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Questions About Canadian Diamond For Engagement


EngageJP
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I am thinking seriously about getting a Canadian diamond for an engagement ring for my girlfriend.

 

Brilliant Earth looks like a company I would be comfortable dealing with. Here is a diamond I'm considering at around $6320: http://www.brilliantearth.com/loose-diamonds/view_detail/120159/?sid=&first=&show_diamond_tab=true

 

It appears that Canadian diamonds command a price premium of about 20% over others --is that correct?

 

Is the diamond I'm looking at priced fairly? Competitively?

 

If I want to have a local gemologist look at the stone, should I have it delivered there for examination? Should I visit the gemologist before I order the stone?

 

 

Also, Brilliant Earth sells 18K gold rings, but not 14K. Will 18K gold be less durable because it is softer?

 

Are there any other issues I should consider?

 

Thank you in advance for your help.

 

EJP

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It is priced at a roughly 20-25% premium compared to competitive "not Canadian" diamonds advertised online (many of which may well be Canadian, BTW - Canada accounts for roughly 15% of global rough diamond production). Whether it is competitive with other "Canadian" sources, I don't know, but it seems to tally with your observations of a 20% premium (quite what you are paying the premium for is a different question, but let's leave it for another discussion).

 

If you want to have a fair and expert appraisal of the stone and its merits and demerits compared to others in the market, you should either trust the seller completely or hire your expert. Give them as much advance notice as possible (though it is not a long task, it's not going to be best form to turn up on the day and expect them to pay attention to your stone within 5 minutes), and make sure to choose someone who is an independent expert, meaning not someone selling diamonds or other stones.

 

18 vs. 14k - yes, in general 18k will be softer (though it depends a bit on the specific alloy), but nothing to worry about in terms of durability.

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BE charges a premium over their most price aggressive competitors but it's not all attributable to the Canadian origin. Some of that comes from the Canadian branding, extra lab fees etc, some of that comes from their own business model and some of that comes from the business models of the OTHER guys where certain diamonds are something of a loss leader to get you to buy other things from them. Canadian branding was a bit more popular a few years ago and it's a little hard to shop for them recently as a 'generic' sort of item but when you find them I think the premium for the documented Canadian origin is more like 0-10%.

 

Canadian origin is actually sort of a tricky question these days. First there are stones mined in Canada. There are also stones cut in Canada, most but not all of which were mined there. There are stones that have been documented by various labs, mines or government agencies as having been mined and/or cut in Canada and there are stones tht have been mined and/or cut there that DON'T have any paperwork. All of these have a certain claim to the title. I think the legal definition of 'made in Canada' has to do with the final steps of the cutting process. That is to say, a stone mined in Russia, sorted in Belgium, shaped in India, polished in Canada and graded in the US, could be legally labled 'Made in Canada'. The Canadamark brand has to do with where it's mined but all or some of the cutting can be done elsewhere so these aren't necessarily made in Canada. There are several Canadian brands that have come an gone over the last decade or so and all have slightly different ways of working it but Canadianness is not nearly as clear cut as it seems at first glance.

Edited by denverappraiser
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If I understand correctly, BE also charges a premium because of their claim of "ethical sourcing", which is nothing more than marketing. Nowadays, most retailers I know purchase Kimberley diamonds. I produce all of my stuff in Italy and I couldn't get a conflict diamond even if I tried :)

 

If you notice, they are also making the following claim - "Certified by GIA". Since when does GIA certify diamonds, or, GOD FORBID, retailers who sell them?

 

Just like Tiffany, Harry Winston and others in this category, BE is a reputable company and they charge a premium for doing business with them. I think their prices have less to do with the Canadian origin and more to do with their business model.

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EncoreDT - I agree on the "certified" thing, and it is one hobby of mine to correct people who use the word "certificate" more or less at random. It even led to a couple of spates and threats of legal (or less savoury) action with a few dunderheads. However, to be fair, it is common practice in the industry, and I would not single out DE for that. If anything, I'd praise people that use the term appropriately.

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Kimberley is not about ‘ethical sourcing’ and they have never even claimed that this is what they certify (unlike GIA, Kimberley really is a certification process by the way). That claim is coming directly from the BE. This issue is actually the heart of big problems at Kimberley in recent years. The process was designed to inhibit diamonds from being used as a funding mechanism in some nasty and particularly uncivil wars in West Africa, notably in Sierra Leone, ROC and Liberia. For the most part it worked. The wars are over, to the extent that African wars are ever really over and life is back to a certain sort of normal. ‘Conflict’ diamonds by that definition aren’t really a problem anymore and haven’t been for years. The war depicted in The Blood Diamond movie was in Sierra Leone and ended in 2002 for example. That isn’t to say that there aren’t bad guys out there who enslave and abuse others, who steal things, who behave in environmentally irresponsible ways, and who are generally good folks to avoid doing business. As laudable as it is, preventing this is NOT within the scope of the Kimberley Process and never has been. Lots of people think it should be. The government of Zimbabwe, a Kimberly signatory, has a reputation for being abusive of both their workers and the environment for example. These stones are mostly from a field called Marange and are not ‘conflict’ diamonds by the KP definitions but they would certainly fall outside of the category of ‘ethically sourced’ by nearly any reasonable definition. Unfortunately, the paper trail is harder to follow for those who would like to avoid them. The solution is exactly to buy from a dealer like Brilliant Earth who makes a deliberate effort to identify their sources as being part of the good guys. They can put pressure on the supply chain that you, as a consumer, can't really do. Pointing at Kimberly as if it solved the problem of criminals in the diamond business is an illusion and it’s become as much a cover for the bad guys as it is a flag for the good. It’s a pity. It was a good idea and they really were pretty successful at their mission. That was then, this is now. I think it’s good that the Brilliant Earth people are taking a stand, and making an effort to insure that their own pipeline benefits all who are in it. I don’t know their procedures or what they mean by ethical sources but the fact that they TRY deserves kudos.

 

I will add that most jewelers, most cutters, and even most mine operaters are highly ethical people and the issue is largely about paperwork and the paper trail rather than anything else. Part of the problem is that they're a little offended to be called murderers and thieves unles they 'prove' to the contrary.

Edited by denverappraiser
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I have one more compliment for Brilliant Earth. They promote ethically produced AFRICAN diamonds as well as stones from Canada. Again, I don’t know their procedures but lots of people would like to buy a diamond in a way that benefits, or at least avoids harming, the people they’ve seen depicted on the TV or read about in the paper. Mostly these abuses are in Africa. That's part of what leads people to want to buy Canadian goods. That’s fine, and Canada is a nice place full of people who deserve your business, but you are doing no favors to the people of Africa by boycotting their products. Supporting the sources who behave the way you want is FAR more likely to have a positive result than simply throwing the towel, avoiding them all together, and buying Canadian. Indeed, that actually makes it worse because by losing the ethical shoppers, the only people left who get sales are the people selling to customers who don’t care about anything but the price. That gives a competitive advantage to the bad guys, exactly the opposite of what we want to see. The easiest path for retailers is to just sell Canadian and call it done when the most positive affects happen when you buy ‘development diamonds’ instead of just avoiding ‘conflict diamonds’. Again, kudos to BE for even trying at this. It’s not easy, the sources are not well documented and customers rarely demand a stone that’s crafted with pride in Botswana.

Edited by denverappraiser
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Thank you all for the thoughtful responses. Like a lot of things, as you examine the ethical sourcing issue, more subtleties emerge.

 

Denver Appraiser, you have given me a nudge toward considering getting a Botswana diamond. I do have concerns about how reliable their controls and guarantees are. In some ways, I would feel more comfortable relying on Canadian standards and systems. Also, I understand that Canadian environmental controls are stricter than in many places. On the other hand, it does make a lot of sense to support the economy and the workers in a poorer country.

 

------------

 

Also, I enjoy the high level of discussion and problem solving on this forum.

 

Sincerely, EJP

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I agree that Botswana has a hard time matching Canada in terms of the way things work but, for the most part it’s actually a pretty civilized place. That said, how about this as a thought: If the bad guys feel the need to fake reasonable provenance in order to get honorable dealers to carry their goods, even THAT gives an advantage to the ones who do it right. Over time the systems will improve, the advantage will increase and the pressure to come over from the dark side will win out. We’re trying to make a change and it doesn’t happen in one step. First they must know that it will benefit THEM to change what they’re doing. Then they need to know that it’s easier/better to change and do it right than to lie and cover it up. Lastly they need to believe that if they clean up their act, it's reasonably likely that customers will then buy their stuff. That’s not out of the question, especially if they’ve got a neighbor who is prospering by being honorable, but it's not a slam dunk. There will always be criminals, but the ones on the fence about it should see options other than be responsible and starve or perpetuate the evil and eat.

 

Deliberately buying a Botswana product is actually curiously difficult by the way. Canada has a marketing campaign to promote themselves that’s been very effective but creating, maintaining, and paying for a PR engine in the US is one of those areas where few African nations ‘get it’. There’s some definite silliness for an impoverished nation to spend their limited resources advertising their image in the US and Europe but, unfortunately, that’s part of how the modern world works, especially when your product is something as discresionary as diamonds. Pictures of polar bears and iceburgs in glossy magazines and on the telly is a remarkably powerful image and although I’m sure the folks in Botswana, Namibia and elsewhere could produce a similarly powerful image that would highlight their own beauties, the reality is that they don’t do it.

Edited by denverappraiser
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