Diamonds are timeless, quite literally. They have actually been around since the age of the dinosaurs – most diamonds that are dug from the ground today are hundreds of millions of years old.
But the allure of diamonds is not their age. The allure of diamonds is all about their timeless beauty – the sparkle, the scintillation, the fire.
So how do you go about shopping for diamonds, and making sure that you are getting a fair deal? Here are some tips that will help ensure your next diamond – be it a ring, a pendant, or if you are very lucky, a bracelet – is not only a great stone, but also a good deal.
How To Shop for Diamond Jewelry
- The magic of a diamond is a combination of brilliance and fire. Brilliance is the white light that is reflected off the diamond, fire is the flash of colors that is emanating from within the diamond. The best combination of the two is a balance, and it is achieved by careful cutting of the stone. If you are looking at a ring, ask to see a "brilliant" cut, which will give you the best combination of brilliance and fire.
- Don't get too hung up on the clarity grade. Again, this is mostly about diamond rings (or else a gorgeous pendant or earrings). VS1 or VS2 is fine (meaning "very slightly included"). You don't need a diamond that is internally flawless, or even near flawless. You would pay a huge premium, and most people could never see the difference, even with a jeweler's loupe.
- For color, the J – M range should give you a bright, white diamond that will look fabulous in most lighting situations. The most widely accepted color range is the Gemological Institute of America's grading system, which runs from D – Z. The top end of the range, D – J, is colorless and near-colorless, which gets really pricey. The K – M range will be so slightly "colored" you probably won't notice any yellowish color unless you're a gemologist.
- How many carats do you want? Here's a little secret – the jewelry industry has certain carat weights that they call "magic" weights. They call them magic because the customers' demand for those weights is so high, the industry can actually increase the price-per-carat at those points. The most common "magic" weight for most of us is the 1 carat mark. A diamond that weighs 0.98 carats may cost $3500 per carat. A diamond that weighs 1.01 carat might cost $4500 per carat. That's because you've crossed the "magic" 1 carat threshold, and the price goes up exponentially. If you can live without the bragging rights of "my diamond is over a carat," then look for a ring just under the carat, and put the rest of the money to your honeymoon.
- For rings and other pieces, consider platinum or white gold settings, rather than yellow gold. The white setting will make the stone look even more brilliant.
- Shop from a reputable source. There are many well-known jewelry stores out there. For most of us, they are the best place to go. Department stores are not in the business full time, and you will not get as good a deal as you will from a reputable jeweler. Be really, really wary about buying over the internet.
- Tell the jeweler that you want "conflict-free" diamonds only. This means that the stone you purchase is certified as not coming from a region where diamond profits have been used to conduct wars. Not only is this good citizenship, it will help filter the good jewelers from the shady ones. Any jeweler who cannot supply "conflict-free" certification is not someone you want to buy from anyway.
- Finally, after you choose your diamond jewelry, make sure to get adequate paperwork before you leave with it. At a minimum, your paperwork should include an accurate description of your jewelry, including its clarity and color grade, along with a full warranty. Better jewelry stores will also provide full return privileges for a period following your purchase.
The best advice of all? Once you have followed these steps, and made sure you are getting a good deal, ask yourself one final question. Do I love this piece of diamond jewelry? If you can instantly say "yes," then it's a match made in heaven.
Jennifer Wenger is a freelance writer who writes about fashion, travel, and design. Her most recent article focused on how to make a fashion statement with your umbrella.