bought it from either doesn't exist anymore or they just wont respond to emails, especially those from overseas. There are even people who quote R.R.P. price on jewellery, with the exceptions of brand name jewellery, Pandora and the like, there are no R.R.P. prices on jewellery because the price fluctuates with the price of metals, gems and the $AUS. I have seen a ring advertised as 9ct weighing about 3.5gms and has a 0.15 diamond in it with a retail price of $1170! and since I am in the industry I can tell you that this ring would not retail for anymore than $300 maximum!I have contacted this seller to ask him where he got is retail price from, and he said he did it himself. Another person advertised a similar product with a valuation of a similar incredible price. I asked them where they got the valuation from and you guessed it they did it themselves.
So what to do if you are determined to buy expensive jewellery on line, and yes it is possible to get some great bargains too. Firstly do your research on where you are going to buy it from. Read very carefully the description, don't get blinded by 18ct when it actually states 18ct gold plate or G.P. Don't mis-read "Diamond like" as just Diamond. And ask questions about returns etc. before buying, if they are shoddy operators they will probably want to avoid someone who they think may cause problems. In a lot of cases disregard R.R.P. or R. prices.
Buying from a retail store.
Generally speaking, if you buy from of the major chains you should be rest assured that everything you are told is correct and you can rest easy knowing you have purchased what you were sold. Should there be some error, these large chains will look after you as they don't want their reputation tarnished.
As for the smaller independent, well I would suggest that you start small, even with some minor repairs and see how you feel about them. If you believe they are treating you well keep seeing them.
If however you are concerned about anything you have been told by either party, always get a second or even third opinion. Most jewellery stores will oblige.
Remember the following codes 375 or 9k or 9ct means it is 9karat gold, 750 or 18k or 18ct means it is 18 karat gold, 925 is Sterling Silver, Pall means the metal is Palladium (a lovely white precious alloy) and PT is Platinum, the most expensive of all jewellery alloys.
Just some tips on buying diamonds.
Diamonds are graded in 4 ways known as the 4C's. This stands for Colour, Cut, Clarity and Carat weight. I'll now take you through each of these.
Colour: Diamonds are graded from D, which is the best right down to Z, the worst. Most common grade diamonds you will find range from H-I to a K. Generally speaking the lower the grade the yellower the diamond gets or it may go a little grey. Diamonds do come in other colours, whch are called "fancies". To be named a "Fancy" the diamond must have avery distinct colour. They come in Red, Yellow or Blue. The infamous "Hope" diamond is a lovely blue.
Cut: now cut can refer to 2 things. #1 is the actual shape of the diamond, for example a round diamond is called a "Brilliant" cut, a triangle shaped diamond is a "Trilliant" a fully faceted square cut is a "Princess" cut. #2 is how good the cut is. Lets look at option 2 here. If a diamond is cut incorrectly the light will not reflect back correctly and will not have the sparkle a diamond should have. So this type of cut is critical in how a finished diamond will look and no matter how good the rest of the grades are it wont save what was lost with a bad cut.
Clarity: This refers to imperfections within the cut diamond. These are natural imperfections and nothing to much to worry about, unless they are obvious to the naked eye. The grades for clarity range from I.F, Internally Flawless right down to a PK3 which means you would see imperfections with the naked eye. Keeping in mind that this grading is done under 10X magnification keep in mind that anything that is S.I or slight inclusions upwards means that you will not see anything by the naked eye. You can actually save money on a diamond by keeping this grading at around SI as you will see no difference in a diamond that is exactly the same but is a VSI or Ver Slight Inclusions. Depending on the size of the diamond you could save hundreds to thousands of dollars.
Carat: this is the simplest grade. It simply refers to the weight of the diamond. The only true way to weigh a diamond is out of the setting although calculations within a setting can get you very close. A carat is made of points so for example a half carat is also 50 points or 0.50, a quarter carat is 25 points or 0.25, a two and three quarter carat is 275 points or 2.75
Let me tell a quick story of diamond grades. I was working in a store when a customer came in looking for a half carat, but he wanted a G colour VVS (very very slight inclusions). The colour I had was I and the clarity was SI, but what threw me was the price quoted me from another jeweller which was below the cost of what I could buy my grade of diamond for. I dismissed him as a liar trying to get a ridiculous price out me. But then it happened a second, a third and fourth time and these customer just kept coming. I decided to try and find out what was going on, were these diamonds stolen? What I found was this. The diamonds were indeed real, not stolen and were in fact half carat, VVS1and G colour. But! they were so badly cut they did not sparkle the way a diamond should and so as far as i am concerned next to worthless, but it did explain why they were so cheap.
In closing, when buying a diamond I go to one simple rule. After you have looked around. If you like the look of it, if it does what a diamond should, that is sparkle, then knowing all the details of the grade will not change a thing it will still look the same. So if you are happy with it buy it. And always remember if you are not sure or you don't understand about jewellery ask questions we are always happy to help :-)