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Diamond At Auction: Opinions, Please!


drannemd
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To Neal, Jan, Josef, etc:

 

I'm looking for a 2 to 2.5 carat round brilliant diamond. I just bought one from Union Diamond (it's on the way; I haven't seen it yet). An opportunity just came up to bid on a diamond ring at an auction. It comes with an appraisal by a GIA-certified gemologist, but NOT an actual GIA certificate. Here are the stats, according to the appraisal: 2.51 carat, VS-2, K color. Total depth 54.3%, table width 68%, medium culet, slightly thick frosted girdle, good symmetry and polish, three naturals on girdle. Dimensions 8.95-9.11 x 4.90mm.

"Retail" appraisal is about $20,000. I don't think I'd want to pay more than $10,000 at auction. Naturally, the drawback to buying at auction is that I can't visually inspect the stone before buying, and have no option to return! So I guess what I'm wondering is, if I buy the ring, and decide I like the Union diamond better, how hard would it be to resell it? I don't imagine that K color diamonds are in high demand.

Any thoughts? I really appreciate your feedback!

Anne

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The big drawback is that you don’t know, and can’t get, reliable grading. It’s a big deal. GIA doesn’t certify gemologists. They are a college and they have some graduates, some of whom are skilled and some of whom are not. Some have the tools, some put in the time, some are highly ethical, etc. but it’s a serious mistake to confuse the opinion of a GIA graduate with the opinion of GIA. You know nothing about the grader and therefore you know nothing about the grade. Since you know none of these things you will need to estimate the reliability of the grading. Sight unseen it’s hard to know what to estimate but a good place to start would be 2.45ct./L-M/SI1/poor cut and even that’s a guess.

 

Here’s a 2.34/L/SI1/GIA/Excellent from Union for $10,221.

http://www.uniondiamond.com/diamonds/diamo...9a22379a73ac764

 

Figure you’ll be able to resell for something like 1/2 to ¾ of the prices you see comparable stones from the dealers here so figure you’ll be selling in the $5k-7k range. Given the risks involved, and my general distaste for poor cuts (if it's correct information, a 54% depth is dreadful), I wouldn’t bid more than about $3k.

 

Neil

(a proud GIA graduate)

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Neil--

 

Thanks a million; that is exactly the kind of response I was hoping for. My husband is furious with me for ordering a diamond online from Union. He thinks I am 1) getting ripped off, and 2) may not be able to get my money back if I decide to return the stone. I may get a cheaper diamond at auction, but I think I'm actually taking a bigger risk. Do you know of anyone who has had difficulty returning diamonds to these online dealers (and Union, specifically)? They seem like a reasonable outfit to me.

 

Again, thanks so much for the time you put in to responding to my "auction" dilemma. I really appreciate your insights.

 

Best regards,

 

Anne

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Union is a reputable company and I'm confident that they will honor their refund policy if you choose to take advantage of it and return it within their proscribed time frame.

 

If you're nervous, why not get it appraised by an independent appraiser while you're still within their return period? That's what it's for.

 

Neil

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Thanks--absolutely will do that. I now have the diamond from Union, and it is beautiful; but here's what I find shocking: it looks like a cubic zirconia! I feel silly admitting that, but it's true. Here's what I mean: it is very white, and while it is also very sparkly, it doesn't seem to have the "depth" and "fire" that I associate with genuine diamonds.

The color is lovely, the cut was rated as very good/excellent; the clarity is SI1 and there is strong blue fluorescence. Do you think these last two factors are why it looks like a CZ? I didn't think I'd mind a few minor inclusions (it's natural, after all, not lab created), but I'm wondering if a better clarity grade would dramatically alter the stone's overall appearance. Without being able to see several stones side by side, I'm a little lost.

Any thoughts?

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Hello Anne,

 

I doubt the clarity has anything to do with it. If you can't see the inclusions with your naked eye, then I think you've got little to gain by spending more and getting a higher clarity stone.

 

The strong blue fluorescence on the other hand may make it look whiter than it really is and perhaps decrease the play of colour. Have you checked whether the same "CZ-like" effect is also present under artificial incandescent light (halogen or normal bulb)?

 

I'm also wondering if there is an effect due to the lack of setting (I assume it's loose) - how many other stones have you seen loose?

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Thanks--absolutely will do that. I now have the diamond from Union, and it is beautiful; but here's what I find shocking: it looks like a cubic zirconia! I feel silly admitting that, but it's true. Here's what I mean: it is very white, and while it is also very sparkly, it doesn't seem to have the "depth" and "fire" that I associate with genuine diamonds.

The color is lovely, the cut was rated as very good/excellent; the clarity is SI1 and there is strong blue fluorescence. Do you think these last two factors are why it looks like a CZ? I didn't think I'd mind a few minor inclusions (it's natural, after all, not lab created), but I'm wondering if a better clarity grade would dramatically alter the stone's overall appearance. Without being able to see several stones side by side, I'm a little lost.

Any thoughts?

That may be grounds to send it back, if for no other reason than that it doesn’t trip your fancy and make your heart go pitter-patter, but I’m going to pass on commenting on the stone in deference to your appraiser who can actually see the stone in a more standardized environment. This is part of what you're paying them for. There are a lot of variables here that have nothing to do with diamonds including the lighting, your memory of what CZ’s and diamonds look like and your expectations of what diamonds are SUPPOSED to look like. If you’re basing this comparison on something you remember seeing in a jewelry store or even worse something you saw in an advertisement, you may be giving it a serious disservice because of the way lighting and memory works. In any case this is definitely cause for concern.

 

I don’t remember what the Union return policy is but do schedule your appraisal appointment quickly. Some are fairly busy people and you don’t want to push the deadline should you decide to return it. You should go to their site and reread the policy just to be sure you understand it.

 

Some jewelers are thrilled to let you come in and compare the stone to ones that they have for sale while others will forbid it. This gets you the side-by-side opportunity that you're looking for to see several stones at the same time and in the same lights. Expect a bit of sales pressure in this sort of environment and do take what the salespeople say with a grain of salt since they far from unbaised advisers in this situation but it can be a useful learning experience and they just might have something you like better. Not every jeweler will be interested in this and you should talk to them about it before you pull out someone else's stone in their showroom.

 

Neil

Edited by denverappraiser
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Neil and David,

Thank you both for your reply. You've already put my mind at ease! I was hesitant to discuss the clarity issue with anyone in a sales position, as I was afraid they would...persuade me to spend more money. David: the diamond does look spectacular under certain lighting conditions (halogens, for example, or soft lighting). Is it outdoor or fluorescent lighting that makes it "whiter"? Neil: I think you are right about expectations influencing my perception of the stone. Most of the diamonds I looked at previously were in jewelry stores (where the lighting is optimal). In any case, I have an appraisal scheduled for tomorrow...and maybe I'll be able to check out a few more stones.

Again, THANK YOU both!

 

Anne

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[snip] David: the diamond does look spectacular under certain lighting conditions (halogens, for example, or soft lighting). Is it outdoor or fluorescent lighting that makes it "whiter"? [snip]

 

It would be any lighting that contains significant amounts of UV radiation. This would be both outdoor light and most fluorescent lighting (some fluorescent lights are UV filtered). I'm glad to hear you like the stone at least under some lighting. :unsure:

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[snip] David: the diamond does look spectacular under certain lighting conditions (halogens, for example, or soft lighting). Is it outdoor or fluorescent lighting that makes it "whiter"? [snip]

 

It would be any lighting that contains significant amounts of UV radiation. This would be both outdoor light and most fluorescent lighting (some fluorescent lights are UV filtered). I'm glad to hear you like the stone at least under some lighting. :unsure:

 

UV light dissipates very quickly in air. Outside of the disco and the tanning salon, there is a negligible amount of UV in the spectra from common sorts of fluorescent lights even just a few inches away from the bulb. It’s low to start with and the air effectively makes a filter. Sunlight is the only UV rich environment that most people ever encounter.

 

Neil

Edited by denverappraiser
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So, I had the Union diamond appraised, which was a very worthwhile and educational experience. Though I brought all the documents with me, she preferred doing the appraisal before she saw the GIA certificate. She initially rated the color as G-H (though it is actually J); the cut and the fluorescence make it appear whiter. She said the stone looked "spotless" until she put it under a microscope, where she could see it was in the SI range (she also felt I had nothing to gain by spending more on a better clarity rating). Best of all, when I told her what I paid for it, she commented that I got it very close to wholesale and that Union "didn't make much money off of me." All in all, I feel like I almost got more than I paid for!

And yet, I am still obsessing (isn't that why we read and write this forum?). But thanks to you (Neil and David), I think I understand why: I read a few articles on diamond optics (available online through the GIA website). As you correctly pointed out, it's LIGHTING that makes the difference! Duh...the gist, as I understand it, is that diffuse lighting enhances brilliance (white light return), while spotlighting enhances fire (chromatic flares). It's the FIRE that I love about diamonds...which is why I think the stone looks terrific under halogens, or the recessed can lighting in my kitchen (or the spotlights in jewelry stores), and so relatively CZ-like under the fluorescent lights at work.

So, given that fire is an important criterion, here's the question: the GIA cut grade is "very good," which is specified as "excellent" symmetry and "good" polish. How important is that polish rating? Do I have much to gain by searching for a similar diamond that has excellent polish? (and would I really notice a difference??)

(Thought bubble: it's probably a good thing that men usually select engagement rings...women are much too neurotic about diamonds, or I am anyway...)

 

THANKS!!

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Hi Anne,

 

You (and I, for that matter) won't be able to see the difference between "good" and "excellent" polish without at least a loupe or most probably a microscope. Polish describes how "smooth" the surface of the diamond is, and the "good" rating may simply be there because of grain lines, which will have very little impact on the fire or brightness of the stone. I'm pretty sure the appraiser you have seen would a. reassure you on this and b. may be able to show you the surface blemishes that gave your stone its "good" rating.

 

What matters most in terms of light return and scintillation (or fire) are the angles and positioning of the various facets, i.e. the cut. The GIA cut grade is mostly based on proportions, though polish and symmetry ratings act as hurdles. For example, to gain an "excellent" cut rating from GIA, the stone must have at least "very good" on both polish and symmetry, but that is not enough - it also has to be cut appropriately.

 

A brilliancescope analysis would give you an idea of whether your stone has good light return in terms of both reflected (white) and refracted (coloured) light. Take a look at www.gemex.com for more info. Having said that, I think it still goes back to the most sophisticated visual analysis tool ever invented - a pair of human eyes and a brain. If you like what you see, then keep it. You now have reassurance that you have a fairly graded stone at a good price.

 

By the way - given that a 3 ct CZ should be at most $50 and available from most jewellers, why don't you buy one and see if it looks different (and hopefully worse) than the diamond in all the different lighting conditions?

 

Finally - don't worry about the neurosis. I'd say you are taking things fairly smoothly given the average (male) diamond buyer's attitude.

 

Edit: one subpoint was showing up as a smilie :unsure:

Edited by davidelevi
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Thanks, David--

I was imagining the diamond's surface looking like the shabby exterior of my (un)polished car! A few grain lines or whatever are no big deal. The diamond is beautiful, and I think if I exchanged it I would just have other things to obsess about. I'm just going to relax and enjoy it!!

I like the idea of the brilliancescope for kicks; but isn't that a proprietary thing that jewelry stores use to sell THEIR OWN diamonds? I don't know how I could arrange to use one...but it sounds interesting.

BTW, I do have a CZ ring; the diamond does indeed look better, but not 40,000% better! I am actually surprised by how good the CZ appears as a simulant. But I am no gemologist; so perhaps it is merely a case of "pearls before swine"... :unsure:

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Re: the brilliancescope - I think the only way to get a scan (short of spending several thousands and buying a machine) is becoming friendly with a jeweller/appraiser that has one, and getting a scan done by them.

 

Re: CZ - they are not at all bad stones. There's some issues with durability, but if properly cut they are beautiful.

 

Enjoy your new diamond!

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