Since diamonds were first mined in ancient India over 2800 years ago, they have been associated with power, love, wealth and prestige. Ancient Egyptians believed in the power of the diamond and how it could connect love with eternity. Their belief was founded upon Vena Amoris (the vein of love) finger leading back to the heart. By wearing a diamond ring on the Vena Amoris, the ancient Egyptians passionately believed that eternal love could be achieved.
Even today, throughout much of the world, a diamond ring worn on the third finger is viewed as a symbol of the commitment of love. So having found the ‘love of your life’ how do you find the special diamond that is going to symbolise everlasting love?
To start with there is an amazing range of prices to consider from modest sums to telephone number figures that most of us can only dream of. What is more, diamond selling price is not the same as diamond value – the difference is the profits and overheads added of the seller! It is therefore advisable before making any purchase to find out a little more about diamonds and their intrinsic value so that you can have that diamond of your dreams without breaking the bank.
Whilst many people may have heard that a diamond’s value depends critically in terms of the 4Cs: the Cut, Clarity, Carat, and Colour, few really understand how this works in practice. The carat is the weight of a diamond. One carat is 0.2 gram or 200 milligrams and hence is easy to measure objectively with the help of an accurate weighing scale. This is not the case with the other attributes. It is unfortunate that people are often misled into paying too much for an inferior diamond because they do not understand the other more subjective attributes.
The most important and often least understood “C” is “Cut”. To get from the raw diamond to the finished cut sparkling gemstone requires the skilled hand of a master cutter. A rough or uncut diamond is rather unimpressive compared to the sparkling gems resulting from cutting and polishing!
The better the CUT proportions, the better the diamond handles light to create sparkle. Therefore CUT is the single most important factor affecting a diamond’s brilliance and visual fire. However, “Cut” is often confused with diamond Shape.
Diamonds can be cut into many different shapes: 80-85% of all diamonds are cut into the round brilliant diamond shape as this is the most popular. About 5-10% of all diamonds are cut into the princess shape (a square shape) and the remaining 5-10% are spread between all the other shapes e.g. emerald cut, pear shape, oval, cushion, asscher, radiant, marquise, heart, baguette…etc.
The sad fact is that 75-80% of diamonds sold anywhere are poorly proportioned to retain carat weight rather to maximise sparkle as the average person and the average vendor sells them by the carat!
Poorly cut diamonds are actually worth up to 50% less than many vendors sell them at but unless you buy with expert advise you often end up paying more for these inferior diamonds. Hence a diamond in the hand bought with expertise at a direct from trade low price may literally have a net value that is more than the value of higher price diamonds being sold elsewhere!
With fancy shapes like hearts, pears, marquise, there are visual clues that even a novice can use to spot diamonds that are too fat, too thin or too irregular. However, more expertise is required to judge the most popular shape, the round brilliant. All round diamonds have the same visually round shape but will differ in their angles, proportions and depths that are not visually apparent especially when the diamond is already set in a piece of jewellery rather than being loose. For the round shape, the solution is to buy diamonds with the highest grades for Cut proportions on independent certificates from the three most reputable independent laboratories i.e. GIA, HRD and IGI. Many other certificates are not worth the paper they are written on as they are either not strict enough in their grading (e.g. EGL) or not fully independent.
Another critical factor affecting diamond value is “Colour”. Most diamonds are referred to as “colourless” which in diamond terminology ranges from actually colourless to yellowish shades. The difference between various colour grades makes a critical difference to value though the differences in shade are very subtle requiring expertise to judge when the diamond is loose. Few people realise that it is impossible to accurately asses a diamond’s colour when the diamond is already set in jewellery.
A very tiny percentage of diamonds have other distinct colours e.g. blue, green, yellow, orange, pink, or red. Such fancy coloured diamonds command telephone figure prices in line with their rarity.
Diamond Clarity is the remaining C and refers to the presence of inclusions or imperfections in a diamond. Almost all diamonds have some imperfections as individual as the person who wears the diamond. For the purposes of jewellery, diamonds are graded by the amount of imperfections that can be seen at x10 magnification with a jeweller’s magnifying glass. This is the easiest factor for most people to understand and appreciate especially when viewing a diamond close up under magnification.
Historically, the shops whether prestigious ones like Cartier and Tiffany to more modest independent retailers have been popular for their choice and convenience as well as their instant fulfilment. However, branded shops have higher margins, often charging as much as 2-3 times the diamond trade price, to cover their higher costs of advertising/branding and high stock levels. Even modest non-branded retailers often charge double the trade price to cover their stock and premises overheads.
Hence, many shrewd shoppers nowadays prefer to purchase from diamond brokers (e.g. in the UK: bestdiamonds or designsbyindigo) who can sell with expertise from loose diamonds as well as provide non-retail trade prices. Such diamond brokers provide a more personalised service by cherry-picking diamonds to suit their clients budget and needs rather than just selling “stock”.
On the whole diamond brokers like these are still relatively few compared to the growth of online “diamond bucket shops” where one can simply click and order from a list of diamonds. Many mass-market shoppers are turning to these bucket shops for the convenience of buying via their computer screen from which they can look at pictures of thousands of items online and place their order without ever talking to a human.
Typically, such mass-market diamond retailers provide a list of diamonds owned by groups of wholesalers and let the shopper pick the diamond they want based on the specifications in the list. The shopper pays for the diamond in advance and then the wholesaler or the retailer ships the diamond to the consumer. Due to their low overhead costs, diamond bucket shops can provide lower prices than most branded or independent jewellery shops.
The disadvantage of this style of bucket retailer is that there are few safeguards in place to keep the consumer from making a mistake and paying a low price but one that may still be too much for an overall low value diamond! Picking the least expensive diamond from a list of options often means there is something less desirable about the diamond. After all, the majority of diamonds produced and sold without expertise are the ones with less than ideal cut proportions for example!
To determine which company is going to be the best supplier for your diamonds, know what characteristics are most important to you. If you want a branded diamond and instant fulfilment and do not mind paying the higher overhead charge then the branded shops are the way to go. If you want to choose from loose diamonds with expert advice at trade prices then a diamond broker should be your route. If quality is not important then any other routes are your option.