A guide to buying diamonds, our opinion!
Investing in a girl’s best friend to join the league of believers in the diamonds are forever club is an exciting prospect first and foremost, but then probably daunting is the next word that will spring to mind and then sheer panic may set in!
Whether it is a special birthday or anniversary gift, a well earned treat, an investment with some inheritance to remember a loved one by or the ‘biggy’, your engagement ring, you want to get it right. But where do you start? Are you choosing it for yourself or is it a ‘no pressure here’ but you’re picking a surprise for the love of your life? What can I tell you here that will ensure you leave home armed with the knowledge necessary to bag some blinding bling and come home with your perfect diamond to show off, share and wear with confidence, and love it?
It’s all about you!
That is the top and bottom of it and whilst I will give you an idea of the ‘technical’ side of things, this purchase or the next when it comes to down to the crunch, must be right for you and only you know if it makes you sparkle as much as it does!
There are the folks out there who take the impulse approach (not unlike myself) who will see it, love it and get it, there and then; because if you go back and it’s gone you will kick yourself! Then there are the folks who are far more measured, who may see something they like, but it’s not screaming their name and when they pass by weeks later and it’s gone, well that’s fine it just wasn’t meant to be and they’re in no hurry. The panic buyers always make me work hard, and I personally give them the short version of the Spanish inquisition to try and get to ‘know’ who they are buying for to try and help them get it right. Not everyone is blessed with being a natural born shopper (like me) so I feel I must take it upon myself to help save these poor souls!
So the best place to start is with your budget. What is it? This is the key to determining how far you can push the proverbial boat out. It is possible to bag a pre owned gem that will give you the look of a champagne lifestyle on a lemonade budget, it that’s what floats your boat?! The Crown Jewels are out of reach, I know this as I went round and round that moving floor display in the Tower of London more than once to glimpse all that glitters until I was dizzy. So set a budget and work from that.
Pennies sorted, occasion determined, first stop, your sofa. Get some online style ideas, what do you like the look of, shop around; search vintage, search contemporary, search classic. In personal experience I can confirm that ‘they’ look different on than in a box and I have had many a client come in wanting one thing and walking out with something completely different, but it helps to have a starting point!
THE 5 C’s - Cut, Clarity, Colour, Carat & Certificate
There are many styles of ‘cut’ including, brilliant (your standard modern round diamond), oval, princess, heart, marquise, pear, emerald, baguette, old European, rose, dutch rose…..
This is certainly a personal preference on what shape you feel suits you best……. Unless you are grading the diamond as an expert and then the ‘cut’ is a grade of the diamond’s reflective qualities, not the shape at all!
The quality of the cut does affect how the diamond looks, the brilliance or fire that comes from within, the finish and the angles of the cut determine how well the diamond handles the light. If you are looking at a certified diamond then if it states the ‘cut’ these are key words you will come across: ideal, excellent, very good, good, fair & poor. Ideal is the best, scaling down from there…..confused yet?
We are still only on the first ‘C’ and I saved you the lecture on the ‘anatomy’ of a diamond!!
So this is all about the flaws, inclusions, black speckles, air bubbles and ‘stuff’ that is found in non flawless stones. I will keep this simple; it goes on a sliding scale again as follows:
F: Flawless: everyone wants one, only the very rich and famous can potentially get their hands on one!!
IF: Internally Flawless: No flaws internally, but some surface flaws. Still rare!
VVS1 / VVS2: Very Very Slightly Included 1 & 2 (1 is better than 2): These have minute inclusions that are very difficult to detect under a loupe (with 10x magnification) even by a trained gemologist. Readily available for sale.
VS1 / VS2: Very Slightly Included 1 & 2: These have minute inclusions seen only with difficulty under a loupe at 10x magnification. Much easier to find for sale.
SI1 / SI2: Slightly Included 1 & 2: Minute inclusions, visible under a loupe at 10x magnification and may be visible to the unaided eye. Readily available for sale.
I1 / I2 / I3: Included 1, 2 & 3: Inclusions visible under a loupe at 10 x magnification; and visible to the naked eye. What clarity diamond should you buy?
Well the higher the grade the better (and more expensive) the stone as described above. But, it needs to be in budget and who in the real world walks around with a loupe in their pocket all day to let people examine their diamonds when showing them off? No, not me either! For a great example – My engagement ring – (which you can see if you go to the shop page and look at the picture for the ‘rings’ section) it is first ring on my engagement finger, a yummy traditional trilogy ring, three diamonds set in 18ct white gold and platinum. Those stones sparkle like there’s no tomorrow, it is frequently complemented on as being gorgeous and they are SI 1 & 2 stones. I rest my case….
Diamonds are white, yes. But ‘fancy’ diamonds can be pink, red, blue, yellow, green etc. White diamonds are measured in colour on a scale from D – Z and all D-Z diamonds are considered white, even though they contain varying degrees of colour. True fancy coloured diamonds are graded on a separate colour scale. The whiter the diamond the more valuable and the better the look, if you have a colourless diamond you will do it no favours having it set in yellow gold instead of white gold or platinum as the yellow gold will reflect colour, negating the diamonds colourless effect. That said, a slightly yellow diamond will appear whiter in a yellow setting, so the eye can be deceived!
D E F Colourless. There are differences between these 3 grades, but a gemologist will need to use side by side comparisons to detect them.
G H I J Near Colourless. Containing traces of colour these stones are still suitable for white settings.
K L M Faint Yellow. These stones are where colour becomes more apparent to the naked eye.
N – R Very Light Colour. An easily seen yellow to brown tint.
S – Z Light colour. Most people will think there is too much of a tint in yellow to brown to buy a stone of this grade.
The carat is not, as commonly misconceived, relating to the size of the stone, but the actual weight of the stone.
Which is ‘fun’ because then you have the carat of gold too, which is the purity of the metal, so a ring can have 18 carats and a quarter carat at the same time and confuse the best of you before you’re started!
1 carat is equal to 0.2 grams, but pre-owned and in it’s original vintage setting you will most likely be buying an ‘approximate’ weight stone and as the cost and disturbance to the piece to unset, weigh and reset is probably not cost effective and could be detrimental.
However, a general rule of thumb can give a ‘size’ guide. So for example 4.1mm is perceived as a ¼ carat, 5.1mm a ½ carat, 6.4mm a full carat, 8.1mm for 2 carats and 11mm for 5 carats. Shallow stones can appear ‘bigger’ than they actually are and deeper old cut stones for example may look ‘smaller’ than they actually are in a type of iceberg effect!
The smaller the carat the cheaper the stone, and so a cluster of many diamonds totalling 1 carat can look big and impressive but for a fraction of the cost of a single stone with the same carat content, it’s definitely down to personal preference (and budget) again!
A certificate is a blueprint of your stone, telling you it’s exact credentials and as no two diamonds are the same it is like a passport almost. BUT, a certificate does not value the stone. That is an appraisal or valuation. Great to have both, but in pre owned terms it is rare that pieces come with certificates, more likely an appraisal of the piece as a whole rather than a certified stone. See our valuations page for further information on what we can / do provide.