Nov 262011

Let me open by saying that I have a stock answer when asked for an opinion on Jewellery Shopping Channels – “I am one of their greatest fans but one of their biggest critics”.

I have publicly praised shopping channels but also lodged official complaints to The Advertising Standards Authority and The Office of Fair Trading.   The jewellery trade’s view of Shopping Channels is at best dismissive and at worst scathing.  Some of their views are wholly justified, while others are not, and have more to do with a reaction to a prolific competitor than anything else.

What follows is an objective view of buying jewellery from shopping channels in general, no particular channel is singled out for praise or criticism so some of the following points may not all apply to all Shopping Channels.


Typically, items of jewellery are sold on a falling price basis, often referred to as a Reverse Auction. The start-price is high and keeps falling until the number of buyers match the number of items being sold.   The bid price ruling at the point at which the last buyer enters the bidding dictates the final selling price to all the bidders in that auction.

The jewellery is mass-produced in the Far East in large factories employing hundreds of workers. The TV companies very often own these plants and may also own or have a stake in some gemstone mines and cutting centres. Their access to cheap labour, stones at source and the sheer size of their operations enable them to sell at low prices.

The good things about Jewellery Shopping Channels:

The mainstream jewellery trade has a lot to thank shopping channels for. They have brought a wonderful spectra of nature’s unusual gemstones to the public eye, where as the jewellery trade has relied heavily on the “big four” (diamond, ruby, emerald and sapphire). Consumers are now aware of these gemstones and the benefits ownership can bring. The normal retail jeweller now has a new market that has been created and developed by the channels, although few seem to have embraced this opportunity despite the hard bit having already been done for them.

The TV stations are masters at marketing and the normal trade could benefit greatly from emulating some of their approaches to getting the consumer really “involved” in the products they sell.
The vast majority of the jewellery they sell are good value items in a wearable style that cannot usually be found in a retailers window, either by vitue of design, construction or gemstone type.

Some viewers see the Shopping Channels as entertainment and, to a degree, an education. Many have short educational film clips that are interesting and well done (although some I have seen are blatantly misleading).

With the exception of one channel that was forced to liquidate after being being found guilty of fraud, to date, I have never seen an item of jewellery where the weight of the gemstones, diamonds or metal fell below that stated by the Shopping Channel on their sales documentation, in fact most have been about 10% more.

The bad things about Shopping Channels:

My main criticisms lie in their use of terminology. I am not talking about small pedantic errors but descriptions that spectacularly mislead consumers. Some of these channels must have large highly experienced legal departments because they seem to sanction wording that just about keeps them on the right side of the letter-of-the-law … but only just.

The one that upsets me the most is “hand-crafted”. The exact definition of this phrase is Debatable in Law, which presumably is why so many many channels use it. Irrespective of the strict legal meaning, it is not unreasonable for a consumer to imagine this means crafted-by-hand. Some channels go one step further and claim an item to be hand-made which simply is not the case.  I feel using these terms belittles the experience and skills of real crafts men and women who make a truly hand made product. The hand work on TV jewellery is usually the final polishing and sometimes setting of the stones. I liken their claim that items are handmade to suggesting that a Ford car is hand-crafted because the final wax polishing was done by hand prior to dispatch to the new owner.

The jewellery sold by these channels is mass-produced and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. Usually they are single-piece castings with the gemstones either being set by machines or in some cases the items are cast with the gemstones already in place, if they are of a type that can survive the necessary heat.
Any videos you see of a craftsman at the bench soldering and sawing metal is the “modelmaker”, he/she is not making the jewellery that is sold to the public. The Modelmaker makes the original item from which hundreds of pieces are subsequently cast.

Misrepresentation of gemstones is commonplace with superlatives being used in almost every sentence. Only this morning I saw a loose 9.00ct ruby being a described as “top quality ruby of a stunning colour and amazing clarity“. It was anything but. It was extremely poor quality material from Thailand that was originally brown and opaque that had undergone a treatment to fill the fractures with glass and improve its colour and clarity. It sold for less than £10 per carat. Please do not confuse this with a similarly coloured ruby in a county style jewellers selling for thousands of pounds, they are not the same animal.

Chinese freshwater cultured pearls being sold as “pearls” is another favourite. By definition, the word “pearl”, without any modality, refers to natural seawater and freshwater pearls. There is a world of difference between these types of pearls….. and the price they fetch.

Now, I know it may seem that I am being pedantic here and it is easy to say “yes, but you know what they mean” but if a High Street Jeweller did this, the Trading Standards Officers would be down on them like a ton of bricks. Do I sound a little bitter? Well, yes I am. The vast majority of retail jewellers spend time, effort and money ensuring that they stay within the law, properly represent their products, operate a disclosure policy and generally conduct business in the spirit of fairness.

There are instances, too numerous to mention here, of ”jiggery-pokery” with gemmological nomenclature, with some channels in the past actually inventing their own names for standard gemstones that have undergone extraordinary treatments. Some channels have regularly accused the normal retail jewellery trade of not having even heard of some of these gemstones. Whilst ignorance of the existance of some gemstones could be levied at certain sectors of the jewellery trade, the names that the Shopping Channels have coined, do not of course, appear in any gemmological reference material outside that proffered by the shopping channel and are not officially recognised by any of the Gemmological Authorities.

Repairs and alterations to Shopping Channel jewellery can be problematic, for four reasons:

  • The method of construction and sometimes light weight of the mountings can cause difficulties in the workshops and the jeweller can spend longer trying to correct problems that have occurred than carrying out the originaly requested job.
  • Sometimes the treatments applied to the gemstones used in this jewellery are not stable and disasters can occur under heat or during the oxidisation removal and cleaning processes.
  • You may find your local jeweller reluctant to carry out repairs for all the above practical reasons but also they fear being “married for life” to an item that is generally not intended to last a lifetime. If your Shopping Channel ring was altered in finger size by a local jeweller and then a week later a stone came out, who would you complain to? Of course, the jeweller. You see my point?
  • There are some retailers that are inclined to be “anti” shopping channel jewellery purely on the basis that the customer has chosen to spend the money with a TV company rather than their own business. A thoroughly short-sighted view in my opinion but when encountered, makes repairs and alterations impossible with that particular jeweller.

Valuation considerations:

All shopping channel jewellery valued for Insurance Replacement Purposes by me will be valued at New Replacement Value at Shopping Channel Market Level. Simply put, the value I place on a Shopping Channel item will be equal to the likely cost to replace the item with a one of similar a style, construction, quality, content and of equal merit from a similar source, not necessarily the same channel from which it was purchased.

In short, the value will come out approximately what you had paid for the item. That statement shouldn’t surprise you, since if you wanted to buy a similar item again it would need to be sourced from a Jewellery Shopping Channel and it would cost approximately what you paid the first time around.

Some valuers (not AIJV members, I hasten to add) place a value equal to the nearest equivalent item from a High Street jeweller.  This is incorrect and will mean you pay excessive insurance premiums as a result.

Is a Shopping Channel the “best” way to buy jewellery?

So how does a Shopping Channel purchase fit into a sensible list of buying criteria?

Quality: Quality of construction, durability, quality of design, grade of metals, gemstones and diamonds etc.
There is a low score in this area. The only caveat I would add is that all precious metals that are required by law to be hallmarked, are of course, up to the minimum standard required.

Price: Low-ness of the price compared with the same item or an item of equal merit, from another source.
There is a high score under this heading. Its a little difficult to compare a item of equal merit from another source as another source doesn’t really exist for most of the items sold. The prices are good, relative to what you are receiving.

Service: Quality of the “buying experience”, after-sales service, guarantees etc.
Again there is a high score in this area too. The “no questions asked” money-back option that is in place for a limited period of time after purchase adds significantly to the service score.   Many clients that I discuss this subject with, speak highly of the buying experience which is quite unique to this method of buying jewellery.


Note: Bear in mind that I am referring here to the vast majority of items that are sold through Shopping Channels and a generalised snap-shot of the experiences that my clients have had buying through this source.   As with all things, there are exceptions to the rule.

Buying from shopping channels can be fun, indeed some channels promote the auctions as “games”. Many of my clients who choose to buy from TV channels often refer to the entertainment element of the buying experience. They offer good value, lower quality products in a fun and educational environment.

Following a series of fairly high-profile court cases, TV Shopping Channels seem to be currently going through a bit of a “clean-up” process. The price comparisons that some of the Channels used in the past, would fall into the “unfair to outrageous” category. This grossly unfair marketing ploy seems to be disappearing of late.

Things to bear in mind:

  • Ignore the superlatives used in the sales patter.
  • The start “price” has nothing to do with the true worth of the item.
  • You can rely on the stated gemstone and metal weights as being accurate and are often exceeded.
  • Don’t buy for any other reason that you like the item and will enjoy wearing it.
  • Remember that some gemstones are not commonly seen in jewellery for a reason, they are not always very durable. Restrict softer stones to earrings and pendants only or to rings and bracelets that are worn only occasionally for dress occasions.
  • Accept that repair and alteration may present problems.
  • Be suspicious of valuations or claims that the jewellery is worth several times the purchase price.

Common sense will serve you well. For instance, counter the claim that they sell way below trade prices by asking yourself the common sense question – “Why would they sell to me for £xx if they could sell into the trade for more?”

If you wish further information about the jewellery that you already own or advice on future purchases, please speak to your nearest AIJV member. If there is not a member near you, then you might want to check this Jewellery Valuer directory – Jewellery Appraisers of the World.
My hope is that this posting has given a slightly more unbiased view of the situation than is currently being promoted (or damned) on the internet.


Disclaimer – The AIJV blog is authored by a selection of AIJV members and guests specifically to be able present many different viewpoints on a large variety of subjects. The opinons expressed by the authors are not necessarily those of the AIJV.

Credits – All images courtesy of the respective Shopping Channels.
Note – This article was previously published on Adrian Smith’s own blog in Oct 2010. It has now been moved  and is redirected to this location


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Adrian Smith

Adrian Smith is the principal of Adrian S Smith FGA, an independent jewellery valuation practice in Perth, Scotland. He is also the Founder and Administrator of the Association of Independent Jewellery Valuers

  24 Responses to “Jewellery buying guide to Shopping Channels”

  1. I have seen some of these items and I totally agree with what you say, but I would like to know how you know what sort of price you would need to pay on a shopping channel……..these are not the sort of programmes I would want to watch!

    • Hi Michele

      Valuing Shopping Channel jewellery is really no different to valuing items from any other market level using the cost approach.
      Once you know the market prices for the components involved and the retail margin that needs to be applied, one does not need to watch the programmes beyond checking occasionally to just established that the rules have not changed.

      If you need a more detailed response, feel free to contact me directly with your particular concerns or questions and I will be delighted to assist.

      Kind regards

  2. As an old fashioned type of retailer I must confess to a slight bias:

    Approx every decade we have a visit from the trading standards person at the local authority. On the last visit I asked the hypothetical question what would he do if I traded the same way as some internet & TV jewellery retailers: without the need of even a second to think his immediate response was ‘close you down’. I then queried how the TV/Web companies ‘got away’ with trading in a way I would not be permitted to operate; his answers were then a bit more fudged, along the lines of they only deal with specific complaints about items, rather than dealing with the way they are sold…

    On the other hand, the distance selling regulations do give different rights to the buyer compared to normal high street shopping terms, sadly too many TV/web buyers don’t always realise this until it’s too late.

  3. To-day I received a necklace from a TV channel which was described as Columbian emeralds with 14k
    gold fastening. Firstly I was suprised it came by normal post,,no signature of receipt required.
    On opening, found the authenticity card read 22-26ct Columbian Emerald necklace, but lower. down it had. Brazilian Emerald beaded necklace.
    As I have seen Columbian, Zambian and Brazilian Emeralds, and know Columbian to be the most expensive and prized. Iknow I can return the item, but feel angry and cheated and feel tempted to take
    it up with Trading Standaards, Any advice and/or comment appreciated. The invoice also states it as
    Columbian Emeralds.

  4. Hi Marion
    I am sorry you are having doubts about your purchase.

    To be honest, this sounds more like just a genuine human mistake than any attempt to deceive. After all, if they were setting out to hoodwink you, they could have cited the emeralds as Colombian on all documentation and you would have been none the wiser.

    I would recommend that you approach the sellers and ask them to state categorically which bits of documentation are correct. At least then you can make an informed decision as to whether to keep the piece of not. You have already said that you have the option to return the item anyway.

    I should perhaps point out that the fact that an emerald comes from Colombia does not, in itself, suggest fine quality. It is true to say that the most highly prized emeralds have come from Colombia but this is not the only source of fine stones. Equally, some very poor stones also come from Colombia.

    I wish you well with your enquiries. Perhaps you would be kind enough to return and tell us the outcome.

    Kind regards, Adrian

    • It’s C-O-L-O-M-B-I-A-N, not columbian, Adrian. Sorry for the uppercase letter, but people needs to know how to write the name of this nationality or the name of this South American country C-O-L-O-M-B-I -A, not columbia.

      • Hi Margui
        Please accept my apologies. Spellin woz nevr miy strong poynt.
        No excuse with modern spell-checkers though.

        Thank you for pointing this out. I will try and edit my reply.

        Kind regards

        • I been reading your blog and it’s very interesting. Do you think is safe to buy a loose gemstone from those channels? I had a good experiences with an Amethyst and with a pair of Aquamarines, but not with a Fire Opal that I took it to my local jewelry and they told me that the stone was a fake, which took me by surprise because I bought the Amethyst and the Aquamarines from the same company with no problems. The “rocks”-colloquial name-(Amethyst and Aquamarines) were appraised and mounted in gold. I called the company very angry about the Fire Opal, for an explanation, but they insisted it was real. What is your opinion about an online company called Gemselect? Are they trustable?

          Thank you.

          • Hi Margui

            Unfortunately it is very difficult to answer all of your questions. It very much depends on the individual item and the specific company. One cannot really generalise.

            With regard to the Fire Opal. One should not overlook the possibility that the Jeweller was incorrect in condemning the stone. I would be asking for credentials to support his opinion. If in doubt, consult a qualified gemmologist. I do not know where you are based, but any of the AIJV members would be delighted to give you the definitive answer and all are qualified to do so.

            I am not at all familiar with Gemselect – Sorry

            Kind regards


  6. An extremely interesting article. I was recommended to use gems tv by a work colleague after admiring her rings …. I ended up spending £150 on a variety of pendants and rings as they were so cheap but so sparkly! I think if you are buying as I do for wearing a sparkly piece which makes you feel a little brighter this is fine. As an investment NO. I am a definte magpie so I regularly buy a piece or two a month, but never anything more than £35 in value as I know that I buy as decoration only!! I did actually yesterday by chance take a ring with a gorgeous london blue topaz into a jeweller who was extremely rude about it, and my having bought it stating it was chinese mass produced cheap bling. I love the setting so still wear it! I do know that buying an 18ct gold ring with a london blue topaz would cost me over £400 for the same setting and I may think twice about wearing it everyday. I think as long as people realise that most of the items on the tv channels are decorative only it will assist with their decisions.

  7. Hi,

    Thank you very much for this article – I have watched one of the jewellery channels develop from being broadcaste on an hour’s loop (if my memory is correct) to 3 different shows broadcast every day. The initial items for sale began with the basics and now includes all sorts of gemstone strands, pendants, findings, tools, accessories etc. and constantly offer all sorts of tuition.

    I fell for the gemstones hook line and sinker, and purchased gemstones etc. spending about £750. It was my intention to make my own jewellery to sell to friends, craft fayres, golf clubs etc, and offer jewellery making parties/evenings for children and adults. Whenever I watched the programme I had to buy or try something new.

    Thank goodness the digital tv broke down. My purchases are stuffed into every nook and cranny, and when I see them I feel so guilty that I have spent so much money (which I couldn’t really afford) and a fool for being taken in.

    The majority of purchasers appear to be middle-aged women looking for a new direction in life (as I was).

    I do wish that I would have read your information at the beginning of my silly spending rather than at the end, ah well!

    Thank you for bringing your views to my attention – but I must admit some of the gemstones were so beautiful, having taken millions of years for Mother Nature to make, and are so rare on our planet….

    Thanks for the kick up the backside..

    Gill Buckley

  8. I bought a rhapsody pendant which said 4.9g in platinum in metal weight. The emeald is half a carat. When it came, the whole item weighed 3gram at most. I was very annoyed. I think the item should have come with a letter or authenticity card which states the metal weight and the size or carat weight of the stone. The authenticity card said nothing about the metal weight and if I had not researched beforehand, I could have been duped. I am still waiting for the return postage to be refunded.

  9. The Reverse Auction is Patented and Trademarked by Gems TV which is now Bankrupt and has been liquidated at least the U.S. Version/Division of it. Gems TV came to America and set up shop in Reno, NV. I have an in-depth working knowledge of it as I was kind of pulled into the situation from the get-go before ground was even broken and I personally met all the so-called Big Players.
    Luckily I stayed Independent due to my Professional Ethics.
    I could have sold out and made some serious SICK CASH Quick but I didn’t.
    It was indeed an Educational Experience of a lifetime and I will leave it at that.

  10. I have bought gemstones from rockstv. My husband showed me, your site. I feel, like a fool. thank you for educating me. I will not be buying from t.v. I will buy from my jewlery store.

  11. Dear Adrian
    I have enjoyed reading your blog and its good to hear a professional’s point of view.
    I recently sold my expensive jewellery which to be honest I could only wear on special occasions or would worry about being a target for theft. I have replaced many of my pieces with TV channel jewellery, which I wear everyday or the blingy ones out at night, and no longer worry about them and enjoy the compliments I get.
    I would like to think even if I sell them in years to come or pass them on to family they will at least bring in the same as I paid for or enjoy wearing them.
    I used to buy lots of costume jewellery at the same price and if not more than I pay for TV channel real gemstones which look far better.
    Kind regards

  12. I have bought lots of rings and pendants from jewellery channels, I enjoy them, I dont think they are fake and the gold certainly is not, as I have since sold some of my items to get cash when I required it, and got my money back and more for everything I have sold, The gemstones to the naked eye dont seem bad quality either. I bought a blue diamond gold eternity ring for £22.00 and had it checked to see if it was diamonds and it is. So stop putting people off the jewellery sold on TV!

  13. Thank you for your excellent article. Sadly during a long illness I bought hundred of pices from Gems tv, as an FGA and DGA, I thought I was buying wisely but the quality on the more expensive pieces is very poor. I have bought earrings with stones missing, I bought an emerald and diamond ring for a friend’s 50th birthday and a diamond dropped out before she even arrived at her party, everything I have given my hairdresser has needed repair and my doctor’s wife has just given me a collection of bracelets in which one or two of the stones have fallen out. I bought a diamond and white gold bracelet for my daughter when her baby was born , but in six months it looks like a piece of junk jewellery. My husband bought a five stone diamand ring but the “diamonds” look like soda crystals.

    I also bought pieces from their Lorique range, but the stones are of very poor quality but they all have the thinnest of gold and the diamonds are so tiny that they would have been better left out. I have been buying from all the major auction houses for thirty years and looking at the prices realised, I would advise anyone to buy at auction or from good reputable jewellers. I have bought and sold pieces to people from all over the world and they return with their friends.

    Gems tv should be reported for selling amethyst but mentioning its similarity to Kunzite all the time, often saying gold instead of gold plated, hyping of very soft stones and generally giving buyers the impression that they are “giving” jewellery away yet selling above its maket value.

    Showing la letter from the Duchess of Cornwall and saying he makes jewellery for the Prince of Wales should be stopped as it gives customers the wrong impression.

  14. Well this is a fun blog, I love hearing others who like myself enjoy watching, buying and wearing the bling from tv jewelry shows. I had quite a nice collection of rings, earrings and necklaces. I am disabled from working (failed spine surgery) I don’t go out anymore but I don’t let that stop me from decorating myself everyday. August 2013 I went to the grocery store (other than Dr s visits that’s the extent of my leaving the house) but in a short 15 min spree a thief was able to wipe me out of my yrs of enjoyment and lots of money spent on baubles solely for my own enjoyment. Now I am carefully bidding on Ebay for those cheap Chinese jewels simply because I won’t fill another low life thieves pockets with my personal treasures. I enjoy my purchases more it’s fun to bid and win especially when your only spending a few dollars. Have fun and enjoy whatever and wherever you buy your pretties

  15. great buying guide for jewellery

  16. Hi,

    I am really concerned about buying from the jewellery channel. I have already purchsed Tanzanite jewellery from them and I am now worried it could be rubbish and not good quality after reading one persons review. I have also bought Diamonds that have come with a certificate stating GH clarity but they are very small and don’t look worth what I paid, I decided to return them but it was past the return period so they would not accept them and returned them back to me. They also mention that they sell to jewellers which is rather worrying because how do you know when you purchase from a jewellery shop that this hasn’t come from them and may not be worth what you paid for it.

  17. Well, I’ve spent a fortune on jewellery from a shopping channel, and I love every item and thoroughly enjoy wearing every piece. I have a wonderful collection of gems, very pretty pieces, great designs that I would struggle to find in a high street jewellers unless it was top end and totally out of my price ŕange. I take what they say in the auctions with a pinch of salt and make my own judgements. There’s a quote, I forget by who… what’s the difference between a weed and a flower? A judgement. Some people would pull up a weed because they have been told it’s a weed, even if it has a pretty flower on it. If it makes you happy, enjoy it. If not, don’t do it.

  18. I purchased a tanzanite ring from Rocks TV. 18 K white gold, diamonds and a pear shaped tanzanite. The ring is beautiful.
    I took it to my certified jewelry appraiser who appraised it at three times what I paid for it. I am happy with this channel. The rest are kind of ‘buyer beware.’

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