When you think of negotiation, how to wear or buy jewelry likely isn’t the first thing that jumps into your mind. Just like clothes, the jewelry we wear says a lot about us. For the amount of information conveyed by jewelry we spend remarkably little time talking about it. I recently invited Gina the Gemologist into the Persuasion Lab to talk about all things negotiation and jewelry. A professional gemologist and a seasoned jewelry professional, Gina is a wealth of thoughtful tips about how to wear jewelry to increase the odds of winning your negotiation, and, of course, how to buy jewelry that meets your needs. What follows are the takeaways from our conversation in The Persuasion Lab Podcast. Of course, you can also listen to the full episode here.

How to Dress for Success in Your Negotiation

Successful negotiation rests more on what’s not said than what is, due to the fact that 80% of communication is nonverbal. How you sit, stand, gesture… and how you’re dressed. Just like a suit sends a different message than sweatpants, so too does a diamond laden hand send a different message than a simple wedding band. Whether you register these signs consciously or not, taking in the nonverbals lets you know quite a bit about the person you’re talking to. With this in mind, Gina brought up a point I hadn’t considered as someone who doesn’t wear more than my wedding ring and watch — it’s important to be mindful of how much, and what type of jewelry you wear in a negotiation setting. I’m certainly not a fashion consultant, but I can tell you less is more when it comes to sharing information in a negotiation. Especially when money is involved. And money is pretty much always involved. Wearing lots of high end jewelry conveys a baseline of wealth you may or may not want the other side to know about. If you’re negotiating salary, asking for a raise, or engaging in other financial negotiations, leave your more ostentatious and/or expensive pieces at home for the day to prevent assumptions from hindering your success. The only time I would consider layering up on jewelry is if a key player (or key players) on the other side of the table are heavy into their bejeweled accessories. In this case, if you opt in for more is more, you can engage the rules of social proof. You’ll build commonality between your side and theirs. Of course, use your best judgement, and, if in doubt, less is more.

How to Buy Jewelry

Buying jewelry is a fantastic everyday negotiation example. Not unlike buying a car, high-ticket pieces of jewelry invite use of strategic negotiation tactics. A professional jewelry shopper, one of Gina’s signature services is helping folks shop for jewelry so they can get what they want at the price they want. Here are the jewelry shopping tips she shared with us so that you can do the same.
  1. Know before you go. Do some research beforehand so that you know what you’re looking for, the price range you’re in, and the best places to find what you want. Do some additional research on the shops you’re wanting to explore. Remember that ever store is different, and Costco is going to be a different experience from JCPenny, which will both be a very different experience from Edward Arthur or Tiffany’s.*
  2. Don’t let your research stop you from getting in there! Jewelry carries a lot of weight, literally, financially, and socially, so shopping for it makes many people uncomfortable. If you’re new to jewelry buying and are uncomfortable, say so! Gina recommends saying something like “It’s my first time shopping and I’d like your best service!” If the sales person doesn’t respond with clear information and enthusiasm for your experience, choose a different store.
  3. Know the source. Where is the jewelry coming from? Some folks care about the ethics of sourcing more than others, but be sure to ask, ask, ask if this is of concern for you. If a store cannot identify how their pieces are sourced either on the spot or with a bit of additional research, move on.
  4. Don’t fly blind! If you’re giving a gift to a spouse (or soon-to-be-spouse) and don’t know what they might like, ask! Better yet, get them in on the jewelry shopping experience. Plan a surprise date night of jewelry shopping so your beloved can enjoy the fun of trying everything on! You don’t need to buy it with them there, if you want to make a surprise, but you’ll know what to go back and get afterwards.
  5. Shop comparatively. Stores are different, sales teams are different, supplies are different. As you do your research ahead of time, consider what matters most to you. Cost? Trade-in or buy-up options? Ethical sourcing? Free jewelry cleaning over time? A salesperson who knows you by name? Once you know what matters most to you, shop comparatively for these things.
  6. Know that trade-ins or upgrades may be available. Depending on where you’re buying, there may be an ongoing option to ‘buy up.’ If you’re interested in this possibility, ask what’s available at that store, and the annual cost of an upgrade.
  7. Always have another store plan in mind, and share it with the salesperson. You’ll get a response from the salesperson that will tell you a lot about what kind of company it is. A response of “Oh, they’re awful” as opposed to “Awesome — they’re great, and you should absolutely check them out. Let me tell you how we’re different” speaks volumes.
  8. Ask for a discount!! When Gina was working in retail full time, she would will customers to ask for a discount. She couldn’t offer a discount unless someone asked for it. Use phrases like “Is this the best price?” or “Are there any discounts available? I love these but I need more information.
  9. Ask to work with someone else. Sometimes the first sales person to approach you isn’t the right fit. If so, ask for someone new! Gina offers this phrase to help: “To be honest, I don’t think we’re a good fit; I need to ask a lot of questions and it seems like this annoys you — is there someone else I can work with?
  10. If you’re spending more than $3,000, ask for an appraisal. Keep this appraisal with your homeowners or renters insurance, along with a photo of the piece(s).
  11. Ask to look at pieces under magnification. You might see something you’d otherwise have missed that can seal the sale, or keep you from buying a gemstone you’d later regret.
  12. Get clear, plain language warranty information. Every store is different, as are warranties. Ask for the long version in print, and then ask specific questions of your sales person. Ask “What’s the warranty for wear and tear vs a defect?” and something like “What’s it really like if a diamond falls out?” to get a clearer picture of what you might expect should something go wrong with your piece.
*NSR does not endorse any of these shops, but names them only as illustrative purposes.