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Need Help With Selecting Cushion Cut


TXTrojan90
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Really hoping someone knowledgable can help with answering some questions/making a selection.

 

To begin, I've invested quite a bit of time into educating myself on diamonds, what to look for, and cushion cuts in particular. I'm doing my best to stay under 7.5K. 

 

Ideally, in terms of the main diamond, I'd like to be in the 1.0-1.2 carat range.

 

What's difficult is discerning the amount of reflection or brilliance a cushion cut may have, without ever seeing it in person. Moreover, very few online or local shops offer ASET imagery of particular diamonds. To my knowledge, the ideal cut cushion falls into a range of Depth: 61-67% and Table: 61-67% and there is a good chance that if you source a diamond with these dimensions, that the brilliance will be better. Do I have that correct?

 

Really, I'm looking at buying via three different mediums and would appreciate advice on which one might be best:

 

1) Through a mutual connection, 2 of my co-workers have purchased via what I believe to be a diamond broker in NY whom is multiple-generations connected in the diamond business. My main incentive to buy sight-unseen through her is that she is somehow able to build a ring worth close to twice the value of what you pay. Both co-workers of mine have spent between 5-10K on a ring through her and have received it and gotten it appraised close to double. Not even sure how that is possible, but that's what I've been told. My main caution here is having blind-faith in the process, especially when we are dealing with a cushion cut.

 

2) James Allen- Not the most inexpensive online retailer out there, but they have a solid reputation, and apparently will provide ASETs. They have extensive pictures, are all GIA-certified, and are reputable in the market place. Their return policy and warranty are also key strengths. I may not get the best deal, but I'd know exactly what I'm getting.

 

Here are 3 diamonds that are contenders here, would love an experts input into which one likely "performs" the best: http://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/all-diamonds/?TabSelected=3&DiamondID=505142,303438,388831

 

3) Shapiro Diamonds of Dallas- custom-made, wholesale, pretty reputable. However, I've heard they have a lot of EGL certified diamonds, which are less than ideal. A local option where I can visually confirm the quality of the diamond.

 

 

Can you guys help enlighten me and give me direction? I'm a very savvy buyer and pride myself on getting the best deal and value possible. However, there are way too many variables in play with diamonds, and I'm finding myself...for the first time in my life....overwhelmed.

 

Thanks!

 

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I’ll let others talk about some of the issues on the diamond but you brought up appraisals so I’ll start there.

 

How is it possible to sell things for less than the appraisal value? 

 

Actually it’s pretty easy.  There are three secrets to this.  First, most appraisals are estimating the cost to replace an item with another of like kind and quality at retail, new, locally.  That definition is full of weasel words.  For starters, meeting or exceeding a particular set of specs isn’t the usual way people shop.  That’s the way people buy custom, and custom costs more. Normally transaction prices are less than replacement values.  Sometimes by quite a bit. 

 

Secondly, the assumed sourcing for materials, the assumed labor costs for manufacture and the assumed markup for this theoretical replacement vary greatly from store to store and from appraiser to appraiser.  For example, an appraiser may think the parts will cost $5,000, the labor $2,000 and the markup double.  That’s a $14,000 replacement cost.  $15k if we include tax.  Another appraiser can see that same item, grade things slightly differently and see it as $4,000 worth of parts, $1,000 worth of labor and a 60% markup.  That’s a $9,600 replacement cost.  Meanwhile a manufacturer may get 10 of them made in a Chinese factory for $500 with $4000 worth of parts and be willing to work for 30%.  That’s a transaction cost of $5850. That's well below half of the so-called appraisal value. 

 

Lastly there’s the conflict of interest issue.  The appraiser often is working for the selling jeweler, and the selling jeweler has different objectives.  Jewelers tend to see zero liability in this and they may very well appraise the above item at $18,000, just to make the buyer feel good about it. It's worth $18k but we'll sell it for $9k because we're your buddies and it's all about the love.  Right.

 

None of this, of course, is evidence of either a bargain or a ripoff.  None of it is evidence of accurate grading.  None of it is evidence of accurate quality control. It's not even evidence of a bad appraisal. ‘Free’ appraisals are normally worth less than they cost. If you're going to rely on an appraiser, the first step is to understand who they are and what question they are answering, and the second step is for YOU to be the client, not the jeweler. 

 

Special bonus answer:

Claims of selling wholesale to the public are bogus.  Selling things one at a time directly to the end consumer is the DEFINITION of retail.  Not that there's anything wrong with that but calling themselves wholesalers as part of a retail sales pitch is catching them in a lie before they even start and the whole point is to give you a false impression of what's going on.  Asking you to rely on EGL grading for comparison purposes is strike 2.  That's not a deal killer yet and a lot of retailers do both of these things but I'm not impressed so far.

Edited by denverappraiser
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@denverappraiser

 

Thank you for your response. Definitely good points made. So my counter question would be, how much does a professional appraisal of merely the ring itself cost(I.e.-the cost of the materials themselves alone)? Do you know any reputable independent appraisers in Dallas?

 

So by your response, I should eliminate the "wholesaler" option from the list.

 

Secondly, any chance you can provide some insight into the three diamonds in the link I provided via James Allen? What is the typical mark-up of online retailers like James Allen?

 

Thanks so much!

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Again, I'll let others talk about the stones. I don't talk about diamonds I haven't seen, and I charge to talk about the ones I do. :D

 

 

 

Normally I charge $85 for single item appraisals if there's no shipping involved. Local clients with a single item will normally wait and watch. It takes about 45 minutes. Different appraisers do it differently but all I know will be happy to tell you their prices upfront.

 

 

 

In Dallas there are a couple. Try Patty Giolat or Steve Jarvis. Both are well qualified.

 

 

 

http://www.geolat.com/

 

http://dallasjewelryappraisals.com/

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Neil has given you excellent advice on appraisals, appraisers and vendors, so let me tackle the other couple of questions:

 

1. Can I pick up "better" cut simply by looking at the information on the (GIA) report?

To my knowledge, the ideal cut cushion falls into a range of Depth: 61-67% and Table: 61-67% and there is a good chance that if you source a diamond with these dimensions, that the brilliance will be better. Do I have that correct?

Short answer: no.

 

Longer answer: table and depth are on lab reports because they are easy to measure (and even to "eyeball") for diamond identification, not because they are particularly relevant for cut quality. You can use them to rule out extremes, but:

 

1. The ranges you are proposing are not ruling out extremes... they are ruling out a lot of potentially good stones.

 

2. Staying within those ranges does NOT guarantee or even improve the probability of getting a good stone, never mind being able to compare stone X (65 T 65 D) with stone Y (64 T 66 D).

 

Particularly with cushions, there is so much variability in shape and faceting pattern, that I would be hugely suspicious of any claims of "cut quality" based purely on published data on reports, and would require images (including but not limited to reflector images such as ASET) and video, if in-person viewing is not possible. This limits your vendor choice, but limits your stone choice far less: most stones are available to pretty much all and sundry... since they belong to wholesalers who will sell through whatever channels present themselves.

 

2. Which of these three stones is "the best"?"

Here are 3 diamonds that are contenders here, would love an experts input into which one likely "performs" the best: http://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/all-diamonds/?TabSelected=3&DiamondID=505142,303438,388831

These three all look quite different, and if I were to pick something I'd pick something else... however, staying within those three, I'd go for the 1.00:

 

1. It's the only one that faces up square (which is important to me, may not be relevant to you)

2. It's the only one that shows some contrast pattern.

Edited by davidelevi
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@davidelevi

 

Thanks for your comments. Although I must say it only confuses me more. 

 

So what you are saying is that a cushion that has a depth >70% will be able to reflect enough light? I thought it was too deep to refract a good amount of light back up through the crown. 

 

Additionally, your comments on the 3 diamonds I selected are appreciated. The top being square with the diamond isn't of too much importance to me. I thought the 3rd one looked the worst, so I'm curious as to why that one stood out. You mentioned contrast, but what exactly does that do for the diamond? How can you tell just by looking at the diamond...contrast or no contrast?

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All of the advice above is excellent!  And I agree that given only the choice of the 3 stones from JA, I would also tend to pick the 1.00.  Given I wider choice, I would not really consider it at all as I prefer to put my money into size rather than into these highest clarities.  Cushions are one of those shapes that you really cannot pick based on the paper.  Seeing the stone in person or at the very least real pictures and pictures comparing to other candidates is absolutely critical.  Reflector images can be useful but their interpretation cannot be the same as for a round stone.  There are a couple of things you need to decide for yourself as you search for the perfect stone.  Do you prefer a square or a rectangular stone, or even the third option of an off-square which is essentially a very fat rectangle (ration around 1.1:1).  Next, why are you looking at VVS?  To the naked eye many SI1s and most VS2 stones will look exactly the same.  The same holds true for color and I would include F and G in your search.  If you were to look for an F-VS2, your search would show you larger stones, that essentially look the same: http://www.diamondreview.com/diamonds/?sortOrder=carat&sortDesc=0&fShape=Cush&fCaratLo=1.15&fCaratHi=1.49&fColorLo=F&fColorHi=F&fClarityLo=VS2&fClarityHi=VS2&fCutLo=&fCutHi=poor&fDepthLo=50.0&fDepthHi=80.0&fTableLo=40.0&fTableHi=80.0&fSymLo=ideal&fSymHi=vgood&fPolLo=ideal&fPolHi=vgood&fCulLo=&fCulHi=vlarge&fFlrLo=none&fFlrHi=med&fPriceLo=0&fPriceHi=6818&adv=1

This is a mixture of square and rectangular stones but if you wan to limit yourself to square stones, just look at the length and width numbers and make sure they are 1.05:1 or closer.

As to the faceting pattern, this again is one of personal preference. Some people prefer the broader flashes reminiscent of older cuts and other prefer the intense scintillation of more modern cushions.  Here are a few examples of the vast differences in look.  The first two have a bolder look whereas the other two are a bit busier.  Which do you prefer?  Try to focus on what you like.

 

I hope this helps.

post-109884-0-30695000-1432130849.jpg

post-109884-0-44937100-1432130868.jpg

post-109884-0-22965100-1432131129.jpg

post-109884-0-85804200-1432131157.jpg

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@GeorgeDI

 

Thanks for weighing in. Truthfully, the main reason I've been looking mainly at D/E color; VVS1/VVS2 cushion cuts is for resale value purposes. It's my understanding that the higher on the scale for both(obviously with the GIA or AGS cert), the higher the long-term value it holds.

 

I too, have heard that an F color or even a G will look colorless, and additionally, I've heard that a VS1 or VS2 may still be "eye-clean". By moving down in these brackets, you're correct that I could get a bigger stone. Truthfully, I'm not sure my gf would know the difference between the two. However, I look at a diamond purchase just like any other investment. I want to pick a high quality stone that will hold it's value better. Is that a correct mindset to have?

 

I'm partial to the modern cushion cut(ice-look), and I think my gf would prefer that as well. I really want to find a stone that pops in all types of light. Obviously, there are premium vendors who have specific cuts that give this effect, but it's at an astronomical premium. In addition, I prefer the more square cut as opposed to rectangular, and think a more squared diamond will look better in a halo setting.

 

With that being said, I'm not sure that I can tell by viewing pictures of loose diamonds on sites like James Allan, which ones have more "brilliance" than others. Additionally, based on what others have said here, it seems that if you can't tell from high quality pictures/video and you can't easily discern by dimensions/metrics...then buying on-line is nearly impossible and you have to put a good amount of confidence in the vendor.

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Diamonds are more of a symbolic investment than a commercial one.  Unless you are looking to get into the diamond business, it may be wiser for you not to expect to maintain the value of your purchase.  Neil Beaty has written about this often and has contributed a blog post to this effect on our site: http://blog.diamondideals.com/why-cant-i-sell-my-ring-for-what-i-paid

I would encourage you to read the post or search this forum for his wise words to the same effect.

 

As for relying on pictures, this is something that can be a little tricky.  There are few vendors who post what I refer to as x-ray pictures and videos; essentially graphic images designed to show you what is in the stone.  They usually have a white or grey background and use a diffuse lighting source.  This is good if you are interested in seeing inclusions but not so useful if you are trying to evaluate the brilliance of the stone.  Some of the reflector tools are better for that purpose.  We like to take live shots of stones with normal lighting conditions; an overhead light, natural light and a desk lamp.  The best pictures are ones where you see more than one stone next to the other so you can compare looks.  We try to move the light sources around so you can see more than one view.  The ultimate test is actually seeing the stone but if you have good photos and have some faith in your vendor, it usually works out better than you think.  Of course, a good return policy is important, although with luck you will not have to use it.

 

I hope this helps.

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Truthfully, the main reason I've been looking mainly at D/E color; VVS1/VVS2 cushion cuts is for resale value purposes. It's my understanding that the higher on the scale for both(obviously with the GIA or AGS cert), the higher the long-term value it holds.

This is not correct. Resale of diamonds is a problem for nearly everyone but buyers of ‘used’ diamonds from the public are not predisposed towards higher grades in clarity and color. If anything the opposite is true. People buying from individuals normally are doing so because they’re looking for a bargain, and bargain shoppers are more often looking for lower grades. By all means buy what you like but the 'investment' argument in nonsense. Do not go into this expecting ever to see your money again.

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Truthfully, the main reason I've been looking mainly at D/E color; VVS1/VVS2 cushion cuts is for resale value purposes. It's my understanding that the higher on the scale for both(obviously with the GIA or AGS cert), the higher the long-term value it holds.

This is not correct. Resale of diamonds is a problem for nearly everyone but buyers of ‘used’ diamonds from the public are not predisposed towards higher grades in clarity and color. If anything the opposite is true. People buying from individuals normally are doing so because they’re looking for a bargain, and bargain shoppers are more often looking for lower grades. By all means buy what you like but the 'investment' argument in nonsense. Do not go into this expecting ever to see your money again.

 

 

@Denverappraiser

 

Fair point. How about the argument of trading up at a later point? Is it common place in the market that the price you pay for a diamond at one place goes dollar for dollar into an upgrade? For example, I believe James Allan offers something where if you pay $5,000 for a stone on your first go-around, that the same trade-value will be applied if you trade-up at a later date(so long as the upgraded stone is more than 50% of the original value(i.e.-$7500 in this case). To me, if resale value doesn't hold, then going through a vendor that has a policy like this is a MUST.

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Trade in’s come in two basic flavors.

 

What you describe is a contractual arrangement with the seller. A fair number of them do it and it’s important to read the terms of the contract to understand the details. They vary wildly and in important ways. Usually you need to trade for something that’s more expensive, There’s often a lab fee as part of the deal and any sort of damage in the meantime voids it. Some include a requirement that they be allowed to inspect it periodically and that you agree to whatever repairs they recommend in order to keep it in force. Normally it applies to the stone only, not the mounting, setting labor or any of the other miscellaneous costs involved in the deal. Lastly, they don’t all offer this on every stone they sell. This generally is only associated with their branded lines. I have no idea what JAs policies are but they're surely in the advertising. Read the fine print with them or anyone else where this is important to you. In any case, this is a function of the contract, not the diamond. The trade in will work the same whether you buy a D/IF or a K/I-1.

 

The other type is fundamentally a sale. The dealer buys your old stone and sells you a new one. It’s two different deals and it doesn’t even matter if they sold it in the first place. It's like trading in your car. They’ll pay whatever they must or walk away, and they’ll charge whatever they can with the chance that YOU will walk away. There’s no obligation on either one of you. Obviously the dealer is making money on both sides of this and what they’re willing to pay has a lot of variables that aren’t entirely gemological. How well do they do with stones like that? What does their existing inventory look like? How much money do they have on hand? At the right price most dealers will buy just about anything but what you paid for it has nothing to do with it.

Edited by denverappraiser
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So what you are saying is that a cushion that has a depth >70% will be able to reflect enough light? I thought it was too deep to refract a good amount of light back up through the crown.

What I'm saying is that other than ruling out extremes (probably well over 75% and well below 55% for a cushion), depth is not a good criterion to judge a diamond's cut. There are plenty of cushions with depth of about 70% that look fantastic, and there are cushions with a depth of 64% (middle of your "61-67" range) that look poor.

 

You mentioned contrast, but what exactly does that do for the diamond? How can you tell just by looking at the diamond...contrast or no contrast?

Contrast is just that: a variation in brightness. A flat mirror under uniform lighting has zero contrast; very bright but not very interesting... a (poorly cut) diamond can be a bit like that. A nicely cut diamond has a nice pattern of darker and brighter areas that change as you move relative to the stone

 

This foundational article by GIA may help in understanding the various terms that people use in describing cut: http://www.diamondcut.gia.edu/pdf/cut_fall2004.pdf it was written with reference to rounds, but the concepts are perfectly translatable to cushions (or any other shape).

Edited by davidelevi
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In addition, if anyone is willing to present some options within a 5K-7.5K range, I'd really appreciate it. Again, I'm looking for a cushion cut in the 1.0-1.25 size range, with maximum brilliance(excellent cut, polish, symmetry). Color preference would be colorless-near colorless and clarity to be "eye-clean".

 

Perhaps someone will be able to find some solid choices. I've scoured various sites for hours and come away more and more frustrated.

 

-Beau

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It's virtually impossible to pick a cushion based on lists.  You need to decide on shape and then work with a vendor directly.  They will essentially become your eyes and will do the hard work for you.  Many  vendors only have virtual access to lists and need to call stones in to their location.  Some may be reluctant to call in multiples in order to find the right one if they have to have everything shipped.  When we work with our customers, as we are in the middle of the largest diamond district in the US, we usually source several stones that have potential and then analyze and compare them in person and send photos and/or video of the top choices to help our clients make an informed decision.  You need someone to be your eyes.

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Perhaps someone will be able to find some solid choices. I've scoured various sites for hours and come away more and more frustrated.

I suspect part of the frustration is due to you scouring sites rather than going out and seeing diamonds... may I suggest that you try a different plan now that you have the basics of vocabulary and some ideas on size/budget:

 

1. Go out and look at diamonds. While what you are looking for is not impossible to find, a top cut 1 carat cushion will cost you more than $7k if you want to stay with "high" colour and clarity; you will need to make some compromises, and thus you need to know if you are better off downsizing to (say) 0.90, accepting the tint of a J colour or "risking" on clarity (BTW - there are perfectly eye-clean SI2 and even I1; but they are not easy to find)... or upping the budget!

 

Although it's more difficult, also try to "decompose" the performance into contrast, fire, brightness and scintillation - understand what you like most of a stone and how it's different from others in terms of shape, form factor, roundedness of corners and cutting pattern.

 

Bear in mind that the objective here is not choosing one of these stones (though if it happens... it's not necessarily a bad thing); it is to train yourself in understanding what you can see and what you cannot see, and what you prefer.

 

2. Once you have firmed up on what you actually want/like (which - in my opinion - is not likely to be any of the very high colour, very high clarity and indifferently cut stones you initially picked), choose your vendor (or a couple). As George points out, you simply cannot buy a cushion off a list - unless you are prepared to repeat the purchase/return cycle a few times. Talk to people, understand how they are ready (or not!) to help you and what they would bring you in order to help you decide.

 

3. Only then start looking at actual diamonds to purchase.

Edited by davidelevi
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  • 4 weeks later...

There are several thousand diamonds of all sorts and sizes being shipped globally without loss every day... and these would not even need to cross any borders (never mind borders with Canada, which is what you seem to be promoting...)

Edited by davidelevi
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