Someone once told me, “Know your jewelry or know your jeweler.” This advice can be applied to any vendor, from box stores with machine-made products to a one-person handcrafted jewelry shop that sells online or at craft fairs.
If you are ordering from an unknown website or an unfamiliar Etsy shop you take on a certain amount of risk. Minimize your risk by doing your homework.
Scan the website. It doesn’t matter if it is simple or complicated. It should be organized, attractive, and informative.
The About Page and Profile
Read the “About” page. Look for the profile of the shop owner. Has the owner answered the questions of how the items are made and who designs and makes them? How much experience does the maker have and why did the he/she choose jewelry (or other craft)?
Are the items handmade by one person or by a team? How long has the shop been in business? Is there a physical shop?
Look for detailed descriptions with measurements and clear photos.
Check for keywords to describe the quality of the metals such as “silver plated” or “sterling silver”. Silver plating wears off quickly and should be inexpensive. Sterling silver is 92.5% silver. It might tarnish but it will never wear off. Know the difference between gold plated, gold filled, and carat gold.
If there are beads the description should include information about them. They could be natural gemstones, synthetic stones, glass, crystal, resin, plastic, wood, or many other materials.
Measurements of the jewelry items should include the size of any beads or gemstones. Take out a ruler and mark the sizes on a piece of paper (or draw the item) for an accurate idea of the size of the item. Measure a necklace or pair of earrings in your jewelry collection to compare sizes. Bracelets are a bit more challenging. A chain bracelet or a bracelet with small beads can be sized by their total length. However, if the bracelet contains large or chunky beads, you will need a longer length than usual.
The photos should be clear and show different views of the item. In an ideal world the jewelry would be shown on a model, but many small businesses can’t afford to pay models. Is the item in the photo the actual item you will receive or a sample? That should be clearly stated.
Shipping and Packaging
Shipping information is also important. If the items are custom or made-to-order it might take one, two, or more weeks before the item is shipped. Add on the actual shipping time and you could be ordering jewelry for an event that will be over before you receive it.
How will your jewelry be packaged for shipping? Jewelry boxes inside bubble wrap envelopes seem to be the usual and most economical for small items.
Is the shipping included in the price of your item? If the shop says, “Free Shipping”, the shipping costs are usually included in the price. I personally would rather pay shipping separately.
Check the return policy. It is fairly standard for businesses to require that you ship the item back at your cost if you have changed your mind or ordered the wrong item/size. However, if the item arrived broken, is not what you ordered, or there’s some other shop error, the business might reimburse the shipping as well as the cost of the item.
Customer service contact information should be listed on the website. At the very least, it should have an email address and general physical location (city, state, country). Don’t expect a telephone number from a small handmade jewelry or craft shop.
Finally…Take a Chance
Be cautious and thorough, but by all means purchase from new shops. Give them a chance to prove themselves to you. Who knows… maybe the shop will become famous and you can say you found them first!
Do you have an experience or tips to share? Leave a comment.
( I sell my jewelry online through Etsy so most of my advice and tips are based on that experience.)