In order to truly by the right type of jewellery, whether you like fancy jewellery or not there are some things you need to understand to make sure that you aren’t doing it wrong. Jewellery is an extremely personal way to express something, whether it be an emotion or style, not just for women but for men too. If you are buying jewellery for someone with a shred of personal style make sure you listen and observe every hint of personal preference they may display.

The first thing you need to know is to find out that which you don’t know. You may have gone on some fact finding mission when you bought an engagement ring that one time, but that doesn’t mean you know how to buy precious metals and gemstones that go into making a beautiful piece of jewellery. Even if you can afford a Cartier, Van Cleef & Apels or a Viren Bhagat piece of jewellery it doesn’t mean that everything that these brands make will appeal to everyone.

If you are in the market for some really fancy jewellery here is what you need to know.

1. You cannot judge quality on sight

Enhancements affect the quality and the value of the stone. There is a difference between a heated Burmese ruby and an unheated one. The heated one may have a deeper hue. Do you know the difference between an African ruby and a ruby from Burma? A heated Ruby from Burma is probably 10 to 20 times more expensive than an African heated ruby.

Emeralds can either come oiled or not. The reason for oiling an emerald is to make the little fissures or crack in them less visible. An emerald without oil will be more valuable. But this is something you may not be able to tell by simply looking at the gem. The best way to find out about the quality of the jewellery you are buying is to ask questions about where the gemstones come from and how they were treated. When it comes to precious gems always ask to see the certification papers.

Don’t assume that brand name emporiums are the only places to shop for quality fancy jewellery. Shops like Tiffany and Co. Harry Winston Inc. offer beautiful, but expensive pieces, but they also build in the cost of having hyper-expensive real estate and million dollar red carpet events and advertising campaigns into their prices. These brands also don’t necessarily sell the highest-quality stones, but at least you can be sure that when they say something is rare they really mean it unlike lower-end big-box jewellers who sell manufactured stones. There are some really great private boutiques and small retailers that offer high quality jewels because of the low overheads they have. You can find the best quality, authentic jewels at fair prices in small boutique shops, private dealers, auctions and estate sales.

2. Do not accept inferior or old certificates of authenticity

Always ask for a certificate of authenticity when buying jewels from anyone. Make sure you ha a lab certification from a trusted place like the Gemmology Institute of America (GIA). Their certification also confirms origin, grade and quality. They are able to tell if a gem has been altered or not. Certifications certificates should at least be about two years old. Lab technology changes rapidly. A certificate may have said a ruby is from Burma in 2008 only to come back two years later and say it is actually from Africa. A ruby from Africa would worth a tenth of what it would if it was really from Burma.

3. Take into account the law of supply and demand

The supply of quality vintage Cartier of Van Cleef and Apels jewellery declines every year. However, buyers in Asia have voracious appetites for such historic brands as well as brands like Tiffany and Hermes. These are known historic names and the demand always goes up in certain niche markets. But because of the rarity of the jewellery these brands create, supply always goes down. This imbalance always elevates the price. To get an indication on what the current market rates are, keep your eyes on auction results.

4. Know who you are buying your jewellery for

This is probably the most important thing you should do before you go on a fancy jewellery spending spree. The piece you buy should fit the personality of the recipient. Understand the lifestyle of the receiver. Is he or she active? She might need something more durable and lightweight if she uses her hands more than someone who lives a more manicured life. Platinum, Titanium and diamonds are more rugged than gold or opal and garnets. Is she into chunky, showy jewellery or delicate stud earring? She might be unconventional and may prefer something less obvious like a wristwatch of a vintage cigarette box. Someone who hardly wears any jewellery at all might appreciate a stylish art deco box.

5. History matters

If you are going to go vintage, going into the history if a particular piece adds more character to it especially if it relates to culture and fashion. Designers sent costume jewellery to enhance the clothes on the runway. LaCroix did it with Byzantine-inspired jewellery and Chanel’s runways baubles and brooches are legendary. Vintage jewellery has more cachet if it was previously owned by some noble or celebrity. With vintage jewellery, age and provenance add more value.