One of the many jewelry chain stores that litter the streets of Hong Kong.
This is part 2 of my GIA training cum holidaying experience in Hong Kong. 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 and they charge exorbitant prices (because of insanely high rents).
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. The truth is far from that.
Salespeople in stores utilize high pressure selling tactics to get you to commit to buying. I stupidly surrendered my mobile number after multiple requests before I could leave the store without further harassment. As you had guessed, I was bombarded with sales calls in the following days.
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 and bullshit I get from these questions.
From international stores like Cartier or Tiffany & Co. to huge local chains like Chou Tai Fook, Luk Fook, Chow 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 regularly came across supposedly “ideal cut” diamonds with awful hearts and arrows patternings that were being passed off as the real deal. As an expert, it’s easy for me to look through the lies but I can’t say the same for the droves of consumers who get duped everyday.
At the end of the day, the Hong Kong diamond market is all about marketing and hardsells.
Answers are always skewed depending on which jeweler you are visiting and the type of goods they are selling. Sales people in HK will pitch using fluffy marketing talk and try to sell diamonds they want you to buy and NOT what you really want.
When buying diamonds, I advocate the use of tangible data to help you make rational and educated purchase decisions. Doing so will help you make objective decisions and shop with the confidence of knowing exactly what you are getting.
Tangible performance data like videos and scope images enable you to analyze diamonds easily.
As you can see in the example from White Flash above, there is complete TRANSPARENCY on the diamond. With the magnified videos and images, you get the scrutinize the tiniest details and this is a luxury you won’t get in local HK stores.
Now, the most widely used grading labs in Hong Kong are IGI and GIA. And out of the 40 different jewelers and sales staff I talked to, no one knew or heard about the Idealscope/ASET tools.
None of the jewelers I talked to had any idea what an AGS 000 cut grading is. In fact, even my fellow professional classmates in the grading course had never heard of AGS. And that should give you an idea of just how much gemological knowledge jewelers in HK have.
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 as 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. It simply isn’t worth it to pay so much more for sub-par diamonds in Hong Kong.
I find your blog is very informative and you are pretty knowledgeable. I am interested in GIA eLearning – Coloured Stone. May I ask for your advise if eLearning is effective like the on-campus class?
Thanks and Have a lovely Sat!
How about selling diamonds in HK? I am going there later this year to sell loose cut/polished diamonds… I have never done it before in the Hong Kong diamond market.
You may want to visit the annual tradeshows that take place in HK. It’s much easier to find contacts and people there rather than going to HK blindly to do business. There are a couple of annual jewelry fairs where buyers and sellers for fairly big sized companies congregate at a single location.
I will be travelling to Asia on a business holiday trip. I’ve heard from friends that you can get wholesale diamonds at Central from some private businesses. Some friends also told me they only see very large and expensive diamonds on display and not the smaller sized diamonds. Anyway, there are apparently no luxury or sales taxes there too. Would you know where to buy diamonds in hong kong at good prices or places worth checking out?
Diamonds are not cheaper in Hong Kong than they would be if you are from the States. It’s a misconception. In reality, HK dealers get their diamonds from India/United States and every time it passes hands, the costs increases.
If you take a walk down HK’s Central, you will often see huge diamonds ranging from 3 carats to 5 carats in size being displayed in the windows. These are stuff the mega-rich Chinese buy and their astronomical costs are usually way above the budget of the general shopper.
The average carat size of a diamond engagement ring in Hong Kong is roughly between 0.50 carats to 0.70 carats? Don’t be fooled by the huge 3 carats or large stones that are often displayed in the windows.
If you actually walk into the store for browsing, they will often have a limited selection selections of smaller sized diamonds.
But that’s not the point. The problem here is not only cost but also cut quality issues.
Thank you Paul.
Please advise me if I buy diamonds from Whiteflash and set it in HK where is a good reliable place to go in HK? Also, do you know about the HK setting diamond meaning?
Why would you want to do that and go through the hassle of finding someone reliable to set the diamond? Get everything done at White Flash. They have great craftsmanship in their settings and buying everything at one place makes a jeweler completely responsible for the ring. What do you mean by “HK setting diamond meaning”? I’m sorry I’ve not heard of the term. Is that a localized lingo?
I understand that but i would like to see the ring design on my finger and can also size properly.
Ring size is pretty straightforward to correctly measure. You can either DIY or simply go to a jeweler to try it out. If seeing the ring design is a route you must take, work with a jeweler who has the design you like and bring in the loose stone for them to mount. I have no one reliable I would recommend and will not make recommendations unless I personally tried them out before.
I did some research on Tripadvisor and heard that the best jewelry shops in the Central and Tsim Sha Tsui seem to be expensive compared to the US. Have you heard of the the hong kong setting and is this something exclusive to a particular brand? What’s the meaning behind that?
Well, most travelers on Tripadvisor may not know better but what I can agree with is that prices are very high. The best jewelry stores in hong kong are the big chain stores that sell GIA stuff. But they come at excessively high premiums. In general, stuff there aren’t cheap and this applies to other general stuff sold there because of the huge overheads in rentals. For context, the retail rent in Hong Kong is one of the highest in the world and the cost has to be borne by somebody.
I have never heard of something called the Hong Kong setting nor am I familiar with any meanings associated with it.
“You may want to visit the annual tradeshows that take place in HK. It’s much easier to find contacts and people there rather than going to HK blindly to do business. There are a couple of annual jewelry fairs where buyers and sellers for fairly big sized companies congregate at a single location.”
Paul is right – the best way is to find a contact at one of these trade shows who can create a bespoke experience for you.
Ask questions. Do your research. Comparison shop. Referrals work best in a place like Hong Kong or Asia.