jewelry on a cruise - zultanite diaspore
jewelry on a cruise - zultanite diaspore

Should You Buy Jewelry on a Cruise?


Are the offers you'll find for jewelry on a cruise ship too good to be true? Learn to look beyond the sales pitch and do your research.

4 Minute Read

Question:Is it a good idea to buy jewelry on a cruise? Buying tax-free jewelry at a discount price sure sounds appealing. Should I take advantage of this opportunity?
jewelry on a cruise
Photo © Lisa Rosen

Answer: No, you should not buy jewelry on a cruise ship. Despite what the cruise ship and port jewelers tell you, there are no deals. In this article, we'll explain why the chips are stacked against you when buying jewelry on a cruise.

Back to Normal?

As the world returns to normal after the pandemic, travelers are boarding cruise ships again. As we navigate health regulations and travel restrictions, experts say it's also important for cruise-goers to remember to be smart when it comes to onboard purchases, especially when it comes to fine jewelry. 

Cruise ships are notorious for high prices for everything on board — from top-shelf liquor to spa treatments. As International Gem Society CEO Lisa Rosen says, jewelry is no exception. 

"This summer, I went on a cruise to Alaska and was astonished at how much they were pushing the jewelry," Rosen said frankly. "And the thing is: there are no deals, even though they're making you think you're getting a great price."

A Captive Audience

Rosen told us she knows what to look for, but the average customer won't. Even seasoned jewelry collectors can get swayed into thinking there's a deal they can't miss.

The cruise ships know they have a captive audience, and the ports are even worse. When you get off the ship, the street is lined with jewelry stores offering you big discounts and gifts with purchases. The problem is that their original markups are enormous, so you'll still pay far above retail for what is likely an average stone, even with a discount.

On cruises, you'll find all kinds of gemstone jewelry for sale, from pieces featuring traditional favorites like diamonds to rising stars like tanzanites and paraíba tourmalines. Rosen says salespeople often try to tout good prices (even though they're the only option on board), no taxes, and even onboard credit as great incentives to buy. However, these incentives don't amount to much.

Deal of the Day?

Rosen provides an example of this. A "Manager's Deal of the Day" on her cruise ship offered a 2.38-ct Zultanite rose gold pendant for $2,484.

First, does the average person know what Zultanite is? No, they don't. It's a trade name for diaspore. While top-quality diaspore is rare, the stones in the pendant were average. The stones might cost about $200. Most of the value in this necklace was in the gold, so you can see the premium you're paying on the cruise ship.

Rosen adds another note of caution: your cruise ship jewelry purchase is not an investment. "I know someone who bought jewelry on a cruise ship and was shocked that she was only offered 10% of her original purchase price when she tried to re-sell it even though her appraisal reflected the retail price." The problem, Rosen recounts, is that the prospective jewelry purchaser was only willing to pay the value of the gold when melted.

While Rosen doesn't recommend buying jewelry on a cruise ship under any circumstances, she advises that you can use your shopping trip as a research expedition. "See what you like, then go home and do your research," Rosen said. "The more you know, the better your understanding of what's a good deal and what's not."

Top Tips for Buying Jewelry on a Cruise Ship

While you're on vacation, it's natural to indulge. But, making an unplanned, high-value jewelry purchase is different than splurging on dinner or a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Rosen advises against buying jewelry on a cruise ship. You can make a costly mistake. But if you do want to shop on board, there are some tips you can use to guide your purchase.

1. Research the gemstones before you purchase

While you're on board, consult our IGS Gem Price Guide. It's a quick way to determine how much the gemstones may actually be worth.

2. Your purchase is not an investment

Go into the purchase knowing you're paying a premium because, as a cruise ship passenger, the onboard jewelers and port jewelry stores know you're a captive audience. No matter what a salesperson tells you, you won't be able to sell the piece for more than what you paid — or break even.

3. The appraisal value will be higher than the resale value

The value reflected in the appraisal will likely differ from the price you'll get if you want to resell the jewelry piece later. Unless you have a rare and exceptional stone, most jewelers will only offer you the melt value of the metal in the piece. 

4. Take pictures of the pieces you like, then do some online research at home

Browsing is fun, and impulse purchases are so tempting. Instead of giving in, take pictures of what you like and leave the store. You might change your mind later. If you still want the piece, you can just look for it online when you get home.


Cate Misczuk

Cate Misczuk is a jewelry and watch writer who covers everything from the latest jewelry trends and the heritage of watchmaking to 24k gold, gems, sustainability, unisex timepieces and more. Get in touch at catemisczuk.com.

Never Stop Learning

When you join the IGS community, you get trusted diamond & gemstone information when you need it.

Become a Member

Get Gemology Insights

Get started with the International Gem Society’s free guide to gemstone identification. Join our weekly newsletter & get a free copy of the Gem ID Checklist!