How to get a Good Deal on a Great Diamond.
Diamonds are similar to fingerprints or snowflakes, no two are exactly alike. Like people, diamonds have birthmarks; identifying characteristics formed by nature. These differences are caused by what is present when the crystals are formed, the mixture of chemical impurities, and temperature and pressure can also have quite an effect on the color and clarity of a diamond. Because most diamonds are not formed under perfect conditions, due to the environment, the diamond you choose as an engagement ring may have its very own unique characteristics that will make it unlike any other.
When you are looking for a good deal on a great diamond, the best strategy to follow is one that balances diamond appearance and size. It is common to try to get the largest stone you can afford. Unfortunately, this stone will not demonstrate the brilliance you desire because of its shortcomings in the other three "C‘s".
How do you buy a great diamond?
Here's our approach.
Color: Take stones of various color grades and compare them so that you can learn to tell the difference. At first this may be difficult. Notice the effect of color on price. You will notice that when you go from "near colorless" to "colorless" the price increases drastically. Now, look at the same stones separately and see if you can detect the yellow tinge. Since the stone will always be seen on a finger, and not next to a collection of other diamonds, concentrate on finding one that does not appear yellow without comparison. Most people find that J color or better appears colorless without comparison. Try to view in sunlight if possible. Some stores will have a master set of grading diamonds which they use to grade the color. You will find these useful to see the various levels of color. Once you have decided at which point you can detect yellow tinges, you have determined an upper limit on your desired color.
Clarity: Use a jeweler's loupe or microscope and view various grades of stones. It is easy to see the differences here. Now view the stones without magnification, even knowing the locations of the inclusions, they should not be visible if the stone is SI2 or better. You now know that clarity provides high prices with little visible difference to the naked eye. If you are a collector, the story is different. If you want the most attractive stone for your money, anything higher than SI2 is a plus, but not necessary. Inclusions are normalities, not abnormalities in a diamond. They are useful in helping one identify a particular stone.
Cut: This will have the greatest overall impact on the appearance of the stone. Unfortunately, it is often the most downplayed aspect of the diamond. Diamonds can be cut short and fat, making them appear large. The further that they deviate from the optimum cut, the more "dead" spots (lack of brilliance) will appear. Mall jewelers often attribute brilliance to high clarity and good color. In actuality, the cut affects brilliance
Carat: The carat of the stone will be dictated by your budget and the constraints of color and clarity. If cut is under emphasized, you may simply be lucky and find a very brilliant stone that is not much more expensive. It all depends on the store. Once again, try to view stones in sunlight, as that contains the highest content of visible light. Jewelry stores spend thousands of dollars on lighting systems that can make anything appear to sparkle.
Budget: Once you have decided on a price range, go to the dealer. If you tell them that you are interested in an "x" carat stone, they know that you haven't done your homework. If you tell them that you have a budget of "x" dollars and you are looking for the nicest stone in terms of cut and overall appearance in that price range, and you would prefer a stone that has no visible inclusions, you will do much better. Expect them to suggest some out of your price range. Obviously, the dealer will want to get those extra dollars, so state a budget slightly less than you really intend to spend. If they think that you are stretching your budget for a nicer stone, they will be more willing to cut you a break. Also, the price on the tag is never what you pay. Get them to throw in a free initial appraisal for your insurance company as well.
So, what does all this mean?
You cannot become a seasoned gemologist while buying your diamond.
There are basically just three things you should be concerned with...
First, you must enjoy and appreciate the diamond you buy. Clarity grades above I1 are generally not noticeable to the naked eye (some cut shapes like the emerald show more inclusions than others). However, differences along the color grading scale are noticeable to the naked eye. Therefore the color of your diamond will be more important visually, unless you can see clarity imperfections with the naked eye. Some consumers can see the difference between cut grades and others cannot. If you cannot appreciate a better cut, do not pay extra for it. Cut shape preference is a matter of opinion, but some cost more than others. They run from marquise and round brilliant being the most expensive, then pear shape, oval, heart, emerald, radiant, to princess as the least. A 2.00 carat diamond will cost more than twice the same quality 1.00 carat diamond because it is more rare.
Second, you need to know the carat weight, clarity grade, color grade and something about the cut from an unbiased source. Get a diamond grading report (commonly referred to as a certificate or "cert") from a recognized gemological laboratory that does not place a value estimation of the diamond on their report. This will eliminate any conflict of interest on the part of the store's appraiser or salesperson. Diamonds sold with a certificate do not cost more. It's just that diamonds sold without "certs" are almost always slightly lower in quality than represented and therefore cost less. To be sure the diamond is the same one described in the certificate, have the store show you that the measurements of the diamond and the locations of the inclusions match the report.
Third, you must know that the price you are paying is fair. Have your diamond appraised by a third-party, certified appraiser.