Buying a new Gold Chain or bracelet should be easy, however it is far from that, you need to know what questions to ask before you make a purchase you will most likely regret.
Being a Jeweller that not only makes one off commissioned pieces but also one that repairs damaged Jewellery, I am confronted by broken chains each and every day. Buying a new chain based on price only, without knowing anything about the piece you are purchasing is fraught with danger as there are many pitfalls to navigate if you want longevity from your new acquisition..
Firstly, the trend now from most retailers is the sell as cheap as possible, you know the 'always on sale' brigade, half price, buy now etc etc...to achieve this something has to give, the cost of gold is the cost of gold, to undercut each other something has to be lost, unfortunately it is generally the facts.
I will explain, chains are purchased by the weight, as Jewellers we pay x amount of dollars per gram, just like buying meat by the kilo. Ask many retailers how much the gold chain they are trying to sell you weighs and you will find no one is prepared to tell you, they will often suggest they have no scales in the shop so no way of weighing. Fact, chains are priced by the weight when purchased from the wholesaler, what they are hiding is your ability to compare weights with other retailers, thus your ability to compare apples with apples.
First lesson, know how much the chain weighs, divide the cost of the chain by the weight and you will know the cost per gram..so in mathematical terms..
As an example, Chain is $200.00 divided by 4 grams = $50.00 per gram, assuming it is a 9ct chain you can use this formula in another shop and compare what they are charging per gram for a similar weighted chain, length does not matter, only the gram weight..
To help keep chains looking impressive the Jewellery industry has long ago developed the ability to manufacture hollow links, this serves a duel purpose, chains look large and weigh much less, giving you a false idea of what you are getting. More reason to ask the weight, things are not always what they seem. That large, bulky looking chain that is a great price may not be that at all, you may be buying a never ending repair bill. Hollow chains do not wear well, will not last the same time a smaller looking solid chain will. Remember also, wearing a pendant on your chain will actually accelerate the damage being done, the links will cut into each other over a shorter period of time when submitted to the extra weigh of a pendant, unfortunately larger looking chains tend to be matched with larger pendants, if they have hollow links you are asking for trouble.
Second lesson, stay way from hollow chains, ask the salesperson if the chain is indeed hollow, rattle it in your hand and listen for a tinny sound. If in doubt leave the shop.
Another common thing being sold these days is what is referred to as 'Silver Filled' chains and bracelets. Fact is gold chains cannot be filled with silver to give a hollow chain the strength of a solid one, contrary to the names implication. 'Silver filled' chains are in fact silver chains that have a 'gold casing' to the outside, quiet the opposite to what most people think. The casing wears off over time, the chains cannot be repaired, shortened, extended, soldered etc without loosing the gold colour where the work has been done. The ability to polish and refresh the chain is also lessened, the gold colour can often be removed by the first attempt to polish the piece. You are in fact buying an over priced silver chain with a gold colour that unfortunately will not last a lifetime, no matter what you are told.
Third lesson, avoid 'Silver Filled' chains and bracelets at all costs, a total false economy, you are not buying a gold chain at a great price.
Lastly, style is very important relative to your wearing expectations, chains should always be thought of as an adornment, something to wear as a dress piece, not worn to bed, and preferably not worn in the shower. If you plan to wear a pendant or pendants on your chain I would suggest going with a plainer style, a flat curb chain, a figaro possibly, make the pendant the focus, plain tight knit styles are much better suited to this practice. Snake chains serve this purpose beautifully but are notorious for kinking, they need to treated with extreme care and stored hanging or lying flat, they are absolutely not for wearing to bed. A fancy rope chain, belcher, or a herringbone are also best suited unadorned, neither will take kindly to pendants and the extra weight and drag they will impart on the chain. So as you can see, buying a chain is not just a simple task, styles need to be thought about, function is the key, what do you want from your chain ?
Don't get sucked in by the cost, half price specials etc, ask questions, think about what you have just read, it just might save you some heartache in the long run. We hand make many different styles of chains and bracelets, using our gold or alternately we can use yours, we always try to give open and honest feedback on clients queries to hopefully help you make an informed decision. Making that chain purchase either for yourself or as a gift should make you feel good for years, make the correct decision with a little thought and inside knowledge..
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