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.
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.