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My ring buying experience, pt. 1 (long)

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chuckles

Rough_Rock
Joined
Dec 29, 2002
Messages
13
First, thanks to everyone here at Pricescope. I can''t believe how helpful this group of people has been during the ring buying process. I can only hope this message helps out someone else the way others have helped me. For those of you who don’t want to read this extremely long story, just jump to the end of the last message for my summaries.

As background, I don''t know jack about diamonds. Two months ago, I knew less. The only thing I knew was that I wanted to get a ring and they were pretty costly – about 2 month’s salary as far as I could tell. I had also heard about the 4 C''s, but I didn''t know what the other 3 were (I knew that carats->size). So I was pretty stuck, not knowing what to do or even how to START the process. I live near the diamond district in Philadelphia, but was a little worried about going in there with such little knowledge. I had a rough idea of what I wanted to spend, figured that I wanted around 1 carat, and wanted something of "high quality", although I had no way to measure it.

Now, I''m an internet geek in a big way and I knew there had to be information on diamonds somewhere. I had heard of Blue Nile, so I went there first to look at their information. It was ok, but I didn’t feel like I knew that much more than I did before. I was happy about the fact that their prices were online. I figured even if they weren’t great prices, they would serve as a good benchmark.

About this time, I find out my girlfriend has the following preferences for rings: doesn’t like princess cut, likes the Tiffany Lucida, likes platinum/white gold setting, doesn’t know about round cuts. I’m somewhat confused by someone not liking princess cuts, but liking the Lucida, especially if the princess cut’s corners are covered by prongs. But I digress. She also knows how I prefer to buy most anything online vs. going to a store and indicated that she would be appalled by me purchasing her ring online.

Now I have an idea of what the ring should look like: the Lucida (http://www.tiffany.com/shopping/lucida.asp?). I know there’s a 0% chance that I will buy this thing from Tiffany’s. I admire the business and it appears that they sell a good product, but I can read financial statements and I know that they’re making some pretty high margins. So Tiffany’s is out, but I figure I can get a similar looking ring from somewhere else.

At about this time (December), I somehow come across pricescope.com. I was immediately hooked – I think I read about 4 months worth of posts in a week. During this time, I learned that cut is the most important of the 4 C’s, and also the one that’s least likely to be captured by numerical measures. I also learned that radiants tend to be not-so-great quality cuts, which left me in a bind if I wanted to get a ring like the Lucida. I think the best thing that happened from me reading the message boards is that I got a real comfort level about the idea of buying a stone online. I read enough messages about various different establishments and enough horror stories about B&M stores that I really got comfortable with the idea of getting the stone through an online merchant. I was also directed to www.goodoldgold.com to read through their online diamond education, which I found REALLY worthwhile. I think it’s a fantastic resource for inexperienced buyers.

So finally I took the plunge, a really minor plunge. I sent an email to GOG with my rough parameters (D-F, IF-VS1, .9-1.2c), general price range and also a note that told him about the Lucida, anti-princess thing. The next day (I think), Jonathan sent a link to a Lucere diamond he had scanned in, which was right in the parameters: http://www.goodoldgold.com/lucere__91ct_f_vs1.htm. From my understanding, Lucere equaled well-cut radiant, so it seemed like the perfect solution. So I thought it over for a couple of days and I finally decided to go ahead with it. (Keep in mind this was the week before Christmas, I’m trying to do all this over email on my cell phone so my girlfriend doesn’t find out.) After emailing another question about the ring, Jonathan says he can get it called in and shipped so I have it before Christmas, but he needs to know ASAP. At this point I felt really good about how it seemed Jonathan was working with me, but I also felt that he was being realistic about the deadline – I thought it was entirely appropriate given the holiday rush.

Finally, I called GOG for the first time to order the stone. I got Jonathan on the phone and talked to him a bit about the stone. I said I was unsure about the size - my girlfriend has never really craved the diamond and didn’t really care too much about the size, but I wanted hers to compare favorably to those of her friends. To help me appreciate the size, Jonathan emailed me a picture (while we were on the phone) of 3 stones: the one I was looking at, a 1 ct. round brilliant, and a larger Lucere. That’s the picture I’ve attached. Based on the picture, I was pretty unhappy with the size of the stone I was looking at. It is noticeably smaller than a 1 ct. round. I asked about the Lucere on the right and found out that it was out of the price range I had requested. The sad thing is, I knew that the range I had sent in was not as high as I felt I would pay. But for some reason, I tried to find a ‘bargain’ stone. Realistically, the larger stone in the picture was at the top end of my range, but still inside. Once I saw the size comparison, I knew there was no way I’d be happy with the smaller stone, even if my girlfriend would be. So I put a deposit down and had this stone sent to Dave Atlas: http://www.goodoldgold.com/lucere_1_13ct_f_vs2.htm. Jonathan – sorry about how nervous and indecisive I was on the phone and I thank you for being patient.

Here, I’d just like to point out that Jonathan had a larger stone in stock, but didn’t offer it as an option initially because it was out of the price range I specified. Obviously he was happy to have me buy the larger stone, but didn’t try to sell it to me when it was outside of what I told him I wanted to spend initially. I REALLY liked this.

Diamond lineup1.jpg
 

chuckles

Rough_Rock
Joined
Dec 29, 2002
Messages
13
So now, I’ve ordered a stone and I realize I have no idea how this is supposed to work with the appraiser. I quickly email Dave Atlas and let him know he’ll be receiving the stone and ask if I can be there to go over the appraisal. Yep – all clear there. So the stone arrives and I go to Dave’s place to check it out. AGA (http://www.gemappraisers.com) is in the diamond district in Philadelphia and as I’m walking there, I’m laughing inside at the fact that I didn’t have to put up with any of the store salesman, which I don’t have the patience for.

I arrive at AGA and after waiting a bit am shown to a small booth. There, as my heart is pounding, Chris took some kind of pouch and out came… a diamond that seemed so much smaller than I expected. Are you serious? This is what I’m getting instead of say, a car? This reaction is completely my fault – I didn’t take the time to look at stones in person, so I had no benchmark to compare to. It was quite a shock, but I got over it. So Chris showed me the report, let me look at the stone with a loupe as well as under the microscope, and verified all the stats that GOG had indicated. No offense to Chris, but I had heard so much about Dave on the forum that I wanted to talk to him in person. Dave was nice enough to sit down with me and go through the stone’s features – I think I kept him so long that he missed his train. Sorry!!! Anyway, what I got out of it is that I didn’t overpay for the stone and probably paid less than I would have at the local diamond district stores. On the other hand, it wasn’t the greatest bargain because I was paying up a bit for the brand name, which I knew. He also indicated that the stone was a little deep, so I was paying for more carat weight than you would actually see. This last was a little disappointing, but I was still happy with the diamond and made up my mind to take it. One thing to note: Dave was the most serious, non-salesman, non-fear factor person I can imagine. This is exactly the type of appraiser I want – I was really impressed with AGA.

So here’s what I didn’t realize: I don’t own this stone yet and they can’t give it to me. How stupid am I that I thought I could put a $500 deposit down and walk away with the diamond? Even worse, AGA tells me GOG is closed, so I can’t call to take care of the rest of the purchase! How am I going to get this ring by New Year’s, which is when I thought I might propose. On top of that, I have no idea where to get a setting. My head is now spinning, wondering if anyone has ever mucked up their diamond purchase so badly. Luckily, Chris at AGA recommended KAO Jewelers a couple of doors down. Apparently they make a lot of the settings for other diamond district stores. He’s pretty sure they can work with just a picture of the stone and the measurements at first, so I go there. He also says he’ll walk the stone down to them when he gets clearance from GOG – excellent!

KAO: Inside this really small store, I see a lot of nice looking rings. I’m physically shaking while I’m there – nerves – and the women are basically laughing at me at how nervous I am. I tell them I’m looking for a platinum setting that looks like the Lucida (I brought a picture), but with a more narrow ring and the stone set a little lower. I think they understand roughly what I want and I give them a ring that I stole from my girlfriend’s collection to get the size. Everything’s cool until they tell me it will be 2-3 weeks. WHAT??!?! I guess I was expecting them to shape platinum as if it were silly putty. Still, I’m disappointed – no New Year’s proposal. Once we agreed what I was getting, they really tried to reassure me that everything would be great and the ring would be beautiful. They even took me upstairs to meet the ring maker (Mr. Kao?) and ease my mind, which was very nice. All I had to now was pay for the stone and wait…
 

chuckles

Rough_Rock
Joined
Dec 29, 2002
Messages
13
To put an end to this long story, I called GOG to pay for the stone. They say they’ll call Chris at AGA and he’ll walk it down. Perfect. A week or so goes by and I’m curious about how things are going, so I walk down to KAO Jewelers. I tell her I’m there to just see how it’s going and she says “We don’t have your stone”. GACK! Apparently there was some miscommunication between GOG and AGA (and potentially me) where Chris didn’t know he was cleared to deliver the stone. As long as AGA has the stone, not a problem, I’m thinking. AGA has the stone. So I take the stone, everything is set.

A little over a week later I get the ring. It’s great. In the meantime I had gotten a lighted ring box from Jonathan in preparation for a nighttime proposal, so I was ready for everything. Here’s the bizarre part (is anyone still reading this?): I had the finished ring for over a month because proposal delays kept occurring. During this month, I was reprimanded by my girlfriend a few times for not even looking into diamonds nor showing any interest in getting engaged. Not good times, but very ironic. In addition, one night she sat down and “made her own diamond” on Blue Nile and decided she really, really wanted a round, 6-prong ring. AARRRGGGGHHHH.

No worries, though, because I know the ring looks great. Finally, after all the delays and after all the potential proposal scenarios, it happened. She said yes and she felt really silly for thinking I was slacking on the purchase. She loves the ring and I don’t think there’s any way that she would prefer a round brilliant – she won’t even surrender it to get the size adjusted.

Here’s the summary of my final thoughts:
1. Guys, go to local jewelry place and look at diamonds. Look at different sizes, cuts, clarity, colors, etc. Even if you know you’ll never buy the diamond from that particular place, do it anyway. Get comfortable with the how low you’re willing to go on all the different dimensions and get to know which dimensions you feel are most important. That way, you’ll know so much more about the right ring when you see it. This is the one thing that I really should have done, but didn’t.

2. Really, really consider buying the stone separate from the setting. It’s easier to inspect and it gives you more flexibility in buying what you want.

3. Learn about diamonds, from www.goodoldgold.com or a similar place. The learning actually helps to make the process more fun.

4. Set a realistic budget. Don’t try to lowball a store and don’t underestimate your budget. You’re buying a pretty permanent piece of jewelry that will, hopefully, be on your girlfriend’s/wife’s finger forever. Certainly don’t go over what’s financially comfortable, but don’t set an arbitrarily low ceiling. Also, once you pick the right stone, just for kicks, see what you can buy for 10-20% more. If it doesn’t seem worth it to you, don’t upgrade. However, at least make an informed decision.

5. Don’t buy the stone from anyone who pressures you or won’t give you a reasonable return period.

6. Get to an appraiser immediately. Especially if you’re purchasing online. There’s plenty of reputable dealers online (from the testimonials I read here), but you will increase your own comfort by 1,000 times if you can confirm it with a good appraiser.

7. If you have the time (your proposal isn’t in the near, near future), consider getting a customized setting. You get to specify exactly what you want, it may be cheaper, and (this is really cool) you get to tell your girlfriend that you designed the ring: It’s one of a kind, just like her.

8. Don’t buy a ring or setting or appraisal from someone you don’t feel comfortable with. Period. It’s a monster decision in your life and someone else will be able to help you.

9. Call your credit card company to warn them of your purchase prior to paying for the ring, if that’s your method.

10. Get insurance for the ring – it may require a separate rider on your homeowner’s or renter’s policy. BE SURE TO ASK about whether it covers loss, accidental damage, etc.

I think that’s about it. I had a great experience with everyone I worked with. I don’t know if I was lucky or just typical, but they were great. I give my highest recommendations to Jonathan and his crew at Goodoldgold, Dave Atlas and Chris at AGA, and the women who made fun of me at KAO Jewelers. I think I was not the greatest customer for any of them because of my nerves and inexperience, but they all treated me great.

Lots of pictures to follow.

IMG_0110x.jpg
 

justme

Shiny_Rock
Joined
Dec 5, 2002
Messages
184
Thanks for sharing!! Great looking ring - I love that your girlfriend (then) was hassling you about not being interested.

Good summary of lessons learned!

Justme
 

Colored Gemstone Nut

Ideal_Rock
Trade
Joined
Nov 21, 2002
Messages
2,325
Chuckles-Way To go!! Nice ring and nice set of priorities you set up during making your purchase. I am also glad to hear you went through Jonathan. He is top notch.Nice Setting too. Keep us all posted..

-Josh Rioux
Sitka, Alaska
 

Rhino

Ideal_Rock
Trade
Joined
Mar 28, 2001
Messages
6,275
Hey CHUCKLES!!! Wow... thanks for being so candid! I remember during that time there was alot going on. I do talk alot with many through email but it is always great to be able to put voices and eventually faces to those emails. I'm thrilled to hear how everything worked out and fell into place. Thanks so much for your kind words and also for sharing those pics of the finished ring. If ever we can be of service again we're here for ya.

Peace,
Rhino
 
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