Online jewelry stores are a great shopping option for many customers. Not only are there many benefits to online stores such as convenience and 24/7 shopping, but they often offer better deals and a wider selection than traditional boutiques. At the same time customers need to be careful to select online stores with good reputations that can provide quality jewelry.
What Can I Find Online?
The real question should be, what can't you find online? Traditional boutiques have limited selections for two reasons:
- They are confined by a limited amount of storage and display space.
- They must cater to the local market and what is most popular so they can increase their profits.
Online jewelry stores, on the other hand, can offer a wider range of merchandise because they do not have to display it for visiting customers, and their prices can generally be lower without affecting profits because they do not need to maintain physical stores. Rings, earrings, bracelets and other familiar pieces are all available online, as well as a startling variety of more unique pieces, such as custom jewelry, beaded jewelry, Italian charms, body jewelry, anklets, and themed pieces, such as gay/bisexual jewelry, gothic pieces, or personalized items.
Types of Online Jewelry Stores
There are three basic types of online jewelers:
- Online versions of traditional stores offer similar merchandise to their physical stores, though they may have expanded clearance and discount sections as well as better "internet only" deals not available in boutiques. Most major jewelers maintain extensive online stores as well.
- Independent jewelers frequently use online stores to increase their market exposure and offer their products to a far wider geographical range than they could with a local store. Many independent jewelers offer exceptionally rare and unique items, though their prices may be significantly higher than more common items at regular stores.
- Online-only stores have abandoned the traditional jewelry store trappings of glass display cases and uniformed salespeople in favor of maintaining extensive websites. These jewelers do not offer physical stores, but their extensive interactive features such as multiple views of jewelry pieces and comparison shopping tools help consumers learn about their purchase as much or more than they would in a traditional store.
Popular Online Merchants
A quick internet search for online jewelers will reveal thousands of stores offering internet sales. Some of the more popular and reputable online jewelry stores include:
- Blue Nile Diamonds
- Robbins Brothers
- Zales Jewelers
- Helzberg Diamonds
- Tiffany & Co.
- Kay Jewelers
- Bailey, Banks, and Biddle
Many other popular chain jewelers, designers, department stores, and local jewelry stores offer online stores: searching for your favorite merchant's name is likely to reveal their internet shopping options. Similarly, if you are interested in a specific type of jewelry, search for that type of jewelry and include the words "online store" or "online shopping" to find a store that offers what you are interested in.
Investigating Online Jewelry Stores
Before clicking "buy" at an online store, customers should carefully investigate the merchant to be sure they can trust the store. First, read any warranty, guarantee, and return policies to be sure you understand your rights if there is any problem with the jewelry you purchase. Also investigate any shipping, return, restocking, or customization fees, looking in particular for potential hidden costs or price inflation. Checking with the Better Business Bureau is a good way to find any registered complaints against the business, while asking for referrals from friends and family who have ordered online is a great way to find a reputable online store. Also be sure to understand payment methods, repair services, and dispute resolution before completing a sale.
Online Stores to Avoid
There are certain characteristics of online jewelry stores that may be warning signs for potential customers. While these signs do not guarantee problems and do not automatically mean a store may be disreputable, if the customers notice any of the following they should investigate more carefully before shopping:
- Poor website design such as broken graphics, unfocused images, misaligned pages, or erratic design.
- Expired or incomplete security certificates that may indicate potential transaction problems or lower security for online payments.
- Lack of recent updates, such as advertisements for Christmas sales in January or "new" products remaining new for weeks.
- Missing or incomplete contact information that may make answering questions or resolving disputes more difficult.
By carefully investigating potential problems before agreeing to a sale, customers can avoid poor purchases that may create more problems long after the sale is completed.
Online jewelry stores are a great option for many people. Not only are they convenient alternatives to traditional boutiques, but they often offer a wider range of pieces at better prices than physical stores. By carefully investigating online stores and knowing how to find a quality piece you are interested in, it is possible to find great bargains on fine jewelry without ever leaving home.