On the surface, Dubai (the city of gold) may seem like the ideal place to shop for a diamond engagement ring.
After all, the UAE is known for its tax free shopping, a super competitive jewelry industry and they are ranked as the 3rd largest diamond trading center in the world.
It’s no surprise that many people (both locals and tourists) have a perception that there are bargains and great deals to be had in the city.
The truth is far from that.
According to UAE’s law, all jewelry merchants must provide certificates for every purchase of a diamond product. While the establishment of this law was done with good intentions of consumer protection, herein also lies the problem.
You see, there’s no consensus on the type of grading report or standards to be used for assessing the quality of a diamond. This opens up avenues for abuse and misrepresentation of goods.
To be very clear on this; when jewelers sell diamonds without a reliable GIA/AGS report, they are inflating the diamond’s qualities and ripping off clients who unknowingly overpay for inferior quality.
The other practice that is somewhat unique to diamonds in Dubai is that they are usually sold loose in a sealed packet. This means you don’t get to see the diamond upclose or examine it for light performance until you pay a deposit or make payment in full.
There’s a reason for this and that’s because nobody in the industry trusts anyone else (this should already raise a red flag). Isn’t it ironic that dealers don’t trust each other and they expect you to trust them when making a purchase?
When diamonds change hands between wholesalers and retailers, they are usually transacted using untampered sealed packets. Down at the consumer level, the loose diamond remains sealed and this is why you often see them sold in stores in this manner.
And let me say this.
Even as a professional, I would stay away from buying sealed loose diamonds. This is because there are critical analytical assessments which require data extracted from an unsealed diamond.
Right off the bat, I want to be explicitly clear that the most popular places that shoppers flock to is by no means the best places to buy an engagement ring. In fact, these are some of the worst places to buy a diamond ring in Dubai.
A visit to the Gold Souk is almost always on the itinerary of every tourist heading to Dubai. Located right at the heart of Deira’s old commercial district, there are a wide range of merchants selling trinkets, bracelets, bullions, diamonds and other types of gold jewelry.
While this location is best known for their gold jewelry, there are stores that sell loose diamonds and engagement rings. Be very careful though as prices that are advertised are often outrageously high.
In contrast to the traditional souk, the Gold and Diamond Park is a contemporary shopping mall with air conditioning and bright lights.
Located along Sheikh Zayed road and next to the First Gulf Bank metro stop, the mall houses roughly 90 jewelry retailers and more than 110 manufacturing centers.
Touted as the best place to buy diamonds and engagement rings, the Gold and Diamond Park has bus-loads of tourists being shuttled to them daily and is often packed with people.
If you are like me and absolutely hate haggling and getting ripped off by street vendors, the Dubai Mall is a spot where international brands like Cartier, Tiffany & Co and De Beers congregate.
Obviously, in establishments like these, there is no room for haggling as prices are fixed. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as prices in the Souk and GDP are often quoted HIGHER than what you see in the branded stores.
But, here’s the thing. If you had to shop at branded stores, is there any specific reason to do so at Dubai?
These businesses have a presence all over the world and you could easily buy something from your local Tiffany or Cartier. With the same prices, does it even make sense for you to shop at Dubai?
Before you get all excited about shopping for jewelry in the UAE, I’m going to burst your bubble and go on record to say that these locations are ALL tourist traps.
I mean, seriously, do you really think you get deals at locations swarming all over with gullible tourists and foreigners? Think about it. Does your soda cost more at Costco or 10 times more in a Disney theme park?
Salesmen trying to bring customers into their the stores on the street.
From personal experience, I can tell you the shops in the Gold Souk and GDP misrepresent the qualities of their products and have sky-high prices. You get the usual hassling, scams and shenanigans found in diamond districts.
Even for non-diamond jewelry, the layperson is expected to bargain and haggle with extremely high starting prices. Without a level playing field or proper knowledge, do you think the typical tourist will stand a chance without getting ripped off?
And this leads us to the next part of the article.
The short answer is NO.
Well, just because the UAE is the 3rd largest trading center in the world doesn’t mean jack. It simply means that the flow of diamonds passes through more hands in Dubai.
And every time a diamond changes hands, you can expect an uptick in prices as the traders take their cut. The fact is, Dubai doesn’t produce diamonds or have any mining activities.
Every single diamond and the vast majority of jewelry that ends up in Dubai are actually made elsewhere and imported into the city. This increases costs. On top of that, the overheads and retail markup are significantly reflected in the overpriced goods.
In fact, I did a like-for-like comparison of prices for similar goods between vendors in the Gold & Diamond Park against Blue Nile and James Allen. What I found was that the Dubai retailers were more expensive by at least 20-30%!
You can perform your own price comparison easily. This guide here has more details…
Now, there’s another aspect you need to think of when buying jewelry in Dubai. At the time of writing, there is a 5% sales tax levied on luxury products like gold and diamonds.
This means you may have to factor in additional costs.
Granted, this 5% tax may be more favorable compared to other countries like the UK or EU where the VAT may cost an additional 25% more. If you are a tourist, Dubai’s sales tax may not be applicable but you are still liable to declare VAT or import duty when you return home.
So, you are back to square one again.
Note: I’ve read that there are UK/EU citizens who game the system and knowingly commit tax evasion crimes. They do this by not declaring what they bought overseas when passing through customs. This is illegal in many countries and if you are thinking about doing the same, don’t. It’s not worth getting into trouble just to “save” some money.
Let me be explicitly clear about this.
If you are making a special trip to Dubai just to buy a diamond ring with the misguided mindset of saving money, you are dead wrong. There are NO savings to begin with that will help offset travelling expenses or justification of your time to do so.
If you are traveling as a tourist or happen to be heading to Dubai for other purposes, buying a diamond in Dubai exposes you to risks. Unlike retailers from the US, there’s no such thing as money back guarantees or any protection if you run into issues.
To the unwary and first time shopper, it’s a minefield of scams in the souks and malls. Tourists are often targeted and taken advantage of because it is hard for them to find any recourse once they are back in their own country.
Dubai is a great travel destination to visit and showcases some of the best architecture in the world. There’s plenty of sightseeing spots and a rich cultural heritage to explore.
But when it comes to buying a diamond or an engagement ring, don’t be fooled into thinking that it is the best place to get deals. Beyond the glitzy appearance of the malls and souks, it’s a big shark tank where many sleazy businesses prey on uneducated consumers.
If you do visit the touristy marketplaces, soak in the atmosphere and enjoy the sights but avoid shopping for anything. If you must buy jewelry, shun the diamonds and stick with only gold jewelry as they are less manipulated in prices.
I found your online guide a very useful read. Great work! I am in the market for an engagement ring and wanted to gauge your thoughts on whether it is best to buy one in Dubai or Antwerp? I currently live in London and will be in Dubai for a holiday till end of this week. Are there any particular stores that you would recommend?
What kind of diamond shape are you looking for? Apart from round diamonds, most stores in Dubai will have very limited selections of fancy shapes. It is best that you do a little shopping and understand the local retail prices in UK before you go shopping overseas.
This way, you can have a better understanding and comparison of prices to see if you are really getting a better deal. As I’ve done in the write up, you can also compare prices using the inventory from the largest online retailer in the world, Blue Nile.
The only positive thing about buying in Dubai is that they are tax free (updated at 2018, there is now a sales tax of 5% in Dubai because of their oil crisis) and can be a potential bargain if you know what you are doing. You need to be prepared for some hard bargaining with the vendor. Somehow, this is a way of life there and you shouldn’t be paying the full price which is stated up front. In fact, paying half of it silly as well because of the obscenely high quoted prices they have.
With that said, pricing is just one of the factors for consideration. More importantly, the quality of Dubai’s diamonds (in terms of cut) are way inferior and are usually based on unreliable certifications like HRD or IGI.
Please read the following link for more details:
During my vacation, I visited the world diamond center of Antwerp for a 1 day stop-over. I managed to check out a couple of stores that claimed they were offering wholesale prices for their loose diamonds.
What a disappointment I had! Antwerp was widely considered the best place to buy diamonds in the world (that’s what the tourist brochures stated) but what I found were overpriced goods that were low in quality. You can expect to pay similar prices for GIA diamonds compared to other major cities around the world. The only upside was the huge variety of selections available.
I visited the Dubai diamond exchange together with a colleague today. The experience was horrible and jewelers were extremely pushy. People told the diamond price in dubai is better in the Middle East but I know why are diamonds cheaper in dubai now. That’s because they are scamming visitors with inferior products. The GIA certified stuff is more expensive compared to other parts of the world. You would be better off visiting the souks in other parts of UAE.
I’m an expat living in Dubai for 3 years and I can tell you it is full of scammers who sell the lowest quality diamonds at exorbitant prices. I’ve seen fellow colleagues who bought diamonds in Dubai and they get ripped off. Here’s how it works in the UAE. They try to make you think you are getting a great deal and fabricate stories about how your purchase is a great return on investment. It’s all a lie when you discover how worthless they are when you try to sell them off.
Thanks for the insights. I had a lot of people who told me that Dubai is much cheaper for diamonds but like you mentioned, the price seem a tad more expensive than what online vendors charge you and you hardly get any good cut quality diamonds there.
From what I’ve seen, stores carrying diamond rings in Dubai with price tags are usually more upfront instead of the shaddy salespeople who size you up and quote accordingly. This happens regularly in the dubai gold souk. I’ve heard that Antwerp might be a good destination for diamonds because they are the diamond capital of the world. Haven’t been there yet though.
Unfortunately, shopping in Antwerp poses similar issues to that posed by shopping in Dubai. I personally cannot recommend any physical places in both Antwerp and Dubai to buy diamond rings because it’s a shark tank out there. It is unlikely you will come out unscathed if you head in without any prior knowledge in diamonds.
If you decide to go ahead with buying a diamond ring overseas, here’s my best advice for you. Ignore stores that offer “special discounts” or deals of a lifetime. These offers don’t exist in the diamond market and are hawked by dealers who want to get rid of unwanted or low quality stones. The adage; you get what you pay holds true.
To access cut quality of a stone, you need to invest in an idealscope/ASET scope and ONLY buy diamonds with GIA or AGS lab reports. Anything else the jeweler says about their diamonds is just bulls*** and just marketing fluff. Don’t fall for the classic trick about all certificates are equal and that you can save more money by going for a stone with an in-house report.
Also, you need to be prepared to haggle for prices and never pay anything for its full listed price in Dubai. Be firm but not rude. Make sure you do tons of research on being familiar with diamonds; Beyond4Cs.com is a perfect place to start doing some reading. In terms of pricing and quality, the USA internet market is one of the most competitive and most online vendors offer good return policies.
No physical stores can come close to having the inventory size of an Internet retailer (e.g. James Allen). One great thing about going online is that you can analyze and cherry pick the best diamond for your budget. I also highly recommend WhiteFlash.com if you are interested in ideally cut round diamonds.
Even if you don’t intend to shop online, it is still a good idea to visit the sites listed above to get a rough idea of costs and prices. Using online prices as a benchmark, you can easily figure out whether you are paying a fair price for a purchase. In my opinion, it is normal and justifiable for local stores to charge 10-15% more because of their higher overheads.
But I will restate this, you are unlikely to find well cut diamonds and you can expect to be charged way more than 10-15% based on my personal experience. Effectively, you will probably end up paying more expensive prices for mediocre goods at both Antwerp and Dubai.
I find your website and work really amazing and its extremely helpful for customers like me that do not know much about diamonds and want to buy something special and unique for our engagement and maximize on the quality of the diamond.
My name is Alejandro (from Venezuela), I live in Doha, Qatar. My budget is $5000 and I am looking for a simple platinum with pave diamonds ring with a diamond of 0.65-0.70 ct of good quality.
After some research on high end retailers and online suppliers ( I have looked at Whiteflash, James Allen, Dubairocks, Tiffany and Cartier) I decided to go for either Cartier or Dubai Rocks (DR’s is convenient being based in the UAE which is the country next door to Qatar and Dubai has a good reputation for jewelry shops and diamonds)
I have looked at your review of Cartier and got quite disenchanted with what I read but mostly with the lower quality of their diamonds compared to independent jewelers in the market (your review was an eye opener as I thought Cartier was the best choice!)
I have settled for two choices at present:
1. Cartier: Etiencelle de Cartier ring in platinum with pave diamonds and a 0.40 ct diamond with following specs: very good cut, G color, VS2 clarity – The price tag of this ring is $6200 US – I am attaching the GIA report received from them for your reference.
2. Dubai Rocks: A ring of the same design (pave diamonds, in platinum) with a 0.70 Ct diamond of the following specs: Excellent cut, D color, IF clarity. The price tag of this ring is $5010 – I am attaching the GIA report from Dubai rocks on the diamond.
Where I would really welcome some advise from you is the following:
1. Have you heard of Dubai Rocks at all, and would you be in a position to comment on them or the quality of their diamonds – They are a british owned jewelry shop in Dubai (they have a pretty comprehensive website that allows to choose ring and diamond options with pricing and have their own Instagram account with pictures and videos of the rings)
2. I think it’s obvious that the diamond from Dubai Rocks is better value for money from that offered by Cartier and also the overall product (ring + diamond) except the name brand where Cartier obviously wins – Would like to hear your thoughts on this.
3. Would you be able to give your opinion of the diamond I am purchasing from Dubai Rocks based on the GIA report screen shots that I am attaching?
I would really appreciate your advice and help before I make a decision to buy the ring. I know you probably get tons of emails so I thank you in advance for taking the time to read mine and provide advise!
I have no personal experience with Dubai Rocks but based on feedback I had from previous readers, I doubt you will be able to find super ideal cut diamonds there. You should refer to these links using the info from the grading report. Without tangible data, I cannot give you constructive advice but you should be able to eliminate diamonds based on their proportions.
Have you head of DAMAS JEWELLERY? The ring prices on sale seem affordable and reasonable.
Nope. Never heard of them nor have any experience with them. When things go on “sale”, that’s where you can expect to find junk tier jewelry and overpriced garbage. That’s my warning I always give readers and you should heed it.
I’ve bought some stuff at the Gold and Diamond Park near the Mall of Emirates recently. The thing is, if you are well prepared and know what to look out for, the diamond ring price in Dubai actually presents some good bargains. Ask for GIA certified diamonds and avoid the other certificates as they are not reliable. Expect some calculator tricks where they punch in numbers and bargain hard. They will make it seem like a good deal but will likely go lower if you attempt to leave.
These are all tricks of high pressure selling environments and gimmicks. Why would they even begin with a stupidly high price to begin with other than an attempt to rip unsuspecting consumers off.
How would you like it if I were to sell you a loaf of bread for $100 and then I press some numbers to give you 80% off? After all, you are getting a real bargain with a loaf of $20 bread, right?
I absolutely hate such practices and you see this in scummy business everywhere across the world from flea markets in Thailand which are similar tourist traps.
What about buying diamond rings online in Dubai? There are some wholesale websites that are offering low prices and have the occasional sales going on.
Fact: wholesalers only sell b2b to retailers and NEVER deal with individual clients.
Put bluntly, any business who is claiming to be a wholesaler while selling to the public (you) is simply dishonest and hoping that customers are stupid enough to believe their marketing gimmicks. Now the question is, are you smart or gullible?
I’ve lived in Dubai for 16+ years and I’ve bought (and my hysband has) several pieces of jewellery for myself and on behalf of many friends and family, and always from the same jeweller (both off the shelf and made to order items) in the Gold & Diamond park, so we have built up a relationship and every time when I’ve had my jewellery valued in the UK the value has been anything from 50% to 70% more than I paid in the UAE. I’ve also recommended my jeweller to other people and none have complained at being ripped off.
Since they were valued at 50-70% more, have you tried selling your jewellery to the people who valued it? Ask them if they would take it in for 20% more of what you paid. After all, they say it’s worth 150% right? So, they should technically be making a “big” profit by buying them from you at a “discounted” price. Try this out and you will know how they really valuate your jewellery.
Thank you for the work you do. I was so excited about buying the ring in Dubai, but now I am rather worried. Not sure if you are stick active to respond on here so fingers crossed.
I fell in love with Tiffany’s true cut engagement ring, just over 1ct, G colour in platinum with a price tag of over $18,000.
Our budget is more like $8,000. I don’t need a designer ring, but I loved the sparkle that is offered due to the specific cut.
Can you please offer your recommendation for this budget? We are based in Dubai, I am a little bit concerned about not being able to try the ring first but if ordering online is no-brainer – should we do that?
I tried the websites you recommended, but I have been unable to find a 1ct and over, cushion (i feel it’s the closest to the Tiffany true cut?) in platinum which is odd…?
You need to be realistic about what you can get for your budget. Getting a branded or designer ring for $8,000 with the specifications laid out will be impossible especially if you are looking at Tiffany or Cartier types of stores.
That said, a 1ct cushion cut diamond should be doable with an 8k budget.
Buying online gives you more transparency and protection. Do you get this in a local store? Do you know exactly what you are buying and looking at?
You get these features when shopping online at a reliable store. On top of that, you also enjoy benefits like better prices and better selections.
I did a search for you and would recommend these diamonds.
All 3 diamonds have top notch light return (sparkle) and are eyeclean. I’ve added in the larger stone if you don’t mind paying a little more for the larger size but still staying within budget.
I am confused, I see the customs duty rate for Dubia for imported jewellery diamonds is 5% and for uncut or loose it is zero. However, I heard from a broker that there is an old regulation that allows jewellery diamonds to be imported at 0%. I am not sure whether I trust the broker or go with 5% duty. Certainly I don’t want to avoid paying the duty if it correct but neither do I want to pay it if it is not due.