My Personal Shopping Experience

getting prepared to marriage proposal ring shopping sg

For most people, purchasing a big ticket item online without physically viewing the product can induce a lot of stress and fear. This is especially true if you are not accustomed to e-commerce and online shopping.

It’s no wonder that I often get asked questions like: Are online diamonds a scam? Is it really possible to buy a diamond ring without seeing it?

Well, I had been there, done that and never looked back since.

First things first, my name is Paul and I’m from the sunny island of Singapore. At the point of writing this (somewhere in late 2012), I’m just a simple 29 years old guy making plans to propose to my girlfriend whom I had been dating for 2 years.

Needless to say, a proposal ring is required but I am absolutely clueless about how or where to buy one. Being the kind of geeky guy who rarely goes shopping, buying an engagement ring proved to be a big challenge. Here’s the story about my search for the perfect diamond ring…

(*Update) – To date, I’ve purchased quite a number of diamond rings (a total of six so far) for my wife and have first-hand shopping experience with big brand stores like Tiffany/Cartier to local mom-and-pop jewelry shops. Click here to find out which are the best places to buy a diamond and why…

First, A Little Background About Myself

Ever since I first laid my eyes on diamonds, I became drawn by their beauty and the science behind it. Why do diamonds captivate people? Why are diamonds cut the way they are? Why do some diamonds look so bad in real life and lack life while others sparkle so radiantly?

There were just so many questions I had and that prompted me to start researching for answers.

This interest spiked. I started building up my expertise and knowledge in the fascinating world of diamonds. Luckily for me, I also had friends in the jewelry trade who shared their stories and “secrets” with me. Later on, this grew into an expensive hobby as I started collecting gemstones and invested heavily in my own education.

In case you are wondering why you should listen to what I have to say or what my credentials are, I graduated with a professional diploma from GIA’s Diamond Graduate program. Despite being surrounded by course mates who have years of experience in the jewelry trade, I managed to ace the grading class and won some bragging rights in the process. Needless to say, this came as a huge surprise to everybody including the GIA course instructor who had been teaching the course for years.

Unlike other Internet based jewelers or “educational” websites that regurgitate the same old content to market their own products, I don’t sell diamonds. The information on this website is written purely with the objective to help you understand diamonds and make educated purchases.

gia hong kong 2013

The GIA Hong Kong laboratory – Photo taken during the diploma course.

And Now, Back to The Story on Shopping For a Proposal Ring…

When my girlfriend told me that she would like to have a heart shaped diamond in her proposal ring, I thought “Great!”. This helped me narrow down the ring choices and more importantly, I knew I would be able to choose a ring she would love to wear regularly. This is important because I can’t imagine myself spending thousands of dollars on a ring only for it to be stowed away in a drawer.

Now that the shape of the diamond engagement ring had been determined, it is one less problem out of the way. Being a total layman at that point in time, I had no idea how much a diamond ring would cost and had simply set aside a budget of $7000-$8000 for the purchase.

The plan was to shop around a little and hopefully, get the best deal for a ring that fits my budget. And like most people who are shopping for a diamond ring for the first time, I started off by visiting local brick and mortar stores. Next, find out what happened during my search at the local stores…

Next Page >>

I know shopping for a diamond ring can be overwhelming especially if this is your first time doing so. I’ve actually done the legwork for you and compiled a list of the best stores for high quality diamonds and superior craftsmanship for your engagement ring.

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  1. Sean-
    February 16, 2015 at 10:52 pm

    Hi Paul,
    What other online retailers in the US would you recommend beside all the retailer names under your review tab?

    Second, have you reviewed the following stores such as Harry Winston, Graffe, Van Cleef & Arpel, and Cartier. If so, how were they?

    Thanks in advance, Sir Paul !!

  2. Paul Gian-
    February 17, 2015 at 12:54 am

    You can see the list of vendors I had reviewed here:

    I did do a Cartier review when I helped a close friend do his engagement ring shopping. You can read the write up here:

    I’m doing a Harry Winston mystery shopping experience and it is currently on the top of my to-do list. It will be about another 2-3 month’s time before I can get the review out as there’s quite a bit of research and store visiting to do.

  3. Sean-
    February 17, 2015 at 5:46 am

    I have few more questions. Is there a higher end and lower end type of diamond? Is there a higher end D and lower end D or in any color? If so, how is their differences?

    Kind regards,

  4. Paul Gian-
    February 17, 2015 at 11:32 am

    Yes. For each color there exist a “band” or “range” in which a diamond can fall into. The differences are extremely subtle but it shouldn’t be a cause for concern for a consumer. What you should be concerned more with is the hue of diamond color that can exist in different color grades. For example, there are brownish looking Gs, grayish looking Gs, yellowish looking Gs etc…

    You can find more details here:

  5. Sean-
    February 17, 2015 at 7:18 pm

    Thanks you so much for shedding the light. I have my very last two questions.
    1. Why do some diamonds have SI1 clarity grade, but GIA choose not to plot the location of the inclusion on the diamond diagram?

    2. Can Ideal and ASET scope images be manipulated by online retailers to prop up the sale? Another word, the two scopes are tilted or enhanced so that the coloration outcome is beautiful enough to pitch the sale.

    Once again, THANKS SO MUCH for your insights.

  6. Paul Gian-
    February 18, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    1) When we grade diamonds in the lab, inclusions that unnecessarily complicate the plot diagram will sometimes be left as a comment instead. You typically see these in cloud inclusions which are “scattered” through the diamond or twinning wisps that occur throughout the stone. e.g. GIA graders don’t want to draw 20 red circles to indicate cloud inclusions across the entire diamond if they are relatively scattered. Instead, we will just lump them as a comment like: Additional clouds not shown. In such a case, the plotted inclusions are typically those that are more severe.

    2) It is possible to do so and you can actually detect the tilt easily. That said, I haven’t come across a vendor who maliciously “photoshops” their images. Most of the time, when they take images they genuinely don’t realize the diamond is tilted slightly until they view the images on the big screen. If you do come across such a vendor whom you suspect is doing such a thing, do let me know because I’m curious to know who they are.

  7. Ashleigh-
    January 5, 2016 at 3:59 am

    I don’t even know where to begin. I could not be any more pleased and thankful for the information that was provided to me and the time spent to answer my emails in a timely manner. Paul made the stressful diamond buying process easier and put my mind at ease every time I had a question. He took time to review the diamonds I had picked out and offer his professional, unbiased opinions and suggestions.

    My now fiance and I could not be more pleased with her ring. It is absolutely stunning! Thank you from the bottom of both of our hearts!


  8. Kevin-
    February 11, 2016 at 10:00 am

    Ashley and/or Paul

    When you say that when Paul “took time to review the diamonds” you picked, how did he do that?

    That sounds amazing and kind and awesome.

    Is this a service Paul?
    If so, how much does it cost and how does it work?

    This site is GREAT… really helpful… can’t recommend it enough!


  9. Paul Gian-
    February 11, 2016 at 12:15 pm

    I don’t charge readers for this service. It’s something I enjoy doing.

  10. lin-
    April 6, 2017 at 1:00 pm

    Hi Paul,
    I’m looking for a 2 crt dia and came across a H SI2 2crt dia, 3 excellent. Dimensions are depth 62 Table 59 pav 41.2 crown 36 cutlet none med – slightly thick faceted with 2 needles quite near the edge as well as a feather off slightly the edge. it is now priced at A$ 15,500. The seller says it is eye clean and the 360 video look quite clean except the inclusions at both corners of the stone. No inclusion I can see on the centre of the stone. GIA cert included. my concerns is the feather near the edge but it seems to be quite a competitive price. I would appreciate your advise and thoughts on this.

    Thank you

  11. Paul Gian-
    April 7, 2017 at 8:39 am

    Terrible choice of diamond because it isn’t well cut enough. Read every single word here: and if you care about the diamond’s sparkle and brilliance, I suggest you read up more at and do a search here:

  12. Nadine-
    February 6, 2021 at 1:43 am

    Thank you so much for your website and the personal advice you gave that helped me choose the right diamond for my anniversary ring. Your insight and honest recommendations were invaluable.
    My ring is being custom made by Brian Gavin Diamonds and I am very excited to get it.
    Again, thank you for all of your help,

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