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Should I Buy Online?

Tokugawa Nariaki

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Hi there,


I'm looking to buy an engagement ring so I can finally pop the question (after 5 years!), and this is the plan I've formulated: to buy the diamond online, and have it set with something I chose in a store. My reason for this is 1) My girlfriend has very small hands (ring size 4, 4'11"), and so I only want a diamond that is about 1/2 carat; BUT I want the best possible quality that I can find; and 2) it seems more difficult to measure the quality or beauty of a setting than a stone. Plus, I'm just dissatisfied with what I see in stores.


So the stone I have set my eyes on is:

Carat weight: 0.50

Cut: Ideal

Color: D

Clarity: IF

Depth %: 59.5%

Table %: 60%

Symmetry: Very good

Polish: Very good

Girdle: Medium to slightly thick, faceted

Culet: None

Fluorescence: None

Measurements: 5.16 x 5.20 x 3.08 mm



My question is kinda subjective: from what I've seen I *like* diamonds are nearer to colorless that otherwise, better clarity, etc. (I have heard some people preferring otherwise). With that caveat, does my plan seem like a safe one to get the best diamond, in my chosen size? Are there other elements I'm not considering than the measurements? To what extent do those elements affect percieved beauty?


Forgive me if my questions seem incoherent--I'm a total diamond novice!

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Hello Nariaki-san, welcome! (just a coincidence, or a carefully chosen pseudonym? no need to tell)


Your plan makes sense to me - and don't worry about the 5 years; it took me 24 :rolleyes:


I would also suggest you look outside of jewelry stores to artisans that custom make settings, particularly if you are unhappy with what you can find online.


The foremost element that affects any diamond's beauty is cut - while there is nothing in the information you posted to suggest it's not well cut, there is nothing that confirms it either. We don't know who has graded the diamond - the words "Ideal cut" can have pretty loose meaning.


By the way - the same doubt applies to the other elements of the grading - D/IF according to whom?


Another observation/question: while I understand the symbolic aspect of wanting a D/IF and the budget is going to be relatively contained by the smallish size, is that a strong constraint? I am thinking specifically that a F/VS1 stone would be to all practical intents and purposes indistinguishable, and half the price, allowing you to get a truly nice custom-made setting, possibly using exotic/uncommon techniques such as mokume gane.

Edited by davidelevi
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Versus going with a D IF, I would personally opt for a better cut grade. The color and clarity you won't see the difference with the naked eye, probably if you stay in a D-G and IF to VS2. However the cut grade or sparkle factor and size you will definitely see. What kind of price range was that stone offered for? It's not even ideal cut?


Also it's a good idea to get the setting and stone in the same place to avoid problems, with someone setting the stone and possibly chipping it while setting or maybe messing up the mounting while setting.

If you purchase it from the same place, you can avoid alot of problems with people trying to place blame on the other party and alot of times getting a better warranty.

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D/IF/Ideal is generally agreed to be the ‘best’ there is although there are some arguments about sub-grading on that cut but I second Davide’s advice of being attentive to WHO graded it. All graders are not the same. Personally, I recommend AGS Laboratories for grading on top end stones. They’ll work with any jeweler, as will GIA. Don’t accept anything less.


I also agree with Jan’s comment that you should strive to buy the stone, the mounting and the assembly labor all from the same source but especially if you are highly picky. If there’s any problem and you have multiple vendors involved you’re sure to have fingerpointing between them over who is responsible and who will take care of it.



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Firstly I would like to thank each of you for your kind assistance.


The diamond posted above was GIA certified, the price just under three grand. Jan, you say, "It's not even ideal cut"--by that do you mean that polish/symmetry are at Very Good rather than Excellent?


David: I am quite set on IF, because of the significance. While I can see your reasoning, and it is good, I'm inclined to view the setting as just that, the setting; and while I would have no problem changing the setting down the road, I would only want a diamond that would be with her for the entirety of our lives. Perhaps naive! Nevertheless, I think I can be satisfied with the significance of an E clarity diamond, especially as each of you has emphasized the priority of cut quality. That being said, I've found a "Signature Ideal" (whatever that means) on Blue Nile for just over 300 dollars more, which is just pushing the limit of my price range. To my untutored self, it seems very promising:


Carat weight: 0.53

Cut: Signature Ideal

Color: E

Clarity: IF

Price per carat: $6,334

Depth %: 61.6%

Table %: 56%

Symmetry: Ideal

Polish: Ideal

Girdle: Thin to medium, faceted

Culet: Very small

Fluorescence: Negligible

Measurements: 5.19 x 5.24 x 3.22 mm


AGSL and GCAL (?) certifications.


Now given what you've all told me, I would think this stone would be a better choice, given my price range/preference. Does this seem reasonable?


I only have a few questions:


1) Culet: Very small I've heard is good, but none would be better? I am fearful lest the stone have that "hole" look to it--any likelyhood either way, from what we can tell from here? Or is it merely the kind of thing I'd have to order and verify for myself? I'm very near that point right now.


2) Especially as I planned on having the stone set by those who I'll buy the setting from, should I be fearful about the thin to medium girdle chipping when set? I worried about this since I first decided to go diamond-online, setting-local... is it likely I could hold the jeweler who set the diamond accountable for any damage done to it? Any thoughts would be much appreciated.


3) Finally, what sort of cost difference would I be looking at for similar metal weight/alloy and tcw/quality settings between stock and custom made? Is it even something that can be determined in general, or does it vary too much on a case by case basis?


Again, thank you for your time and help.

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I think what Jan means is that it's not graded by AGSL as AGS-0 proportions, which that diamond is unlikely to be.


A word of caution about Blue Nile - their cut classification generally means very little, since it's rule-based and they don't see the stone (Blue Nile drop ships: they tell the manufacturer to send you the stone, it's never in their hand). It may be different with their "Signature Ideal" line; the website seems to imply it, but it never says it, which makes me think it isn't.


Regarding the specific stone you picked: it's pretty well cut, but I think you can still do better - at least on paper (it's borderline AGS-0/AGS-1 for proportions, because of the pavillion angle). No amount of examination by whatever technology is going to replace your eyes and your brain, so if you think you may like it, go ahead and order it - Blue Nile has generous return terms, and it may enable you to compare it to others.


I'll make another couple of points on the IF issue, then I'll shut up for good on this one.


a. "Flawless" means no defects can be found by an expert observer in optimal light conditions using 10x magnification. If you were to use greater magnification, flaws will be found in any diamond. The choice of 10x is largely historical; it could have been 20x or 5x or - as for all other gemstones - 1x, i.e. unaided eye. From that point of view, since it's not truly flawless, you may as well decide that it should be flawless to a non-expert (e.g. you) under 10x mag - i.e. a VS1 and above, or flawless to an expert under no mag... (no border here, but some SI1 are that!)


b. IF/FL stones are rare on the market - for many reasons. Adding to this very high colour and exceptional cut means narrowing the choice so much that you may end up with no options at all, or that to keep the clarity constraint you need to sacrifice something else. I am worried this may be cut, which has by far the largest impact on appearance, while clarity (above VS2) has by far the lowest.


Now on to your questions:


1. Very small culet means between 0.5 and 1% of stone diameter. At 5 mm diameter, that means the culet would be at most barely visible without magnification. None would be better theoretically, but to all intents and purposes it makes no difference. It's also more difficult to chip.


2. Thin to medium girdle is absolutely fine. Be cautious with very thin/extremely thin (but even those aren't an issue most times)


The issue of accountability and responsibility for damage while setting is one of the reasons why Neil and Jan recommended you buy the stone and setting from the same place. Jewellers typically are insured for damage that occurs to stones, but only if the stone is their property - most will therefore explicitly exclude responsibility for damage incurred while setting a customer's stone. You can sidestep that by buying your own insurance and making sure it covers damages while in possession of the jeweller. What you can't sidestep is the issue of quality of work and fingerpointing... you can at least minimise it by having only two vendors involved (centre stone and everything else)


3. Very much case by case, depending on how complex/individual the design is, techniques and materials used, reputation and location of the jeweller.

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It’s common for IF/FL stones to have a very small culet. The reason is that the culet is one of the parts of a diamond that are easily damaged, especially from ‘paper wear’, which is damaged caused as a stone is shipped from one jeweler to another waiting to find it’s final customer. This risk gets reduced by adding a tiny culet. The amount of wear required to drop a stone from IF to VVS1 is truly microscopic and the affect it has on the price is substantial. A very small culet is not a problem for either the beauty or value of the stone.


Some jewelers will refuse to set a diamond that they didn’t sell, some will charge an extra fee for this to cover the very liability you’re worried about and some will refuse to assume the risk at all and will ask you to sign a waiver to this effect. Most will decline to accept liability if they didn’t sell either the stone or the mounting or will simply decline to do the job. Always ask this question specifically before you leave the job. By all means allow them to inspect the stone prior to any work and to decline the job if they have any problems with it. Do this during the dealer’s 30 day return window so you have the opportunity to find a different stone, or a different setter as needed. The damage risk on a stone like you're considering is extremely low but it's not zero.



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