SOURCE: Jewelers Mutual

February 06, 2012 05:00 ET

From the Heart

A Valentine's Day Jewelry Guide

MISSION, KS--(Marketwire - Feb 6, 2012) - (Family Features) Every day is a good day to tell someone how much they are loved, but Valentine's Day is a good day to show someone how much they are treasured. And many people choose to do that with a lovely piece of jewelry.

If you'd like to buy your loved one a special piece of jewelry this year, these tips will help you find the perfect gift.

Personal Style
Before doing any shopping, make sure you know what style the recipient prefers. Notice if he or she wears only gold or silver jewelry. Does he or she prefer small, understated pieces or bigger, bolder jewelry? What type of jewelry do they wear most often -- necklaces, bracelets, earrings?

If you're unsure about buying jewelry, consider bringing along a family member or friend who knows them well to help you pick something they would love.

Gemstone Basics
To make sure you know what you're buying, here are some definitions from the American Gem Society:

  • Natural gemstones are found in nature. With the exception of the pearl, they are created and mined from the earth. Sometimes natural gemstones are treated in some way to improve their color and/or clarity. Treatments and/or enhancements should always be disclosed by the seller, along with any special care that might be required.
  • Laboratory-created gemstones are also known as laboratory-grown, manufacturer-created, or synthetic. They have the same physical, chemical and visual properties as natural gemstones, but they do not have the same rarity or value.
  • Imitation gemstones look like natural gemstones in appearance only. They can be manmade or made from a natural stone. Both laboratory-created and imitation stones should be clearly labeled as such.

Gemstones can be measured by weight, size or both. The carat is the basic unit for weighing gemstones, and is equal to one-fifth of a gram. Carats are further divided into 100 units, called points. For example, a half-carat gemstone would weigh .50 carats or 50 points. When gemstones are measured by dimensions, the size is expressed in millimeters (for example, 7 x 5 millimeters).

The value of gemstones is determined by the 4 Cs -- color, cut, clarity and carat weight. Color is the most important factor.

About Pearls
Natural pearls are extremely rare. You'll most often encounter cultured and imitation pearls.
Cultured Pearls -- Grown in pearl farms, these high-quality pearls can be found in saltwater and in freshwater. Different types of mollusks produce very different looking pearls.
Imitation Pearls -- These are typically coated glass beads with a high luster. Most respected jewelers can tell the difference between imitation and cultured pearls.

There are various lengths of pearl necklaces available:

  • Collar fits directly against the throat.
  • Choker rests at the base of the neck.
  • Princess rests near the collarbone.
  • Matinee length is typically 20 to 24 inches.
  • Opera length is between 30 and 36 inches.
  • Rope length refers to all strands longer than 36 inches.

Materials 101
To make sure you buy a quality piece that will last, you need to know a little about what jewelry is made of. The three most common metals used include gold, sterling silver and platinum. Here's what you need to know:

Gold -- When you see the word "gold" by itself on a piece, it means all gold, or 24-karat gold. Twenty-four-karat gold is soft, so it's usually mixed with other metals to make it more durable. Fourteen-karat jewelry contains 14 parts gold mixed with 10 parts of a base metal. The higher the karat rating, the higher the proportion of gold.
Sterling silver -- This term describes a piece that contains 92.5 percent silver. Sometimes they are marked "925," which means 925 parts per thousand are pure silver. "Coin silver" is used for compounds that contain 90 percent silver.
Platinum -- Platinum is a natural, white-colored, precious metal that is often described as being strong, durable and corrosion resistant. It's usually mixed with other similar metals, such as iridium, palladium, ruthenium, rhodium and osmium.

Choosing Necklaces
Most necklaces come in one of these lengths: 16, 18, 20, 22, 24 and 28 inches. How do you choose the right one to buy? First, you need to know where the different lengths will fall on the wearer's body.

16 inches choker length
18 inches at collarbone
20 inches a few inches below collarbone
22 inches at or above neckline
24 inches below neckline
28 inches around the bustline

Birthstones 101
Consider making your jewelry gift personal by including the recipient's birthstone:

January Garnet
February Amethyst
March Aquamarine
April Diamond
May Emerald
June Pearl
July Ruby
August Peridot
September Sapphire
October Opal
November Topaz
December Turquoise

Protecting Your Purchase

  • Know exactly what you're purchasing, and get all estimates of gem quality and treatments in writing.
  • Be sure to ask about your jeweler's return policy before purchasing. If shopping online, be sure to buy only from reputable and researched sources.
  • Losing valuable jewelry is always disappointing, but if the piece was a gift it likely had emotional value as well, which can make it heartbreaking to lose. Plan ahead to preserve your precious memories by having valuable gifts appraised and insured by a company that specializes in jewelry insurance, such as Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company.
  • If you need jewelry insurance or would like a free, no-obligation quote, visit www.insureyourjewelry.com.

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