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Buying a Diamond

a guide on buying a diamond

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What I learned while recently buying an engagement ring

  • Jun 17, 2010
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I recently got engaged and I spent a lot time researching diamonds for the engagement ring.  I'm writing this review because I spent a lot of time educating myself on diamonds and i think i can quickly summarize everything so others can benefit from this.

1.  Choosing the Stone:
Now picking out the type of stone is something that each person is going to have to figure out on their own so i can't help with that part of it.  That's all personal preference. But where i can help is making sure that you are GETTING A GOOD DEAL.

2.  Check the Rapaport Report:
it's really simple actually.  I all comes down to something called the Rapaport Diamond Report.  This is a weekly report that all diamond brokers use to price diamonds.  This basically sets the price for diamonds.  It is published weekly and everyone who is worth their salt in the diamond business will have this.  I was doing my shopping in some boutique jewelry stores in Manhattan Beach but most of my time was spent at the jewelry district in downtown Los Angeles.  Each place had the "Rap Sheet" as the called it and were very forthcoming sharing it with me.  I wouldn't trust anyone who doesn't have this available and won't share it with you.  Here's my Los Angeles recommendation for a diamond jeweler.

The Rapaport Report breaks down each the price for every sized diamond by color and clarity so you can see exactly what the diamond you are buying is worth.  For example, if you're buying a 1.02 carat round cut H color and SI1 clarity, it will be one price, but if you buy a .98 carat with the same color and clarity, it will be significantly less because the Rapp Report has price breaks for each carat.  As you shop, you'll notice that most diamonds are just over the carat break point so that they can get max value for each stone, so actually you'll be hard pressed to find stones that are .98 carat.

The Rapaport Report shows prices for Rounds on one sheet and Fancy cuts (cushion, emerald, etc.... everything other than round cuts i think) on another sheet.  Generally speaking the Rounds are more expensive than Fancy cuts so make sure you are looking at the right side of the Rap Sheet.

3.  GIA or EGL Certification:
There are two main certifications for diamonds.  GIA is the best and EGL is secondary.  These are the certifications for the 4 c's of diamonds... carat, cut, color, clarity.  GIA and EGL both will have actual certificates that you will get for you diamond that show all the ratings and sketches of the actual stone showing all the imperfections.  Really cool actually.

4.  Discounts off of the Rap Sheet:
When you are buying the diamond you will try to pay a price based on discount to what the Rapaport says the diamond should cost.  What i found was the following.
  • GIA Round Cut: Discount would 0-5%
  • EGL Round Cut: Discount would be 25-30%
  • GIA Fancy Cut: Discount would be 10-15%
  • EGL Fancy Cut: Discount would be 30%
Now, there were actually some stones that were being priced at a premium to the Rap Sheet, but that was due something exceptional about the stone that only diamond industry experts would really pay for.  If someone tells you that you need to pay a premium to the Rapaport price... you are most likely at the wrong place because this person is marking it up substantially.

5.  Conclusion:
Pricing diamonds is actually really easy.  Just get the Rapaport Sheet, get a diamond with an EGL or GIA certification and then negotiate a discount off of the Rap Report.  As always with negotiations, it really helps to have at least 2 options.  In this case having at least 2 different jewelers is a must!! 

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July 07, 2011
Congrats. The information content in the article is good to know for the future.
November 12, 2010
First of all, congrats on getting engaged. I wish I knew these when I got married. Hopefully if I do decide to tie the knot again, I can put this to good use. I hope women don't mind family heirlooms. :)
August 18, 2010
Congrats! Don't forget to engrave your anniversary date on *your* wedding ring so you look like a superstar in years to come for remembering. :-D
August 17, 2010
June 17, 2010
Congrats to you and Susan!!!!  And wow at all this research that you did!  Out of all my years of working in a jewelry store, only a handful of guys who came in to buy engagement rings knew this much about diamonds, and none have ever asked me to take out my rap sheet (though I always pulled it out when the time was right, plus it made my life easier by not making it look like I was pulling numbers out of thin air).

As for diamond weight cut offs on the rap sheet -- you're right, you'd be hard press to find diamonds that weigh slightly less than these "magic numbers".  It's not so much that jewelers aren't carrying them, it's that the diamond cutters aren't cutting them.  Good diamond cutters know to plan their diamond cuts to make the most of the stone and to try to get to at least, or over, the magic number.

As far as certs go, if you actually know how to look at diamonds, you can do without it and save several hundred dollars.  Certs are nice, though, for those who don't know a lot about diamonds and they make it easy to buy insurance (an appraisal would also work great for the latter purpose).  Some people who really want to make sure that their diamond matches their certificate can choose to laser engrave their diamond with the cert number (doesn't affect the diamond weight).  And yup, GIA>EGL.  They just have different standards.  I actually went to school at the GIA and they're very strict about their grading, which is more than I've seen in the EGL certs that I've dealt with.

Phew, I got a teensy bit carried away with my diamond talk.  I just love talking about jewelry!  Anyways, thanks for sharing this guy's guide to diamond purchasing and congrats again! :)
June 17, 2010
Congrats J and Savvy, funny and appropriate I should find out this way. I have much more to say on this topic (as I am sure you can imagine) but will save it for a personal note. Curious if you considered any online retailers in your research. I recently had great success with Blue Nile for xmas earings. I am actually considering buying some Blue Nile stock (if this regional bank I bought last year ever moves). Question for the ladies: Would you rather have a 4 ct. diamond from a fancy boutique or a 5 ct. diamond bought online?  JR, knowing you are a big fan of Costco how hard was it not to buy the ring there?
June 17, 2010
To answer your question: I don't care where the diamond comes from or what brand name is attached to it, I just want a good quality diamond! And if given the choice between size and quality, I would choose quality. As for Costco, they may have good prices, but I prefer my jewelry unique over mass produced ;)
June 17, 2010
hey Thanks Shayne. You know i'm a big fan of costco and online retailing and i'm from what i saw in my research they can be fine for many cases. However, since this was the first time i've done something like this i needed to roll up my sleeves a bit and get into it. Costco uses an IGI grading system (which i don't know how it stacks up to the other two) and BlueNile has many of their stones GIA certified i think. So as long as you know the GIA certification and the rap sheet pricing... BlueNile could be a good option. However, all of the jewelry people i was talking to didn't think highly of costco or bluenile... for obvious reasons. Debbie... can you weigh in on BlueNile??
June 17, 2010
Great review! I had no idea how much work you put into the ring! I feel very, very special right now! You'd be hard pressed to find a female who knows as much about buying diamonds as you do (unless they're in the industry). Question: for the stones that are priced at a premium to the rap sheet, what is an example of "something exceptional" that only a diamond expert would pay for?
June 17, 2010
that's a good question. From what i gather it would come down to some type of special cut and the location of the inclusions. Basically, if the diamond cutter is really good, they can cut the diamond to hide most inclusions. So even though the stone might be VS1, if the cut is done really well, it could conceal those inclusions so much that by the human eye (using a loop) you won't be able to see it and the diamond would look like it would be one or two grades higher. When they certify the stones, they use computers to find and document the inclusions. So pricing it off of what the computers can see vrs the human eye, you might have to pay a premium to what Rappaport Sheet says.
About the reviewer
J.R. Johnson ()
Ranked #31
If you're looking for some more company related stuff about me... it's on my bio page here.      Also, here's a family surf video from our recent wedding. Family = good … more
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