Engagement ring advice – Diamond Diagnosis

A bit of diamond information

Christmas or Valentine’s Day may be approaching, and there is still plenty of engagement ring advice and how to get the best stone for the least outlay (i.e finding a cheap diamond) out there.  Sadly it’s not all good though.

Sophisticated elegant engagement ring in platinum with six claws regina engagement ringLooking for some engagement ring advice?  Lots out there.  There are some really informative articles, some very funny articles, and some articles where I wonder what ring the author finally wound up with.. If I sum up engagement ring advice, the main thread to most of these articles is as follows;

1. Shop around (always sensible – an engagement ring can be a big outlay)
2. Barter (well, worth a try I guess – if someone is willing to knock the price down a few hundred pounds what is the ring worth?)
3. Buy online for best value (More on this later).

I probably buy most of my technology and the majority of my music online.  So it would be stupid to say I hate shopping there as the convenience is great.  I can do my shopping on the way home and have it delivered at a time of my choosing.  BUT: I don’t exactly enjoy the experience. It can take as long as heading out to the shops when going through price comparison websites, reviews and galleries. Everyone is allowed an opinion, so you have to sift to those worth listening to (the irony of saying that and you reading this blog is not lost on me..)

The upside of all this research?  I saved about £125 on a new mobile phone handset – that has to be good, right? Yes, if you don’t value your own time. But, say that I allot it a value of £25 an hour. Four hours on and off, it cost me about £100 to find the phone and took two weeks. If I’d wanted, I could have bought a handset there and then, gone off, seen friends, got some more work out of the way – you get the general idea. At Christmas time I was so stressed at the thought of this, and also parcels not showing up that I went off locally and bought everything in three hours. It was fantastic. I may have saved if I’d shopped online, but the gifts weren’t things I’ve had easily found searching. For my time available, peace of mind and the fact I could then got on with everything else which makes up the nightmare of Christmas I was chuffed.

Can you tell the difference between a cheap diamond and a more expensive one

While you hope for the one on the right, you may get the one on the left..

So, getting back to jewellery – shopping for it online is not dissimilar to buying anything else. You can do well, you can do badly and you can loose hours, days, weeks and months of your life. And if I go back to point 3 – the cheapest prices are often found online. This does not translate into the best value, it just means you have bought a cheap diamond.

Lets consider the myriad of sites out there offering certified diamonds at prices that at first glance look unbelievable. Until you look a little closer, and realise that the photograph of the piece is not actually showing the size of the diamond quoted. And the metal is white gold rather than platinum. And the diamond.. Well. The thing with certified diamonds, is the certificate is a small part of the story. For a start there are a lot of companies offering diamond certificates, and they have varying pass marks for stones. So a Gvs2 from one certifier may well be marked down to a Isi1 from another (sorry – check out the diamond guide here if you aren’t clear what I mean by all these terminologies).  And even the best cuts can have their off days as the following story shows..

The Eyes Always Have It

“Look at these” says Sunjay, my diamantaire. Two round diamonds, glitter in the tray in front of me.

two diamonds with same certificate and different appearance

I always feel a bit nervous when Sunjay and his brother Mukesh test me on diamond quality. They have a total advantage having grown up with them. The family business have over 120 years of diamond experience and Sunjay can pretty much tell a good stone from a bad one at a glance. From the other side of the room.. While he’s asleep. It feels like I am being tested by Master Yoda. If Sunjay and his brother Mukesh pass a stone as OK that may be ‘A’ on a lot of sites. They are very exacting. (Clearly this is why I love them, they are damn amazing at what they do)

I know that one of the stones I’m looking at is slightly larger than the other one. I also know that is an obvious difference – too easy for this exercise. The aesthetics of the cut are good. I move on to the details. There is something different about the colour of the slightly smaller stone. I wander over to the window with it and decide it has a purple/brown tinge to it. I tell Sunjay, who nods and passes me the certificates so I can see for myself that they..

..are identical. Both GIA certified diamonds, both ‘si’ and both ‘G’ colour. Even though they aren’t the same colour. Does that matter? It depends. One is not the colour it is certified as. As they are being sold on certificate, both will be around the same price. But only one is actually worth the price charged for it. Many of ‘those sites’ boasting access to hundreds of thousands of certified diamonds are selling you a stone based on somebody else having seen and certified it rather than them in person. The brown tinged stone would not make it in front of one of my customers – it wouldn’t get through Sunjay and Mukesh (who sent it back).

Brand Promises

Now you save money on these sites at face value, because you are not paying for somebody’s time to double check this for you. And you can still pick up a good quality stone that sparkles etc. However, what you are not assured of is having a stone that is going to hold its value both in certificate and financially. And this is because the stone transaction is based on the certificate only. You could almost say ‘sold as unseen’. You will pay a premium for a Tiffany diamond as they invest heavily in their marketing, but they also invest heavily in their brand promise and a Tiffany diamond holds its value. Will this be better than Blue Nile? I’d say yes – because Tiffany assess their diamonds pre and post certification.  But maybe not as much.

How do the online guys measure up against Ernest Jones or F Hinds?  A lot more favourably as here again, diamonds are sourced to hit price points, so an online retailer can be more flexible with the stone offering.  And like I said, you can still get a good stone online.  It is exceptional ones that are harder to find.  An online retailer will still approach a stone supplier if they have a commission where the stone client is more exacting.  Suffice to say, these are not the cheap internet diamonds they are advertising, clients pay more..

What about overseas?

It doesn’t matter whether you’ve gone online, or to Mauritius or South Africa etc you are still going to receive market value because the diamonds are being sold in dollars and if they were are really good the stone dealer will charge accordingly.   And in addition to this, workmanship makes the difference as well as a good stone setter.  A ring made in the UK will have a higher premium to one sourced overseas – we can actually feel proud of the quality of UK jewellery production, we are pretty good.

I was at an event a few weeks ago where a lovely gentleman was proudly telling me about the 1 carat diamond ring he’d had made for his wife, which cost him less than £2,000. Had he got a bargain ring worth thousands more? I racked my brains what to say. The answer was going to be No. I didn’t need to see the ring to know that at that price, for that size, the diamond was going to be a bit of a dud. Even if it had been made for him for no charge at all. Or it was stolen. I asked if his wife was happy. She was delighted. “Then you’ve got a great ring – all that matters is that she’s happy”.

That has to be the good news for the online shopper, so long as she loves it, what does it matter about the specifics of the stone? A diamond ring is a gift of love after all.  Just like my much favoured car analogies – some people just want a sparkly ring and some people want something to get them from A-B and a Kia is perfect and looks pretty good too. For others, they are looking for something that has more going on in all respects, a higher specification jewellery item/Audi, Mercedes or for some – the Maserati. But there is a reason why a Kia is far more affordable than any of the latter options, and it is the same with the diamond. There are over 16,000 different classifications a stone can have, and it takes more than one expert to gauge these.


Becoming an Expert

One chap spent so much time searching out his engagement ring, he wrote a book on his experiences to help ensure other men didn’t have to go to all the trouble he went to. Now, this guy spent over 6 months travelling the world, looking for the best deals. He ended up buying his stone from Blue Nile which he recommends. The question I would ask is, for all those air tickets, and hotels, and hours of research and lost earnings – wouldn’t it just have been quicker to have gone to Bond Street? He wrote the book because he’s still trying to recoup the costs of his adventure!  Plus, he could have purchased a Cartier ring, which like the Mercedes (but sadly unlike Blue Nile) will hold its overall value far better and be a more significant heirloom.

prince harry engagement ring cushion diamond

Hate to tell ya, but Harry didn’t go online.. (Image courtesy of Daily Express)

So by all means shop online for your jewellery. You can still find the ideal diamond.  If you are motivated by the best quality – go to a flesh and blood expert. If you buy a cheap ring don’t celebrate any less because that is not the reason behind the gift of a diamond ring. But don’t expect it to suddenly become more valuable in the real world. Particularly in the world of jewellery, value is determined by materials, quality and availability and how much there is of each.  Likewise, to finish I’d say – don’t be depressed if you paid for a ring that you’ve seen cheaper online.  Not all stones are created equal and there may be a reason why your ring is more valuable..  It could be an Heirloom!

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