My Diamond Buying Experiences – A must read for budding fiances and beginners

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 engagement ring in the
process. We noticed that all of our friends that were getting engaged
in recent years were getting more extravagant engagement 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
diamond. 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 engagement 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 diamond 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
diamonds 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 Pricescope.

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

. Armed with all this new info and experience I went back to my
“trusted B&M” and looked at the diamonds 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.

Back to my story, I began working with a different B&M that was a
Hearts On Fire dealer, because he even had these diamonds 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 diamond 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 Pricescope 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 diamonds 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
for a diamond 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 engagement 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 diamonds I was also looking at
settings and most of the B&M’s were steering me towards fairly
standard engagement rings 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…

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. Thanks to all the amazing Pricescope
regulars that have helped me along the way, both directly and