all of you are talking about the big stores. But we prefer the smaller stores. They have better prices and are much more friendlier, if you only want to take a look around.
In St. Maarten I can recommend Caribbean Gems. We got prices for a diamond pendant and a matching omega bracelet, on side in white, one side in yellow gold for really unbelievebal prices. We also get a Rado for my husband for an excellent price.
Because most of the passengers of the cruise ships go to the recommended stores, they dont have to give you better prices. But in the smaller stores, they need to do it.
So try some smaller stores, not only in St. Maarten, also in St. Thomas, Key West, Cozumel.
Don't forget that, if you buy loose gemstones, they are viewed as "rocks", and, therefore, not subject to customs (US) or tax.
I will rarely buy "jewelry" unless it's token, or souvenir, quality. If I want to get a deal, I'll put my $$$ into a cut stone. It will appraise for much more (my experience has been with loose emeralds in the Carib.) back home, and you'll not pay taxes. Double savings, better stone. Have a local jeweler set it for you when you get back, and you get to pick the setting yourself!
Shoppers can get very good deals in the Caribbean, especially if they shop at some of the family owned stores. Summer time is perhaps the BEST time to get screaming deals. There arent quite as many people visitng the Caribbean ports, the sales staff will have more time to work with you a bit and sales are a bit slower, they are more willing to go lower on the price.
Hot items this year are Diamonds (2 carats and above) pink sapphires, Tanzanite in the larger sizes and Alexandrite. These items will not be had at a bargain price. Diamonds of just below a carat (the one carat mark is where the price jumps dramatically) of lower color and lower clarity can be had at very low prices.
Interesting site. I checked it out briefly. I intened to go back to it when I have more time. I maintain when a person is going to spend big money on Gems anywhere you really have to know what you are buying, and be prepared to live with what you purchase. It is very difficult to recommend jewllry stores unless you know exactly what a person wants. I hope we don't turn this board into a "shopping channel"!