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Tips for Buying Jewelry on Vacation

Let’s face it, we all love to buy jewelry while we’re on vacation.

“Vacation jewelry – YES!”

Whether it be Hawaii, Cancun, Paris, Rome or Australia, or even a quaint little Alaskan cruise or a Greek isle tour, buying jewelry on vacation is oh-so-tempting.

There’s something about purchasing sparkly gems in exotic locations as keepsakes that excites us.

Who doesn’t want to store that memory forever with silver, gold, diamonds and gemstones?

I love just thinking about it.

An emerald from Jamaica, an agate from Africa… OH YEAH!

But be concerned.

Tempting as it may sound, there should also be cause for concern.

You need to factor in other things with that impulse purchase. Things like:

Returning it.

What if you don’t like it later? What if it irritates your skin and you want your money back? What are you going to do? Mail it to that little jewelry store (what was the name?) on the corner of those two streets (some Italian words?) in Venice (“Hey, I don’t even have a receipt?”)…? (Yeah, right.)

That’s not going to happen.

Plus, even if you wanted to, most mom-and-pop jewelry shops out of the country don’t have return policies.

They sell to all the tourists and that’s how they make their living. It’s the “Oooohs” and “Aaahhhhhs” and “I gotta haves” that keep the bread on their tables.

They sucker you in with the massive discounts (so called discounts… “What? 20% off today only!“) and get you because those sales are not refundable.

Once you buy it, you keep it.

And even if you could return it, are you going to? International shipping and mailing is expensive and a pain (and still not very secure). Is it worth the hassle?

Quality matters:

So now that you know you’re stuck with it, did you ever think about what quality you bought?

You may not know it, but that 14kt gold you bought in Greece may not be real 14kt gold here.

Yes, that’s right… The good ole USA keeps gold standardized and regulated so that if an item is marked 14kt gold, the gold in that item is at least 14kt gold or higher.

Whatever it’s stamped, it is (or should be).

But, out of the states, there is no regulation.

It could be marked 10kt, or 14kt or 18kt, but that may not mean squat. It could be what’s marked, but chances are good, it’s not. Usually it’s lower gold content, or even just plated. Which means, if you’re allergic to anything less than 14kt gold (which a lot of people are), then that jewelry may cause rashes and allergic reactions. You have to be careful and concerned. Buyer beware.

And then you have the gemstones…

Gems sold outside our borders are often lower quality. The only good thing about that is that they usually will be cheap.

A lot of gems will be sold with tons of inclusions in them, they may be chipped or cracked, and their colors are normally very pale or light in hue. All not good.

And, just because the salesperson is calling it an “emerald“, you still have to question it.

Is it truly an emerald?

It could be a green tourmaline!!!

How would you know?

My suggestion is this:

Learn about gems before you buy them. Microscope them at the store. Look for inclusions, scratches, nicks or chips. And if they have an appraisal with it or a certificate, all the better.

Also do remember the rule of thumb when it comes to buying gemstones… The darker the color, the better (In most cases).

Granted, you don’t want to get a gem to be so dark it looks black, but a deep, vibrant and rich color is awesome.


One of the biggest sellers out of the country are tanzanites. Tanzanites are a big concern because a lot of tanzanites are sold being very pale and light in hue (see this really pale purple tanzanite here). Not good.

They may be sold cheaply, but beware.

Cruise ships are notorious for these kinds of overpriced stones.

If it’s a pale or light tanzanite, it’s not desirable at all.

Select tanzanites that are dark and a deep blue-violet in hue (like these beautiful tanzanites here).

Read more in my post: All About tanzanites.

Don’t forget to barter either.

A lot of store owners are willing to wheel-and-deal on their goods. They know tourists love a great deal so that price tag may be just a starting point.

It never hurts to try.

Lastly, keep in mind that if you are vacationing in a hot climate, when you get back to the states (or wherever you’re going), chances are good that that ring won’t fit anymore.

The rings will be too big.

In warmer temperatures your fingers will become swollen (usually about 1/2 size larger), so once you get back home, that ring will slip off, not fit right, and need to be sized down… And sizings could add another $20 – $30 onto the price of that ring.

If it’s a sterling silver ring that you paid $15 for, then that’s not such a great deal after all.

So think about these things before you make that vacation jewelry purchase. It could help sway your decisions one way or the other. Is that coral and diamond ring that you bought off the Cayman islands worth it?


Here’s my bit of advice:

Don’t spend an arm and a leg. Buy little fun things that are inexpensive.

And if you stick to buying pendants or bracelets, you won’t have to worry about getting them sized later. They’ll fit anytime, anywhere. :)

“Oh my… Look at that palm tree necklace.

That’s something I have to have.

Cheers and bon voyage! :)

14k Wheat Chains

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  1. I am going to Capetown and am hoping to buy a pair of tanzanite studs They are quoting me RAN 9500 for a pair of 1.44 total weight excellent brightness eye clear quality dark blue in colour. What should I ask for/insist on to know if I am getting a fair price and top quality? I am not using one of the jewellers that get kick backs from the tour company…I have been quoted from a jeweller with an international audience/website and good reviews.

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