This is part 2 of my GIA training cum holidaying experience in Hong Kong which took place in the early months of 2013. During my off-days, I managed to visit a number of local jewelry stores to check out prices and experience diamond shopping for myself.
Here’s my general opinion about buying a diamond in Hong Kong. Like anywhere else in the world, you would expect to be hassled and experience pressure selling once you walk into a store.
More importantly, most jewelers and salespeople are clueless about cut. Don’t even think about having any meaningful discussions on proportions or in-depth cut details with the local jewelers. All they could do at best, is to point to a GIA or IGI report and generalize triple excellent ratings as being the pinnacle of ideal cuts.
One of the many chain stores that litter the streets of Hong Kong
It’s easy to gauge the gemological knowledge a jeweler has by asking some technical questions and listening to their replies. Here are some questions I used during my visits at the local stores:
“How does the diamond’s table size affect light performance?”
“With reference to the proportions diagram, what’s the difference between diamonds with longer lower girdle facet of 85% and diamonds with lower girdle facets of 75%?”
“Are all GIA triple excellent diamonds the same?”
“How important is symmetry and how does it influence a diamond’s sparkle?”
“Does lower clarity always affect the brilliance of the diamond?”
You will be surprised to hear the kind of replies I get from these questions. From international stores like Cartier or Tiffany & Co. to huge local chains like Chou Tai Fook, Luk Fook, Chou Sang Sang and even to private jewelers who serve their own pool of private clients, it’s the same across the board. Nobody could answer these rudimentary questions correctly.
More shockingly, I even get misleading answers like how having more facets in a diamond would always result in better brilliance or why buying a VVS2 diamond would result in a brighter and more beautiful diamond. Also, I had came across supposedly “ideal cut” diamonds with awful hearts and arrows patternings that were being passed off as the real deal.
At the end of the day, it’s all about the marketing. Answers are always skewed depending on which jeweler you are visiting and the type of goods they are selling. Sales people will pitch their fluffy marketing talk and try to sell diamonds they want you to buy and NOT what you really want.
In Hong Kong, the most widely used labs are IGI and GIA. Out of the 40 different jewelers and sales staff I talked to, no one knew or heard about the Idealscopes/ASET tools. None of the jewelers I talked to had any idea what an AGS 000 cut grading is. In fact, even my fellow classmates in the grading course never heard of AGS.
Don’t expect anyone in Hong Kong to make any intelligent discussion on light leakage or optical symmetry with you. These standards just don’t exist there. Instead, sales staffs are trained to preach and make sales without regards to what really makes a diamond beautiful.
It doesn’t matter if you walk out of the store with a poorly cut diamond or one that is well-cut. All that matters to them is making a commission off a sale from you. In a way, the local jewelry stores operate in this manner because the majority of consumers are poorly educated.
So, until the mindset and knowledge of shoppers are changed and raised, shops are simply going to hawk sub standard diamonds as “ideal” or hearts and arrows to unsuspecting customers. Beware, it’s a shark tank there. You might easily let yourself get caught unawares should you head into a store without any prior knowledge.