The lesser-known tips for a better buy.
We all love jewellery, but like all objects of desire and value, buying them can be fraught with many pitfalls. Competing claims, confusing comparisons, inflated prices and inferior products are some of the problems any buyer may encounter.
Unless you are an experienced buyer who has already learned all there is about gemstones and jewellery, chances are you will find yourself in a confused predicament at some point.
Whether you are looking to buy set jewellery or loose gemstones, knowledge is power. It’s important that you arm yourself with the right information before you buy them.
Know Your Stone
The heart of any bejewelled piece is of course the gemstone, so the quality of the stone is of paramount importance. Most of the jewellery’s value will be in the gems, so don’t let the design distract you. Even seasoned jewellery buyers like myself have been so distracted by a piece’s design that we overlook the inferior quality of the gemstones, much to our regret later.
Even if you adore the design, pay careful attention to the stones especially if there are many of them. Just so that you do not overlook the inclusion of lower quality gems with higher-quality ones in the gem-set, if any.
If the piece of jewellery has only a single or a few gems, it’s easier to focus so make sure you check the quality. While certification from international bodies like the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) or the International Gemological Institute (IGI) are important, do not make your purchase decision based only on the certification.
Why: These institutes will certify any stone and grade them for a fee so whilst the gem’s paper certificate serves as a grading guide for the gem’s specifications, it can’t tell you everything about a stone. The ultimate judge of its quality will have to be you.
Here are some insider tips on how to judge a diamond and what to look for.
Beyond the 4Cs: Tips and Tricks for the Savvy Buyer
We all know about the 4Cs when it comes to diamonds: cut, colour, clarity, and carat. You can find basic information about these specifications online, so let’s talk about the lesser-known things instead.
The cut of a diamond affects how its clarity and colour are perceived.
Assuming ideal proportions, diamond cuts with more facets such as round brilliants and radiant cuts will reflect, refract and disperse light more, which makes it harder to notice flaws and yellow tints. A well-cut diamond can potentially look a colour grade higher than the grading of the rough.
Comparatively, step cuts – as seen on the emerald and Asscher cut diamonds – do not have as much fire or dispersion of light. As such, inclusions and colour tint can look more obvious. Ensure that your emerald or Asscher cut stone colour and clarity are as best as you can afford, as flaws will be more obvious.
Remember that carats refer to a diamond’s weight and not its size. A diamond that is twice the carat weight of another will not necessarily look twice as large.
Two stones can be of the same carat weight but look very different in size. For example, one diamond can have a larger table and as such appear bigger when viewed from the top, while the other may have more depth below the girdle.
In fact, a diamond’s proportions and consequentially, its brilliance, may be compromised if the diamond cutter works on maximising its weight only. Typically, every diamond cutter makes a judgement based on the shape and size of the rough he is working on.
Based on the location of the inclusions, shape and size of the rough, he will strive to cut the diamond as beautifully as possible, maximising weight while minimising wastage. For example, if the rough has a huge inclusion at the top, perhaps a heart-shape cut (to avoid the inclusion) will be more valuable and beautiful than a round brilliant.
Hence, it’s important to view a diamond in person than to judge it simply by its certificate.
In art and science, there are a thousand shades of white. When it comes to diamonds, there are 23 colour grades starting from D, being the whitest shade, through to Z, in pale yellows or browns.
Don’t confuse the yellow tint in white diamonds for the rich intense colour of yellow diamonds. Coloured diamonds (yellows, pinks, blues) are considered fancy-coloured gems and are not measured by this D to Z scale.
D-coloured diamonds are rare and command the highest prices, but in reality, it may be difficult to differentiate a D from E or F diamond. Even diamonds in the G to H range appear colourless to the naked eye, and even more so when they are set into jewellery.
Plus, a very well-cut I to J-coloured diamond may look like a G to H diamond. You can get stones of this colour range for much lower prices than those of the D to F group.
Diamonds with a colour grade of K and below have a stronger yellow tint when viewed with the naked eye. Some of these stones can look like yellow diamonds if the shade and colours are rich enough. Jewellers may offer these yellow-tinted white diamonds a lower cost as an alternative to true yellow diamonds.
If the stone is already mounted on a ring or piece of jewellery, it will be harder to tell its colour, so don’t be tempted by the whitest stone. You’ll be paying a premium price for just a certificate.
With a diamond’s ever-present sparkle and brilliance, it’s hard for the naked eye to detect its flaws, especially on smaller stones below 1 carat. Although a diamond may appear perfectly clear, experts grade diamonds on an 11-point scale, and prices vary greatly depending on the grading. From “Flawless” to “Included” and everything between, these gradings are based on how many occlusions and flaws are visible to the naked eye or under magnification.
Is your best buy the most flawless diamond you can afford? The decision on clarity is based on what you want out of buying a diamond.
If you want bragging rights by owning a flawless stone and is able to pony up the hefty fee for one, go for that F or IF diamond. But the savvy buyer knows that most flaws are even less noticeable when the diamond is set into jewellery, so it’s really not that important to buy a flawless gem.
5. Size matters
While it’s tempting to get that 1 or 2 carat diamond, look for one that doesn’t have a perfect round number, like a 0.95 or a 1.08 carat stone, as these cost less comparatively without significant difference on sight.
To get a diamond to weigh exactly 1 carat, a rough stone may have to be cut with a lot of wastage. Also, most buyers want a perfect round-number stone so demand is high. You can’t tell the difference by looking at it, so don’t pay for just a number.
Most jewellery boutiques will have lights to maximise sparkle in their their goods, so don’t be seduced by the brilliance in the store. View your diamonds under normal everyday lighting for a more accurate perspective.
When examining a diamond’s colour, view the unmounted stone when it is face down – not top down – with the pointed tip upwards, and on a white background. View it in natural white light or daylight (not direct sunlight) for the most accurate colour assessment.
After all, you will be wearing the diamond mostly under normal light and not spotlights.
Conflict Diamonds and The Kimberly Process
Worried about “blood diamonds”? The 2006 movie by the same name brought to light the issue of diamonds that come from war-zones in Africa that are being mined and sold by warring factions to fund their battles. Many people now wish to avoid buying these gems. One way is to only buy diamonds that have been certified by the Kimberly Process.
The Kimberly Process is a certification programme created by the United Nations in 2003 to reduce the flow of conflict diamonds around the world. It currently has 54 signatories representing 81 countries and its participants include all major rough diamond producing, exporting and importing countries. Singapore has been a KP participant since 2004 and no rough diamonds can be imported into the country unless they carry this certification.