Diamonds Merit an In-Store Review

Don’t let the sparkle of online promises sway you from making a smart purchase.

 By James Vincent GIA GD, AJP, Raleigh Diamond

Whether you're getting ready to propose or looking to upgrade your current diamond, choosing a diamond can be an intimidating and time-consuming process.

Many shoppers are familiar with the four Cs: Color, Cut, Clarity, and Carat Weight. The diamond knowledge I wish to share is less commonly understood. My expertise comes from more than 25 years in the wholesale and retail diamond business. I am a Gemological Institute of America Accredited Jewelry Professional (GIA AJP) and a GIA Graduate Diamonds alumnus.

While the most common way to buy a diamond is in a jewelry store, online buying is also an option for some. Here are some pointers to consider:

Jewelry Store

Look for a retailer who appeals to your unique needs and will actively listen, educate, and take the time to help you find the perfect diamond, within your budget. Unlike online sellers, some locally owned jewelry stores will allow you to trade in your old diamond when you are purchasing a new one. Begin the diamond selection process by looking at several diamonds in a variety of colors and clarities. Once you have narrowed your selection to two or three candidates, carefully inspect each diamond.

If a diamond has a laboratory grading report, ask if the report number is laser-inscribed on the diamond. This is how you can be certain that the diamond in the report is the same diamond you are being shown.

Ask the sales associate to show you the diamonds under a microscope. For a diamond novice, it can be quite difficult to see a diamond’s laser inscription using a 10x jeweler’s loupe.

Any diamond retailer who discourages a thorough inspection or who is unwilling to show you a diamond under a microscope may be hiding something. Insist upon complete transparency, and do not succumb to sales pressure.

Buying Online

Spoiler alert: Most online diamond retailers don’t have actual inventory. That’s right, zero diamonds. Instead, they publish a list of inventories aggregated from the largest diamond wholesalers and trading platforms, and simply populate this information onto their own websites. Don’t take my word for it: Call online dealers and ask if a particular diamond is in their physical possession.

Remember that you’re considering a diamond you have not even seen. Sure, the grading report includes all the measurements, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

If you cannot compare the diamonds side-by-side, you will never know if that diamond sparkles less or looks less bright than other diamonds with the exact same grading criterion. That’s why professional diamond buyers—including me—never buy diamonds sight unseen.

Best Option

Work with a locally owned jewelry store that features its diamond inventory online and has a full diamond laboratory for clients to visit. This way you can compare the grading reports of multiple diamonds online, then go to the jewelry store and look at actual diamonds (not just their grading reports), and do so alongside a diamond expert, using professional instruments and magnification.

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