I’m in the market for a diamond pendant for my girlfriend to celebrate her birthday. I’ve bought diamonds before, so I thought I would write a post about what I’ve learned about the purchasing process. Here’s what I will cover in this post:
- How to pick jewelry she will want to wear.
- What you need to know about diamonds to make an informed decision.
- How to buy quality diamonds without breaking the budget.
First, In the Old Days…
Before the information age, buying diamonds was harder because the sellers kept tight control of the buying process. Kind of like buying a car where the salesman controls which cars to show you, based upon what his opinion is about what he thinks he can sell you. It’s always been possible to make informed buying decisions if you were willing to do the research. It’s just that today, it’s much easier to get exactly what you want without dealing with controlling sellers.
Before you go all out and run the ‘specs’ in your search for the perfect jewelry, keep in mind that . there’s still one thing that hasn’t changed at all: you need to find out what she likes. It doesn’t matter how much you spend or how big the diamonds are, she still needs to like it enough to want to wear it.
Tips to find out what she likes…
- Ask her what she likes directly. Diamond jewelry is usually either trendy (‘knot’ and ‘journey’ pendents are currently fashionable) or traditional (a diamond on a simple mount). Find out what she prefers.
- Look at what she wears. If you haven’t been paying attention to what she wears currently, take a look. It can help to determine the kind of jewelry she likes.
- Find out what she already owns but doesn’t wear. If she has a bunch of stuff she never wears (most women do) you might want to steer clear of buying something similar. Also, you don’t want to buy a duplicate.
What you need to know about diamond jewelry to make an informed decision.
The two components that make up diamond jewelry are the mount material and the diamonds. Most of the cost of the jewelry is in the diamonds, though, the mounting materials vary in cost depending on how precious the materials are. Diamond jewelry is typically mounted in these material choices. I’ve listed them here by decreasing cost.
- Platinum – expensive, has a silver color.
- Rose Gold – gold mixed with copper, looks pink. Uncommon in the U.S.
- White Gold – gold mixed with nickel/silver looks silver.
- Yellow Gold – gold mixed with both copper and silver/nickel.
- Palladium – low cost metal that is silver in color. Typically used in engagement rings to lower their price point.
When is comes to diamonds, they are offered either with a statement of their quality (certification) or without. There is a methodology used (so called 4Cs) to certify their quality created by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).
Diamonds that pass the GIA certification process are “certified”. These diamonds typically will cost more because of the labor involved, and only the higher quality, less flawed, diamonds pass.
If you buy diamonds that are certified you should get a report that used the GIA methodology. The certification process measures a lot of stuff, but these are the basic criteria (4Cs) that are the most important.
- Cut – how well the diamond reflects light.
- Clarity – how clear the diamond is, the inclusions (flaws) it has.
- Carat – the diamond weight.
- Color – the degree of color in the stone.
How to Buy Diamonds Without Breaking the Budget
The secret to buying diamond jewelry cost effectively is to know when you need to buy the highest quality and when you don’t. This is not unlike other consumer purchases you make where you will make choices about cost/benefits and adjust your spending accordingly.
Here are the (4) main choices, ordered by increasing cost:
- Pave settings, or multiple small diamond mounts. Diamonds are usually un-certified.
- Un-certified large diamond setting
- Certified large diamond setting
- Signed diamond jewelry (by Cartier, Tiffany’s, etc.)
The most cost effective way to buy diamonds is to buy jewelry made of up ‘many’ diamonds. This is typically a piece that contains more than (3) diamonds, it’s sometimes referred to as ‘pave’ (pronounced paa-vah). So, for example, a heart shaped pendant may contain 10-20 diamonds. These will typically be sold using un-certified diamonds which also reduces the cost. The downside to this type of jewelry is that it does not hold its value as well as jewelry made up of one or a few quality diamonds. Here’s why:
- Pave settings contain smaller diamonds. These are less valuable. For example, (4) 1/8 carat diamonds are less valuable than an equivalent 1/2 carat diamond.
- Pave settings are more difficult/costly to ‘reset’ in another piece if you want to reuse the diamonds.
- Pave settings are usually set in trendy designs that can go out of style.
Here’s what a pave pendant looks like:
Tip: I recommend that you steer clear of Pave settings, if possible. The downsides outweigh the cost savings.
For jewelry pieces that offer just a few diamonds, such as a pendent or earnings, these are offered with both uncertified large settings as well as certified large settings. Here’s an example of a very simple pendant with a prominent diamond setting:
Here are some tips on how to buy these.
- Diamond Engagement Ring. The solitaire diamond is very likely to be scrutinized up close within inches. You want this diamond to be the highest quality you can afford, you will want to go ‘certified’. Here’s how to save money: keep it simple and buy only one diamond on the ring, and you can save money on the ring mount by using palladium instead of white gold or platinum.
- Diamond Earnings. Earnings are rarely scrutinized less than, say, 1 foot away. They need to be sparkly, buy not necessarily visually without flaw. Buy these without certification or buy a lower quality certified diamond.
- Diamond Pendant. These are more like to be scrutinized than earnings, but you can probably get away with going without certification, or a lower quality certified, if you pick correctly.
- Diamond Bracelet. Similar to earnings. It’s important that the diamonds look similar in size, clarity and cut. As long as they match well, you can go un-certified, especially for the smaller carat sizes.
By far the most expensive option is to simply buy signed diamond jewelry, such as from Tiffany’s or Cartier or DeBeers. Signed jewelry from a famous dealer offers the assurance of getting quality diamonds without much effort. The bonus is that these pieces can often maintain or exceed their higher cost over the long term much better than other jewelry (the ‘signature’ has value in excess of the value of the components). I will leave it up to the reader to determine whether or not this is worth the extra expense.
You can’t go wrong buying simple settings that display diamonds, either the un-certified large diamond setting or one that is certified. If you buy a fancy or trendy setting, there’s a risk that she won’t like it. I haven’t met a woman who didn’t like a simple beautiful diamond pendant or stud earnings. And even if she doesn’t like it, the diamonds can be recycled more easily into something else, whereas the jewelry with a pave setting usually can’t.
Diamonds are forever, and can even last longer than your relationship 😉
All images courtesy of BlueNile.com