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The Smart Traveler's Guide to Buying Jewelry on Vacation

Shopping is the No. 1 leisure activity for overseas travelers, according to the U.S. Travel Association. Of the $1.159 trillion tourists spent in 2013, watches and jewelry accounted for 12.2%, amounting to a hefty $141 billion, as totaled by a report from Generation Research.

Unfortunately, a Rossen Reports investigation discovered that you don't always get what you pay for, especially when buying jewelry at Caribbean vacation destinations.

The Rossen Reports team went jewelry shopping on Cozumel and Key West, with a certified gemologist in tow. At each location, they found the materials and/or quality of their purchase were overstated, and they were charged way more than the item's true value.


The team overpaid by an average of $725 for their jewelry purchases in Caribbean locales.


How do you avoid this fate? Follow these five guidelines:

1. Check Up on the Business

A quick Google search should tell you whether the business is legit. If they have a website, and a handful of social media pages, they're much more likely to be a well-established company.

Have time for additional research? Sift through these helpful sites and look for any instances of deceit:

Source: American Society of Appraisers

2. Stick With Well-Known Brands

If a store claims an exclusive brand, beware. According to the American Society of Appraisers, many "ports-of-call stores pay for exclusive branding rights so they can charge whatever they like, and their products usually prove to be a poor value in other markets."

It's safer to stick with a brand you know - and pay a price that you would normally expect from that brand. If a store claims to be able to sell you a high-end luxury watch for a fraction of its value, it's likely a knock-off. After all, these stores are looking for a profit, and it's unlikely they were able to obtain the merchandise at such a deep discount.

3. Read the Return Policy

Two pieces of advice here:

  • Make sure you're able to return the item with no conditions.
  • Read all the fine print on the back of the receipt to make sure you're not signing any type of "sales contract."

The American Society of Appraisers found that despite "guarantees" of a full refund if the item appraises for less than you paid, the fine print often lists tight conditions. For example: "No return for diamonds unless they grade at least 2 color grades different."

No well-respected jewelry store needs a condition like that.

4. Pay with a Credit Card

As with all major purchases, having an electronic record will make it much easier to dispute any issues or return the item. Take advantage of this protection.

5. Beware of Import Taxes

Above and beyond the average $725 extra paid by the Rossen Reports team, they also forked out $300 dollars at U.S. customs on their return trip. Make sure to factor in any potential import taxes before you decide your jewelry shopping budget.

You can check the latest U.S. tariff data using their Interactive Tariff and Trade DataWeb at no cost.

The Bottom Line

If it seems too good to be true, it likely is. The best tactic for buying jewelry on vacation is to purchase a piece you fall in love with - one that will remind you of the memories you created on your trip.

Choose jewelry at a price you won't regret, even if it doesn't end up being the best value.

(Complements of Jewelers Insurance Company)

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