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Useful tips for 1st timers - recent experience

erislynn

Shiny_Rock
Joined
Feb 8, 2016
Messages
115
Here are some things I REALLY wish I had known from the beginning of my three-month long diamond shopping experience. Hope it helps out any first timers.

Disclaimer
If you are flexible and just want a fairly nice looking diamond, these tips are probably not for you. If you won't settle for anything but the best your money can buy, read on. P.S. This is written from a woman's perspective (my ring was for an anniversary not a first time proposal).

My criteria:
Carat: 1.5 - 1.7 round brilliant
Color: D - F
Clarity: VVS2 (I later dropped this to VS2 - SI1 after seeing how invisible the inclusions were with my own eyes.)
Cut: GIA Triple Excellent or AGS Ideal


In-depth guides with responsive authors

Most websites will give you the same basic 4C's info without getting technical enough for you to make an informed decision. After reading the guides on these two sites, you'll be more educated about diamond grading than the average brick-and-mortar salesperson, and you'll be able to tell if one diamond online will end up looking much better than another without seeing the actual stones.

Good Old Gold - Rhino's School of Rock http://www.goodoldgold.com/diamonds-thebasics.html

Prosumer Diamonds http://www.prosumerdiamonds.com (Start in the Tutorials section.)

Video guides

These two Youtube channels have excellent videos showing you up close how diamonds of different specs compare side by side. Ever wondered what is the big deal about cut? Did you know within the highest grade of cut there is still a large range of sparkle varying from "not bad" to "wowza!"? Watch these videos!

Good Old Gold on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/user/DiamondInfoMan

Jannpaul JP on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLUhkL4hNsGwJ0ezL-V3u2ywWm6gcpKjaq

Vendors

Brick and mortar - When I first started out, I thought it would be too risky to buy online. I visited half a dozen of the most highly rated stores in a major metropolitan area but none of them had anything close to the ideal ones available online. Some of these stores were very high end ($$$$ on yelp) but not ridiculously overpriced like Tiffany or Cartier. Still when I asked for a diamond with my criteria, they would try to pawn off what they had, which usually was a diamond that barely made ideal grade. After reading the above guides, you will know. Then if they thought you looked really interested, they might bring in two more stones from an outside source and these will still not be top of the line ideal, which you can get for the same price online. Moral of the story: shop online.

Blue Nile - Do you like to gamble? Odds are, though, you're going to end up with the same mediocre quality as in local shops. After I read about Tolkowsky ideals and the different types of inclusions, and HCA, I picked a diamond on Blue Nile based on certificate only. I thought I was being smart, checking all the %'s and angles and inclusion maps. I made sure all the numbers were within the most ideal range, but when I saw the actual diamond, it was underwhelming. The problem is numbers on certificates are rounded and averaged, and Blue Nile doesn't have its experts in the US verify each diamond before it gets sent to you. For the quality you get, their pricing is actually NOT cheaper than local stores. Good thing they have a nice return policy, which I promptly used.

James Allen - This is the first site I came across that had a large selection with good value. The great thing about their site is they have a high-res video of each diamond 360 degrees and in higher magnification than you would see with a typical loupe. You'll be able to see if you're okay with the inclusions very clearly. They're a step above Blue Nile, but overall I felt the standards for their best diamonds was not quite as high as the sites below.

Good Old Gold - They're not afraid to teach you about every aspect of a diamond because they offer some of the best ones. They run their own analysis of each diamond to confirm the specs on the lab certificate. Then they show you magnified photos and scope images. --scope images, you say? Yes, this is a more reliable way to tell how a diamond will look in most lighting rather than judging with your naked eyes under jewelry store lighting. For a shortcut to the best of their ideal grade diamonds, look in their Ascendancy Hearts and Arrows selection. You'll find the price is comparable to brick and mortar but so much better quality. If you have a little flexibility, their Platinum Select is also a good value for near top of the line ideal.

Whiteflash - This is a site that you should be checking often. They have a large virtual inventory, but you want to pay attention to their A Cut Above and Expert Selection diamonds. At first, I thought they had a small selection but later I noticed that was because the good ones kept getting bought out. Like Good Old Gold, they have a full comprehensive analysis (certificate, independent report, scope images) of each diamond along with a video of the actual stone. Their best diamonds are called A Cut Above. This is where I found mine and quite a few that I was considering got sold while I was learning how to choose diamonds. Brian Gavin (see below) used to be with this company and left a legacy of high standards here, so shop with confidence!

Brian Gavin Diamonds - Ok, so Brian is apparently this master diamond cutter. Even people unrelated to his company were telling me if you want the absolute best cut, you can't lose with Brian Gavin. Looking at his selection, I have to agree, but of course, it comes with a price. Still way better value than Tiffany or Cartier though. If you want to skip the shopping around and it's within your budget, you'll definitely get a super ideal cut diamond here. I don't think he even sells anything less than ideal cut. Every last diamond has an image with full blown hearts and arrows. :D
 

diamondseeker2006

Super_Ideal_Rock
Premium
Joined
Jan 11, 2006
Messages
55,630
Very nice review!!! So glad you found a great diamond and I hope you will post it if you haven't already! I'll just make one note related to your post. Brian Gavin does not cut the diamonds he sells. It kind of sounded that way, but they order and select stones that meet their standards as other vendors do.
 

msop04

Ideal_Rock
Premium
Joined
Dec 3, 2011
Messages
9,776
Really good review, OP! This thread will surely help many people in the market for a diamond! :appl:
 

marymm

Ideal_Rock
Premium
Joined
Apr 21, 2010
Messages
4,088
OP - I appreciate your willingness to share your experience - I'm sure your comments will be helpful for people looking for super-ideal-cut MRBs.
 

SparklySoprano

Brilliant_Rock
Joined
Nov 21, 2014
Messages
661
What a thoughtful post and really useful. Thank you for taking the time to write such detailed information.

I'm curious to know what kept you at the D-F color scheme, and simply wondering how you determined this to be your parameters. And I would love to see your ring. :wavey:

EDIT: I found your SMTB post. Will read it now.... ;-)
 

erislynn

Shiny_Rock
Joined
Feb 8, 2016
Messages
115
Thanks for the nice comment, SparklySoprano! I stayed within D-F because in my culture, colorlessness and high clarity (hence the initial VVS2) symbolize purity in the marriage. The other reason is my work involves sensitive color vision tests so the color in G and even F is obvious to me.
 

AdaBeta27

Brilliant_Rock
Premium
Joined
Sep 7, 2004
Messages
906
Crafted By Infinity is a cinch if you want the best cut, because all of their diamonds are stellar cut. You'll find lower colors and clarities there, too. Until Brian Gavin started offering his Cape collection, only CBI offered those options. Wink at High Performance Diamonds is another seller who is great to work with.
 

nhnurse1

Rough_Rock
Joined
Feb 17, 2016
Messages
14
I wish I had found this site before I started my search. So much useful information. I will certainly be reading this information. I have become so interested in the last few months and just might have to buy myself another!
 

HockeyChick

Rough_Rock
Joined
Nov 6, 2015
Messages
45
FYI on the Whiteflash diamond search, be aware that the search page has a lot of bugs and frequently you'll end up with incorrect or zero results, despite the settings you had intended. Initially I thought that the diamonds I had previously been looking for were all sold out, until I discovered the site kept resetting some of my search parameters to things like "only show diamonds better than flawless or worse than SI2" or "bigger than 2.0 carat but less than 1.5 carat" and other combinations that aren't possible...so the search would result in 0 diamonds even though I previously had the settings correct. Just be aware that the site can be...well..janky at times. But they've got a great selection, they are just diamond experts...not website experts!

Completely agree about the shopping online part. The brick and mortar stones will do everything in their power to convince you the stones they have on hand are beautiful, even if they aren't. "My wife has this exact stone..it's beautiful!" I was told when the guy tried to sell me a really brown J color stone. I highly doubt she does, sales guy. They might even show you stones that seem far underpriced for what they are...but it'll turn out that the stone isn't GIA certified or doesn't come close to the quality of stones you were shopping online.
 

queradas

Rough_Rock
Joined
Jan 11, 2016
Messages
50
AdaBeta27|1455371784|3990495 said:
Crafted By Infinity is a cinch if you want the best cut, because all of their diamonds are stellar cut. You'll find lower colors and clarities there, too. Until Brian Gavin started offering his Cape collection, only CBI offered those options. Wink at High Performance Diamonds is another seller who is great to work with.
What proof do you have they are better than WF/BGD/GOG or even JamesAllen hearts and arrows brands?

Even if CBI were more consistent(no proof) in their brand, you are buying one stone not a brand and each stone should be judged individually. The best ACA is virtually indistinguishable in cut precision from the best CBI from the images they post online.
 

queradas

Rough_Rock
Joined
Jan 11, 2016
Messages
50
erislynn|1455241080|3989933 said:
Prosumer Diamonds http://www.prosumerdiamonds.com (Start in the Tutorials section.)

Affiliate Referral site that makes money from referring you to Super Ideal Vendors, not peer reviewed. Too many errors so that many of his conclusions are simply erroneus or irrelevant. Just because one goes into depth into a subject doesn't mean their conclusions are valid or they have experience or that a real expert has reviewed his work. Dangerous site to rely on for education.


Video guides

These two Youtube channels have excellent videos showing you up close how diamonds of different specs compare side by side. Ever wondered what is the big deal about cut? Did you know within the highest grade of cut there is still a large range of sparkle varying from "not bad" to "wowza!"? Watch these videos!

Good Old Gold on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/user/DiamondInfoMan

Jannpaul JP on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLUhkL4hNsGwJ0ezL-V3u2ywWm6gcpKjaq

This guide seems to be heavily "educated" (influenced) by the marketing done by these "Superideal" vendors. I wonder if you had a chance to do a with your eyes in your lighting comparison of a well cut near HA versus a SuperIdeal both in price and visual appearance. With more experience you may come to realize the differences in both are small and the premium for "Superideal" may not be worth it to many first time shoppers. I respect your right to your own choice but when compiling a guide for others I prefer a more balanced and less biased review.


Blue Nile - Do you like to gamble? Odds are, though, you're going to end up with the same mediocre quality as in local shops. After I read about Tolkowsky ideals and the different types of inclusions, and HCA, I picked a diamond on Blue Nile based on certificate only. I thought I was being smart, checking all the %'s and angles and inclusion maps. I made sure all the numbers were within the most ideal range, but when I saw the actual diamond, it was underwhelming. The problem is numbers on certificates are rounded and averaged, and Blue Nile doesn't have its experts in the US verify each diamond before it gets sent to you. For the quality you get, their pricing is actually NOT cheaper than local stores. Good thing they have a nice return policy, which I promptly used.

Bluenile offers high quality Hearts and Arrows Rounds (see Bluenile Signature and other diamonds with Tolk Proportions) and the prices and quality are similar to your preferred online vendors. They have a huge selection of high quality and other lesser diamonds at competitive prices, they are the biggest online retail diamond vendor and their margins are disclosed at ~10% on loose diamonds over 0.6ct from their public filings . What they don't do is offer external images such as H&A and ASET which will make it more difficult to select some diamonds but in their signature line the GCAL report allows for viewing of cut precision similar to a hearts image.

James Allen - This is the first site I came across that had a large selection with good value. The great thing about their site is they have a high-res video of each diamond 360 degrees and in higher magnification than you would see with a typical loupe. You'll be able to see if you're okay with the inclusions very clearly. They're a step above Blue Nile, but overall I felt the standards for their best diamonds was not quite as high as the sites below.

While James Allen's brand of Hearts and Arrows may be less stringent than others (still debateable given different photography setups) they may source from the same factories as the other brands. I would instead advise searching each vendor and judging each stone on a case by case basis and selecting the best quality/price that way. The quality of one diamond from their Truehearts can often be indistinguishable when viewed with your eyes and not 40X magnified images from the other vendors Hearts and Arrows selections that you have written about more favorably.


Good Old Gold - They're not afraid to teach you about every aspect of a diamond because they offer some of the best ones. They run their own analysis of each diamond to confirm the specs on the lab certificate. Then they show you magnified photos and scope images. --scope images, you say? Yes, this is a more reliable way to tell how a diamond will look in most lighting rather than judging with your naked eyes under jewelry store lighting. For a shortcut to the best of their ideal grade diamonds, look in their Ascendancy Hearts and Arrows selection. You'll find the price is comparable to brick and mortar but so much better quality. If you have a little flexibility, their Platinum Select is also a good value for near top of the line ideal.

Whiteflash - This is a site that you should be checking often. They have a large virtual inventory, but you want to pay attention to their A Cut Above and Expert Selection diamonds. At first, I thought they had a small selection but later I noticed that was because the good ones kept getting bought out. Like Good Old Gold, they have a full comprehensive analysis (certificate, independent report, scope images) of each diamond along with a video of the actual stone. Their best diamonds are called A Cut Above. This is where I found mine and quite a few that I was considering got sold while I was learning how to choose diamonds. Brian Gavin (see below) used to be with this company and left a legacy of high standards here, so shop with confidence!

Brian Gavin Diamonds - Ok, so Brian is apparently this master diamond cutter. Even people unrelated to his company were telling me if you want the absolute best cut, you can't lose with Brian Gavin. Looking at his selection, I have to agree, but of course, it comes with a price. Still way better value than Tiffany or Cartier though. If you want to skip the shopping around and it's within your budget, you'll definitely get a super ideal cut diamond here. I don't think he even sells anything less than ideal cut. Every last diamond has an image with full blown hearts and arrows. :D

Brian Gavin Diamonds does sell virtual stones of all cut qualities as do the other vendors.
 
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