The diamond industry is one of the most lucrative sectors in the world, which is why fraudulent practices surrounding the stones are so common. Knowing how to tell if a diamond is real is not easy, so meeting a legitimate specialist is critical when it comes to purchasing a piece.
In this article, you'll learn how the scams work, how to avoid them, how to report them, how to find the perfect diamond and the difference between lab created diamonds vs. real diamonds.
Let's get into it.
"When shopping for a stone, you want to make sure first and foremost that you're dealing with a reputable jeweler," says Dan Moran, diamond expert and third generation jeweler. "Anyone who doesn't want to measure the stone in front of you probably hides something. Others just don't know how to do it, and they're just hired to sell. They might be honest but if they just sell the stones without the knowledge while being paid $10/hour doesn't assure you of the legitimacy of the diamond", adds Moran, who also founded Concierge Diamonds in Los Angeles.
Weighting the diamond is not just enough when it comes to watching for the scale tricks. One of the common questionable practices is when some jewelers advertise the "total carat weight" of diamonds in a ring, but avoid mentioning the individual weight of the centerpiece.
How is that important? A big diamond is worth much more than the seven small ones around it that equal it in weight. If you are considering buying, always ask for a written offer, giving the quality and weight of the centerpiece itself. If they try to avoid doing that, go to the next shop.
"It's the typical bait and switch scheme. Boasting a 2-carat diamond while in reality the center stone is only 1 carat. Very misleading", explains Moran.
"Some jewelry stores will often use tricks like placing fancy lighting to make the diamonds appear brighter, or worse, they will spray the stones and the jewelry with Windex to make them appear more sparkly than they really are", says Moran.
"Make sure you look at that diamond in many settings: outdoor, which is where most people in your life will see it, or under many other different lights. Also, look at that diamond loose, meaning not when the stone is placed in the ring already", advises our expert.
The bottom line is, wipe the diamond yourself very well before looking at it. If the seller doesn't allow you to do that, move on with your shopping.
Another misleading method used in the past was the "Blue Paint Culet". Some sellers painted the lowest tip of the diamond (the culet) with an almost imperceptible spot of blue which did wonders when the diamond was reflected under a particular light. The colors looked so vibrant that the rock seemed to be the best of all you've ever seen. However, this trick is not that common anymore as was replaced with the Windex method, which is even more efficient.
Besides weighting and lighting, one of the most critical things to look for when buying a diamond is a certificate. Ask the seller to provide you one. A diamond certificate, also known as a diamond report, is issued by an accredited independent gemological laboratory. In addition to the diamond's carat weight and measurements, a certificate includes grades for the diamond's cut, color and clarity.
"If you fell in love with a diamond and are set to buy it, make the wise decision to ask the seller to get a certificate for you. They can do that. Offer to pay to certify the stone. If the jeweler finds reasons not to do it, look for a different shop", advises Moran.
Who certifies the diamonds and who is to be trusted?
Okay, you want to purchase a beautiful stone for your bride-to-be. However, you're not sure about the difference in types of certification. Concierge Diamonds explains:
"There are many grading agencies in the US and Europe: Gemological Institute of America (GIA), American Gemological Society (AGS) or European Gemological Laboratory (EGL)".
"GIA is based in the United States and is considered to be the industry standard. It is the most widely used. GIA is also the most trusted name in the diamond trade; however, certificates from any of these agencies is not solid proof that you are not going to end up with a "lemon" diamond. Bear in mind that it is almost impossible to encapsulate the nature of a diamond in a certificate."
"It is important to note that we work with GIA and EGL USA certified diamonds. Labs such as EGL Israel, EGL EU and other franchises of EGL are not reputable labs. Only the USA franchise of EGL is considered a reputable lab."
Watch the video below to see the difference between GIA and EGL diamond certification:
"I have also come across vendors selling synthetic or lab-grown diamonds", says Dan Moran. "There was a whole scandal not long ago where someone was selling small lab-grown diamonds in parcels to jewelers who were then making tennis bracelets, earrings and other pieces of jewelry with the smaller diamonds. They were getting away with it because people weren't trained on what to look out for."
Concierge Diamonds' CEO explains that: "Lab-created diamonds are man-made diamonds that are carbon atoms arranged in the characteristic diamond crystal structure. Lab-grown diamonds are not good investments for several reasons. For one, almost no one will insure a lab-grown diamond. Additionally, there is no resale value for the stone".
"Once you buy a lab-grown diamond, there is zero resale value in the stone, because manufacturers can continue to mass produce them. The more of them that are available on the market, the less value they have. Consider it like buying a new car -- once you drive it off the lot, it automatically depreciates in value. Also, at one time, lab-grown diamonds could not be grown over a carat and half but now they can as their technology has improved."
Factories that manufacture synthetic diamonds started to do an excellent job in making their stones almost indistinguishable from the natural ones. It is tough to make the difference nowadays, so you need independent certification to confirm it's natural. Natural diamonds have 'inclusions', which means little imperfections. Synthetic diamonds are cleaner than the natural ones.
In your search for the perfect diamond, you could use something that Moran calls "The Four C's". It stands for: Color, Carat, Clarity and Cut.
"While they are all important factors in selecting your stone, some of them are more important than others because they can significantly increase the cost. Each one of the C's is important, but there's one other C that you need to consider: COST, and varying the Four C's can alter the cost of a stone drastically. The challenge is to balance the Four C's to create the perfect engagement ring."
Let's see what he is talking about:
Concierge Diamonds' website states: "Diamonds are graded on color from D – Z, with D clear and white in overtone and having no color whatsoever. The further down you get on the scale, the more yellow, brownish, or grayish a diamond can look.
Because diamonds are a product of nature, each one is formed differently and sometimes another element has become trapped in the carbon as the diamond is forming. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. This is how we get blue diamonds, pink diamonds and the ultra rare red diamonds.
Most commonly the color changes on a diamond will go from white to yellow. Typically going up one grade in color can result in about a 15% increase in cost on the stone. It's not a hard and fast rule, but a general rule of thumb."
"The carat weight of a stone is a direct indicator of its size; the more a diamond weighs, the larger it will be. Of course, the price of a diamond will increase as the carat weight increases."
"It's important to understand it's not a linear price increase: a 5-carat diamond won't cost five times more than a 1-carat diamond; it could cost 100 times as much or more."
"When you're shopping for a diamond you need to think about the curve of size versus price and think about where you want to be so you can stay in your budget while you trade off the other C's."
Here is a bit more to dive in. Moran explains: "Clarity is a high jump bar. As long as the diamond has no inclusions that bother your naked eye, you are over the bar, and it's a waste of money to buy a stone with gemologically perfect clarity. This is why it's so hard to buy diamonds online – you can't see what you're evaluating."
"Online stores will try to get around this by presenting a certificate on the diamond, but grading the diamond is subjective as well, and the certificate doesn't provide you all the information you need."
"Many times we've sent two virtually identical stones to the gem lab and gotten two different grades. On several occasions, we've sent the same stone to the lab twice and gotten different grades from different gemologists!"
See the issue here? "The problem with relying on a certificate is that it's subjective."
"It's just the opinion of the guy at the lab. You can get different grading on the same stone from a different lab, or send the stone back to the same lab and get a different grade from a different grader in the lab on another day.", concludes Moran.
The education continues: "There are two aspects of cutting. The first one is simple: what shape do you want? Round? Oval? Princess? If you don't know yet, compare different cuts of diamonds here."
"The complex aspect to cuts is that for each given shape, it's well understood how they are supposed to be cut. There is a mathematical process that diamond cutters use when cutting the stones: they know the angles they are supposed to cut, where the facets are supposed to meet, and the proportions each facet should have. With today's technology, we can measure these facets very precisely."
"A diamond doesn't have performance value like a car. A diamond's only job is to sparkle and is designed to refract as much light as possible. And it's the cut that makes it do that. So why not cut the stones the same way every single time since we have tools and processes to do this?"
"When a diamond cutter cuts a stone, he may have to compromise on the cut of the stone. When you cut a stone, you're removing materials, therefore decreasing the carat weight and ultimately the value of the stone. So the cutter has to balance the quality of the cut against the carat weight."
"Cut is significant because a diamond's only job is to sparkle, and the sparkle is in the cut. If you're considering buying a poorly cut diamond just because it's cheaper, just buy a piece of glass for $15 and save yourself the trouble. But something tells me your bride-to-be probably won't appreciate that as much."
"It's the cut that unlocks the beauty of the stone. Take a so-so rough diamond and cut it perfectly, and it will look beautiful. Take a top-of-the-line rough diamond and cut it poorly, and it will look like garbage."
There are ten types of diamond cuts:
1. Round Cut Diamond
2. Princess Cut Diamond
3. Oval Cut Diamond
4. Marquise Cut Diamond
5. Pear Cut Diamond
6. Cushion Cut Diamond
7. Emerald Cut Diamond
8. Asscher Cut Diamond
9. Radiant Cut Diamond
10. Heart Cut Diamond
Let's take a look at them. Here is a little bit about every single cut, according to Concierge Diamonds:
The round cut diamond is the most popular diamond shape for engagement rings, and represents 75% of all diamond engagement rings sold.
The round diamond is superior to other cuts due to its ability to return light. A round diamond will produce more brilliance versus other cuts of stones. Typically because round diamonds have high production costs, they tend to cost more than other shapes.
The princess cut diamond cut is one the more popular cuts of diamonds for engagement rings. This type of cut is a brilliant cut, as opposed to a step cut. This shape is the most efficient shape to cut, meaning you lose the least material of the rough diamond. This helps to keep the cost of a princess cut below the cost of a round diamond.
Oval diamonds tend to face up very large if they are cut properly. This means that if you place a 1 carat oval next to a 1 carat round, majority will say that the oval looks bigger than the round, even though the two stones are the same weight.
Ovals are difficult to cut, making it scarce and desirable. The cost of any diamond is driven by demand, and the demand for this stone is high. Those looking to impress should consider an oval cut engagement ring.
The marquise diamond is an oblong shaped diamond, like a football. It's a brilliant cut diamond and often gives the illusion of a greater size. The shape originated in the court of King Louis XIV of France and is called the navette, or "little boat".
The marquise diamond has one of the largest surface areas of any diamond shape, making it a good choice when trying to maximize perceived size.
The pear shaped diamond is a brilliant cut and a combination of a round diamond and a marquise shape. While it can be worn either way, most women wear the pear shaped diamond with the pointed end pointing away at the hand of the wearer because it elongates the hands and fingers creating a more elegant look.
However, buyers need to be aware of the "bowtie" or "butterfly effect". This occurs if the stone is not cut correctly, and dark spots will appear in the stone. These are not inclusions, but less-refractive facets because the stone is incorrectly cut. This also occurs in marquise diamonds and oval shaped diamonds.
Cushion cut diamonds have a classic, vintage, old look to them. There are actually two kinds of cushion cuts: cushion brilliant and cushion-modified brilliant. Of these two, the cushion brilliant is the more valuable, more rare and more sought-after of the two cuts.
It uses fewer, larger facets than the modified cut, giving it a more elegant and old-world appearance. Many cushion-modified brilliants suffer from a "Crushed Ice" look: there are so many facets at so many different angles that the stone looks busy, like crushed ice. Cushion brilliant can be about 15% more expensive than cushion-modified brilliants.
The emerald diamond is a step cut and produces a hall-of-mirrors effect. Because of the nature of the emerald cut, inclusions in the stone and the body color are easier to see than in other shapes. If you like the glassy, large facet, classic, old-world look, an emerald cut diamond is the shape for you.
The asscher cut diamond is similar to the emerald cut and is also a step cut diamond, but while the emerald cut is rectangular, the asscher cut is square. The technical name for the asscher cut is the "square emerald cut".
The radiant cut results in a brilliant-cut, diamond that looks like a square with the corners polished off. Radiant cuts are known for their brilliance as they have multiple facets that return light reflected in the stone. It's a contemporary looking stone, and is a popular choice for a center stone.
Radiant cut diamonds can also suffer from the "Crushed Ice" look, like cushion cut diamonds. The corners of princess cuts can be very susceptible to chipping, but the radiant cut does not have that problem. The radiant cut also differs from the princess cut in that it has different facet pattern.
The heart cut diamond is a brilliant cut and is popular as a solitaire, ring or pendant and as a symbol of love. This is a non-traditional style engagement ring and this shape benefits more than others by having a larger size.
Make your friends and family aware of this scam by sharing it on social media. You can also officially report questionable diamond sellers to the Federal Trade Commission using the link below:
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