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Extended Warranties


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Like most shopping questions, this depends a bit on what you’re looking for. Some online jewelers have wonderful programs but it’s necessary to deal with the problems associated with shipping while others at least act like they're not interested in hearing from you ever again after your purchase. Does it matter? Many local stores promote the whole service aspect as their strong selling point and this isn’t completely without merit although it’s not all that persuasive either. Read the fine print on their sites, on their receipts and in their stores and you'll see some wildly different approaches to this issue. Here’s a few thoughts:


#1 Most manufactures have a warranty that covers manufacturing defects when you first make your purchase. If you have it inspected by a professional appraiser immediately after receiving it, you have a good opportunity to go back to the jeweler to have any initial problems repaired. Most aren’t thrilled at this process but will make whatever corrections and repairs are necessary. If the problem is severe, like a chipped stone, it’s absolutely critical to address it quickly in order to avoid the suggestion that YOU are the one who broke it.


#2 Most customers buy an aftermarket insurance policy from either their homeowners insurer or a stand-along jewelry insurance company to cover things like theft and fire. These policies almost always also cover breakage and loss of stones starting on the day you bind the policy, which should be the day you get the above inspection/appraisal. In general, this coverage is considerably better than the extended warranty offerings from the jewelers so the jeweler’s coverage here is of marginal value. Check your own insurance policy to see what’s covered and what’s not. Here are some thoughts about getting good value from your insurance purchase.


#3 Assuming that you got it inspected and found no problems right after it arrived, you can quite reasonably expect to be able to wear your new purchase for years with no needed maintenance. Over time the prongs and shank will wear out and require some work and you will need to have them worked on and this is sometimes covered under the extend service plans offered by jewelry stores. White gold will occasionally need to have the rhodium plating replaced, stones will sometimes get loose and there are a few other regular maintenance type issues that are likely to come up. This is where the benefits happen with the prepaid maintenance programs. Notice that I called them prepaid, not free. Do they do what you need? Again read the fine print. Alterations like adding arthritic shanks or additional stones are never covered and cleaning and checking is usually free at the stores anyway, whether you bought it there or not so it's important to get a feel for what expenses are covered, what are not, what are you likely to need and what are they going do do for free anyway if you are going to evaluate one of these programs. The ala-carte approach to this, where you simply buy your repairs as they come up, will rarely require a budget of more than about $50/year and with many items it's considerably less.


#4 There are ALWAYS restrictions on the extended service plans and deciding if a particular one is valuable requires understanding those restrictions. It’s going to be in the fine print. Some common issues are that you must go back to that particular store every 6 months for an inspection and that having work of any kind done elsewhere will void the warranty... Use their repair shop or void the warranty. If you move out of the neighborhood or forget your scheduled inspection even once this can be a serious problem.


#5 Free isn’t free. It costs the dealers to include this sort of thing and these costs are passed on to you. In most cases, the cost is part of the initial price you pay for the piece but occasionally it requires a renewal fee or other ongoing expense. Some will require you to pay for routine maintenance while guaranteeing only the big things while others take the opposite tactic and exclude the big things while covering all of the minutia. The dealers are entirely reasonable in wanting to be paid for their service but it’s important to understand what you’re getting and what you’re paying in order to make a smart shopping decision. Ask questions. Unfortunately, many will try to make it difficult to separate out the value of their service program from the rest of the purchase deal and you will need to do a bit of deductive reasoning to figure it out. Find comparable items elsewhere without the program, subtract one price from the other and the difference is the cost of the ‘free’ addon. A special note here: Make sure your comparables are really comparable. It’s easy to get suckered by advertisements for things that seem similar but where the difference is in something you haven’t considered. By all means, ask the salespeople what it is that makes their offer better than their competition and, if you don't understand the answer, ask them to explain and compare their answer to the answer given by the competitor. If in doubt, come back here and tell us what you were told to get a feel if either or both is feeding you a line.


#6 Most jewelers are happy to do repairs on things they didn’t sell. At least most jewelers with sense are. This is a profitable department for them and they’re fools if they turn away the business just because they lost a sale to someone else. The question is about the price, the quality of service and whether you are better off paying them in advance or at the time of service. If they can’t do your repairs on things they didn’t buy there, how are they going to do your warranty work on things you do buy from them? The initial sizing is generally included as part of the original purchase and most folks don’t resize rings very often. A few times per lifetime is not unusual so 'free' resizing isn't generally much of an issue but for some reason this is usually listed as a benefit.


#7 Some bench jewelers are just plain better than others. It takes a lot of practice to get good at this and just because they sell jewelry doesn’t mean that their repair department is any good. You may not want them working on your stuff at all, even if you buy from them. Similarly, you may want to use a particular shop for repair while doing your buying elsewhere. It's worth noting that the cheapest craftsmen are rarely the most skilled.


#8 A good warranty and a good bench jeweler doesn’t make crappy jewelry any better. Don’t let them use the warranty as a crutch for defending inferior merchandise in the showcase. At the same time, don’t assume that an excellent shop will be able to support you on every problem that may arise on cheaper products purchased elsewhere. Sometimes things are cheap for a good reason and the repair jeweler won’t be able to fix a problem caused by the original craftsmanship. It’s usually less expensive and less aggravating to buy a piece where the work was done right the first time than to try and get it fixed afterwards, whether or not the repair is being charged separately. First, buy good products, then consider the merits of an extended service plan. These are not the same, and buying junk with a good warranty is not often a route to satisfaction.


All of this boils down to evaluating the rewards of the program against the price. ‘Limited lifetime warranty*’ should automatically lead you to read what that little asterisk is about. It may be a great offer but you can bet it’s NOT a guarantee of no problems forever.



Edited by denverappraiser
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