Etsy is a great place to find unique and one-of-a-kind jewelry, but how do you know that the shop owner is actually going to send you what you ordered? Or that they’re not just buying cheap jewelry in bulk and saying that it’s handmade?
I asked some Artisan Shopping Directory members, both jewelry buyers and sellers, to give me their experience with buying jewelry on Etsy, and any tips they have to make sure that you’re going to be happy with what you bought.
Table of Contents
- Is it safe to buy jewelry on Etsy?
- How to avoid fake jewelry on Etsy.
- How to check for seller quality when buying on Etsy.
- How to check for jewelry quality when buying on Etsy.
- Watch out for prices that are too good to be true.
Some of the links in this article are affiliate links that pay a small commission at no cost to you if they’re used to make a purchase.
Is it safe to buy jewelry on Etsy?
In general, buying jewelry on Etsy is safe if you do your research and check the available information to make sure that you’re dealing with a reputable seller. If you perform your due diligence before purchasing jewelry, you’ll be able to minimize any risk and prevent problems.
You need to understand, though, that when a price is too good to be true, it probably is, and you might be buying something that’s not genuine metals or stones.
There are a lot of sellers on Etsy who sell a lot of cheap jewelry, so just because a shop has a lot of sales it doesn’t mean that they’re selling the real thing.
How to avoid fake jewelry on Etsy.
Because Etsy is a marketplace that doesn’t screen every listing that people upload in their shops, there is fake jewelry being sold there. Buyers need to use their common sense in order to avoid being burned. There’s also a lot of genuine gemstone and quality handmade artisan jewelry that’s sold on Etsy, so it’s a good place to find unique designs if you ask the right questions.
Heather, owner of The Vintage Daisy Vault, says that her daughter has had a few bad jewelry transactions on Etsy, so she’s seen it first-hand.
“I had to tell her you have to look at the shops carefully and look where they are located.”
Molly, owner of Moonlovers, points out that buying from inside your own country is a good idea when you’re buying jewelry. This gives you the added assurance that the seller has to follow your local consumer laws.
“Jewelry buying on Etsy can be very rewarding and allows you to get one of a kind, custom made and vintage items you might not find locally. Risks for jewelry buying are similar to buying any items online.
“Choose a reputable seller with excellent feedback, a history that shows they are around to stay and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
“Most importantly, familiarize yourself with what you’re looking for and know what it should look like. Choose a vendor with clear pictures and a price that fits the item. Fuzzy pictures, vague descriptions and a price too good to be true can be warning signs.
“Also buying in your home country is wise when buying expensive items from sellers you are unfamiliar with.”
Leah, owner of Leah Kathryn Jewelry, agrees. “I sell jewelry, and have had a lot of customers come to me after being burned by other shops. I think that if a customer reaches out to a seller with questions before ordering, they can get a sense of how the transaction will go, based on their customer service experience.”
How to check for seller quality when buying on Etsy.
To check for seller quality, the most effective things to do are the most obvious.
- Check seller reviews and look for mentions of customer service.
- Use the Etsy message system to ask questions.
- Look to see if the seller has a social media presence with profiles that are filled out and active.
- Look for videos of the seller actually making the jewelry. Most creators will post these kinds of things occasionally. If there aren’t any work-in-process videos or photos, they might not be making the jewelry themselves.
You also have to be careful if the photos of people working that you see seem to be too professional. It’s entirely possible that they might be authentic photos of the jewelry maker working, but there are a lot of stock photos of workshops and craft benches that people can use to make it look like they’re making the jewelry they’re selling when they’re not.
I’ve had people try to join my Facebook group for Etsy sellers, and I’ve found out that they have stock images of people working at various crafts instead of photos of themselves.
It’s not proof of them not making their own jewelry in and of itself, but it’s a hint that they might be willing to cut corners.
If you’re planning on spending a decent amount on custom jewelry, you should definitely take the time to vet the shop before placing your order.
For tips on how to spot scammer sellers on Etsy, you can read an article that I wrote here.
When I bought a ring from May Designers, I communicated with Michelle about the size and I checked out her reviews and the general responses that I received. I was very happy with my purchase and got great customer service and a good quality piece.
Karen from Tahoe Quilts agrees, and says “My daughter bought an engagement ring on Etsy. It was as described and shipped internationally with no issues arriving at this end.”
Sally from Tumbletree Lane agrees, and says “My last two jewelry purchases were on Etsy and I was really happy with both purchases.
“Before I purchased, I checked the shop’s other listings, recent reviews, social media and looked online to see if they had a website presence, (mainly to see if they had any other offerings that I preferred).”
Diane from Oleander Moon also had a good experience after checking out the shops she purchased from. “I have purchased 4 pairs of earrings and 3 necklaces on Etsy, and have always received excellent service. Plus, the quality met or exceeded expectations. I definitely look at location and reviews.”
How to check for jewelry quality when buying on Etsy.
As you check into the quality of the seller, you should also check into the quality of the jewelry. To do that, you’ll need to use common sense, as well as understand what the laws are about how precious metals need to be marked when they’re made into jewelry.
- Verify that the pieces are marked correctly if they’re supposed to be solid gold or silver.
- Do a reality check on the price. If it’s too good to be true it’s probably fake.
- If a jewelry maker claims to be selling handmade, fine-quality artisan jewelry, but their pricing all ends in .99, that can be suspicious. However, if they’re located in a different country, it could be that their prices are being converted from a different currency, so that will make them have an odd amount in the final part of the price. Check the shop’s location to make sure that the price isn’t being converted.
We all know that real gold jewelry should have a mark on it to indicate the quality of the gold. If that mark isn’t there, it might mean that the metal isn’t genuine, or isn’t solid metal.
Jane, owner of TitianRose, explains one example of the laws around hallmarking in the UK:
“I make sure I display the UK dealer’s notice on hallmarking, which is a legal requirement in the UK anyway, both on Etsy and my website to give customers assurance that I am a legitimate jewelry maker using legitimate sterling silver.”
She provided an example of a jewelry listing on Etsy that isn’t compliant with the law and explains why, with a surprising point to consider for the buyer.
“This is an example of an illegal listing, this cuff is clearly over the 7.78g weight where it should be hallmarked and he should declare it’s been hallmarked and display the dealer’s notice. Without that he can only call it white metal NOT sterling silver. If he’s reported it’s a £1000 fine and they can confiscate all his merchandise.
“I’d also have to say that when an item isn’t hallmarked the seller is actually devaluing that item to scrap value only so it’s not worth the money the customer is paying, if they tried to sell it later they would only get scrap value.
“For example, a cuff I looked at on Etsy just now is being sold for £65 but as scrap is only worth £19.”
I didn’t know about the hallmark making the piece only worth the value of the metal itself, so that was surprising.
So why would someone skip the hallmarking process? Reputable jewelry makers wouldn’t, but Jane explains that it comes down to cost.
“It also means he has an advantage over those of us hallmarking because the costs for hallmarking have to be added to each piece and it’s not cheap.”
So people who want to skip the hallmarking process to save themselves a little money are basically devaluing the jewelry that they make and passing that devaluation along to their customers. If you’re buying investment pieces, you should be able to rely on them maintaining their value.
Watch out for prices that are too good to be true.
Genuine handmade jewelry might cost a little more than costume jewelry, and that’s one thing to watch for.
I personally don’t understand when people are surprised that the $20 “gold necklace” they bought turns out to be fake. People need to be realistic and not expect good-quality jewelry to be the cheapest.
Alex from Sandcruisers tells this story about his experience with jewelry making:
“When I lived in NY I was close friends with a few jewelers who shared a studio near mine and I really learned how hard it is to make a piece. They’d sometimes spend a full day just making one cast.
“So for real handmade jewelry, be prepared to spend a lot. It’s time-consuming and really hard work.
“One of the women, Marilu, and I would sometimes go to the jewelry district together and it was fun to look at all the stone shops and places where’d she’d drop off her casts to have a piece cast.
“The metal comes back really raw looking. They then have to set the stone and then polish it up. It’s more work than you think.
“Sure, once they have a cast, they can use it again and again, but they probably have to sell that one piece 20+ times before they make their money back on the time they spent to make it in the first place.
“I don’t know jewelry that well, but if you study someone’s shop I’m sure you can tell if they’re really making it because the setting would have to be unique and different.
“Every designer has their own look. A lot of designers are minimalist these days… a pearl or small charm hanging on a thin gold chain, that kind of jewelry is a lot easier to make. The jeweler can just buy chains and string charms, etc.
“But if you’re looking for handmade settings then be prepared to pay for that. They really taught me to appreciate the craftsmanship.”
If you’re looking for craftsmanship, you can find that on Etsy. However, you also need to be careful about being taken advantage of by people who are selling what they claim to be genuine gemstones and metals, but aren’t.
Use your common sense, check out the seller, and check out the shop, and you should have good experiences with purchasing jewelry on Etsy.
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