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Need some advice/direction


Raz
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Hello everyone,

 

First, I would like to complement this site and everyone who contributes to the discussions in these forums - I found a lot of useful material here. Keep up the great work!

 

I would be grateful if some of you could offer me some further direction.

 

I am beginning “the hunt” for that perfect ring for my special little lady. Unfortunately, even after reading the tutorial I am still pretty much lost and unsure where to begin. I’ve tried to organize some of my questions into a list, so here goes:

 

Things I’ve done:

 

-I read through the tutorial and have a faint concept of the grading criteria (4C’s) for diamonds.

-I have selected a budget of $10000 (Canadian)

-I have an idea of the diamond and ring I am looking for:

-diamond shape (round)

-size 1-1.5 carat

-single stone, platinum ring – similar to the “Tiffany setting”

- I know that my girlfriend likes Tiffany’s

 

That’s pretty much it!

 

So what do I do now?

 

1)I understand that buying a ring from Tiffany’s will mean paying for a “brand name”. But, will I actually be paying for something that is unsurpassable in quality, beauty, etc or can similar stones/rings be purchased from local jewellers but for less?

 

2)How can I compare the quality/prices of diamonds if the 4C’s are different? How do you compare a diamond worse in cut but better in clarity to one that is the opposite?

 

3)How do carats figure into the equation? Does the weight bear the biggest influence on the price?

 

4)I’d like a ring with a 1-1.5 carat stone and I guess “optimum” characteristics. Is this a reasonable expectation considering my budget? What qualities are best to sacrifice and still have a great stone if price is an issue?

 

Thank you very much to anyone who reads and responds. I value all feedback and don’t hesitate to tell me I am completely wrong/crazy and set me straight.

 

Sincerely,

 

RAZ

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Hi Raz;

 

Welcome!

 

In answer to your questions:

 

A 10K budget should absolutely get you a quality engagement ring.

 

Of the C's, that of "Cut" is paramount. The better the Cut of the diamond, the 'whiter' and 'cleaner' the diamond will face up. A very well-cut I-J color; SI/I-1 clarity stone may out perform a mediocre cut E-F color, VS clarity diamond.

 

If you're shopping with a Brick & Mortar jeweler, look at as many diamonds as possible of varying Cut specs. Stick with diamonds that that have been graded by either GIA or AGS labs; the best in the industry for accuracy and consistency. Look at the diamonds away from the counter where the high-intensity halogen lamps will make the diamond(s) sparkle more intensely.

 

If you're shopping on the Internet, keep in mind that "numbers" and specs alone are not predictive of diamond beauty. The Vendor should supply you with photos. If you don't see them, ask. Check out the Policies; i.e.; Returns, Upgrades, Shipping, exam periods, Refunds.

 

Insofar as the Tiffany setting is concerned, you are correct: They are expensive and Tiffany will only sell it to you if you buy one of their diamonds.

 

Many companies are selling Tiffany replicas settings. Very, very few actually manufacture this themselves but purchase from a findings house /manufacturer and then outsource it to have the diamond set. Quality of the workmanship and price do significantly differ. Make sure that the vendor will give you a Lifetime Guarantee on the craftsmanship and workmanship of the setting.

 

Good Luck!

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Are you really tied to the Tiffany name? Or would you feel good about a setting that looked as good but was not stamped Tiffany? (basically a Tiffany look alike) This is up to you. Some want that T name. Others rather go with the less expensive alternative.

 

You do not have to sacrifice in diamond ring "looks". You can still get a killer diamond ring.

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Thank you very much Barry! I really appreciate your help.

 

I am not quite clear what it means that a stone has been graded by GIA/AGS? I have found the following quote on an internet resource:

 

"Most stones are graded on a set of ratings set forth by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). Unfortunately, these gradings are often misrepresented by the actual sellers of the diamonds. Essentially, they can give the stones virtually any grading they want, and if the consumer is not educated s/he will not know the difference."

 

Can someone explain what this means? Who performs this certification, the seller? Or must sellers send each diamond to be certified to the labs, to be assessed by experts?

 

I also wanted to ask with regards to the so-called "branded diamonds". What exactly is meant by this term? Why would one consider buying a "branded diamond" vs a "no-name" (I don't know the proper term) stone?

 

I am trying to understand the industry a little bit so that I might have an idea of why a Tiffany's ring/stone (for example) is seen with such high regard. What features set these famous stones apart from their regular counterparts?

 

Thanks again,

 

RAZ

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Thanks for your reply WebGal.

 

I am personally not tied to anything (except my girlfriend ;) ). I just know she likes Tiffany jewelry and has a bracelet from them. She also, not so subtly, directed me to their website to the engagement ring collection. :)

 

Am I correct to think that you may be suggesting that a purchase at Tiffany may be a rip-off - in the sense that I'd be paying more for the name than for the product?

 

Thank you for your time,

 

RAZ

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Tiffany is not a rip off. It is high priced but they do hold value. So if you purchased a 1.00ct H/SI1 from tiffany it would be a percentage higher. I don't really know how much higher but it's substantial enough to make you think about it.

 

A diamond ring from Tiffany will be a stunner. But if you shop right, you can get an equally as stunning ring that looks like a Tiffany for less. The Lucida and Legacy setting are frequently copied. There are others as well.

 

Here is a GIA Report.

 

pinkycert1.JPG

 

 

Here is an AGS Report

 

AGS.jpg

 

Since you addressed this question more to Barry, I'm going to defer to him for the answer. But above are photos of the reports. Both are labs that are very well thought of in the industry.

 

I like that you say the only thing you are tied to is your girlfriend. Sweet young thing.

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GIA is the Gemological Institute of America. It’s a college for gemologists in California and they are the alma mater of most gemologists in the US. They are the originator of the diamond grading scale used by most, but not all, of the industry. Unfortunately, not everyone applies this scale in the same way and there are other scales with similar sounding acronyms so, for example, you will see a stone graded SI2 (a GIA grading term for clarity) that may not be generally accepted as such. Some of the gradations are pretty subtle and it’s extremely difficult for an untrained observer to tell a difference of even several grades even though it can have a dramatic affect on the prices. WHO graded a stone is every bit as important as what grade they chose.

 

Because of this difficulty and in the hopes of avoiding misrepresentation, GIA operates a grading laboratory in California and another in New York that issues grading reports on lots of stones. They see more than a million each year! Each stone is sent to the lab by the owner and each one comes away with a report with an assortment of the important information about the stone. These reports are known as ‘certificates’ or ‘certs’ and you will see them referenced in the various tutorials and in sales presentations. They aren’t actually certifying anything but they're pretty useful nonetheless.

 

GIA has several competitors in this business, and yes it’s a business. The competitors are, in general, basing their business on offering faster service, cheaper fees and better sounding grading results. This also gets discussed in the various forums and tutorials. An EGL-USA graded SI2 may get an EGL Israel SI1 and a GIA I1 for the same stone! It’s confusing as hell and it leads to the relatively sensible advice that you should rely strictly on GIA grading reports.

 

The American Gem Society is an association of jewelry stores founded in the 30’s by the same guy that started GIA. He wanted stores that actually sold what they said and that used the training that was now being offered at GIA. In 1996, they opened their own lab in Las Vegas offering the same sort of grading services as GIA. In the last 10 years, they have developed a reputation as a credible information source as well. You will see this lab called AGS or AGSL and they are regularly suggested as an acceptable alternative to GIA grading (I agree with this by the way).

 

Branding is another version of the same topic. It’s an issue of deciding whom to trust. People buy things from Tiffany’s and similar stores because they are reasonably confident that they will get good stuff by shopping there. It’s not necessary to know or care about the details of diamond grading, engineering or craftsmanship. If you buy at Tiff’s, it’ll be pretty good. True enough. They do a nice job and they make no claim that they’re the cheapest price for what you get. This isn’t just a jewelry concept. You see it with restaurants , clothing, liquor, toothpaste and most other things that you buy. For people who are willing to do the footwork, it’s possible to get merchandise that is every bit as good or better than what they have to sell for considerably less money. What you don’t get is the Tiffany name and the Tiffany shopping experience. Only you can answer if these things are worth it to you.

 

Neil

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Thank you WebGal and Neil. I really appreciate your help.

 

So I spent some time on the Tiffany website this evening (they have really cool animations btw!) and I would just like your opinion on a couple of things.

 

At Tiffany's they have the following minimum parameters for all of their stones (I am sure you guys are aware of these):

 

Cut: "Tiffany Cut" - I am not sure what this means. Is this a single ideal cut that

all Tiffany diamonds will have?

 

Clarity: VS2 or better (but no 'flawless' rating for mounted stones)

 

Colour: I or better

 

"Precision": "This exclusive measure includes precision of cut, symmetry, and

polish". I am not sure what this means either, nor if there is a range

of values/grades for this.

 

On the Tiffany website, it is stated that a 1 carat engagement ring will run anywhere from $9,650 to $38,000. I assume that most of the price difference is due to the qualities of the stone and not the different types of bands. So I would venture that the lowest priced ring in the 1 carat class would have: "Tiffany Cut", VS2, I, some "Precision" grade. Is my assumption correct?

 

I checked the price report on this website for a similar stone (1 carat, round: Excellent Cut, VS2, I) and got the following estimates: avg. $5964 and $7962 for high-end retailer. I guess if you throw in the cost of the band the higher-end retailer value will approach that set by Tiffany for their.

 

So now my question is pretty obvious. Is this ring worth it? I read that a lot of you say that the numbers/grades mean nothing without actually seeing the stone. But considering Tiffany's name and reputation would such a ring still be a "stunner" as WebGal put it? Would I get more bang for the buck from Tiffany if I went down to 3/4 of a carat but with higher specs? I am leaning towards Tiffany because I know that's what my gilrfriend wants and honestly I think she'd rather have that name than a better stone from somewhere else.

 

I apologize for all these queries but I sincerely thank you all for the help. In all honesty I have become truly intrigued by this field and am fascinated by the science, craft, and economics of this business.

 

Thank you all once again,

 

Raz

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Is it worth it?

 

Only you can answer this question.

 

It depends on how you perceive "value" offered by a "Brand" name. A reputable Brand name such as Tiffany offers an assurance/guarantee of quality and trust. Quality is thus primarily defined in terms of the Brand name and not necessarily on the specific specs and performance data of the merchandise being offered for sale. Such an assurance does, however, come with a hefty price tag.

 

Indeed the performance data (Cut Grade quality, Light performance) of the diamonds being sold to you by Tiffany may very well be on par or below that of competing Jewelers/Vendors. They offer no additional information on their diamonds beyond their in-house gemological grading report. There is no way of determining detailed Cut Quality Analysis and Light Performance results without additional specific information such as a sarin or Megascope Cut Grade Analysis or Brilliancescope Light Performance data.

 

For some consumers, the significant dollar savings motivates them to research valid alternatives to Tiffany. For others, a much lighter wallet is assuaged by the comfort of the Brand name and the obviation of having to do their own homework.

 

Which one are you?

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You’re going at it the right way. Diamonds are very much a trust based business and a major piece of the decision involves deciding whom to trust. Dealers, appraisers, labs, web tutorials and books are all giving slightly conflicting information and the information is biased towards their own perspective on things. Choosing the right dealer is absolutely critical to having this end up as a successful shopping experience, far more so than with most of what you buy.

 

Tiffany doesn’t publish their definitions of a ‘tiffany’ cut but they are chosen by Tiffany experts to meet their standards. That's the point. It’s going to be lovely, it will be mounted correctly into a setting that is completely free of defects, and it will come in a nifty blue box. You will almost certainly be happy with what you get there.

 

Your question seems to boil down to what are your alternative sources for a similarly lovely ring. This is a much more complicated question. Pretty much every jeweler CAN do it, and almost everyone is significantly less expensive. What you describe is not a difficult call so the real question is who will actually do what they say and who will carry the specs beyond what you ask for to include what you should have asked for if you just understood the question better. This is why it gets frustrating for people. Unfortunately, sometimes salespeople lie or they make tradeoffs that you wouldn't have made.

 

One common strategy is to try and turn yourself into a diamond expert and then specify to the dealer exactly what you want down to the crown angles and the type and locations of various inclusions. You then select the dealer that has the cheapest price on a stone that matches what you want. This is putting your faith in the lab instead of the dealer. This works ok as long as you are prepared to decide exactly what you want, are confident that you’ve missed nothing of importance in your list of specs (like what does it actually LOOK like!). It’s like going to a fine restaurant and handing the chef a recipe for exactly what you would like for supper.

 

What I consider to be a far more sensible approach is to use the above strategy to get a feel for what you can expect for a particular budget and to learn enough to recognize when a dealer is BSing you. Then choose a dealer who thinks the way that you do. Tell them what your requirements are in terms of budget, style and how you perceive the tradeoffs between the various attributes and then let them make recommendations of what THEY have to offer that fills your needs. Listen carefully to what they say and read what they write on their websites. If it doesn’t jive with what you already know, figure out why not (what you know may be wrong after all). If they’re lying to get a sale, or if they just don’t know what they’re talking about, don’t just pass on the deal, pass on the dealer. This will quickly lead you to a dealer who will give you good advice, will tell you the truth about the various tradeoffs and who can communicate clearly in a style that you understand. That’s your jeweler. Tiffany’s is a good choice but there are plenty of others who have different strengths. Choose one that suits your style and that deserves your trust. From there it’s easy.

 

Neil

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This is putting your faith in the lab instead of the dealer.

I would disagree with this statement.

 

A good Vendor goes beyond the rudimentary information provided by the lab grading report and supplies additional pertinent information about the diamond that allows the consumer to make an informed decision as to whether the stone meets his requirements.

 

"Trust" should go beyond the words "Trust Me" to offering information that clearly defines the product.

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The lab report is intended support the good council provided by the dealer, not as a substitute for it. I think we agree. Unfortunately, people are regularly led to believe that the lab is ‘certifying’ the details of a stone and that the dealer is simply moving stones from their inbox to the outbox because the important information is all there in black and white. There are plenty of dealers who offer little more than this service. Some don’t even do that .

 

Neil

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So now my question is pretty obvious. Is this ring worth it? I read that a lot of you say that the numbers/grades mean nothing without actually seeing the stone. But considering Tiffany's name and reputation would such a ring still be a "stunner" as WebGal put it? Would I get more bang for the buck from Tiffany if I went down to 3/4 of a carat but with higher specs? I am leaning towards Tiffany because I know that's what my gilrfriend wants and honestly I think she'd rather have that name than a better stone from somewhere else. 

Only you can decide whether you want to go with Tiffany or not. They are very precise about things that carry their name. But like Barry said, the beauty, the T name and the chandeliers will cost you a premium.

 

Personally, as a girl, I'd rather have a larger stone. But there are other girls who'd want that Tiffany name more.

 

If I were going to Tiffany I would choose the best they have in the lower color and clarity because those numbers bring the price down significantly and I could have a bigger stone. If you get to see it, you can find a diamond where the inclusions are deep in the diamond and not visible. Color doesn't matter much to me in the white diamond solitaires. Only the highly color sensitive could make out the difference between an H and an I in color. Once set in white, it's hard to tell.

 

Does Tiffany have a trade up policy? I don't really know whether they do or not. But it's important. Perhaps one of the others here knows.

 

But as Barry has stated, finding a dealer you trust should be your first priority if you decide to shop around and consider other sources other than Tiffany. Taking a look at Barry's site would be worth your while.

 

If a round diamond solitaire is priced significantly less than anywhere else that should send up a red flag. No dealer is offering a good deal on the most popular shape on the planet.

 

If they are offering a one carat round with no GIA, that should send up a red flag. (Diamonds under a carat don't always have a report.)

 

You might want to consider that since this is such a tough process and a pricey one, perhaps bringing the girlfriend in on the choosing process if that works for you both. You could shop alone first and sort of get a feel for a budget you might want to aim for. That would help her choose something.

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Thank you everyone for your insightful comments. I have a lot of thinking and searching to do. Should I have further questions, I will definitely consult this forum again. Barry, WebGal and Neil – you guys were great and I want to sincerely thank you for your time and effort.

 

All the best,

 

Raz

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