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Tips When Buying Fine Jewelry Around the World

Swiss watches, Tahitian pearls and Colombian emeralds - every exotic international travel destination has its own signature fine jewelry item, and many travelers assume that buying these gems locally means they will get an amazing deal.

But that's not always the case, says Juanita E. Addeo, Master Gemologist Appraiser and owner of Addeo Jewelers in Lake Mary, Fla. "There are good and bad jewelers everywhere," she says.

Addeo, who works with jewelry that ranges in price from $700 to $145,000 U.S. dollars (USD), has had long-standing, savvy customers who have come to her with jewelry they bought on vacation only to discover that it appraises at half of what they paid for it.

— Juanita E. Addeo, Master Gemologist Appraiser and owner of Addeo Jewelers

"When you are a tourist, you want to shop, and you want to be impulsive," she says. "A lot of jewelry shops, especially those in touristy destinations, will take advantage of that."

Here is a fine jewelry guide for making smart and satisfying foreign purchases while traveling abroad.

1. Vet Dealers Before You Arrive

Don't rely on the concierge, tour operator or cruise line director for guidance, as many of them receive commissions for directing shoppers to certain destinations. Instead, check with international travel review sites, such as TripAdvisor, 10Best and VirtualTourist, before leaving town to find out who is reputable and who's had complaints.

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2. Get a Lab Report

Reputable jewelers get a lab report for their gems by organizations such as the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), the European Gemological Laboratory (EGL) or the International Gemological Laboratory (IGL). These reports include information about where a gem is from, its quality and whether it's natural, treated or synthetic.

"You should never buy diamonds or colored stones without a lab report," Addeo says, adding that the report should be seen while in the store.

3. Be Wary of "Exclusive Rights"

When a store claims to offer special cut rights, or says it is the only dealer in town to sell a specific mineral, it's a red flag, Addeo says.

"These exclusive rights are usually a gimmick, and the jewelry will prove to be a poor value in other markets," Addeo says.

4. Read the Return Policy

Returns should always be unconditional. Before signing a receipt, make sure it isn't also a sales contract that dictates when and where the item can be returned, Addeo says.

5. Buy for Looks, Not the Investment

In destinations that deal with millions of tourists, it's unlikely that it will be a once-in-a-lifetime deal. So buy a piece of fine jewelry for the way it looks, not because it might have amazing resale value.

Most importantly, get the most out of the foreign exchange rates. Travelers who are considering buying jewelry while traveling abroad should consider using the services of a trusted online foreign exchange provider that offers tools such as a free online currency converter to help calculate dollar exchange rates and convenient bank-to-bank money transfers on the go via laptop, tablet or smartphone. Plus, an online FX service may be able to help individuals save money on foreign purchases by alerting them to preferred exchange rates, in addition to offering low fees. 

Live Cross Rates

USD 69.3440 1.3139 0.7857 53.2670 1.0000 0.8780
CAD 52.7470 1.0000 0.5978 40.5230 0.7604 0.6680
AUD 50.4280 0.9555 0.5715 38.7410 0.7268 0.6386
EUR 78.9250 1.4956 0.8945 60.6340 1.1377 1.0000
GBP 88.1960 1.6713 1.0000 67.7560 1.2713 1.1169

Example: 1USD = xx INR

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