For my birthday, my husband took the day off, and we spent the afternoon in the Los Angeles Jewelry District. If you love jewelry, we have this in common!
Update May 2019:
My experience with jewelry, being an influencer with the ability to promote products, and my relationships with vendors in the Los Angeles Jewelry district has led me to start a fine jewelry business to be your trusted guide who can deliver the luxury jewelry you want at a value that is easy to understand.
And if you have a specific piece you’re looking for or to get made, I’d love to help you.
Back to the original post:
My husband and I have this tradition where he and I play hooky on my birthday. We always do something fun, just the two of us. I love it.
My friends had a surprise Belly Dancing Party for me this year which was a blast! And did you see my post about my friend’s surprise YOLO Bday Dance Party? So fun!
We visited a few stores at the Los Angeles Jewelry District and then had lunch at Bottega Louie (which is a block from the Los Angeles jewelry district). It was a great day.
Jewelry is my specialty. My parents and grandfather were jewelers in South Korea. My mom tells me that my love for diamonds stems from being in her womb while she was in gemology school. With a background in accounting and finance, I am also highly analytical and can comb through the details of a diamond’s quality or the workmanship of a piece of jewelry with ease.
I believe jewelry should be an investment that only appreciates over time. With this in mind, special care should be taken to make sure it will last a lifetime.
7 Tips for Shopping in the Los Angeles Jewelry District
1. Parking is expensive
You will find lots that charge $4 every 10 minutes = $24 for an hour! Expensive, right? I park for a flat $15 in a lot on Hill Street (on the corner of Hill and 8th). There is no time limit, which I prefer. It’s still very close to everywhere you will need to go within the jewelry district.
2. Know which stores you will visit in the Jewelry District.
You really need to know where you are going and what you are looking for before you visit the LA Jewelry District. Otherwise, the number of places to shop will be overwhelming.
An important note: Unless you have a wholesale license, even when you shop at the jewelry district, you will not be charged wholesale prices. Vendors will charge individual customers a mark-up from wholesale. You will be paying less than traditional retail of 3-4x wholesale, but you will be charged more than the wholesale rates they offer to their retail shops. This makes sense though because they are spending more time with each customer vs selling in bulk to one store.
Where you shop will depend largely on what you want to buy. I was on the hunt for gold bangle bracelets to complement my existing diamond bracelets.
Keep in mind, a good jeweler can make any design you want. But generally, this will take about 4 weeks.
3. Know the general retail prices for what you are looking to purchase.
What is the general price of gold? Do you want 14k or 18k? Maybe platinum? Titanium is less expensive than gold and a very strong metal. What is the price of diamonds in the size and quality you are looking for? What quality is acceptable to you? Knowing this information puts you in the best position to find and get the price you want.
Higher-end jewelers like to use colorless with clarity VS-SI1 for their bracelet diamonds, even when using small stones. However, you can go down to SI 2s without compromising sparkle.
I was looking for eternity diamond bangles at the high end of my budget. I did some internet research to get a general sense of price before we started our day.
We found these 18 karat gold bangles. There was one in rose gold and one in white gold. They have a cluster of diamonds every third portion of the bracelet. I love the pounded metal in a matte finish. The asymmetry of the metal gave these bracelets a very hip look to balance out the traditional pieces I already own (Van Cleef & Arpels white gold and diamond bracelet, and a white gold eternity diamond bangle).
4. Appraisal Certificates
Appraisal and Diamond Quality Certificates are not necessary for diamonds 1 carat or less. For diamonds more than 1 carat, I rely on GIA certificates for rings. For pendants/earrings, I recommend EGL certificates or uncertified stones from a trusted soruce.
Any stone to get GIA certified costs about $300 per carat. The stone also must be loose. Also, GIA has some of the strictest grading standards and is recognized worldwide. A GIA diamond will cost the most per carat among its peers (about 50% more!).
5. Work with jewelers who understand your style.
There are traditional jewelers in the Los Angeles Jewelry District who focus on basic and timeless pieces. But there are also jewelers who are more artistic and current with their jewelry styles. I love to find new pieces that are unique and current, yet elegant.
Generally, this is based on personal style, but when you walk around the jewelry district, you get a sense quickly by the vendor’s existing inventory whether they match your taste. The downfall of the jewelry district is that there are so many vendors – you have to walk around for a long time to see who suits your style. It can be overwhelming. There is definitely a value of being able to visit one central source to find the pieces you’ll love.
6. Workmanship is important.
Just like with anything where craftsmanship is involved, there is a range of quality in how a piece of jewelry is set (put together). Expect a good stone setter to charge 2-3x an average setter. The fees of the setter are charged to the wholesaler, so you won’t necessarily know how much they charge. But the price of the finished product will give you an idea. An example of a good setting is one where the setting is extremely precise, stones won’t loosen easily and hand-set.
Sometimes this is hard to tell until after some wear of the jewelry. It’s important to trust the people you are purchasing from so you know they are not compromising on workmanship quality to lower their costs.
What is your jeweler’s maintenance service? Warranty? Can you return the item? All are important questions to ask before you purchase.
7. Retail vs. Wholesale at the Los Angeles Jewelry District
Generally, don’t buy jewelry at a brick and mortar retailer unless you are buying something very specific which only that retailer sells.
If you have something in mind to get made, you’re not sure where to find a piece, or if you are looking to purchase a diamond, I’d love to help!
Dining in the Los Angeles Jewelry District
We worked up an appetite while visiting the stores. Luckily, we found Bottega Louie on our way to the car. The vibe of the restaurant is hip like restaurants in New York City, with high ceilings and a large open space. We had the most delicious lunch. There is also a dessert counter with all kinds of delectables. Each dessert is about $15, so pick a good one and savor it!
So now you know how to shop, park and eat at the jewelry district. But trust me, it’s easier to go through me unless you will enjoy going through the maze of the jewelry district! I hope this helps you find the piece you’ve been dreaming about!
If you enjoyed this post, see also my posts: I paid double what you’ll pay and A Los Angeles Jewelry District insider’s guide to choosing the perfect diamonds.
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