Killian

Princess Cut Diamond Advice - Value For Money Ratings

16 posts in this topic

Good morning all,

 

I stumbled across this site this morning looking for some advice on a Princess Cut Diamond.  I've searched through the forums and read some really interesting posts but can't find an answer to my question and I suspect that may because there is no simple answer.  But, as is said, there's no such thing as a stupid question.  Apparently.....

 

To preface this I'm from the UK so please do point me in a different direction if this isn't something you're really able to help with.

 

I'm looking to pick up a Princess Diamond Engagement Ring for my partner who I hope to propose to in the coming months.  I've been doing a lot of searching and research on how to get the best value diamond ring and I've found a supplier here in the UK who are rated highly and seem trustworthy (www.77diamonds.com).

 

My query really boils down to how I can get the best diamond for my money.  I'm budgetting between £4,000 - £5,000 including the setting and I've already picked the setting.  Unfortunately I'm not able to post straight to the setting due to how their site works but it's basically a diamond band ring called 'Contour' in white gold;

 

http://www.77diamonds.com/diamond_band_rings.html

 

This should leave me with around £4,200 or so for the actual diamond.

 

Now on to the actual question;

 

I've read various things about having a table smaller than the depth, keeping the l/w around 1 - 1.05, going for 0.9carat with G colour and atleast VS2.  Now I know there's likely to be no hard and fast rules as to what makes a good princess cut but are there some characteristics you think I should look out for in order to maximise the value for money? 

 

It's very important to me that it's eye clean and some of the VS2 diamonds have quite clear inclusions in the images (not all the diamonds have images unfortunately) but they're zoomed in quite a lot and I wonder if they would actually be visible with the naked eye.

 

So to clarify, these are the requirements I've been looking under for now;

 

Carat = 0.9

Cut = Excellent, Very Good

Clarity = VS2

Colour = G

Certificate = GIA

Polish = Excellent, Very Good

Symmetry = Excellent, Very Good

Fluorescent = None, Faint, Medium

Ratio = 1 - 1.05

Price = £4,200

Table = 67 - 72

Depth = 64 - 75

 

For reference I've used the following article (amongst others) to put those requirements together;

 

http://www.lumeradiamonds.com/diamond-education/princess-cut-diamond

 

Would love to hear people's thoughts on these characteristics representing best value.

 

Thank you.

 

K

Edited by Killian

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Apologies for the delay... will be along with an answer/comments this afternoon.

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Apologies for the delay... will be along with an answer/comments this afternoon.

 

No apology necessary David.  I look forward to your comments.

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OK - some thoughts in relatively random order:

 

Value - and more so value for money - is in the eye of the beholder. Even at the most basic level of what matters most among the 4 Cs (and a couple of other things). My personal view/hierarchy for a colourless diamond is something like:

 

Cost (unfortunately overarching)

Cut, Cut, Cut (including the fact that for me it's quite important that a princess cut is square)

Clarity (but this drops very quickly out of sight - literally - once the diamond is eye-clean, which may well mean I1)

Transparency (not the same thing as clarity - though in some cases related)

Size

Colour

Other stuff (fluorescence, finish - any decent cut grade will already take this into account, financing/T&C, ...)

 

However a lot of people would put Size significantly higher, and others would have a preference for really colourless or high clarity stones for whatever reasons (personal or cultural). Nothing wrong - and nothing right.

 

Two points on clarity, since it's important for you:

 

1) the only way to determine reliably whether a stone below VS1 is eye clean is to see it - there are just too many variables at play. VS2 is almost guaranteed to be clean, but some rare stones will have a dark crystal just under the table that will be visible in some conditions. There are plenty of SI (1 and 2) stones that are eye-clean, especially in a relatively busy faceting design like a princess cut and in a size of around 1 carat. They can be excellent value, but they require a vendor that can see them (and ideally take some photos), not someone who only brokers shipment to you. Eye-clean I1 exist, but given you can find a perfectly nice SI1 or VS stone for your budget, why play with fire?

 

2) The amount of "stuff" on a lab report plot is a very poor indication of visibility of inclusions. Similarly, a 40x high-contrast photo is not a good guide to what will be visible with the naked eye once the stone is set, lit from above and worn on a moving hand. My personal rule of thumb is that if it's easily visible on a 3x - 5x photo it will usually be visible in real-life, but it's a rule of thumb and it gives both false positives and false negatives... 

 

Other important C is "Certificate" or lab report. GIA is fine for colour and clarity (and absence of treatment, natural origin and a lot of other stuff), but AGS at the moment is the only lab in the world that "credibly" grades cut for princess cut diamonds. Unfortunately AGS reports make up a ridiculously small percentage of all the stones: about 0.9% of the diamonds listed on this site's multi-vendor database (here) have AGS reports. You can trust AGS with the rest of the report too (perhaps a bit softer than GIA on colour, but internally consistent).

 

Beware of vendor-assigned grades - particularly when they are not supported by any additional evidence (e.g. photos, videos, reflector images etc.).

 

The proportion information on GIA reports is simply totally insufficient to determine whether a stone is well cut: it may enable discarding some extremes, but frankly it's not even adequate for that - never mind selecting a stone.

 

This leaves you (and anyone else looking for a princess cut) in a quandary: you either test the waters by seeing a few stones and then order (and return) a few, or you need to find a vendor that can provide you with more information than a GIA report - in the form of an AGS report, 3D proportion analysis (including those carried out with AGS's software), reflector images, photos and video. Personally for a colourless princess cut I find comparative videos most useful (but also least common), followed by reflector images, then "normal" video and images.

 

To your specs: all very sensible - subject to your own priorities and evaluation of parameters; personally, for example, I would be tempted to relax colour and clarity (down to I/SI1 respectively) to get the best possible cut and maybe a larger stone (1.20 - 1.30).

 

In terms of cut proportions, as I mentioned, table and depth really don't cut it (pun intended). It's a bit like trying to assess whether a car will perform well for one's purposes based on the number of doors and the colour of its paint. It may rule out some things, but it won't do much else. In particular, I would not discard stones with smaller tables (even as "small" as 58%), and I would want depth to be somewhat higher than your range (say by ~5%: 69 - 78%), however unfortunately neither parameter is a recipe for success. It simply prevents you from discarding some really nice looking stones.

 

I think I have covered most of your initial questions - but feel free to ask more!

Edited by davidelevi
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That is a very informative reply.  Thank you David.

 

I've just done some more research and can see it does certainly open up my options if I drop some of those specifications.  

 

Could I ask for your opinion on the following diamond?  I shall reach out to them to ask too but just wondering what your thoughts are with it's details;

 

http://www.77diamonds.com/Certification.aspx?code=PRIZQBRBTT7V

 

For clarity it is;

 

Cut:  Excellent (graded by the jeweler but very well regarded)

Carat: 1.21

Colour:  I

Clarity: SI1 (I can see the inclusion in the zoomed image but believe that will be almost eye clean to an untrained eye)

Ratio: 1:0

 

In terms of comparison to my earlier specs it's around the same price but a whole .3 carats more in weight.  I will of course reach out to the jeweler as they will be able to look at it for me but, in your opinion, is a Princess Cut diamond with those specifications a good choice?

 

I've attached an image too though I understand from other posts on here they're not particularly helpful because of lighting conditions, post processing, etc.

 

5213730966.jpg

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No big red flags - however couple of points to note:

 

1. There really is no information on cut. 77diamonds has a very good reputation as an internet dealer, but you should ask them HOW they came to the conclusion that this is "excellent"... and see how convincing their response is. I bet you a pound to a penny that they will either obfuscate or tell you that table and depth are perfectly adequate (which is BS).

 

2. The crystal in the middle of the table although small, is rather dark. It may be just about visible in real life.

 

This said, they do provide 30 days hassle-free returns, and it may be worthwhile ordering this. I looked at their AGS-graded selection, and at the moment there is nothing on their site I would recommend you look at instead for under £5000.

 

This one may be a different story:

https://www.whiteflash.com/loose-diamonds/princess-cut-loose-diamond-3520087.htm

(note: I work for a competitor of both 77diamonds and Whiteflash...)

 

The one thing I strongly recommend you do, especially if you live near to or work in a major city, is to go and take a look at a few diamonds in well reputed stores (e.g. Tiffany, DeBeers, Hirsch, Graff or Cartier). The objective is not to buy anything, but to understand what a well cut and relatively poorly cut princess look like (and maybe the same for F, G, H and I colour), so that when you order online you have a comparison point.

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Goodness me, it's a minefield isn't it.

 

To throw yet another spanner in the works, just as I felt I was getting a grip, I came across BlueNile.  There diamond search engine is much better and they seem to have some additional details and a 'signature' collection that gives maximum brilliance (which is kind of my priority here).

 

The only issue is I'm not a big fan of the settings other than one that I think looks beautiful but is £1.8K which leaves even less for the diamond itself.

 

https://www.bluenile.com/uk/build-your-own-ring/pave-diamond-engagement-ring-18k-white-gold_43584?elem=img&track=product&vtype=sample

 

I can add in this diamond and come in budget.

 

https://www.bluenile.com/uk/diamond-details/LD07004310

 

I know no one is going to say to me yes or no but goodness me it's such a hard decision.  Do I go with a more petite band, perhaps this;

 

https://www.bluenile.com/uk/build-your-own-ring/diamond-engagement-ring-setting-white-gold_16479?elem=img&track=product&vtype=sample

 

And save a good £1K to put towards a diamond or just make the cost a bit more doable...... sigh.

 

Could I ask this though; my partner has long slender fingers I would say.  She is a ring size K I believe (I have it wrote down upstairs but she's in bed now).  The first band is 2.3mm thick and the second, cheaper one, is 1.5mm thick.  What is likely to suit better with such hands, in your opinion of course?

 

As an aside I do wonder if the reason I love the first setting so much is because of how much it shines in the shot compared to the other.  Although I do also like the fact the are bigger and thus wrap around the band more too.  

 

My gut instinct for now is the first option just because I think the band looks better but that's a big chunk of money to fork over just for the setting..... I guess this is become rhetoric now and not something you can't really answer.

 

But in any case, I would love to hear your thoughts around how you were personally tackle this.  

 

I completely understand about the Princess 'Cut' grading and I must say I have a bit more confidence in BlueNiles Signature cuts as they say they go for brilliance (and they have the certificates from GCAL demonstrating light reflection which is useful).

 

I'm also debating whether I could go to .8 carat without losing too much to bring it back down to within better budget.  I was really aiming for £4K as £5K will be tight (but doable).  I also only want to do this right so need to get it right first time.

 

Thank you so much for your help anyway David.  It has been very beneficial and informative and hopefully, although I know you've repeated things you've said in other threads, there is something new and useful for someone in my predicament in the future.

 

If only my partner preferred Round Brilliants I think I'd have an easier time  :D

Edited by Killian

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After a night of sleeping on it I'm now leaning the other direction.  I need to confirm her ring size asap but I'm thinking the smaller band will make a 1carat princess look even bigger.  If I go with the larger band I'd almost need to drop down to 0.8carat and I think the thicker band would likely have the reverse effect.

 

Will confirm her ring size later and do some more digging.

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Some more comments in semi-random order:
 
1. For an engagement ring, I would not go very thin on the shank - especially if you plan on having pavé on it. Personally, I'd rather have a 2 mm+ shank purely for durability purposes, largely independent of the finger.
 
2. One possible solution to the budget conundrum may be that of getting a very cheap setting (from BN or anywhere else) and once you have saved a little more go for a more complex/expensive setting that you choose jointly.
 
3. Beware of "photos" - most images of settings are CAD renderings, and do not really represent in a fair way what the actual setting will be like (perfect polish and symmetry - easy with a computer, less so with a piece of metal), never mind being able to compare the finish between two settings (or better renderings) at two different vendors. Think of them as silhouette/technical drawings, rather than photos of a finished item.
 
4. Rounds are another kettle of fish entirely... but the same piece of advice is valid for any shape: pick the vendor before you pick the stone.
 
5. Bear in mind that brilliance (i.e. white light reflection) is not everything there is to a diamond's beauty. This GIA article is a bit long in the tooth, but still interesting. It talks about rounds, so ignore (almost) anything to do with specific numbers, but its explanation of what factors (tend to) make a diamond beautiful are valid for any diamond: http://diamondcut.gia.edu/pdf/cut_fall2004.pdf

Edited by davidelevi

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Thanks once again David.  A lot to think about there.  

 

And, perfectly timed, that article will really come in handy as after some off hand discussion last night she's now decided she would prefer a Round...... sigh.  

 

I'll have a good read of that article now and see what I can find with a Round.  I'm not too far from the Birmingham Jewelry Quarter so think I'll do a trip there to see some in person too.  

 

I suspect you can't comment on this but do you find these jewelry specialised areas can compete with online vendors such as Bluenile?

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They can and they do... the question is once again what you find valuable. In terms of prices for the "same" item, pure internet players (not necessarily Blue Nile, by the way) are unbeatable. In terms of ability to see what you buy, the local store/jewellery quarter is unbeatable. However the local store tends to have limited (some times very limited) stock, and for obvious reasons it is reluctant to acquire more, whereas a vendor selling virtual stones (i.e. stones actually owned by a wholesaler) has fewer problems in getting hold of more/different stock (though it may not be able to get a photo of it, never mind show it to you "in the flash(light)".

 

Couple more points to consider in the comparison:

 

1. Rentals/lease costs in popular shopping areas tend to be very high. Somewhere, somehow, the trader must recover these costs. From that point of view, jewellers in city centres and particularly in jewellery quarters are disadvantaged. On the other hand, they also get the highest footfall rates, so they have the opportunity to divide those higher overheads by higher number of buyers. Or so goes the theory; in practice, from my observations of 47th Street and Hatton Gardens prices at street level are and stay higher and the amount of sales pressure exerted on potential buyers is much higher in these places than elsewhere.

 

2. Often the "online vendor" is somebody else's local store broadening their reach through other channels.

 

3. Reputation is important. Being online does not make one cheap, just like being local does not make one easy to deal with. By reputation I don't only mean honesty and trustworthiness, but also expertise, ability to deliver certain things (e.g. custom-made pieces or uncommon items) and "sensible policies" (e.g. on returns) applied with common sense.

 

BTW - round is good news, at least for me: they are (relatively) easier to shop and I like them a lot more than princess cuts, aesthetically.

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I've had a read through that article you referenced David (well in truth; I had to skim some of it as it went WAY over my head) and there are some really interesting points.  One thing I had not considered at all was the patterns of a diamond and how they can affect the sparkle.

 

In terms of what I think is more valuable to me with the diamond I'd have to prioritise things in this order;

 

Cut

Carat

Clarity

Colour

 

I really want the diamond to sparkle and do so in the best possible way within budget.  I know I can compromise cut for size but that's something I do not wish to do.  After that it would be size however.  I'd love to hit 1carat or possibly more but I don't think I can if I only have £2K - £2.5K budgeted.

 

I've found a setting I absolutely love and have looked at other online stores to see whether costs differ substantially (and they don't) so expecting to pay around £1.8K for that.  Leaving me just under £3K for an actual diamond.

 

I think I am probably going to be better served sourcing the diamond online as price really will be the difference here though, as you say, I then sacrifice the 'seeing' what I'm buying aspect and lose the option of returning the ring for resize, servicing, etc. over time.

I think I may still do a trip into the quarter to see what's on offer.  Worst case I can simply come home and put my order in online.  A friend of mine insists you can really haggle price down in store but although I know that's true I hate having to go through the whole drama of it.  Atleast with online I pay the same price as everyone that day.  

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I think you should go to the quarter if nothing else to understand what you see and what you don't see. For example, colour perception (and "liking") is a very personal thing. For another example, some people like relatively large tables (say 57-61% in a round) and others relatively small ones (say 52-56%): they do look different (especially if the rest of the stone is well proportioned: a dog remains a dog no matter its table %), but there is no "absolutely better" - only what one likes best.

 

In terms of "not seeing the diamond", choose your vendor carefully. Blue Nile is probably at the "no information" extreme in this respect. Other vendors are much better - and some for not much more cost.

 

As far as servicing goes, you don't necessarily lose much - though shipping through customs can be a bit of a pain, it's perfectly feasible. And if I were a local jeweller, I'd rather have you as a customer for maintenance and repairs (also in the hope that at some point you'd buy from me) than not have you as a customer at all.

 

I wouldn't recommend the "haggle" route unless you know exactly what you are doing and what you want (and you know the vendor has IT). It's very easy to end up with something that is sub-optimal in some respect otherwise.

Edited by davidelevi

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Yeah, I think it's definitely worth a visit.  Will get it done later this week as I know these things can take weeks.

 

In terms of online vendors, I'm struggling to find much with any feedback in the UK.  Bluenile and 77Diamonds seem to be the predominant two but neither has the information something like Brian Gavin or a number of US based sites I've seen that have tons of information.

 

I'd rather avoid importing purely because of the implications of customs and the inconvenience should I have to draw on a warranty or something further down the line.

 

Are you aware of any UK based online vendors (or those that have points in the Country like BlueNile that avoids the whole customs aspect)?

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Just reached out to James Allen on chat as see a lot on there and they suggest I'd likely be looking at £700 in terms of customs on a £4K purchase (though of course I'd have to reach out to customs to get an exact figure).  I also then have a worry of things getting held up with customs and whether the saving would even be there for such a cost.  I shall continue looking.

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Customs charges are easy to compute:

 

Duty of 0% on loose stones or 2.5% on finished jewellery items.

 

VAT at 20% on item price + duty

 

Customs clearance fees depend a bit on the courier, but usually not more than £50. Hold ups are minimal - the couriers know what they are doing, and so do the vendors.

 

I'm not aware of any specific vendors that have a UK or Eu Base. However Paul Slegers cuts fantastic diamonds and is based in Antwero (IIRC). Check out his site under "Crafted by Infinity" - he probably supplies dealers in Europe too.

Edited by davidelevi

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