At this point, I’ve got to mention that I didn’t even bother walking into stores of big international brands like Tiffany & Co. & Cartier. When lower-end stores are already pricing a 0.7 carat diamond at $7k, it is logical to assume that branded stores will be retailing similar stones at a five-figure price range. This was way beyond my intended budget.
Moving on, I continued to check out more jewelry stores along the shopping belt and here’s the conclusion that I garnered towards the end of the day…
Most stores do not carry them. And even if they do exist, they command an exorbitant price. At another leading jewelry store, I decided to try my luck. The only heart shaped diamond in stock was yellowish looking 1.25 carat diamond with K color and SI2 clarity. Without squinting my eyes, I could easily spot black inclusions in the center of the diamond and that’s a bad sign.
The shocker came with the price announcement for this stone.
A Whopping $12,000
Yep… My Jaws Literally Dropped Upon Hearing The Price
When I heard how much the diamond ring was selling for, I got a bad shock. I guess my facial expression must have given my thoughts away too. Seeing this, the sales assistant tried to follow up reassuringly: “Don’t worry, our store is currently having a major sale. You’ll get 40% off if you purchase the ring today.”
In case you aren’t aware yet, this is a common marketing tactic employed by many retail stores. You shouldn’t be surprised to see diamonds “on sale” no matter which time of the year it is. And it’s no coincidence that the special discount is only valid on the day you visited the store. This is basic marketing 101 and an attempt to create false urgency in order to get customers to make a purchase on the spot.
I followed up with a question: “What’s the cut grade of the stone?” (Yes, I know that there is no cut grading for heart shaped diamonds. I wanted to see how the staff would react & reply to my query.)
The sales assistant replied as if I was asking a stupid question: “This is a heart shaped cut. I thought you mentioned you wanted a heart cut diamond?” ( It’s pretty obvious that she doesn’t have any idea of what the difference is between shape and cut grade. Shape does not equal cut grade! )
I did a quick mental calculation of the price and it works out to be $7200 after the “discount” is applied. Now, pricing was a problem but it wasn’t the major concern I had. It was the diamond’s quality that raised huge red flags. Even an inexperienced person could tell that this diamond was a really bad choice. On top of that, I also had a total disdain on how the marketing was performed and I quickly left the store.
Personally, I do not like the way goods are being marked up to ridiculously high prices and thereafter, a magical “discount” is given to slash prices. This gives the consumer a false impression that they are getting a great deal when they are not. In fact, you are still paying the actual retail price for the product. On top of that, the sales assistants in most local jewelry stores are not only pushy, most of them also have no basic understanding of the 4 C’s of diamond buying.
How would you expect them to help a consumer choose a diamond properly? Can you expect the sales assistant to put your interest first before their own selfish gains of getting a sales commission?
Back home, I did more research and decided to compare the prices of diamonds I had viewed against prices from online stores. Now, you need to understand that diamond prices cannot be compared with a 100% accuracy since every diamond is unique.
For example, even if we have 2 diamonds of similar color, clarity and carat weight, the prices can vary due to a combination of other factors such as the cut (e.g table/depth), the physical location and types of inclusions, fluorescence, girdle thickness, symmetry and etc. However, we are able to get a fairly good estimate by comparing diamonds with similar specifications based on the grading report.
Diamond from Store 1 => SG$7027 – 0.7 Carat, E Color, VS2 Clarity, IGI Certified
Price list from Blue Nile.
The diamonds in BlueNile are certified by GIA and cost HALF the price!
1.25 Carat, K Color & SI2 Clarity diamond from Store 2 => SGD$7200 is approximately $5760 after currency conversion to USD.
As mentioned above, this is a very low quality stone because of its poor color and the presence of multiple inclusions that can be seen with the naked eye.
Here’s a price list from UnionDiamond.com for a comparison.
The diamonds in UnionDiamond.com cost $2K less and are of BETTER specifications!
Over a period of 3 weeks, I spoke with my brother who helped me sourced for a local wholesaler through his contacts. As I wanted to keep my options open, I decided to explore all possible avenues of purchasing a diamond locally. On this basis, I made inquiries via my brother’s contact.
Now, common sense would tell you that “wholesalers” should be able to offer a better pricing for their inventory since they cut out the middleman. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
Here’s the corresponding email excerpt in which I asked the vendor for a quotation:
I refer to your call and request for prices of heart-shaped diamonds. We have the following stones in stock at the moment that would meet your requirements:
DRH1XXX 0.50carat F color vvs2 clarity EGL Int Cert $1,516
DRH1XXX 0.51carat D color vvs2 clarity EGL Int Cert $1,850
DRH1XXX 0.63carat E color vs1 clarity EGL Int Cert $1,850
DRH1XXX 0.73carat F color vvs1 clarity EGL Int Cert $2,813
All the prices are quoted in USD and for the diamond only. I have attached a copy of the certificates for your viewing.
Now, compare them with the prices from another Internet vendor: B2CJewels.com.
Online diamonds graded by reputable GIA from B2CJewels cost less!
The prices look pretty similar except for one crucial factor. The lab that grades the diamonds is different! It is common practice for labs like EGL to grade a diamond 1-3 notches higher than what GIA would grade the diamond for. For example, if EGL grades a diamond with F color, GIA would most likely grade the SAME EXACT stone as a H color! The same goes for clarity. A stone graded to be VVS2 by EGL could possibly be graded lower as a VS2 by GIA.
I actually explained this issue in detail inside my free ebook. Do download it if you haven’t.
Apart from AGS and GIA, other labs had been known to be lax in their grading. For this reason, I advise you to only purchase diamonds that are graded by these 2 labs. This will ensure that the diamond’s quality you are buying is as stated in the report.
In terms of certification, I will always choose GIA over EGL or IGI because I know that the grading system of GIA is much stricter and consistent.
Now, you might be wondering why I had used prices from 3 different online sources in the comparisons. What I want to show you here is that the online diamond prices are ALL cheaper than those found in the local brick and mortar stores. Even the Singaporean “wholesaler” with an inventory of “inferior” graded stones costs more!
By now, it should be obvious which direction my search for a proposal ring would head to. I decided to buy my engagement ring online as it offers better value for my money. That said, I have to be honest with you at this point in time. Despite being a savvy Internet user, I would be lying if I told you that I didn’t have any reservations about making such a huge purchase online.
Continue reading to find out more about my inner thoughts of venturing online…