Photo via Google images
“YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DID!” LC screams as MTV makes her accidently run into new nemesis, once best friend, Heidi in an infamous scene of The Hills. If you’re a millennial, you know exactly where you were when that episode aired and you may have even had a “Team LC” t-shirt on. Nearly ten years later, Lauren Conrad has built a mini-empire with her sense of fashion and likeability. She has plugged into the large fanbase created from the show, a show often critiqued for how fake, construed, and far from reality it was.
Meanwhile, I’m over here screaming that same phrase as I look over Lauren’s newly launched jewelry line and see the astronomical prices for the products with her celebrity name on them. Again, something happening here is far from reality.
I haven’t kept up with Lauren or her work for many years, but was surprised to read this morning about her new fine jewelry line launch on Who What Wear. Simple designs–some may call them “classic,” others may say they are undeniably basic. The rings are done in 10k rose and white gold, the lowest karat gold alloy out there to still be considered “fine” jewelry. The gemstones are a mix of commercial grade diamond melee, ranging in full cuts and single cuts, and gemstones like morganite, green quartz and blue topaz.
The descriptions from the Kohl’s website, where you can purchase the jewelry from, give all the details (which I for one am thankful for the full disclosure on the goods, including diamond grades and sizes) however most of these details for the average shopper are just as well off in another language. Clarity, color and diamond weight are descriptors that your average shopper might not be able to connect with or translate.
As an experienced jewelry appraiser with more than nine years in the business, what I saw had alarmed me, and I felt I needed to educate the masses who may not be familiar with evaluating jewelry and putting a monetary value on a piece like this. I’m also 99% sure Lauren herself doesn’t know how to appraise jewelry, let alone design it and price it–so I know it is not her personally that is responsible for these overpriced items. I believe it is my responsibility, as a member of the press, to educate and express my concern when I see something I don’t understand or feel is ridiculous. I am simply an advocate to the blind consumer, who hopefully won’t be so blind after reading this!
I’d like to take a few pieces from the LC Lauren Conrad jewelry line and break them down, in appraiser’s terms, and let you know what retail replacement value I would give these rings if they were brought to me for an appraisal.
First up, this single solitaire ring from the LC Lauren Conrad Collection. Website says it is 10k rose gold and I can see it is clearly stamped that as well. As I alluded to above, 10k gold is the lowest karat grade to be considered fine jewelry, at least in the United States. A quick gold lesson–24k gold is pure gold, it comes out of the ground this way. It is too soft in this form, so the gold is alloyed or combined with other metals to make it more durable and affordable for jewelry wear. 10k gold means that 41.6% of that ring is actual gold, the 58.4% is other metals. Keyword here is affordable; most 10k gold rings are found in stores like WalMart or department stores and pricing should be as such. Not $1,200. That’s insane. If you put this ring on a scale and weighed it for gold weight, a scrap gold value would be most likely around $30-60. That is the offer you would be getting from a jewelry store or pawn shop that buys unwanted jewelry from the public–they wouldn’t even consider the stones because of how low quality they are (they might pop out the morganite and give it back to you).
My retail replacement value: $295, compared to $1,200
Next up, the 1/8th of a carat diamond band done in 10k white gold. Here, let’s focus on the diamonds in this ring–first and foremost the carat weight. One eighth. That’s not a lot. Do you know how tiny the diamonds need to be to ADD UP to an even tinier number of 1/8th?! So tiny! That’s roughly 0.13 carats between, looks like 14 diamonds. The photo of the ring is blown up to show detail, so please please don’t pay $800 for a ring like this with hardly any diamond weight, let alone high quality diamond weight. Just as the other rings within the collection show, the clarity is I-1/I-2 meaning its at the bottom of the scale–eye-visible inclusions abound. We’re talking commercial grade, on-the-brink industrial grade, diamonds.
My retail replacement value: $250, compared to $800
Lastly, this solitaire morganite ring done in 10k rose gold. It’s cute; people are going to love it because the blush color of the stone, paired with the blush color of the rose gold–two very fashionable things happening right now. But the price tag kills me–$2,000! Morganite is a gemstone in the beryl family, the same family of gems as a more well-known stone, emerald. Still, Morganite does not compare to emerald in rarity and price. The price per carat varies widely on Morganite, but on average anywhere from $70-200 is a good estimate. This particular ring features a 1.87 carat stone.
My retail replacement value: $375, compared to $2,000
I understand these prices are set with a huge premium as a celebrity is endorsing them, the profit needs to be split and divided multiple times amongst several different channels–I GET THAT. But, hopefully after reading this you will understand that these pieces have a value that doesn’t match up to the retail price given. It is high-end prices with low-end products. Heck, there’s even a “Buy one, get one half off” sale going on–so if that doesn’t concern you, then you must just be shopping for the name brand.