Which is better independent vs chain stores? You will definitely ask yourself this question if you are planning to buy jewelry. And it’s kind of difficult to have a good answer, especially if you are on it the first time. So you do what people like you would do—consult with your friends. More often than not, however, it will confuse rather than enlighten you. At the end of the day, you get a monstrous headache due to information overload.
Independent Jeweler vs Chain Stores
To avoid the hassles mentioned above, knowing the difference between independent jewelers vs chain stores would be of great help. This article is going to show you how to do just that—make a good choice between independent jewelers vs chain stores.
What is a Jeweler
You can have a better perception of the comparison: independent jeweler vs chain stores, if you first have a good idea of what a jeweler is.
A jeweler is someone with years of experience working in the jewelry business. With his tools and techniques, he can make diamond jewelry and precious or semi-precious stones using different kinds of metal settings. He also sells, cleans, and restores jewelry pieces. A good jeweler can even appraise the value of your fine jewelry such as diamond rings (like the one in this Whiteflash review), earrings, bracelets, etc.
Beware, however, because they come in various names such as silversmith, goldsmith, gemologist, watchmaker, etc. Regardless of how they are called, they can cater to your jewelry needs depending on your level of expectations.
So which kind of jeweler can best help you? The following are the types of jewelers currently serving the current jewelry market. Anyone of them is a good place to start.
A personal jeweler is unlike a butler that attends to your personal needs. But he provides jewelry services geared towards your best interest. Typically, he has accumulated years and years in the jewelry business and has opted to scale down on his activities to the personal level. He may have a small workplace in an inauspicious part of town or at the back of his house, with a small inventory of jewelry items to choose from.
He doesn’t take orders too but will strive all he can to find what you are looking for or custom-make it. They rarely say “no,” but will tell you where to find the right answer.
Or he may visit you at home. Yes, some personal jewelers promote their business by visiting their clients at home, places of work, in a coffee shop, or any other place where jewelry talk can be done without much interruption.
This jeweler follows a flexible schedule and is perfect for clients who value personalized service. They can provide custom designs or some repair work some jewelers don’t provide.
Developing a personal jeweler is like developing a worthwhile friendship—it takes time. A good example of this type of jeweler is Calla Gold Jewelry
Plain and basic jeweler
As the name implies, this jeweler type doesn’t have classy and splashy showrooms. They are plain and simple and maybe among the local jewelry stores in town; the typical Mom and Pop jewelry stores.
Their selection of jewelry is moderate and they don’t design or manufacture their jewelry pieces either. But they do have a few eye-catching things for a junior-seniors prom or decent engagement rings.
What makes them a good place to buy your jewelry item is their unique selling proposition—the price. Because they are often stand-alone operations and have very minimal operating expenses,
Main street jeweler
This type of jeweler has a bigger capital outlay to afford a larger, artistic, and fancy store in the town’s main street. It may be operated or by owned by a single operator (or family-owned) or a partnership of boyhood friends.
The main street jeweler definitely carries more unique and expensive jewelry pieces and may do more complicated work.
Needless to say, their prices are a bit higher than the previous types of jewelers.
A boutique jeweler is pretty much the same as boutique stores for clothes, perfumes, shoes, etc. It carries specific jewelry lines, stylistically related design pieces made by the same person or well-known designer. A boutique jeweler is a good place to start if you are looking for high-end signature watches, such as the one in this Watches.com review.
Jewelry from this type of jeweler is more artistic and better made and the store is often owned by the designer in a particular geographic area. More often than not, they look more like art galleries than jewelry stores.
By his title, it’s obvious what line of jewelry he carries—used jewelry. But don’t put him down yet. He may have in his inventory jewelry items manufactured in the last few years or very old.
Antique jewelry may be fit for the museum and can then be very expensive. Or they cannot cost any higher than fashion jewelry. He may carry unique pieces or the run-of-the-mill type. And more often than not, one antique jeweler’s inventory may differ from another. So it’s a nice place to start if you are looking for something unique.
With COVID-19 not showing any signs of going away anytime soon, and the intrusion of the Internet not only into people’s bedrooms but in their smartphones, as well, shopping online has become the new normal for a lot of people. In fact, online jewelry shopping generated $8.5 billion in revenues in 2019. And it increased by 19% in 2012.
Online jewelry stores favor independent jewelers because they don’t cost much to operate, with no overhead and inventory cost either.
In 2020, 92% of jewelry sales in the United States were bought in physical retail stores. At the same time, 69% of those consumers also bought jewelry online.
These days any business cannot hope to compete profitably without an online presence. For this reason, jewelry chain stores are having their online presence felt as well.
Jewelry chain stores are huge jewelry stores which, because of their gigantic capital outlay make their presence felt in every major city anywhere in the world. Good examples are Signet Jewelers and Tiffany & Co.
Although there are downsides to shopping at jewelry chain stores, they are veritable one-stop shops to satisfy your jewelry needs. where your jewelry needs, from the smallest and cheapest to replicas of the most famous engagement rings in history.
They buy their jewelry products in bulk to keep their cost of goods as low as possible. Then they put in fancy display counters and massive marketing drives, which add up to the price.
But they remain very popular. What woman would not be proud to show off the pearl necklace, (like the one in this Fossils review) she bought from Tiffany? So if you are wondering, “why are jewelry stores more expensive?”—the answer is there. You are paying a huge premium for the name, not necessarily the product.
How Do You Know if a Jeweler is Reputable
Most of the above jewelers are independent jewelers. The online jeweler is a hybrid—some are independent while most are owned by jewelry chain stores. A boutique jeweler, though mostly independent, may have branches in different towns or cities giving them the “chain store” image.
Buying jewelry is a matter of trust—trust that the jeweler gives you the item you want at a price that is worth every cent of the money you pay. But trust is intangible. It cannot be seen or touched. You cannot smell it. It is often like an early morning dew that will vanish at the touch of sunlight.
So how do you engender that trust in a jeweler? The first and easiest way is to ask your friends who their personal jewelers are. The second and most reliable is for you to do your homework by asking yourself these questions.
Questions to ask yourself when choosing a jeweler
- Does the jeweler listen to you? Does he allow you to finish your piece before saying anything?
- How long has the jeweler been in business and will he or will he be around say, five years from now? Can you count on him to clean your rings or earrings?
- Can he repair jewelry items? Is he skilled enough to repair an heirloom diamond ring from your Mom?
- Do they take good care of your jewelry brought in for repair? Or will they say they can’t do it, then try to sell you something else?
- Are the jeweler’s assistants (if any) courteous, knowledgeable, and helpful?
- Can you trust the jeweler with some of your most valuable gemstones?
- How knowledgeable is he about different kinds of settings, different kinds of gems, and their properties?
- Is he really a personal jeweler as he ought to be? Does he go the extra mile to help you? If he doesn’t have what you are looking for, will he try his best to look for it, then show it to you? If he will just try to sell to you what he has in stock, strike him off your list
- Can he design and make custom jewelry? Will he be able to get your thoughts from a jewelry design you drew on a piece of tissue paper?
- How nice is he? Can you interact with him like an old friend? Is he courteous and helpful? Doesn’t he mind being badgered by your silly questions?
- Is he supportive? Some independent jewelers will just shrug you off if they can’t cater to your needs. A good jeweler won’t mind recommending you to another jeweler if they can’t provide you with what you want?
- If you bring in a broken piece of antique jewelry with a small antique diamond, will he respect it or tell you to have it melted and buy something else?
The answers to these questions are, of course, difficult to get from a jewelry chain store. If for nothing else, these provide precious answers to the independent jeweler vs chain stores riddle.
And, augmenting it, are the following reasons why it is better to shop from independent jewelers.
Advantages of shopping with an independent jeweler
Most people shop from jewelry chain stores—whether upfront or online. There’s nothing wrong with that. You can browse through a lot of choices and compare prices in online shopping. And with the pandemic still hounding us, most people are doing it.
But it is not the best option. Shopping in person at a local, independently-owned jewelry store is like being with an old friend and talking about things that are close to your heart.
Other than the romantic and emotional aspect of buying from an independent jeweler, earns you these wonderful experiences:
- Personalized customer service
- Helpful and knowledgeable staff
- Easier to get future repair and cleaning
- Allow you more time to examine the quality and try them to fit
- More protective warranties than chain stores
- Independent jewelers’ focus is more on quality than quantity.
Let’s face it, at the end of the day, one thing that draws you to a piece of jewelry item is the price. And where the price is concerned, a certain piece of jewelry will definitely be cheaper in an independent jeweler than in a chain store. So, why are independent jewelers cheaper?
When you buy from an independent jeweler, you save money on equivalent items of jewelry from a jewelry chain store. Here are some of the reasons for that:
- Independent jewelers have lower or no overhead costs, less, if any display room expense, no advertising or marketing budget. They operate by word-of-mouth.
- They try to serve you according to your budget, unlike chain stores which are profit-driven.
- Unlike chain stores where prices are brand name-based, independent jewelers care more about the quality of their creations than labeling.
After considering all of the above, you’ve reached the point to wonder…
What is the Best Quality Jewelry Store?
There is no such thing as a “best quality jewelry store.” Both independent and chain stores have their pros and cons. Both offer good quality jewelry. But the phrase “good quality” is very subjective. There are no specifics about “good quality.” Good quality jewelry stores, however, have some characteristics that make them good. Here are some:
Before committing yourself to a particular jewelry store, try to find out its reputation in the community. Ask some of your friends who may have patronized them for the quality of their products, delivery time, prices, return and repair policies, etc.
Another approach is to browse the internet and read some customer reviews about the store.
The perfect jewelry store should have a certification from the GIA on the authenticity of its products. On top of that, its staff must have been trained in the proper conduct of the business.
It must be ethical in its prices, and the ethical origins of its gems. It must observe fair labor practices, abide by government laws on safety and environmental sustainability. And their business records must pass the closest scrutiny of regulators.
Insurance and safety
Take time to find out if the store has appropriate jewelry insurance to cover losses. You want to make sure that jewelry items left with them for repairs are adequately insured against theft or fire.
Where is work done
This is not much of a problem with independent jewelers who do their work in-house. While large chain stores have jewelry shops to do some of their jewelry items, more are outsourced.
A customer like you would much prefer an in-house job because you can track its progress and rework, if necessary, is much easier and faster to do.
Independent Jeweler vs Chain Stores: It’s Your Choice
Independent jeweler vs chain stores is a difficult choice to make especially for people who are beginning to be jewelry-conscious. There are so many things to consider in buying a jewelry piece. Though both may provide what you are looking for, you may not get the best terms in the purchase. Hopefully, this article is going to help you make you a better decision.
Now, if you’re on the market for an engagement ring, read our guide “Ultimate Shopping Guide For Engagement Rings: What You and Your Partner Need To Know.”