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My Diamond Buying Experiences - A must read for budding fiances and beginners - LONG!

Discussion in 'RockyTalky' started by limey, Apr 22, 2004.

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  1. limey
    Shiny_Rock

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    by limey » Apr 22, 2004
    Here is my diamond buying story. This posting is aimed mainly at the guys trying to figure out what, where and how to buy a diamond for their significant other. I am not going to try and change anybody's mind on what is better, I want to make this as close to what I personally went through and the decisions I made along the way.

    A few years ago my wife and I were discussing how one of her friends had not only upgraded her husband, but also her ring in the process. We noticed that all of our friends that were getting engaged in recent years were getting more extravagant e-rings - a sign of the times, of trends and fashion as well as increased disposable income as careers matured. When we got engaged it was a stretch to get her a decent ring. But we liked it, it had a nice look to it. It was not from a mall store, we already had been warned about them. We took advice to buy from a particular jeweler, she helped us pick out the stone. Now I think back all the tricks on how the stone is lit and presented were used, we were naive and we trusted her 100%. I continued to use this Brick & Mortar (B&M) for many years and spent a fair amount of money in their store - original e-ring, wedding bands, necklaces (pearl, diamond pendant), bracelets etc. I love how my wife looks in jewelry (ain't she lucky!). I trusted this B&M, but little did I know that I was being naive.

    With a special anniversary approaching I decided I wanted to present a new ring to my wife. I did some undercover work, a friend of hers got engaged and I was able to find out from that event that my wife prefered square diamonds, yellow gold, didn't want anything big and flashy that people might think is fake or OTT, and absolutely would never give up her existing pear.

    My first step was to go for a look-see at some new diamonds. I saw some Princess diamonds, I knew my wife liked that shape, they seemed good, but I guess I was the typical male, B&M shopper. I thought I could trust the jeweler and that all diamonds were created equal. I would have purchased one of these but my partner at work suggested Blue Nile. I could not believe the idea of buying a diamond online. But I looked at BN anyway, and looked more, and expanded my search and began to learn about "cut". I went to some other B&M's, I saw some branded stones that were obviously cut better. I saw the Hearts-On-Fire Dream and began to realize what was possible. I went to Tiffany's (I will add a footnote on the Tiffany experience). I found PS.

    Again... I FOUND PS! You are already here so hopefully you can avoid some of the steps I went through but even if you are convinced you want to buy online you must go and see diamonds in person to know what is what. Along the way you might stumble into a B&M you can trust.

    I learned about ideal cut proportions, even for fancies. I got an Ideal-Scope (http://www.idealscope.com/). Armed with all this new info and experience I went back to my "trusted B&M" and looked at the stones again. Even though I knew only a little about table, depth etc I was horrified by the (lack of) quality in the selection she had brought in for me. Worse than the Average Domestic cuts, cut for size and away from their bright lights dull, crappy diamonds. I also used the idealscope on diamonds I had bought from that B&M in the past - and knew I would never go back. Same story at all the B&M's I tried, very disappointing, including Tiffany's. I am sure there are great B&M stores out there, and I think I found one in the custom jeweler to build my ring, and Jonathan/GoodOldGold to get my main stone via his virtual storefront but they are few and far between.

    Back to my story, I began working with a different B&M that was a HOF Dealer, because he even had these stones in stock showed me he cared about cut. His non branded rounds were OK too, but even he showed a level of naivity for ideal Princess cut grades. He brought in some more Dreams in the size range I wanted. I was most keen to find a stone that would work well in my design. For sentimental reasons I am using the existing stone that is cut a little shallow. This will be a side stone with a similar looking twin. The dimensions of this stone are such that the new main stone would have to be at least 6 mm across. Since my wife's fingers are slim I was worried about making the design too wide so the max width would be 7mm.

    I first considered the HOF Dream since I knew my wife liked Princess and Square cut diamonds. But the Dreams were also VERY expensive. I read up on Dreams on PS and got the scoop and saw many others pointed in the direction of Radiants, as well as Regents and Queen of Hearts from PS vendors. I was still a little dubious about buying online so I began to look at Radiants.

    First off, what most B&M's in my area think are Radiants are really just Princess' with the corners lopped off! Under the IdealScope they were all a joke, and these were at the better stores, i.e. the newspaper readers and editors choice jewelers. I then read up on the "Original Radiant" available from select jewelers in the trendiest part of town. I had 3-4 stones pulled into each store. Actually they were not bad, one was very nice but a little too big for my design and too rectangular. I wanted one that was more sqaure. I saw a trend in the Radiants, the good ones had higher crowns so I got the jewelers to pest RCDC ( http://http://www.radiantcut.com/ ) for a stone that met my exact requirements. Nothing, Zilch, Nada. I waited and had them call again. I had a few other B&M's bring in generic Radiants with better numbers but nothing looked as good as the HOF Dream. I looked online at Radiants available from the well liked PS vendors - Whiteflash, DirtCheapDiamonds, NiceIce, GoodOldGold etc. but in every thread the PS people I had begun to trust emphasized the importance of seeing Radiants in person. And from my experience I absolutely agreed.

    So I was confused, stressed and about ready to give up on trying to beat the HOF Dream diamond and pay their huge markup. Bugdet wasn't really the issue, my wife's insistance on using the existing stone as a side stone and her tastes were more constraining but I do recommend setting a buget and keeping to it. The HOf Dream was easily within budget but I just hate to feel like I got taken advantage of but I knew I would not settle for less. I had really begun to pick up on cut. At a tradeshow booth two young ladies had large diamond e-rings. One looked dull, one not so. We talked about my project clearly they liked two things in diamonds - size and sparkle. I had my I'Scope with me and we looked at their diamonds. Both looked nice and white in their platinum settings. The dull one (not the girl!) was purchased by her boyfriend from a local B&M, i swear it had more white than pink in the I'Scope, it looked flat and glassy. i have seen the term "frozen spit" used around here and I guess this was what they meant. The other one was average to good and apparantly came from Blue Nile. After seeing this the Dream seemed like my only option.

    At the same time I was looking at stones I was also looking at settings and most of the B&M's were steering me towards fairly standard settings that they could send-off to get customized. From all the postings on PS I began to appreciate the importance of the setting to show off the stone. I approached Mark Morrell, too busy, not interested in working in yellow gold and a little curt in his responses but I guess thats the rules of supply and demand. I then mentioned the project to my hairdresser and she insisted I go see a local designer. I found his web site and did not like anything he had posted, not my taste at all, not my vision for this ring. But I went to see him anyway, and what an amazing experience. He is a diminutive, soft spoken Ukrainian and his showroom cabinets only contain his own creations, amazing stuff, so detailed and precise I could not believe he does not use CAD. I suggested he post some of these designs on his web site and he explained that he does not like the idea of his work floating around the Internet. He began discussing my idea and then asked me if I would like my unique, custom design posted online for all to copy (he had a good point there). I looked through several books of his designs and he had common themes going through many of them that I liked. So I had my designer lined up, he drew a sketch of the design and he began looking for a matching pear. All I needed now was the main stone.

    I was about to pull the trigger on the HOF Dream when I read a little more about the modified squares at GoodOldGold. I had dismissed using GOG since I thought them to be a little quirky. The language on the website was colloquial and informal, I could not take GOG seriously! I then began reading his vast amount of content buried in the 4 C's section. Jonathans writing style and approach began to grow on me. His words are in stark contrast to the grandiose and minimalist style used on other diamond sites. This feverish friendliness can be misconstrued as too informal by some, but to people like me, on a quest for knowledge, I found it appealing and non-patronizing. People do like the details, so long as the details can be communicated and understood.

    I looked at the Regents, too round looking and then the Queen of Hearts. That's it, I thought! I read about there flexible return policy and saw how many PS people had purchased via a proxy appraiser. So I contacted Jonathan and asked him about the Queen of Hearts on his site. I asked how it compared to the HOF Dream, and if that stone or something similar was available. Instead of going for the easy sell, he stopped me in my tracks and insisted I wait a little while for a new square that is going to blow the square diamond world apart. The Jubilee. He shared a few details with me to help me to appreciate how serious he was being. We built up quite a long email conversation as the days and weeks ticked by, I stayed in good contact with his staff while he went on vacation as the first Jubilee's were sent to be reviewed by GCAL. I even found his Jubilee web page before it was published. From the images, write up and analysis I knew that a Jubilee would be perfect. Jonathan shared with me the make-up of the first batch he was getting in, this was before they came back from GCAL - as it turns out several were graded differently than anticipated. One stone sounded like a good candidate, however, Jonathan wanted to post them on a first-come, first served basis. So monday afternoon, the day before the Jubilee page was to be posted I called and worked with one of his staff who tracked down GCAL and gave me the specs they knew. I put a deposit on one that was due to come in. Waiting for the second batch could take a long time and my 10th anniversary is on April 30th. Not really much of a gamble, it was enough to hold until GOG had the stone and could give me the full specs. Also, it was priced way below the HOF Dream, had great B'scope images and even if VS1 was a little overkill it certainly fit as close as I could have "dreamed."

    I arranged for a wire transfer and it will be finally in my hands later this week. I am going to get it appraised locally and then see if it can be set in time to present on our 10th Anniversary. If not I will present loose and we can play with the I'Scope.

    Now here are some other take aways...

    - Work with a Jeweler you can trust and you are willing to give your money to.
    - Invest in the C's you (or your S.O.) can see. Some people can really see color, some inclusions. Side by side I began to see the beauty of D-to-F, but I was happy with G/H. many SI1 and 2's have inclusions that can not be seen with the naked eye. The only reason to go higher, like me, is for purity sake. The two C's you can really see are carat size and cut, and both are very closely related. Great cuts really do stand out and yet cut is barely menioned by local B&M's - and it is NOT polish and symmetry! Get an IdealScope!
    - Tiffany. Amazing store/showroom. Their presentation is second to none, at least in my area. The lighting adds to the drama of their product. The settings are nice, very nice, I can not deny that but very good Tiffany knock-offs can be found. I thought the diamonds were good, better than average and overpriced. They are a niche player and one has to applaud how they have added perceived value to diamonds via the "little blue box." One argument is that going this route means that you care so much about your S.O. to get "the best." I disagree. The real best can be gotten elsewhere, diamonds that sparkle better and look bigger - what most women want, right? I see Tiffany as an easy way out. If you really want to show how special your S.O. is to you, get the biggest/sparkliest, close-to-colorless, eye-clean diamond you can afford and make it very special by picking out a setting yourself such as from Whiteflash or Vatche or finding a local award winning craftsperson to make you something absolutely unique.

    Sorry this post was so long. I will add to it when I have the Jubilee in my hands! Thanks to all the amazing PS regulars that have helped me along the way, both directly and indirectly.
     
    


    


  2. fire&ice
    Ideal_Rock

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    by fire&ice » Apr 22, 2004
    Happy Anniversary! And, pics are mandatory! What is your setting going to look like?
     
  3. Nicrez
    Ideal_Rock

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    by Nicrez » Apr 22, 2004
    Andrew, what a great post! WOW! YOu really DID your homework! Congrats on finding that perfect stone...my radiant is jealous...

    Honestly, I can't wait to see pictures! It sounds fabulous! I say present it to her with the temporary prongs that they use in store windows. Then play with it, as the optics will most likely take someone's eye out!

    What a great stone to play with too!!! Congrats to you both for ten years of being in the dark, then discovering the joy of precision cut diamonds! I have a feeling you will slowly get poorer and she, more well jeweled!! LOL! [​IMG]

    PICTURES!!! [​IMG]
     
  4. Hest88
    Ideal_Rock

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    by Hest88 » Apr 22, 2004
    Oh boy, you're going to be our first Jubilee buyer! Thanks for the great, detailed story and I can't wait to watch the ring move toward completion!
     
    


    


  5. hoorray
    Ideal_Rock

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    by hoorray » Apr 22, 2004
    Well done Andrew! What a lucky lady. I agree with Nic -- get the temporary setting and have some fun with the loose stone first. It's a trade off -- there is nothing like putting that new ring on the first time, but you only get one chance to get to know the stone loose. [​IMG]
     
  6. limey
    Shiny_Rock

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    by limey » Apr 22, 2004
    Real quick since I have too much work to do...

    Thanks for the kind words, and YES, I did finally "find the light" when it comes to precision cut diamonds. Bottom line, I saw the light (return!!!). valeria101, Nicrez, Mara, F&I, MMM, pqcollect... and many others have been instrumental in helping me not necessarily get this perfect but make me confident in the direction I went, the decisions I made. Thank you for helping me establish the value proposition and focus on which direction to go.
     
  7. openhelix
    Shiny_Rock

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    by openhelix » Apr 22, 2004
    Andrew, it sounds simply gorgeous!! I can't wait to see the pictures. I bought my Regent from GOG on the cusp of the Jubilee rumors a few months back, but don't regret it at all having seen a jubilee in person (I might be the first soncumer to have seen one). They are both spectactular diamonds, but I have trouble saying one is "better" than the other. The Jubilee is certainly more square and has a great presence and I applaud you for being the first to take the plunge! [​IMG]
     
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