You know that retailers are marking up the products they sell, so how can you buy an engagement ring wholesale?
I've written before about rationalising the cost of an engagement ring, when in some cases you can buy a car for less (although I know one couple who bought their ring for £90 - I don't think I'd risk the automobile equivalent!). Lockdown has been a great leveller, and if you survived it with one other, then it's probably pretty safe to assume that you can take the next step with impunity (unless she or he turns out to be agoraphobic!).
That means the sneaky activity of subtly checking out the internet to get some inspiration is well underway on your phone/laptop/tablet and you are now feeling a little cost conscious. How do you avoid paying out a big mark up on a ring?
There are five options available;
- You know somebody who makes jewellery already and can ask them to make a ring for you.
- You find a website that sells cheap jewellery
- You buy second hand
- You train as a goldsmith
- You start a jewellery company so you can buy direct from suppliers
Brilliant huh? All super easy, let's look at each option in a bit more detail and their pros and cons;
Option 1 - you know somebody in the trade or go overseas
This is the most common route if you are going to get a good deal on a ring. It ain't what you know, it's WHO you know and if you know somebody who is a competent goldsmith, and willing to do this for you, it is the closest you are going to get to the wholesale route.
+ If you know somebody who is good then you should have access to fantastic quality. They likely will be able to buy in some good generic ring designs and help you find a diamond.
+ If they are a good friend, you'll definitely save on labour costs and ring mark ups.
+ You can save on the UK import duty and VAT (sic. theoretically, as obviously you should declare your jewellery 🙂 ) with some overseas purchases.
- You are still going to have to pay VAT if they are reputable, as you are still paying for the materials, and the more valuable the ring, the more likely they are going to want to do it through the books, as buying things cash gets harder. You are also likely going to have to cover their time. An engagement ring isn't ready in half an hour, there are things to manage in the process and ideally you need a finished product that can be guaranteed.
- The best engagement rings are not made by one person, a good goldsmith is not necessarily a good stone setter, hallmarking needs to be carried out etc. So be careful if your goldsmith says they do everything.
- The fake element. I had one couple proudly showing me their Cartier engagement ring, telling me it was made in a Cartier workshop and Cartier staff were allowed to sell rings this route.. They aren't, it was a fake Cartier ring complete with fake paperwork. The only way you can buy a genuine Cartier ring is through a genuine Cartier store. I'm sure there may be a friends and family discount, but not a wholesale one! Sadly they had been duped.. On the plus side - they weren't the only ones to suffer the indignity!
- A goldsmith is not a ring designer. They should understand how a ring works, but asking them to come up with a design can be asking for disappointment. The nature of my work means that I know a lot of people who took this route, and regretted it afterwards. The more desired elements, the more disappointed you might be. Or actually designer friends can end up following their own creative vision for your ring, rather than what you want.
- Buying overseas can mean lower labour costs, sometimes that means lower skills too. There are countries with rich jewellery making heritages, but actually if you go into their fine jewellery stores, the price difference isn't always advantageous because guess what? Their highly skilled goldsmiths are in demand too. In addition, I've had clients come back with different metal finesse levels to what was described, and gemstones which would cost exactly the same (or less) in the UK. If you aren't an expert, how are you going to know?
- The ring could be rubbish. You will have no recourse other than goodwill if it is. And worst case you have just been totally ripped off and have a ring worth less than what you've been charged.
- You get nailed for import and VAT on your return with jewellery to the UK.
This all sounds a bit 'doom-mongery' and given that I make a living out of selling engagement rings, easy to ignore. But here's the skinny, one goldsmith is generally only part of the engagement ring story. So expecting one person to be able to manage the whole end to end process if you aren't looking for something simple is not going to give you the cheap thrill you were hoping for. And if you don't actually know the goldsmith very well, you're likely still to be paying for their time too. The cost of undoing a bad job may work out as more than if you'd just paid more for the ring in the first instance..
If you know the goldsmith and have seen lots of examples of work you know IS his or hers, great. If you don't, just be wary.
Option 2 - You find a site that sells cheap jewellery
I know that the word cheap leaves a bad taste in the mouth. It's just, that is how some of these sites advertise themselves.
+ You can find a bigger diamond for lower costs which hopefully you haven't paid over the odds for.
+ There are good quality basic designs available
- It is a minefield on diamond quality (see article) and paperwork isn't a guarantee the stone is going to look pretty. To make money selling cheap diamonds, you have to sell a lot of cheap diamonds so they are mass purchased.
- A lot of jewellery is made in the Far East where labour costs are lower. Rings can feel lighter because they are made with less metal. This doesn't always bode well for longevity.
- You aren't paying for a Bond Street goldsmith, or supplier, so you aren't going to get the Bond Street quality. Good goldsmiths are in demand for their work and they don't discount. These sites need people who will churn out a high volume of rings quickly and cheaply and won't comment on the quality of the jewellery!
Take some time with the testimonials on online jewellery sites. Check the language, commentary and they they are sorted by 'most recent' rather than 'most positive'! Also ensure that they haven't been filtered so that you are only seeing 3-5 stars.. Make sure you do pay with a credit card to protect yourself should the ring not be what you were expecting (and ensure they are UK based).
Option 3 - You buy second hand
If you can move past the stigma of a ring being 'used' then you can pick up a bargain buying second hand jewellery, even if you have to get the ring serviced and polished. There is the option of being able to purchase a genuine designer piece (complete with paperwork) or just a better quality ring from a reputable jeweller.
+ Second hand jewellery in addition to being lower cost due to wear, is also VAT free.
+ You can find some fantastic old antique pieces, or other rings with good sized stones at good prices on some of the auction sites
+ Even if you don't like a ring design, you might find a really good diamond (or other gemstone) to remodel into a new ring.
- This is a massive selling area for fake jewellery. Be cautious, look for proof of purchase and genuine paperwork with verifiable numbers and receipts. One client I saw had an antique engagement ring with two diamonds replaced with cheaper white sapphires. Be careful, especially buying gemstones.
- As the Rolling Stones once said, you can't always get what you want. Second hand jewellery is often sold as as seen. And having it repaired may be expensive or impossible and instead a rebuild is required.
- Quality of materials and workmanship can still be variable. The second hand jewellery market is larger, and vendors know how to dupe the unsuspecting. You may end up paying more than the piece is worth. I have one client who picked up her engagement ring for a bargain from an antique jeweller. She was disappointed to find out that it was actually made by the infamous Ratners in the early nineties and she'd likely paid exactly what it was selling for back then!
- Here, like in so many areas, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Rings may need to be resized, or restored etc and this will cost more money. A good sized diamond may have a big chip on it or a visible inclusion or be off white. All these things can be fine declared and factored in to the overall costs. They just need to be declared and factored in to the overall costs, rather than snuck though,,
Some of the diamonds we find are for sale on what is known as the Margin Scheme. Normally 1ct + these are stones we've purchased in old jewellery which we then resell. The client saves on the stone VAT, and we then relocate the diamond into a new jewellery design. The great thing here, is that the stone has already been viewed by experts so we know it's great looking and also what the characteristics of each are.
Option 4 - Train as a Goldsmith
Clearly once you work as the trade, you will have full control over your engagement ring costs.
+ Labour is completely free
+ Completely on top of the process
+ It's a brilliant industry to work in
- The minimum time to learn to be a goldsmith is about 3 years. Best way to learn is still doing a jewellery apprenticeship but you will need to find a Master willing to take you on.
-If you have no aptitude for jewellery you are going to end up like one of those goldsmiths I warn about at the beginning of this blog!
Option 5 - You start a jewellery business
Well, I did it so it's not that difficult, right?! And I do purchase jewellery wholesale..
+ If you are willing to go through all this, you will get access to wholesale jewellery and be the proud owner of a jewellery business.
- If your face isn't known, you are still going to struggle to get access to the pieces/workmanship if you are after higher end or more sought after designers/workshops. Many set a minimum spend on account, or else that you have been in business for a minimum period, or that they know you or will ask for two trade referees which require to be reputable.
- If you don't understand jewellery making yourself, then you are no less a target for unscrupulous individuals than if you are a consumer. You could receive a poorly made ring or low quality diamond, and be none the wiser. Or your ring design doesn't work, because you haven't factored in wear ability and the goldsmith hasn't been trained in it either.
I have worked in the jewellery industry 18 years now, and even though my model is not retail driven, not all retailers out there are the bad guys, business rates are high, there is the cost of location as well as insuring all the product held in the store and salaries. This all factors into the cost of you being able to walk into the store and view engagement rings. There are fantastic jewellers selling beautiful rings who are charging fairly for their products.
Last Option.. Us
The next best thing to knowing a goldsmith would be working with someone who knows lots of goldsmiths etc. What I do is basically a combination of the routes above;
- Determine ring design route (depends on budget and ring complexity as to what I recommend) according to personal style and hand shape.
- Source stones against client expectations (which I have to set sometimes!).
- Choose best individuals for job, oversee ring production (often clients see their ring progress) and harass everyone about the quality.
- Customise and personalise
Heirloom London is not a jewellery store or retailer, it's better looking at our service as retaining an expert to work for you 1:1. One who knows the industry inside out and has long standing relationships with the very best there is to deliver your perfect engagement ring. Modestly I'd say that finished ring quality is somewhere just above outstanding..
We don't work like the high street because of our business model and approach is different, so generally we deliver savings on the finished product. A ring we produce for £3,000 would retail from £3,400, quite likely with a lesser quality diamond. Head up the charts, a £4,000 engagement ring from us would retail from £4,800 and say you were using our Carat Club service, a ring we delivered recently for £7,700 received a valuation* of £9,500. So, what we do is like having access to Bond Street quality, but without the overheads. In some instances we'll work with jewellery designers to commission jewellery, and again pass on savings.
You aren't going to get the ring for the value of its' component parts, pretty much the same as you don't get clothes, furniture, cars or kitchens (the list is endless) wholesale because of the costs of doing business. I designed Heirloom London to skew fine jewellery costs further in your favour than any other option out there, while still being able to stay in business and keep on keeping on myself. It's relaxed, approachable and will leave you with a considerable amount of knowledge, as well as a stunning ring!
THE END 🙂
Visit our engagement ring page to get more of an idea on the different service levels we offer, or if you have an old ring you'd like to remodel into an engagement ring we have a page on this as well. Or just get in touch, you can always ping us a WhatsApp if you are trying to be discreet.
For other client experiences - see our reviews.
*It's worth noting that when I talk about value, it is the value of a brand new piece of jewellery, rather than attempting to resell the ring.