Buying jewelry while traveling

We thought it was a good time to update this post!  One of our favorite (and most supportive clients) just made two purchases while traveling, which have turned into a nightmare.  Thankfully, they are taking it in stride (“It’s not the first time I’ve been taken”).  Rings purchased at even the most reputable stores in tourist areas, recommended by the most elite of cruise lines,  might not be what they seem.  In this case, of the two purchased, one cannot be sized without falling apart and one is not as represented (an assembled gemstone instead of a solid gemstone and it’s glued in place, not set into the metal).  Here’s a repeat of our advice:

We all love to travel.  (Most of us do, anyway!)  Bringing back souvenirs is one way to keep the memories of the trip alive.  Jewelry is a popular one; it’s small and portable!  However, we have a note of caution.  It’s easy to get caught up in the moment.  It may feel like a “once in a lifetime” opportunity.  Don’t spend more than you are willing to lose!  We end up helping clients with their bad travel purchases every year!  Values are misrepresented, rarity is exaggerated (“there are no more tanzanite being mined”), and many times our clients are just plain lied to.  We’ve had clients buy what they thought were brand names at bargain prices at reputable stores only to find out the brand and quality were totally misrepresented.  Colombian emerald has turned out to be chalcedony (They paid $1000. for jewelry worth $100.  Yes, you read that right.)  Getting money back, even from credit cards purchases, can be a time consuming nightmare.

Here’s how to minimize your risk:

*Make sure you have contact information from where you are purchasing.  Name, mailing address, phone, email.  These people count on never seeing you again and that you won’t follow up.

*Get recommendations from other sources besides the cruise and travel companies.  Many times they work together.  Talk to other travelers.

*If you are considering buying a bigger ticket item, do your homework.  We’ve had clients think they bought Hearts On Fire Jewelry at a significant savings from a Hearts On Fire retailer out of the country.  The ring was even stamped Hearts On Fire.  It wasn’t.

Jewelry is a fun way to bring home the memories of your special trip.  Just don’t spend more than you are willing to lose!


Great Reminders on Summer Jewelry Care

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Summer Jewelry Care

Summer is hard on our jewelry. The pool chemicals and salt water are not friendly. Packing lightly means your jewelry is thrown together in a Ziploc bag. Did you manage to fit everything in the car, with bikes on the back and maybe canoes on top? You didn’t bruise or cut your hands because your rings took all the abuse. Even just a day at the beach, managing chairs, coolers and umbrellas (or a beach cart if you’re a NJ beachgoer) can cause prongs to break or chains to snap. What can you do?
First, take a minute to think about which pieces might hold up best. Costume jewelry is inexpensive but if it’s sentimentally important, leave it home. Repairing it can be tricky and the summer elements of water and chemicals (pool, lotions, sunscreens, perfumes, sweat containing all of them) are likely to damage it. Be aware that the metals used in costume jewelry might react with those same summer chemicals and stain your skin. If you consider your costume jewelry disposable and replaceable, then wear and enjoy it.
Gold, silver and platinum will hold up to more wear and tear. Sunscreen won’t necessarily harm precious metals but it will dull them. Best to get a travel jewelry case so they don’t clank against each other. Occasionally we see discoloration on gold or silver where parts are soldered together after exposure to pool chemicals. This is due to the alloys added to precious metals in the solder. This can be polished off (the sooner, the better).
Although diamonds are the hardest substance known to man, they are not indestructible. A knock or blow can chip them (internal characteristics and the property known as cleavage can make them susceptible). The best way to prevent chipping is to be aware of any heavy work you are doing and to be careful.
Colored gemstones and pearls are more easily damaged than diamonds. Even though pearls grow in the ocean, they are a more fragile gem material. The shell they grow in provides protection from the sea. That beautiful lustrous nacre coating can wear off when exposed to sand and salt or fresh water. Keep them away from other chemicals as well.
On an entirely different note, guys seem to lose more wedding bands while swimming in the ocean than anywhere else. If the water is cold, fingers can shrink. If it feels a little loose while out of the water, take it off. But remember to put it back on!
After a day of picnics or beach time, rinse your fine jewelry off in warm water and dry it gently. When you get home stop in and we’ll professionally clean it for you. It only takes a few minutes and we’ll go over everything to check for security.
If you have summer jewelry care questions we haven’t answered, let us know!

Tales from Africa Part 1


Greetings from Chrysa!

What an amazing trip to East Africa! My daughter Rachel and I were honored and humbled to be a part of this special group of travelers. Fourteen of us came from all parts of the US jewelry industry. A few have brick and mortar stores like we do, a few are designers, one sources for her family’s international catalog business and one is a manufacturer. We all came with the common goal of learning more about gemstones and where they come from. Our hosts, Roger and Ginger Dery and their daughter Rachel introduced us to so many wonderful people!

Have you seen the movie “Black Panther”? The correlation between the fictional (and bright blue) heart shape herb grown underground in the story and the real gemstones found underground in East Africa is unmistakable. Tanzania is home to Tanzanite (the only area in the world where it’s found), Spinel, Tourmaline, and many varieties of Garnet. Kenya boasts select varieties of Garnet such as Tsavorite Garnet found near Tsavo Park, and Tourmaline, with Chrome Tourmaline found in Southern Kenya.

Traveling to the mines was eye opening. There were long stretches of countryside so different from our own. But meeting the mine owners and miners was even more so. The patience and perseverance of those involved in mining is astounding. They can mine for years and not find significant gems, usually using hammer and chisel. It’s hard, hot and dangerous work. They look for indicator minerals to let them know they are on the right path. It’s a miracle of Mother Nature when they find beautiful gemstones, one that motivates them to continue to search for more!

We visited two Kenyan Kiwi Garnet mines. The Baraka Mine, formerly called Moma’s Mine, is the oldest operating female-owned mine in East Africa. It is currently being run by Moma’s daughter, Gladwell, and her husband, Christopher. “The baby stones lead you to the mama,” Gladwell told us. They are following a new vein and are excited because they believe it will hold a big deposit. We viewed the area they have blasted and are now clearing out. According to Roger, the mine looks completely different from when they last visited four years ago, including new housing for mine workers. 

The second mine we visited is called the Precious Women Mine, led by Esther Okeno, the widow of Roger’s dear friend and mentor who passed away two years ago. Now as the sole source of income for her family of three, she’s had many difficult changes in her life. She and several other women work in this mine every day. They have found graphite, mica and feldspar, minerals indicating they may soon find garnet! We were inspired by their tenacity, joy, and determination. They have made remarkable progress, but they need a compressor to run a jackhammer to more quickly get through the rock, and we are hoping to help them with this. 

We met with the mines’ designated representatives in both Tanzania and Kenya to purchase rough gemstones. It was nerve-wracking at first, since I’d never analyzed rough gemstones for purchase before this trip. With Roger’s careful guidance, we all learned what to look for! Once we receive the rough gems home (they are purchased, documented, and imported into the United States legally, and this can take time), we have the wonderful anticipation of waiting for Roger to cut them to bring out their amazing color and beauty! 

Want to learn more about the journey of a gemstone and Chrysa’s amazing trip to Africa?  Follow her on Facebook:


Memories for Mom- An Art to Jewelry Contest

We are so excited!  We are sponsoring an Art Contest from March 20-April 13 for children in three age categories (up to age 8, 9-13, and 14-16).  Local Art teachers have volunteered to be judges and six lucky winners (two in each age category) will have their sketch (pencil or crayon) made into a sterling pendant!   If you have or know of a child who would like to enter, you can stop in the store to pick up an official form or or here’s a link to print it out (both sides).  We can’t wait to see the entries!
(The above pictures are of a panda six year old Rachel drew and the wax model the sterling pendant will be made from.)


Our One Price Philosophy

Ever been to a store where everything is “on sale”? 20% 40% 70% off? Off what? How did they pick the price to discount from? Can a store really afford to offer a discount off a fair price and still pay their rent and employees?? It seems suspicious, doesn’t it? At Continental Jewelers, we don’t inflate prices in order to offer a discount. Ever. We price our beautiful jewelry competitively. We don’t use a false high price to negotiate with our clients. We believe in being fair and honest, and telling you a phony price just to give you a discount isn’t honest.
How do you know Continental’s prices are the same as everyone else’s discounted prices?
Because we shop around before we price! We comparison shop at stores and online. We know what things should sell for, quality for quality. This is important. We are often asked to verify purchases made elsewhere. Time and time again, the quality isn’t the same as what was represented to the purchaser. And the price paid is usually correct for the lower quality. No bargain was had. Not understanding quality can hamper comparison shopping.
But you like hearing you got a discount!
Doesn’t everyone? But do you like feeling that someone else might get a better deal? You’ll never know. And how do you know you are paying a fair price and not more than you should?
We’ve built our business on our One Price Philosophy. We’re proud to be fair and honest with our prices. You can relax when you shop with us knowing you won’t have to work to get a fabulous value for our beautiful jewelry!

Jewelry, Insurance, and Appraisals.  Oh, my!  Part 3

The Importance of Clarity and Integrity

We’ve been talking about the process of sorting through your jewelry box to evaluate the need for insurance and insurance documentation.  We’ve looked at what might fall under the “unscheduled” jewelry section of your insurance and what jewelry might need to be

listed separately.  You’ve determined what pieces you want to insure.   Now what?  Time to consider getting insurance documentation, which most people refer to as an appraisal, although that term isn’t really specific enough.    What should your insurance documentation contain?  Here are the specifics:

  • Current retail prices in the regional market
  • Cut, color, clarity and carat weight of diamonds and other gemstones
  • Type and number of diamonds and other gemstones used
  • Weight of the precious metal used in the mounting
  • Type and number of gemstones
  • Origin of the materials used
  • Craftsmanship of the piece
  • Manufacturer’s marks including brand name, serial numbers, and model numbers for pieces like watches

And pictures, with a measuring device shown so the perspective and size can be judged.  Why is all this info necessary and important?  Because with most insurance policies, the final determined value is only used for two things- for the insurance company to figure your premium payment and to cap their liability.  It does not necessarily mean you will get something of that value in the event of a loss.  The insurance company relies on the description of the item in order to replace it.  Without thorough information, details will be interpreted by the replacement agent, and not necessarily in the customer’s favor.  It is well worth the cost of a professional appraisal complete with specific details so that you can get replacement with an item of like kind and quality.  Hopefully now you’ve a better understanding of how insuring your jewelry works.  Let us know your questions!

Please note:  We are not insurance agents nor do we profess to understand all the policy choices available.  The info is based on our experience.  Check with your insurance agent to get the specifics on your policy.  And if you would like help sorting, give us a call.  We’d be happy to sort through your jewelry and give you some direction (there’s no cost for this service).


Jewelry, Insurance, and Appraisals.  Oh, my!  Part 2

Deciding What to Insure

Hopefully you read our previous blog post!  If so, you’ve gone through your jewelry and estimated all the fun costume and sterling pieces.  You checked with your insurance carrier and decided how to handle those pieces in the event of a total loss.  Mind you we’re not talking about losing a half pair of costume earrings at the Flower Show.  We’re talking about your plan to handle a total catastrophic loss (fire, theft, etc.)

Now what about the better pieces?  The higher value jewelry that you’ve bought for yourself, been given as a gift or has been passed on to you from a family member.   If you have receipts for them, even if they are years old, consider that value.  We’ll get to estimating a current value soon.  For those items that you aren’t sure of the value, consider what you know about them.  Who they were from, what they might have been able to pay for them.  I say this because even though this isn’t a foolproof method, for our estimating purposes it will help.  If your first boyfriend gave you a ring with a large colorless stone in it and he was 14 years old and had little money, it probably isn’t a diamond.   However if his family was one of the wealthiest in town, it could be.  As you go through these pieces, consider which you would want to replace in the event of loss, even if you aren’t sure of value.  Now there are more decisions to be made.  Everyone has a “threshold”, a dollar amount that they don’t want to bother insuring if the value is under.  I’ve had clients with a threshold of $75.00 (which might seem low but she wanted everything identified and documented for purposes of family history) to a threshold of $5000, so anything with less than that value they wouldn’t insure.  Two extremes, to be sure.  The purpose of this exercise is to determine what you might want to schedule or list individually on your insurance policy, so if you lose this one piece, you would have paid your insurance company a premium so they will replace it with something of “like kind and quality” based on the description you submitted to them.

Another value to consider aside from monetary value is the sentimental value.  Our emotional connection to our jewelry is what makes it significant and important in our lives.  That connection is changed if something happens to our jewelry like a loss or theft.  You cannot replace the sentiment of a family heirloom.  But you can replace the jewelry and develop a new connection as you wear and enjoy the new piece and hopefully pass it on.  And it takes a little of the sting out of the loss with a replacement with something new and wonderful,  which brings me back to the beginning of this series about appraisals and insurance.  If the documentation given to the insurance company isn’t specific enough or up to date, you won’t be able to replace what you had.  Which is the purpose of having insurance in the first place!

Coming soon…Part 3!

Please note:  We are not insurance agents nor do we profess to understand all the policy choices available.  The info is based on our experience.  Check with your insurance agent to get the specifics on your policy.  And if you would like help sorting, give us a call.  We’d be happy to sort through your jewelry and give you some direction (there’s no cost for this service).


Jewelry, Insurance, and Appraisals, Oh, my! Part 1

“Oh, my” is correct.  As much as we all love our jewelry, and love wearing it ALL THE TIME, we do not love insuring it.  Most people groan when I mention insuring their jewelry.  However, since in the past six weeks we’ve had three clients who had losses who were underinsured, I thought the topic should be addressed.

There are several things to consider.  First, how do you insure jewelry?  Most people reach out to their homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, or use an insurer like we have for our jewelry in the store.  Most policies will have something called “unscheduled jewelry” which will stipulate a dollar amount that will be covered in the event of a total loss.  This is good, although if you start to add up all your costume jewelry, sterling jewelry and better jewelry, you will be surprised how quickly the total climbs.  To get an idea of how much you may have, put a “pretend” value on each piece.  It’s easier to do for your costume and sterling jewelry.  What would something similar cost in the typical place you would buy it (like costume jewelry in a department store)?    $15?  $25?  $75?  If you know how much it cost, all the better.   Add those first.  I bet you have more there than you thought.

So now you know approximately how much you have in smaller value pieces.  How does that compare to the amount stipulated on your policy?  If that amount is already over your limit, check with your agent or insurance carrier.  Maybe you can raise the limit.  There is a cost to that, but it may be worth it to you.  Or maybe you will decide to self insure, meaning you won’t get enough money to replace all those pieces, because you don’t want to replace them anyway.  You could set aside part of the premium difference in case you have a total loss, so you have a stash to draw from over and above what the insurance company might pay.  Take some pictures of your costume and sterling jewelry so you can substantiate what you have.  Insurance companies like that.

Coming soon:

Jewelry, Insurance and Appraisals, Oh My!  Part 2

Please note:  We are not insurance agents nor do we profess to understand all the policy choices available.  The info is based on our experience.  Check with your insurance agent to get the specifics on your policy.  And if you would like help sorting, give us a call.  We’d be happy to sort through your jewelry and give you some direction (there’s no cost for this service).

Shopping for a Diamond Online


Many people believe that they can buy a diamond cheaper online than in a retail store.  I find that interesting because if we want to sell diamonds, and we do, we have to be competitively priced.  We regularly compare a variety of sources, from the big internet retailers to smaller lesser known sites.  We compare quality.  We make sure we are making an apples to apples comparison.  I think this is where the online consumer gets misled.  When you start price comparing the cut, color, clarity and carat weight of a diamond, you will find a wide range of pricing, sometimes as much as an $8000 range.  Why? Two diamonds can have the same quality grade but be priced differently for a variety of reasons.  It could be because of the nature and placement of the internal characteristics which make up the clarity grade. The plot diagram you see with the grading report is one dimensional and typically does not show all the internal characteristics, just the grade defining ones.  What grading reports are those grades based on?  There are two widely respected labs (AGS and GIA) and a host of lesser respected labs.  If you don’t have accurate grades, the comparisons won’t work.


As for the cut quality, not all diamonds with excellent symmetry and polish are alike.  There are other proportion factors to consider.  The proportions influence price based on preferred demand in the marketplace.  The market actually varies within these details.  62% table?  A little outside the preferred ideal cut quality.  Probably priced less because it’s not as desired.  Still pretty but tighter proportions are more valued.  So are you getting a bargain?  No, it’s cheaper because it’s valued less in the marketplace.  Is that bad?  Not necessarily.  But you can’t compare it to a 55% table percentage.  You can’t just compare the table percentage.  The other proportions combine with it to tell a cut quality story.  And some of those combinations are more valued than others.


Here’s my point…We know we are priced competitively to online sources for the same quality. However, because we understand these distinctions we are better able to make these comparisons and explain why the values can vary.  This is not car shopping where you are comparing two of the same make and models from different dealerships.  Diamonds (and snowflakes) are natural and unique and not easily compared by grading report alone.  We scrutinize carefully.  We can physically show you the differences so you can determine what’s important to you, while staying in budget.


Diamond Security

We offer a service we call “Jewel Care” in which we encourage clients to stop in every six months to let us check their frequently worn jewelry (especially rings) for wear.  We go over each prong under magnification to make sure it is tight over the diamond (or gemstone) and has enough metal to hold up under normal wearing conditions.  After a thorough inspection, we put the jewelry through a “spa” treatment, cleaning away dirt that dulls its sparkle.  Depending on the condition when the jewelry was brought in, we may check it again after cleaning, to confirm that all gems are nice and secure.  If requested, we’ll check the security of connections and clasps on pendants and bracelets that are worn regularly as well.  Although we can’t guarantee our “Jewel Care” process will absolutely prevent loss, an observation of worn prongs or loose gems can be a forewarning of needed maintenance.  We offer this service at no charge, and will send a reminder postcard every six months as well.  Take a look below at examples of the wear and/or poor setting we look for:

FB Bad Prongs

Have questions?  Let us know!  We love your feedback!