diamonds and watches - to buy or not to buy? and where?
I'm hoping some of you savvy travellers can give me some advice.....
I am contemplating the purchase of some jewelry items:
diamond earrings, right-hand diamond ring, and a high-end ladies watch.
I am relatively educated about diamond buying, and I intend to make a trip to the local top diamond store and look and price there so I have the best possible basis for comparison.
I did pretty well on a small purchase last year in Cozumel - I paid $300US for a tanzanite and australian opal ring and matching earrings and had them appraised when I got home at $2500 Cdn.
The diamond ring, earrings and watch will be much larger purchases, so I want to do my homework. I may not buy all three this trip, but I will perhaps whichever one I find a good deal on.
Is St. Maarten a good place to shop for jewelry (I've heard it is)?
Are there other Caribbean ports you would recommend for jewelry?
Would it be wise to use a credit card, or pay cash?
Do you get a better deal if paying cash? (I don't know if I want to carry that much cash).
Are there any particular stores you would recommend or avoid?
Would you buy a watch but not diamonds, or diamonds but not watches in Caribbean?
Any other advice?
I know, too many questions. But I appreciate any answers you may have and thanks in advance.
New Year's 2007 MSC Lirica
New Year's 2006 MSC Lirica
New Year's 2005 Carnival Spirit
The Caribbean is not near as good a deal for shopping as it was several years ago. Way too many ships visiting for the shop owners to be particularly hungry. Many of the islands have also become dominated by the larger chains buying out the smaller locations.
(You can see 7 Diamonds International in a 6 block stretch)
On the other hand the selection is very good with so many shops. Just KNOW your prices, and you MAY be able to do OK... but be prepared to walk away if they don't meet your price.
I would also be a tad wary of buying high end gems unless you can tell a real one from a fake. There are some man-made stones now that are almost impossible to tell unless they are tested. Even a loupe isn't adequate to test them. I would talk to someone who works on the ship about the policy regarding bogus gems. I think that the "recommended shops", which are always pricier than the others will allow you to return one through the cruise line if you find out it is not what you thought.
In regard to truly high end watches my experience has been with : Rolex, Patek Phillippe, Baume Mercier, Cartier and others, the main savings will be in tax. You will have to buy them from a duty free store but remember you STILL have to declare it or them. If you have to declare it and it wasn't purchased then it depends on the price of the watch and the duty that would be paid. This may negate any tax savings.
The actual pricing is not going to be that great because most of the pricing is controlled by the manufacturer and if you see a too good to be true price you better think twice, especially if it is not a large store such a DI or Kirk's.
One advantage is that you may find models that are not common in the U.S. or you may find discontinued models.
Don't try to wear it through customs unless it's declared and you have the paperwork. A new, high end watch, can be easily spotted. Been there done, that and I now wear the old one when getting off the ship.
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Mike's advice on buying a high end watch and dealing with customs is very good. I would add a couple of points.
First, know what you are buying, especially if you are looking for a Rolex watch. There are some very good Rolex knockoffs out there that can be purchased for about 10% of the cost of a genuine one. They are tough to spot and I know one person who got burned in Nassau.
Second, know what you can buy the same watch for in the US and consider the warranty. There are advantages to buying a high end watch at home. Unless the savings are significant, you should consider buying from a local dealer for service and valid warranty. A lot of Swiss watches will not come with a US warranty if purchased outside of the US. You will not be able to get warranty service in the US without a US warranty.
Third, and some may dispute this one. I would never make a major purchase like this with cash. Always use a credit card. If there is a problem with the item, its good to have the credit card company on your side. American Express is particulary good at merchant compliance. Plus, if your outside the US, you will get the correct currency exchange rate, not whatever the merchant wants to give you.
Fourth, if you already have a high end watch, consider leaving it home when traveling outside the country. I have been hassled more than once by customs while wearing a nice watch back into the country. Even though I already owned it. You can declare it with customs before leaving, but thats more hassle than just leaving it at home and wearing a Seiko.
Personally, I have found St. Thomas, USVI to be an excellent place to purchase high end watches. The savings can be significant and you get a US warranty. I have actually saved enough on a watch purchase to fully fund the long weekend in paridise for my wife and I.
Watches is one of my favourite accessory. I think more than diamonds watches are important for me. I love to purchase branded and fashionable watches. I have lots of great watches which I purchased from online store which is the best option for shopping.