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My Diamond Adventure

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optimized

Shiny_Rock
Joined
Dec 28, 2002
Messages
306
Hello everybody!

First of all, I must express my gratitude to the folks here. I've been lurking on these boards for quite a while now and have learned so much from all of you! THANK YOU for being here for the laypersons who hadn't a clue where to start when wanting to learn about diamonds! This place ROCKS (so to speak)!

So, I have a story to share. Since I've spent so much time here enjoying the boards, I think I'll try to return the favor by recounting the story of the engagement ring I bought for my fiancé (she said YES!), trying to entertain along the way. I'll warn you all now that I just loooove to hear myself type, so this may get long, but I hope it's interesting enough for some of you to read and enjoy. And away we go...

I have been dating my fiancé for more than eight years now, and she is the most important person in my life (as is to be hoped in a situation like this). She laughs at my jokes, makes me laugh when I feel sad, takes care of my body when I'm sick and takes care of my soul when I'm blue. She is my love, my meaning, and my purpose. And, she has patiently waited for me to finally realize that she's "The One."

Being so precious to me, when I decided to propose to her I quickly realized that I wanted to get her a diamond that was nearly as precious as she is (knowing that no object could be her equal). But, I don't make huge sums of money, so I had to do as much as I could to get a diamond worthy of her, while doing so without driving me into bankruptcy. Being a purchase for the one person I cared so much for, I considered this to be one of the most important buying decisions I've ever made. I didn't want to take any chances, and I put a phenomenal amount of thought and research into it. Because it was for her, I determined that I would get as clean a stone as I could possibly afford, basically ignoring much of the "you'll never notice the difference between a D and a H color," types of advice that I heard over and over again. I wanted the best I could get.

This new attitude of mine was quite a change from my past. For years prior to this, I had always thought that I'd be pretty hesitant to spend a lot of money on a diamond, being the type of person who really dislikes falling victim to aggressive marketing. I've known for a long time that the current practice of giving big shiny diamond engagement rings was heavily promoted and marketed by the industry (DeBeers and others), and didn't see any real reason to spend a lot of money just to enrich the coffers of monopolists (I realize this is an oversimplification, but you get the point). But, as I mentioned in the previous paragraphs, when I decided that my fiancé was the one for me, my thinking changed.

To that end, I had been researching this purchase (off and on) for close to a year before finally heading into the endgame. Being a strong proponent of learning (and enjoying enriching my own knowledge at almost any available opportunity), I had been to countless websites and read numerous articles and tutorials on diamond values and characteristics. I absorbed as much information as I could, finding that I enjoyed the exercise very much. In fact, the world of gemology has actually caused me to consider pursuing a career in the field, already having a strong background in retail and customer service (I currently run a hardware store). Indeed, my attitudes about the diamond industry have changed quite a bit!

During my research, it became apparent to me that it was going to be extremely difficult to use knowledge gleaned from reading to find a truly brilliant stone. Granted, easily quantifiable properties such as color, clarity and carat weight were no problem with the ready availability of GIA and AGS reports, but the more elusive factors like the practical effects of cut on the performance of the stone caused me much consternation. Various sources indicated that, despite Tolkowsky’s much-revered cut standards, the brilliance, fire and scintillation of a diamond could not be easily predicted using percentages alone. Many other factors played a part, and I became unsure of my abilities as a layman to make a solid choice without some more experience (or help from other sources). This uncertainty was strengthened by my cynical tendency to believe that virtually any diamond can be made to look good in a jewelry shop where there is, by definition and without judgment, a vested interest in selling diamonds (and lots of bright halogen lighting to illuminate the stock).

This uncertainty caused me to seek out some sort of objective and quantifiable information that wasn't included in the standard GIA reports. My research led me to some of the less common tools, such as the Firescope/IdealScope, BrillianceScope, Megascope/Sarin reports, and the Holloway Cut Advisor. I recognized the rather "gimmicky" nature of some of these tools, but they also definitely seemed to have their strengths in real-world diamond shopping. These tools, used in conjunction with GIA reports, removed much of the doubt I had in my own ability to choose a fine diamond, as they removed much of the subjectivity. I became more and more comfortable with the idea of using these tools to minimize the impact of my own inexperience in choosing a diamond.

Despite this growing reliance on these tools, I decided it was certainly in my interest to visit shops and see if I could convince myself to purchase a stone locally. I dearly wanted to patronize a local store for this purchase since I am a firm believer in small business and have worked in a small local business for a number of years, priding myself on offering a level of service and knowledge that can rarely be equaled in other settings. I am of the belief that in the end it is well worth a few extra dollars to shop locally if the service is good and the information is valuable.

Unfortunately, when I began shopping in local stores I found that although there were distinct differences in various stones, almost any stone looked very nice to me in a store, and almost all stores seemed to have plenty of employees fully prepared to "ooh" and "ah" over their own stock, thus bolstering my own uncertainty in my ability to make an informed choice. Since I experienced this phenomenon almost universally, I wasn't surprised that even most of the more "respected" local shops also exhibited this behavior, if to a lesser extent than many. In fact, and as a point of reference, only one jeweler I ran across in my travels didn't get overly excited about the stones he had and was very matter-of-fact about the whole thing (right down to criticizing the entire marketing machine surrounding the practice of giving diamonds as engagement tokens and DeBeers for their monopolistic practices). His attitude, while probably undesirable to some, was a welcome change to me. As it turns out, he is the jeweler I've used for many years when shopping for jewelry for my sweethearts. Whether his behavior was an effect (i.e. giving it to me straight since I was an old and valued customer), or a cause (i.e. the reason I've always liked him and shopped there in the first place) I don't really know, but I like his style (take a bow, Michael Grass of The Jewelry Loft in Medford, NJ).

Anyway, unfortunately for all the local jewelers who tried to help me, my own uncertainty really was causing me a lot of distress, and I found myself becoming more and more comfortable with using the newer tools I mentioned above to help me find a really good performer. Since nobody locally really had the tools available, I gradually came to the conclusion that I would end up buying a diamond over the Internet. Being a relative old-timer to e-commerce, I didn't really have a problem with this in principle, but I was concerned with the fact that a diamond purchase fell far outside my normal Internet purchases, and I didn't know which retailer to rely on. Ask me where to buy a book, CD, hard drive, or even a power tool and I'll have no problem with vendors, but a quality diamond was a new one for me.

So, I started researching online retailers, and found many likely candidates. Of course, one can barely begin to step foot into the world of online diamond retailers without frequently slamming into Blue Nile, Mondera, Millennium Diamonds, and the like. I had no problem with them (and in fact actually really like Blue Nile's site and their really useful "interactive diamond search" engine), but I found that they didn't offer as much ancillary information as I'd like. So, as I kept looking, I became aware of some of the "super-ideal" branded stones that seem to be enjoying quite a bit of exposure in cyberspace. EightStar, A Cut Above, and SuperbCert (among others) all seem to be utilizing the Internet quite well. I took my search in that direction.

As I looked at the branded diamonds it became apparent to me that they all seem to provide fantastic gems, and they all were aggressively using the Internet to capture sales. I really liked them all, but found I liked some websites better than others. I thought EightStar's site was quite polished and flashy (quite apropos for a diamond site, I suppose), but found the utility of the site to be fairly horrible. At the other end of the spectrum, I thought the SuperbCert site was much less flashy, but infinitely more informative about the actual diamonds. This makes sense in one respect since SuperbCert is an actual e-commerce site, but I still think the EightStar site could have catered more to the shopper. Glitz is nifty, but utility is what the web is all about, to my way of thinking.

Anyway, after much more research and shopping (with quite a bit of browsing here in these forums along the way), I started to focus on SuperbCert as my preferred choice. I liked the combination of online tools (GIA certs, BrillianceScope analyses, Megascope reports, Holloway Cut Advisor ratings), and the exceptionally reasonable prices for the types of diamonds being sold. The issue of customer service was still a question mark, so I set about selecting a stone to inquire about, with the hopes of getting a feel for their service along the way.

So, I settled on a specific stone from the SuperbCert site and called their 800 number to ask a few questions and order it if the answers were to my liking. I asked about the diamond and gave my number for them to check out some details and call me back. About fifteen minutes later I got a call back from Barry, the owner of the company, which gave me a pretty decent idea of how small and new this company currently is, and how responsive they are to customers. Well, I certainly hadn't expected that level of service, but I gladly accepted his information. Unfortunately, I was disappointed to learn that the stone I was interested in had been sold just that morning (I guess I shouldn't have waited a week before inquiring). Since I really had only committed in my mind to that one stone, I thanked him for his time and told him I'd be in touch. I did some more looking on the site and emailed him later with some more inquiries, and he followed up promptly and informatively. His company provided a level of service that even many of the local shops here didn't match, and he was a NY Diamond District jeweler. I was becoming more impressed with SuperbCert all the time!

The great service didn't end there either. Since I didn't immediately make a decision after the first stone, about a week went by and I received a personal email (meaning, not a form letter spam) from Barry informing me of two more stones I might be interested in which were going to be listed the following week, with a note to let him know if I was interested in them before they were posted to the site for the world to see (and conceivably buy). This was really nice since I think he did that as a sort of consolation for not having that first stone available when I had called (as if he could be blamed for selling it), and I appreciated his gesture of giving me "first dibs" on the new stock. Now I was really beginning to want to do business with him.

Although I passed on the stones he wrote me about, after some more research on his site I came across another stone that, while a bit larger than I had originally intended to purchase (my sweetie is a tiny thing on whose finger a big rock would look quite silly), met all of my other criteria well, and made an inquiry about it (a beautiful .78, D, VS1, EX/EX, inert stone showing a 0.9 on the HCA). This diamond indeed was available, and I got going on the order.

At this point one of the interesting things about my transaction with Barry occurred. When I expressed interest in buying the available stone, he emailed me a questionnaire to fill-out and return. Well, the questionnaire was actually a rather plain Word document obviously designed by someone without a lot of knowledge of the capabilities of Word. I took one look at it and thought I'd do a good deed for the guy who had been so customer-friendly, and spent a couple of hours that night redesigning the whole thing. I basically scrapped the original design and created a form utilizing tables with text boxes for all the various name/address information and other pertinent stuff. I spruced it up by adding graphics ripped from the SuperbCert site and tried to give it a more polished look. By the time I was done, I had made a fairly professional questionnaire that I thought would work well for them. I saved an original, then proceeded to fill the new form out with my information and sent it to him with a "whaddya think of this?" note attached. I thought he'd like it.

The next day I received a reply from him gushing about how nice it was and how appreciative he was for my efforts. In reality the exercise had only taken a couple of hours, but the tone of his reply really made me happy I'd made the effort. To show his appreciation, he graciously had my diamond GemPrinted for me at no additional charge while I finished up with payment. In the end, we both made out well, with him getting a nice form and me getting yet another document to look at when I got my diamond. So, if anybody decides to buy from Barry, I'm happy to say that you should be getting my little contribution in the form of the new "SuperbCert Questionnaire" to fill out. I hope you enjoy it!

Which brings us to actually getting the stone. SuperbCert ships exclusively through FedEx, so the day after my order was processed I received a big ol' FedEx box which contained the diamond, the GIA cert, laminated BrillianceScope report, Megascope report, GemPrint registration certificate, and the nifty little "SuperbCert Kit" containing a Hearts and Arrows viewer, diamond tweezers, a 10X jeweler's loupe, and a diamond polishing cloth. It was awfully fun playing with all that stuff and reading all the documentation (even though I'd already seen it all on the website while shopping). An added bonus that I hadn't really thought about was the fun of showing all the people who had been following my diamond search with interest (and those I had bored with it) the hearts and arrows using the viewer. I was surprised at how many people had never heard of hearts and arrows and really thought the stone looked cool under the viewer, but even the folks who were familiar with the cut seemed to really like seeing the diamond's symmetry displayed for them. I had great fun showing the diamond to anybody who would sit still long enough for me to put the thing in front of them. I ended up carrying this $4000+ gem in the paper envelope it was shipped in around in my jacket pocket for close to a week just showing people.

I (eventually) took my new gem to my normal place, The Jewelry Loft, and had it set in a simple 18K yellow gold band with a six-prong platinum head (a fairly standard "classic Tiffany"), and proposed the following week. My sweetie loved the ring, and with tears in her eyes accepted my proposal. For the record, I am now the luckiest man on the planet, and I know it, God help me. :)

In the end, I found my experience with Barry to probably be the best online shopping transaction I've ever had, and really one of the most pleasant experiences I've had buying anything in a long while (especially considering my aversion to parting with $4000+ for less than a fifth of a gram of carbon!). The diamond is absolutely stunning, and the service was simply wonderful. I found Barry to be extremely accommodating, and enjoyed feeling like I could call him at any time and get fast and courteous service. He always took the time to answer my questions (through email and on the phone), and despite being the owner of a growing online retailer, he never made me feel like I was keeping him from "more important" customers or business. We had some nice conversations about diamonds and Internet retailing, and I enjoyed talking with him. This level of service is often unavailable in the real world, let alone in cyberspace. Superb, indeed.

In fact, the service actually didn't end with the delivery of the diamond. When I originally bought the diamond I had intended to grab copies of all the electronic information about my diamond from the SuperbCert site and archive it in my computer. I knew I'd have all the hardcopies for reference, but liked the idea of having digital copies of all the certs and reports for my records. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to grab a couple of the pages before the stone was removed from the site, so I decided to write Barry and ask if he could do me the favor of sending copies through email, or even relisting the stone for a day or two so I could get copies myself. He surprised me by phoning me the following day to let me know personally that he had just asked his webmaster to relist the diamond, and that I should be able to get my copies shortly. True to his word, my stone showed up on the site shortly thereafter, and I got all the documents I'd been missing. Way to go, Barry!

So, that's my story. As I'd expected, I wrote a pretty long post here, and I hope the more stoic souls among the readers of these forums (since you're reading this paragraph, this means YOU) have enjoyed my rambling narrative. I know I enjoyed writing it, and look forward to any thoughts you might have.

Btw, if anybody has stuck with me this long (and is interested), I wrote the story of the proposal in an email for a friend of mine a few days ago, and could easily post it in these forums if there's interest. I did the best my feeble male brain could muster to make the proposal special for my sweetheart, and it seemed to work out pretty well in the end.

-Tim
 

Mara

Super_Ideal_Rock
Joined
Oct 30, 2002
Messages
31,003
token reply


post the proposal...should be a good one!!
 

barry

Shiny_Rock
Joined
Mar 21, 2001
Messages
441
Tim;

Was remiss in not responding to you the first time
you posted this beautiful Joycian stream of
consciousness; let me not err a second time.

Thank you for the very kind words
regarding your SuperbCert shopping
experience with us and for sharing with other
internet diamond-shoppers the process you
went through and your deliberations. It is
certainly of great value and you are
commended for taking the time and effort to
share it.

Thanks again for your business and

Best wishes,

Barry
www.superbcert.com
 

optimized

Shiny_Rock
Joined
Dec 28, 2002
Messages
306
shall be replaced with tears of joy and gratitude to the "beautiful people" of the Pricescope forums.


Oh, except for Mara who gets a big *raspberry* for her comment!




-Tim

[/u]
 

Mara

Super_Ideal_Rock
Joined
Oct 30, 2002
Messages
31,003
I would definitely rather have a big ole raspberry than tears anyday!!


 

Rook

Shiny_Rock
Joined
Oct 4, 2002
Messages
294
Great post, you have obviously done a lot of research based on your informed advice you give. I hope you don't leave Pricescope now that your diamond story has concluded.

"Ask me where to buy a book, CD, hard drive, or even a power tool and I'll have no problem with vendors"

I need power tool
Any suggestions?
 

kayla17

Ideal_Rock
Premium
Joined
Jan 14, 2003
Messages
2,189
I just had to reply, too. I didn't want you to go off to that far corner again...

The engagement ring sounds beautiful, please post pictures as soon as possible. "A picture says a thousand words...."
Congratulations on your new engagement!!!
 

optimized

Shiny_Rock
Joined
Dec 28, 2002
Messages
306
Thanks for the kind words, Kayla!

, to the forum. I keep meaning to try to get some more pictures in better lighting, but the ones in that thread have had to suffice so far.


-Tim

[/u]
 

optimized

Shiny_Rock
Joined
Dec 28, 2002
Messages
306
What kind of power tool are you looking for, Rook?


-Tim
 

Summer

Rough_Rock
Joined
Dec 26, 2002
Messages
50
Tim,

Wow, great story, beautiful diamond and lovely words you spoke about your fiancé. Congratulations to you both!!
Would love to read the proposal story. By the way, we're neighbors, well almost, I'm in Central Jersey.


Summer
 

Rook

Shiny_Rock
Joined
Oct 4, 2002
Messages
294
Hey Tim,

In order of importance,

contractor's table saw - power miter saw - router w/table.

I am embarking a new hobbie in wood working. Actually it is to build things for my other hobbie, saltwater reef aquariums, and my girls hobby collecting dept 56 villages.

Too many hobbies, not enough time.
 
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