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#1 ErieTopcat

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Posted 24 April 2011 - 09:05 PM

My girlfriend wants a Black Diamond engagement ring. I live in Erie, PA.

Does anyone have any experience with Bell Jewels. They are in NYC DD but are an on-line dealer?

I have a local jeweler that I have worked with on a custom design but they need to send it out to a ring maker.

I am trying to eliminate the Jewler and go straight to a ring maker.

Bell Jewels is about 1/3 the price. I am wondering if it's because
A) they are a ring maker and only an On-line Jewler
B) lower overhead
C) Scam artist

Any input is greatly appreciated

I am planning on making a trip to the DD but leaving my CC at home.

Again thanks

#2 davidelevi

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Posted 25 April 2011 - 12:06 AM

The price difference you are finding could be due to many causes, not all of which are going to be apparent to you or even an expert without proper equipment and examinations. For example:

1. Use of natural colour diamonds vs. irradiated diamonds. Although most black diamonds are irradiated, natural blacks exist, and are considerably more expensive.

2. Different metals and alloys, used in different quantities. A thin ring is obviously going to cost less than a thick one, and may even be more graceful; it's unlikely to last as long. Platinum is more expensive than a naturally white 18K gold/platinum alloy which in turn is more expensive than rhodium-plating a 14K gold/silver/nickel/iron/copper alloy. Also, platinum is going to cost more to work and finish than gold (and 18K gold more than 14K).

3. Different manufacturing techniques and finish quality. A cast ring is going to be cheaper than a ring cut from pipe, in turn cheaper than die-striking or machining from solid. Solder seams in difficult-to-see areas can be filed down and polished finely, or left quite rough; same for the back of castings. Rough-and-ready overall polishing can be hidden to some extent by plating.

4. Detailing is expensive. Nice flowing prongs or claw-tips are time consuming. Milgrain, filigree, chasing and even engraving the name of the jeweller (or yours) by hand vs. by laser make a difference to the cost.

5. Pre-sales and after-sales service has a cost. The design that you planned with your local jeweller is a service, and it has a cost. Since you are planning to use the result of that effort with somebody else, that cost needs to be recouped by keeping average prices higher for other customers (which is why most custom makers insist in getting a significant downpayment before they begin detailed design). Having only an online presence also means lower costs in after-sales service, since relatively fewer customers will ship their jewels to you for replating, cleaning, adjusting... than they would if you were simply down the road and they could bring them in while doing their shopping.

6. Overheads (rents, wages, utilities, furnishing, insurance, ...) are definitely higher if you have a nice, customer-accessible location in a main shopping area than if you have a 12th floor office in an out-of-the-way building only open to the people that work there.

7. Your distinction between "ring maker" (bench jeweller) and jeweller is a false one. To sell a diamond ring, it takes - at a minimum: a designer, a diamond dealer, a supplier of metals, a bench jeweller, a setter and a retailer. In some cases, this means six individuals or firms involved; in some cases, it's only two or three. It is not necessarily true that where there are six the cost will be higher or the results better than when there are two. But neither is it necessarily true the other way around. As a consumer, you may be better served by someone who is accountable for the overall result than by someone who is "cheaper" at doing one or more tasks.

I could go on. What it boils down to: make sure that you are comparing like-for-like, and that you take all the elements of the package into consideration. With jewellery, much of the cost is hidden in tiny details that however matter quite a bit, both in terms of the looks and the durability of the final result.

As to Bell Jewels: I don't know them. They explicitly say they use irradiated and/or HPHT-treated diamonds with no independent lab grading, and the metalwork in their stock photos seems rather unrefined. On the other hand, their return terms are generous, and they seem to be quite forthright in describing what they sell.
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#3 ErieTopcat

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Posted 25 April 2011 - 08:21 AM

The price difference you are finding could be due to many causes, not all of which are going to be apparent to you or even an expert without proper equipment and examinations. For example:

1. Use of natural colour diamonds vs. irradiated diamonds. Although most black diamonds are irradiated, natural blacks exist, and are considerably more expensive.

2. Different metals and alloys, used in different quantities. A thin ring is obviously going to cost less than a thick one, and may even be more graceful; it's unlikely to last as long. Platinum is more expensive than a naturally white 18K gold/platinum alloy which in turn is more expensive than rhodium-plating a 14K gold/silver/nickel/iron/copper alloy. Also, platinum is going to cost more to work and finish than gold (and 18K gold more than 14K).

3. Different manufacturing techniques and finish quality. A cast ring is going to be cheaper than a ring cut from pipe, in turn cheaper than die-striking or machining from solid. Solder seams in difficult-to-see areas can be filed down and polished finely, or left quite rough; same for the back of castings. Rough-and-ready overall polishing can be hidden to some extent by plating.

4. Detailing is expensive. Nice flowing prongs or claw-tips are time consuming. Milgrain, filigree, chasing and even engraving the name of the jeweller (or yours) by hand vs. by laser make a difference to the cost.

5. Pre-sales and after-sales service has a cost. The design that you planned with your local jeweller is a service, and it has a cost. Since you are planning to use the result of that effort with somebody else, that cost needs to be recouped by keeping average prices higher for other customers (which is why most custom makers insist in getting a significant downpayment before they begin detailed design). Having only an online presence also means lower costs in after-sales service, since relatively fewer customers will ship their jewels to you for replating, cleaning, adjusting... than they would if you were simply down the road and they could bring them in while doing their shopping.

6. Overheads (rents, wages, utilities, furnishing, insurance, ...) are definitely higher if you have a nice, customer-accessible location in a main shopping area than if you have a 12th floor office in an out-of-the-way building only open to the people that work there.

7. Your distinction between "ring maker" (bench jeweller) and jeweller is a false one. To sell a diamond ring, it takes - at a minimum: a designer, a diamond dealer, a supplier of metals, a bench jeweller, a setter and a retailer. In some cases, this means six individuals or firms involved; in some cases, it's only two or three. It is not necessarily true that where there are six the cost will be higher or the results better than when there are two. But neither is it necessarily true the other way around. As a consumer, you may be better served by someone who is accountable for the overall result than by someone who is "cheaper" at doing one or more tasks.

I could go on. What it boils down to: make sure that you are comparing like-for-like, and that you take all the elements of the package into consideration. With jewellery, much of the cost is hidden in tiny details that however matter quite a bit, both in terms of the looks and the durability of the final result.

As to Bell Jewels: I don't know them. They explicitly say they use irradiated and/or HPHT-treated diamonds with no independent lab grading, and the metalwork in their stock photos seems rather unrefined. On the other hand, their return terms are generous, and they seem to be quite forthright in describing what they sell.


Thank you very much.

rradiated and/or HPHT-treated diamonds what exactly does this mean?

"their return is generous" what exactly do you mean.

I am pretty happy with the ring my Local Jeweler designed, my only thing is I wish I knew what the mark up was.

I want to try to get the maximum for my dollar. I would gladly pay more for quality and long life.

The design is a 7mm black diamond in the center. with alternating white and black diamonds. 14K White Gold band.

I am just dangerous enough to know what I want, but not educated enough to know how to compare LIKE to LIKE.

I am so grateful for this site. It's really awesome

Thanks again. I'll keep you posted with my progress because my proposal date is July 10, 2011, that is our 1 year anniversary.

#4 LaurieH

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Posted 25 April 2011 - 08:37 AM

Irradiated means that the diamond is treated with radiation to change the color. HPHT is High Pressure High Temperature treatment--it is exactly what it says, and it's meant to do one of two things (or both)--improve color and improve clarity. It's basically meant to imitate what the Earth might have done a little more of, given the right time and place, but that this diamond didn't get quite enough of to make it a better looking diamond on its own :)

Chances are, your jeweler had to mark up their piece anywhere from 50%-250%, depending on if they bought the piece or made it, how much they value their time if they did make it, and factor it in, if it's a "loss leader" (think many places' "Tiffany" style solitaires), their overhead, what it might cost them to replace the piece now with metal prices through the roof...etc. You might have a little wiggle room in what they're asking for it, but really...with how much precious metal prices have gone up in the last short while, chances are that right now it's not much more than they need to just keep going.
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#5 davidelevi

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Posted 25 April 2011 - 08:48 AM

Irradiation and High Pressure/High Temperature (HPHT) are treatments used to improve the colour and sometimes the clarity of diamonds. If you want a more technical but easy to read description, Wikipedia's article on them is not bad: http://en.wikipedia....or_enhancements

Their return terms are 30 days, no questions asked, no restocking or other fees charged. While it is not exceptional, it is among the best conditions you can get.

What has the mark up to do with your decision? The issue is what is the best price you can get on it or something comparable, not how much money he is making on it. Start by looking in detail to other work that "your" jeweler has made, and go to other jewellers (including chain stores: you are learning, not buying) to compare and contrast. The pieces themselves are irrelevant - what you are looking for is how things fit, how well finished the metalwork is, how careful the setting of stones.
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#6 denverappraiser

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Posted 25 April 2011 - 09:01 AM

I'm curious. Didn't your jeweler quote you a range of prices before they embarked on the process of designing your ring for you? Did they get a deposit? By all means feel free to ditch the jeweler if you don't like his work and/or his prices but I'm a little surprised that it's this far down the path without needing to make the decision.

I too have never heard of Bell. Not that this matters a bit.

There's a discussion in the FAQ's about choosing a jeweler/dealer that fits you. Not everyone is looking for the same sorts of things and Bell may very be the best one for you. To be sure, the jeweler is making money, and so is Bell. There's nothing wrong with that. I would be surprised if either one would give you a straight answer about what they pay for materials, labor, overhead et.al. but I suppose you could ask. I'm with Davide in wondering if it really matters. Are you really looking for the one that uses the cheapest craftsman and the cheapest materials they can find? I presume you realize that this is the traditional way to get to cheaper prices rather than eliminating dealer 'markup', right? I'm not slamming Bell's goods or services, and even if they are a lowball outfit, this may be what you're looking for, but I would not make the assumption that just because they quote cheaper prices that they must be a better supplier.
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#7 ErieTopcat

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Posted 25 April 2011 - 02:19 PM

True, I don't care about the profit they are making.

I also am totally more concerned with craftmanship.

Now are irridation and HPTP things I should be concerned with if I am getting a black diamond?

With the 30 day money back guarentee, I am thinking about possibly purchasing a ring and seeing how it looks.

The jeweler I am working with right now is in the design stage. They had an engagement ring and a Black Diamond that I like. Then we took a wedding band from another matching set and then the jeweler sent my ideas to someone ( I presume a ring maker or designer). Then my jeweler called me in and showed me a picture with a quote. I then got her to drop $240 (basically the taxes) Right now the Ring I want is at a price of $3500. That is the 7 mm black diamond engagement ring (including 4 black and white diamonds on each side and then the wedding band with 4 black and white diamonds on each side. a total of 16 smaller black and white diamonds. ring in 14K white gold. I'm just trying to find out if this is a good deal, if I can get a better price.

thanks

#8 LaurieH

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Posted 25 April 2011 - 02:31 PM

If that is for the whole set and including the center stone--I mean, I don't know how good the side stones are or what size, but for a whole bridal set, it doesn't sound too bad to me.

And HPHT is usually trying to make yellow/brown diamonds look more white, and irradiation is usually to try to get fancy colours, so no, with black, I seriously doubt you'd come across either. I could be mistaken and they could be used, but I'd take that bet.

Any chance you can post pictures of the rings (or something similar) to give us an idea of design and scale and all that stuff?
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#9 denverappraiser

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Posted 25 April 2011 - 03:03 PM

Nearly all black diamonds on the market are color treated with radiation. If they don't claim 'natural' color origin, and charge a healthy premium for it along with providing a paper trail to prove it, you can rest assured that they ARE treated. There is no residual radiation, no risk to wear them, and the treatment is permanent unless you heat the stones to very high temperatures (1000 degrees plus).
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#10 LaurieH

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Posted 25 April 2011 - 03:24 PM

D'oh. I lost my own bet. Oh well...I can count the number of times I've had to deal with black diamonds on on hand, so far, so... ;) Glad someone else knew, though!
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#11 ErieTopcat

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Posted 25 April 2011 - 06:39 PM

]This picture is the first ring my girlfriend and I saw and she loved it. It is from Bell Jewels (online)
img-r293_black_diamond_matching_rings.jpg

This picture is when I went to a local jeweler and we took an engagement ring I loved and a wedding band from another set that I like.
photo(6).jpg

This is the set colored with Marker. (note the accent diamonds will be white, then black)
photo(2).jpg

More of the same
photo(4).jpg

This shows an actual 7mm black diamond attached to an earring next to the engagement ring
photo(5).jpg

And here is the actual design, again the accent diamonds will be white, then black. Also the accent diamonds is 1.9mm)
photo(3).jpg

#12 LaurieH

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Posted 25 April 2011 - 06:49 PM

Interesting! thanks for the pics--totally not what I'd pictured in my head. Actually much cooler looking than I'd imagined :)
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#13 ErieTopcat

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Posted 25 April 2011 - 07:41 PM

My GF was looking at the Black Pearl paint with metal flakes on my motorcycle and that night she said. I want a black diamond engagement ring.

She said she wants something nobody else has. We live in Erie so it's definitely not because she wants to be in "style" She wants one because nobody else has one. Living in Erie, nobody else has one.

After taking a lot of crap from her friends she stuck with the idea. I love that she did.

She says it's because we have something special and unique and that is the kind of ring she wants.

I am seeing if Bell Jewelers can come close.

Right now, All I have to do is call my local Jeweler and put $1k down.

Again thanks for your interest and help...Any comments and suggestions appreciated. I definitely feel safe with my local Jeweler.

I'm just wondering how much the ring would cost and how much more WIGGLE room I could haggle.

I'm trying to be savvy.

#14 davidelevi

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Posted 26 April 2011 - 01:23 AM

Well - haggling is fine, but remember: it takes two to haggle. It seems to me that your jeweller has gone to a fair amount of trouble in getting mock-ups with black marker and all, taking photos and making drawings. At some point he wants to see some commitment on your side or he may simply stop negotiating, and write off the cost incurred so far as "unreliable customer".

If you think the Bell ring may be acceptable, order it, and compare it to the quality of workmanship that you can see in your local jeweller's pieces. If it is not good enough, send it back, get the refund and proceed, perhaps putting in a cheeky offer before your downpayment so you may be able to cut down another couple of hundreds. Bear in mind jewellery is a high margin business, but it also has high overheads.
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#15 ErieTopcat

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Posted 26 April 2011 - 02:06 PM

Well - haggling is fine, but remember: it takes two to haggle. It seems to me that your jeweller has gone to a fair amount of trouble in getting mock-ups with black marker and all, taking photos and making drawings. At some point he wants to see some commitment on your side or he may simply stop negotiating, and write off the cost incurred so far as "unreliable customer".

If you think the Bell ring may be acceptable, order it, and compare it to the quality of workmanship that you can see in your local jeweller's pieces. If it is not good enough, send it back, get the refund and proceed, perhaps putting in a cheeky offer before your downpayment so you may be able to cut down another couple of hundreds. Bear in mind jewellery is a high margin business, but it also has high overheads.


I agree with you, thanks for the suggestions regarding Bell

As with my local Jeweler. I definitely want to give them the opportunity to offer me the best deal. My Jeweler honestly hasn't gone to that much trouble. I'd say at this point my jeweler and I have the same amount of time and energy into this ring. Now, I am putting more into it.

Honestly. I am just trying to find the cost of my ring and not pay to much more than that. Jewelery is High Margin.

#16 LaurieH

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Posted 26 April 2011 - 05:57 PM

Just remember--no one rides for free and all work is not equal. How many other things in the world do you really get close to cost? Would it be lovely to buy all my groceries at 10% over what the store stocks them for, and it'd be great if I could buy a new car and give the dealer a few hundred dollars for the trouble he went to to get it over factory price, but the world doesn't work that way and no one would stay in business long if it did. Just try to keep that in mind and be reasonable in your haggling. If they're asking (for example) 2k for the setting, and you try to talk them down to 800 b/c, gee, it just weighs a few grams and the price of gold is X and the price of the diamonds is Y, so... yeah. Just saying.
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#17 ErieTopcat

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Posted 26 April 2011 - 08:11 PM

Just remember--no one rides for free and all work is not equal. How many other things in the world do you really get close to cost? Would it be lovely to buy all my groceries at 10% over what the store stocks them for, and it'd be great if I could buy a new car and give the dealer a few hundred dollars for the trouble he went to to get it over factory price, but the world doesn't work that way and no one would stay in business long if it did. Just try to keep that in mind and be reasonable in your haggling. If they're asking (for example) 2k for the setting, and you try to talk them down to 800 b/c, gee, it just weighs a few grams and the price of gold is X and the price of the diamonds is Y, so... yeah. Just saying.


I fully understand what you are saying. Most people just pay the MSRP. Those people walk away satisfied. As a consumer I have the choice to decide. I am just trying to get the most bang for my buck. I'm not trying to take food out of the Jeweler's kids mouth.

#18 davidelevi

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Posted 27 April 2011 - 01:21 AM

[snip]

As with my local Jeweler. I definitely want to give them the opportunity to offer me the best deal. My Jeweler honestly hasn't gone to that much trouble. I'd say at this point my jeweler and I have the same amount of time and energy into this ring. Now, I am putting more into it.

Honestly. I am just trying to find the cost of my ring and not pay to much more than that. Jewelery is High Margin.


The issue here is with your definition of "margin". Believe it or not, particularly with the main stone being a black diamond, the other stones being small and the metal being 14k white gold, the majority of the direct cost of the ring is labour.

And even defining margin as Price minus all direct costs, that still leaves out entirely reasonable overheads like the designer, the sales assistants, the rent for the shop etc.

I'm not arguing you shouldn't bargain. I'm just trying to temper your expectations that because the cost of the materials is about $1300, then everything else is margin.

Edited by davidelevi, 27 April 2011 - 01:21 AM.

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#19 ErieTopcat

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Posted 29 April 2011 - 07:06 AM

I am currently sending emails back and forth with a guy that has me dealing directly with a ring making company at 1/3 of the cost.

#20 LaurieH

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Posted 29 April 2011 - 07:43 AM

In India?
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