Thursday, March 06, 2008

Price and value are not the same thing

I saw this March 3 Annie's Mailbox advice column today. I liked the advice Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar offered to "Perplexed in the Midwest," but people like "Perplexed" could use a little more information when choosing an engagement ring.

Perhaps it's not too romantic to think about the practical aspect of money when trying to buy a ring intended to tell the woman you love you want to spend the rest of your life with her. It's hard to put a price on that. But people need to know that jewelers do put a price on our sentiment and they inflate it far beyond its value.

That's where I take issue with Mitchell's and Sugar's advice to "Perplexed." They use the word "value" in their response. That's the wrong word. If you buy an engagement ring retail, whether it is diamond-jeweled or sports a simulated stone, the price you pay will only have a fractional relation to its financial value.

Depending on where you get your information, retail markup of jewelry, particularly in mall stores, is commonly 300 percent or more. I've written several posts on this blog (search engagement ring if you are curious) detailing the prolonged and financially frustrating process I went through to try to sell a ring a few years ago after a failed engagement. I'm not sure if I confessed that I got about one-fifth of the original price of the ring after it was sold on consignment.

So, if you are thinking of buying an engagement ring, don't be afraid to compare prices. You might also want to consider shopping at a store that specializes in estate or consignment jewelry.
Precious metals and jewels are expensive enough (have you seen the price of gold lately?). Do you really need to pay three, five, 10 times beyond what jewelry is really worth?

You can't put a price on love and no one who buys an engagement ring ever expects to have to recoup their costs. That's not what buying an engagement ring is about. But you don't have to pay hugely inflated markup for what will be an expensive purchase, no matter what. Making a smart purchasing choice will get you a far better value and leave more money in your pocket to start your life together on the best financial footing. It's hard to have happily ever after when you start off by pissing away, let's say, $5,000-plus for something that is really only worth about $1,000.

Mitchell and Sugar are right. A man shouldn't lie to his prospective bride about the type of stone in a ring. But prospective grooms shouldn't buy the lie that that ring in the shiny display case is really worth its obscenely bloated price tag. If she's worth spending 4 or 5 or 6 digits on, then shop around and get her 2 or 3 or 5 times the ring for the same price. You may find that cubic zirconium can transform into a diamond right in front of your wallet.

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