What a girl wants…

Adrian Hailwood reveals what every man needs to know about buying jewellery for a loved one – and saving a packet into the bargain!

Buying jewellery for a loved one in your life is a sure-fire way to earn brownie points. If you want to build your points faster with larger or more frequent gifts you may have to shop a little smarter which means avoiding glamorous boutiques with their high prices! Head instead to the auction room – after all, if this is where the ‘trade’ often buys, why not help yourself to trade prices? Buying at auction, while requiring a little more work, strips away the initial VAT, the retailer’s mark-up and reveals the bare ‘open-market value’, which in most cases means a huge saving. Not only that, but the competitive aspect can bring a surprising level of fun to the process. The first question is: Are you buying as a surprise? If the answer is ‘no’ then you have many more options. You can discuss preferences, find out what is already in the jewellery box – and more importantly what she has that never gets worn (don’t buy more of this). To add rings to the list of potential purchases you need to get fingers measured. Remember to try both wide and narrow bands as they will come up differently. Get a jeweller to do this for you but don’t get distracted while you are in there. Once equipped with this information it is time to hit the catalogues and get bidding.


If you choose a commission bid (a maximum bid left with the auctioneer prior to the sale) you can limit your budget and err on the side of caution. Live bidding is for those who want control, who would hate to miss out for the sake of one more increment. To bid live you still don’t have to visit the saleroom, just pick up the phone or fire up the Internet and you can participate as if you were there. However you bid, bear in mind the buyer’s premium (a percentage added on top of the hammer price), but don’t worry you will still be getting a great deal. Buying as a surprise is much more difficult, but the brownie point rewards may be greater. Unless jewellery is a constant subject of discussion between you, you may need a few pointers:

  1. Go with the colour of metal she already wears, a surprise gift will not force a change of wardrobe, it will just go unworn. As said before, check the jewellery box for what lies ignored at the bottom – don’t buy that.
  2. Earrings make a more versatile statement piece that a necklace as they restrict neckline choices less – a basic check, most ladies have pierced ears but don’t assume.
  3. Rings can be a tricky choice if you don’t know the size and beware the repercussions of the sudden presentation of a ring if you are not married. That said, a slim plain ring shank can be resized at minimal cost, so if you know she loves a little (or large) sparkle on the finger don’t be put off.
  4. Pieces from either designer brands or the well-known high-end jewellers will always go for higher prices, although a significant saving from what you would pay at retail. If you can bear to buy the look without the name, prices will tumble even further.
Adrian Hailwood is the director of watches at Fellows Auctioneers. Visit http://www.fellows.co.uk