Buying guides

Jewellery buying guide



Our jewellery range is split into fine, fashion and vintage styles.

Our fine jewellery is made from precious metals, such as silver, gold and platinum and precious stones such as diamond, rubies and sapphires. Some items maybe handmade or hand-finished.

Our fashion jewellery, or costume jewellery, uses a range of mixed materials such as resin beads, wood, glass, simulated pearls and metal alloys, inspired by the latest trends.

Our vintage jewellery selection comprises beautiful, unusual and generally limited production pieces that improve as time goes by. Our suppliers stock us with a wide range of designers from different eras, including Christian Dior, Ciro, Elizabeth Taylor, Monet, Nina Ricci, Trifari and Vendome.


Sterling silver

Silver is the most common of the precious metals.

  • It’s popular

  • It’s not as expensive as gold, although stronger and lighter in weight

  • It can tarnish as well as scratch or bend easily

  • Sterling silver consists of 92.5% silver and 7.5% base metal for strength

Sterling Silver


All our fine solid gold jewellery comes in 9, 14, 18 or 24 carats.

  • Gold-filled jewellery has a layer of gold pressure bonded to the underlying metal and is a quality alternative to solid gold

  • Gold-plated jewellery has a layer of gold covering silver or another base metal. 14, 18, or 22 carat gold over sterling silver is called vermeil; to be considered vermeil, the gold must be at least 10 carats and 2.5 micrometres thick

gold jewellery


Platinum is a premium precious metal known for its strength

  • It’s very durable

  • It has a white-silver colour, making it an ideal mount for diamonds

  • This is a popular metal for engagement and wedding rings and has become increasingly fashionable in recent years

platinum jewellery

Nickel content

If you’re allergic to nickel, you may may experience skin rashes or irritation if the metal is in contact with the skin.

As jewellery is made from a mixture of metals, products might not be entirely nickel free, especially vintage jewellery, which was produced prior to the introduction of the 2002 law prohibiting the use of nickel or nickel compounds. In order to conform to the 'nickel safe' standard, manufacturers ensure that the nickel content is kept to a low level. All jewellery now produced is deemed nickel safe.


If you react strongly to nickel, it’s best to buy gold of a high carat

Diamond jewellery at John Lewis


Gemstones are crystallised minerals, formed millions of years ago. The most popular precious stones are diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires.

These gems are normally set in yellow gold, platinum, white gold or rose gold.


Diamonds are among the most sought-after precious stones. The quality of a diamond is determined by the '4Cs':


  • The size of a diamond is measured in carats. One carat is divided into 100 points ie. 50 points weighs 0.50ct (1/2ct)
  • The name 'carat' comes from the carob tree. Carob seeds were once used as units of weight because of their uniform size. The weight of an average carob seed is 200mg, equal to one carat


  • Diamonds are found in all colours
  • The grading scale ranges from colourless to light yellow. The difference from one grade to another is very subtle


  • Perfect clarity in a diamond means that it's free from all surface blemishes and internal inclusions. Most diamonds will have minute imperfections
  • Dark inclusions in diamonds are tiny minerals that have grown as the diamond has formed, not carbon traces as commonly believed
  • If the diamond's clarity and brilliance is affected, the light transmission may be reduced and the value will decrease
  • Polished diamonds without any inclusions under a 10x lens are considered as flawless or loupe clean. These are rare and very costly
  • Inclusions only visible with larger magnification are not taken into account for grading


  • The cut is a style or design guide used to shape a diamond for polishing
  • The type and shape of the cut, proportions and symmetry as well as the outer marks are all taken into consideration when valuing
  • The most popular cut is brilliant, which has 58 facets
  • A well-cut diamond will produce more sparkle and light will be reflected from one facet to another, dispersing through the top of the stone


There are two types of pearls used in jewellery: natural and cultured.

Natural pearls are formed naturally, without any human intervention and are very rare and expensive.

Cultured pearls are cultivated on oyster farms. To create them, a tiny bead is implanted into the oyster. Gradually, the oyster coats the bead in many layers of natural minerals and proteins known as nacre. It is the nacre that gives pearls their beautiful lustre and colour.


  • Round: the rarest and most valuable
  • Button: slightly flattened
  • Drop: referred to as tear drops, ideal for pendants
  • Baroque: unique and interesting shapes

The larger the pearl, the more valuable it is. The most valuable pearls are South Sea and Akoya – black Tahitian pearls. Cultured pearls grown in rivers are called freshwater pearls. They vary in colour and shape and are less expensive than saltwater pearls.


  • Lustre is the primary characteristic by which pearls are judged when shape, colour and symmetry are equal
  • Saltwater pearls are grown within pearl oysters in oceans. Today, saltwater pearl oysters are cultivated in protected lagoons and volcanic atolls.
  • The unique lustre of pearls depends on the reflection, refraction and diffraction of light from the translucent layers. The thinner and more numerous the layers in the pearl, the finer the lustre

Freshwater & saltwater

Saltwater pearls are grown within pearl oysters in oceans. Today, saltwater pearl oysters are cultivated in protected lagoons and volcanic atolls.

Natural freshwater pearls are formed within various species of freshwater mussels living in lakes, rivers, ponds and other freshwater sources.

Although freshwater and saltwater pearls look quite similar, pearls from the sea are more highly valued than freshwater pearls.


Pearls should be worn as often as possible, as the natural oils in the body keep them shiny and lustrous.

Pearl jewellery at John Lewis


For an alternative to more pricey precious jewels, semi-precious gemstones are a great choice. Stones like amethyst, citrine, garnet, topaz, quartz, amber, chalcedony, lapiz lazuli, aquamarine, peridot, and agate come in a profusion of kaleidoscope colours and patterns.


Vintage jewellery often makes use of metals and materials that might appear unfamiliar to us. The emergence of costume jewellery encouraged alternative metals in big, bold and bright designs.

Gold, silver and chrome-plated metals

Some key vintage materials include gold, silver and chrome-plated metals – offering the luxurious look of precious metals without the extra cost. Chrome plating produces a brilliant look when polished up.

Gold plated bracelet

Resin, thermoplastic and lucite

Man-made plastics were very popular, as they were light to wear and could be produced in any colour desired. The novelty of these materials at the time gave them an extra allure.

Resin Riverstone Necklace

Swarovski crystals and cut glass

Much of the spectacular sparkle in vintage jewellery comes from these materials. A rainbow of colours was produced, including the distinctive Aurora Borealis style. Swarovski crystals were coated with a shimmering finish that gave the material an eye-catching multi-coloured sheen when in motion.

Swarovski crystal bracelet

Faux pearls

More widely used in our vintage range than natural pearls, faux pearls are easier to care for and more affordable.

Multi-row faux pearl bracelet


Made by firing powdered glass until it melts, enamel is applied to jewellery and then left to cool to form an unmistakeable, durable decoration.

 Enamel hinged bangle

Ring Sizing Guide

Ring sizes are expressed by letters of the alphabet. To find the right size for you, check our Ring Sizing Guide for the perfect fit.


A jewellery hallmark comprises three compulsory marks: a sponsor's mark, a fineness mark and an Assay Office mark. This Hallmarking Dealer's Notice explains the approved hallmarks.


Free Standard Delivery

If you spend £50 or more on jewellery, we offer free Standard delivery to your home.

Click & Collect

If you have a special occasion coming up and you’d prefer to pick up your jewellery in store, use Click & collect from John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners. It’s free on orders of £30 and over.


Caring for your jewellery

Semi-precious stones

  • Wipe with a moist cloth after each wear
  • Protect them from exposure to hairspray, perfume or cosmetics as certain chemicals can damage semi-precious stones over time
  • Store them in separate fabric pouches or wrap them in pieces of soft fabric to prevent scratching


  • Wearing pearls keeps them lustrous and iridescent as the natural oils from your skin will give them shine and keep them protected
  •  Put pearls on last when getting ready and make them the first thing you take off when back home. Keep them away from household chemicals including perfume, makeup and hairspray as they can dull the lustre
  • Store pearls in soft fabric bags separately from other jewellery to avoid scratching their tender surfaces

Sterling silver, gold and diamonds

  • Avoid contact with makeup, particularly moisturisers and cream. If you’re going to moisturise your hands, do so after applying the jewellery

  • Avoid immersion in water, when washing up, showering or venturing out in heavy rain

  • Be careful not to knock your jewellery against hard surfaces. The stones used in jewellery are durable, but can be shattered with a well-placed blow

  • To add sparkle back to gold and diamond jewellery, try our special jewellery cleaner that's suitable for gold, platinum, diamonds and most other precious stones

  • When cleaning silver, protect your hands with waterproof gloves or silver polishing mitts

  • Use a silver dip or a silver polish to clean tarnished silver, always following the manufacturer's instructions. You can also use a silver cloth or a sunshine cloth


There are many homemade recipes that can be used to clean silver,
but it’s always wise to test the method on the back of a piece of jewellery