Looking to buy some jewelry? Consider these pointers from Consumer Reports before buying. • Know your karats. The price of gold varies...

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NEW YORK — Looking to buy some jewelry? Consider these pointers from Consumer Reports before buying.

• Know your karats. The price of gold varies with karat number (a unit of fineness), weight, design, finishing (by hand vs. machine) and country of origin. Pure gold, 24 karat, is too soft to be molded into jewelry, so it’s mixed with other metals. Changes in gold’s color result from the metal mix-in. Anything less than 10 karat, about 42 percent gold, can’t legally be sold as gold. “Fill,” “overlay” or “electroplate” indicates a thin gold coating.

• Buy from a certified gemologist belonging to a group such as the GIA, Jewelers of America or American Gem Society. Also ask friends for names of jewelers they trust. Make sure the dealer allows plenty of time to return jewelry for a refund.

• You might save online, where markup is low, but you won’t see the jewelry firsthand. Gem and mounting might be sold a la carte, and sizing could cost extra.

• Don’t buy promises of huge discounts. “Ninety-five percent of the discounts I see are fictitious,” says jeweler David Nytch, a certified gemologist appraiser with retail experience, “because pieces are vastly overpriced to begin with.”

• Consider the source. Under a voluntary international system, the diamond industry has agreed to keep a paper trail as diamonds move from mine to store. The system isn’t perfect, but it can help buyers avoid “blood diamonds” that have financed conflicts in Africa.

Ask to see a written guarantee on the invoice that comes with every stone. There’s also an international effort to ensure that gold-mining operations respect human rights and the environment. Go to www.nodirtygold.org. for retailers that back the campaign.

• Pay with a major credit card. It might give you recourse if problems arise.

• If you’ve bought expensive jewelry, have it valued by an appraiser certified by the American Society of Appraisers (Go to www.appraisers.org or call 800-272-8258).

• If you suspect you’ve been taken, contact the Jewelers Vigilance Committee (www.jvclegal.org). For $75, its dispute-resolution service will mediate.