Cartier Diamond Rings Review – Good But Not Great

Established in 1847, Cartier begun its long and prestigious history of designer jewelry from a humble store in Paris. If you didn’t know yet, Cartier is famous for their well-designed watches and fine jewelry collections. They were also the pioneers of using platinum in jewelry and made it one of the most popular material choices in present day.

In this review of Cartier, I am going to focus mainly on their diamond engagement rings and share my first hand shopping experience with you. Now, I had previously visited Cartier on a few occasions a few years back and they were all casual visits to check out their jewelry offerings.

This time round, I had the opportunity to experience the entire shopping process because a good friend of mine approached me to help him buy a proposal ring from Cartier. Needless to say, I gladly obliged and rendered my help immediately. Besides doing my friend a favor, I could also give Cartier’s customer service a full test run to see how well they fare.

Our Pre-Set Criteria And Budget For The Proposal Ring

getting ready to propose

Before I continue with the review on Cartier, I want you to be fully aware that I’m a person who couldn’t care more about branding when buying jewelry. My philosophy in diamond buying is always to shop for the best value and quality possible and that’s not something you will get in high-end boutique jewelry stores.

In this particular scenario, my friend is pretty set on a Cartier ring and he understands that Cartier is going to impose a huge premium on their jewelry pricing. My presence at Cartier is to help him make the best possible purchase from the available choices.

A budget of roughly $4,500 – $6,000 (prices in USD) was set for the purchase. The plan was to maximize the diamond’s carat weight (>0.5 carats) without a strong emphasis on high color and clarity ratings. As long as the diamond faces up white and is eye-clean, that’s what really matters to my friend (i.e. G color, VS2 clarity).

Based on my previous experiences with Cartier, I knew there probably won’t be a wide range of diamond selections for any given specifications of the 4Cs. So, we kept our fingers crossed and hoped to be able to find a suitable ring within our budget at Cartier.

Do you want to shop like a professional and make smart decisions when buying diamonds? Check out this step by step guide to choosing diamonds that I personally utilize myself when I go shopping.

My Full Review of the Cartier Shopping Experience Begins Here…

We visited Cartier on a weekday afternoon to avoid the crowds and thankfully, we were the only customers in the store. Since the objective of the visit was to shop for a diamond engagement ring, it’s good to have undivided attention from the sales staff.

Unlike some other high-end boutique jewelry stores I had visited, Cartier’s service is considered very good and you feel like a “king” the moment you walk into the store. A doorman politely greets you and holds the door for you while you make an entrance. Since there were no other customers around, we got attended to immediately.

Once the sales attendant knew about our intentions to buy an engagement ring, we were quickly ushered into a “private” room where we could comfortably sit, sip a cup of coffee and had the selections brought over from the showroom for our viewing. Overall, the service and attitude of the sales personnel left me with a great first impression.

attentive service

On a side note, the “private” room offers a more conducive environment for selecting diamonds as the lighting was significantly softer and less glaring compared to those used in the showroom. Also, there is a separate desktop lamp with white fluorescent lighting that can be used for jewelry inspection.

Now, the reason I brought up the point about the “private” room is that most first time shoppers don’t realize the importance of lighting when selecting diamonds. You need to understand that jewelry store lightings are ALWAYS designed to flatter and enhance appearances of diamonds regardless of how well cut they are.

Just because a diamond looks nice and sparkly in a jewelry store doesn’t mean it will look the same once you walk out of the store with a purchase. I had seen it happened on multiple occasions where people make impulsive purchases only to realize they bought a diamond with poor cut standards.

Anyways, if you are thinking of shopping at a Cartier boutique store, do make use of the “private” room even if it’s just for the coffee. You will get treated very well and also get to enjoy personalized service there.

Choice Of Ring Setting And Preferences

Since we were looking for a simple and classy ring setting design, the signature Cartier 1895 setting was the most obvious and safest choice.

cartier 1895 setting side profile

Casted in platinum, the Cartier 1895 setting features a sturdy 4 prong solitaire design which doesn’t catch onto clothing or lining easily. It’s perfect for people looking for an elegant and durable setting.

If you are shopping for an engagement ring and have no idea what your recipient’s preferences are, my recommendation is to stick with a plain solitaire ring design.

Sales Talk And Marketing Pitch

Inside the private room, the sales staff started off by showing us a few Cartier engagement rings with different carat sizes and begins preaching about Cartier’s diamond quality. Basically, it’s some marketing stuff about how much their diamonds sparkle and how they are different from diamonds you see in other stores.

Interestingly, the sales staff chose to emphasize on the process in which their diamonds are meticulously selected by in-house specialists. We were told that Cartier has such “high standards” and “selection criteria” for their diamonds that the majority of diamonds from their suppliers are rejected and only the “best” gets picked.

To be honest, if I was someone with zero knowledge about diamonds, he would probably be able to convince me that Cartier’s diamonds are the best in the world. I would have give credit to the sales staff for his convincing sales presentation.

Unfortunately for him, he didn’t know he’s speaking to someone who knows his stuff and is used to being fed marketing BS* all the time. You see, I’m someone who often frequent malls with my spouse and visiting jewelry stores is one of my favorite past times. I had sat through similar sales presentations countless of times and I know better than to blindly believe whatever a sales person says.

Now, it’s perfectly OK for vendors/salespeople to boast and make claims about their products. However, when it comes to the crunch, it is the quality of the product that really matters and whether their diamonds are truly well-cut. I’ll talk more about their diamond quality in the later paragraphs.

Cartier Diamond Ring Prices

When my friend first told me about his budget of $6k, I estimated he could get a super ideal cut F/G color diamond between 0.60-0.70 carats if he shops for an unbranded diamond. Obviously, shopping at Cartier meant significantly higher prices but the question was; by how much?

Based on our budget of $6,000, the sales staff showed us 3 diamond rings with the following center diamonds: 0.30 D color VVS1, 0.42 E color VVS2 and a 0.46 G color VVS1 (most expensive and slightly over our budget).

There were also a couple of other available options which are near the $8,000 mark in the store. For example, a 0.54 F VS2 diamond was available for around $8,000 but this was way over our initial budget of $6k. Since my friend didn’t want to over extend his budget, these rings were out of the question.

Problems With Shopping At Cartier – Limited Diamond Choices

bang head

As someone who had help thousands of readers around the world buy diamond rings online, I have absolutely no problems in helping people cherry pick the best possible diamond for any given budget. This is because I have access to tens of thousands of diamonds for me to work with anytime.

However, when shopping at Cartier, the available options would probably boil down to a measly 2-3 diamond options if you are super lucky. Sadly, there was nothing within our specifications available in-store for us. At this point, the sales staff made the effort to check the inventory of every single Cartier store in the country and even went as far as checking the Cartier stores from neighboring countries.

Unfortunately, there’s still no joy as the search came up fruitless. There isn’t a single G or H color VS1/VS2 diamond that is pre-mounted in an 1895 Cartier setting around the 0.50 carat mark.

More Problems With Shopping At Cartier – Ring Size Constraints

Now, the specifications (4Cs) of the diamond aren’t the only factors causing availability problems for shoppers. Cartier expects you to purchase a diamond ring off-the-rack and this means you have to make do with whatever ring size the diamond was mounted on.

Granted, Cartier offers free ring resizing within 3 months of your purchase but you need to bear in mind that ring resizing requires 10-15 working days. And if you urgently need a diamond ring for a proposal, you are most likely screwed.

In our case, my friend needed a diamond ring urgently because he’s flying off to Australia in a week’s time and he has made plans to propose during the trip. Obviously, he couldn’t afford the ridiculously long waiting time for the ring to be resized if it is needed.

Now, I know some of you may argue it’s no big deal because resizing can be performed any time after the proposal has taken place. Well, it’s probably OK if the ring is a little loose as you can still slip it on the lady’s finger during proposal.

On the other hand, if the ring is too tight and can’t be fitted onto her finger, wouldn’t this cause some awkwardness when a guy is down on his knees? Wouldn’t you want that perfect moment to be etched forever in your memories without any hiccups?

Set For You By Cartier Service = Buy Blind Online

confused blind selections

With a limited amount of selections in store, you need to be extremely lucky in order find a diamond ring which meets your specifications perfectly. This is even more true if you are shopping within popular ranges like F-G color and VS1-VS2 clarity grades.

So, what happens if you can’t find something suitable in-store and directly off the rack? Given the limited selections available, I’m very sure there are many other customers who face the same problem we had encountered.

And that’s where Cartier’s “Set For You” program comes into play. Basically, this program works like a “build your own ring” program many online vendors offer. With a choice of setting, the sales staff can help you select a diamond from Cartier’s loose diamond inventory and get a ring custom made.

In case you haven’t realize yet, Cartier’s Set For You service is the same as buying BLIND online. I would NEVER recommend doing this as you don’t get to see the diamond beforehand nor do you get to see any additional information beyond a grading report. Also, Cartier’s program pales in comparison to other online vendors because their loose diamond inventory is extremely small.

As a testament to this, there were only 2 possible diamond choices within the Cartier’s Set For You program based on our own experience. One being a G color 0.50+ carat “Very Good” cut diamond and the other, having similar specifications to the G color VVS1 0.46 carat diamond that was already in-store.

To make matters worse, the sales staff actually made a recommendation for the diamond with “Very Good” cut grade.

You Read That Right. We Were Recommended A GIA “Very Good” Cut

how can this be?

The fact that the sales staff had the audacity to say Cartier’s diamond quality is consistent and among the best in the industry while trying to sell us a “Very Good” cut diamond makes me infuriated. I will go in-depth into discuss their diamond cut quality standards in a moment.

You see, Cartier wants you to believe and trust that their diamond selection process is stringent. However, the presence of “Very Good” cut diamonds will tell any trained gemmologist worth his salt or any slightly more educated shopper otherwise.

Besides the poor diamond selections, the other problem with this customized service is their super long delivery time. Depending on how busy their work schedule are, I was told that it could take anywhere between 6-10 weeks before you’ll receive the actual ring. And if you compare this to most other online vendors, the waiting time is relatively long. Again, this method of buying a ring isn’t suitable for people in a rush.

Summary: Your chance of having instant success and finding the exact ring without performing any modifications is very low. When this happens, you either have to wait a couple of months for new inventory or you’ll have no choice but to purchase the next best available option.

So, What Makes A Cartier Diamond?

At Cartier, the minimum diamond clarity you will find is VS2 and the minimum color available is H. In some ways, the pre-filtered criteria are quite similar to Tiffany & Co’s and other high end boutiques like Harry Winston. From a consumer’s point of view, it’s easy to understand why they don’t go below VS2 since Cartier wants to maintain eye-cleanliness.

In terms of color, diamonds above H color will help ensure the diamond faces up white without noticeable tinges of color. Such filtering parameters are common practices employed by big brands in order to maintain some level of consistencies in their products. If you are interested, you can read up on how they select diamonds on their webpage here.

Looking Beyond The Marketing Fluff And Examining Details

As they say, the devil is always in the details. Once you start looking carefully into how Cartier selects their diamonds, you will realize that their marketing pitch may not be in-line with their actual practices. Check out this screenshot captured directly off their website.

cartier cut standards screenshot

I’m sorry… Did you just shoot yourself in the foot?

Now, did you remember we were told that Cartier employs “specialists” to select diamonds from their suppliers? On their website, they claim that their “diamonds undergo the most rigorous selection” and ironically, these “specialists” allow diamonds with GIA “Very Good” cut grades to pass through their selection process.

The GIA “Very Good” cut grade and the terms “optimal brilliance”, “guarantee of exceptional beauty” should be mutually exclusive. As someone who is trained at GIA and familiar with the technical aspects of cut, I can tell you flat out that a diamond with GIA “Very Good” cut is mediocre.

Personally speaking, I can NEVER recommend a round diamond with GIA “Very Good” cut rating to my readers in good conscience nor claim that GIA “Very Good” cut round diamonds can guarantee you exceptional beauty.

However, Cartier seems to think otherwise and have no qualms about doing so. In fact, during our visit to Cartier, we were recommended such a diamond by the sales staff who served us. For now, let’s take a slightly more technical approach to analyze each of their listed criteria.

The Table Must Be Between 56% and 63%

A round diamond with a large table size (> 60%) will typically experience some degree of light leakage and impact its overall brilliance. Let’s take a look at what happens when the table size is 63.0%

Regardless of whatever crown/pavilion angles the diamond has, the maximum cut grade it can achieve is only a “Very Good”. This is because the diamond’s overall optical performance takes a hit when the table facet is too large!

table cut estimation chart

Source: GIA Cut Grade Estimation Tables for Standard Round Brilliant Cut Diamonds

The Depth Must Be Between 58% and 63%

Sigh… The problem here with deep diamonds is that the diamond faces up smaller because weight is trapped in the profile. Also, steep diamonds cause light leakage to occur under the table. Now, that’s not say there’s no issues with a 58% depth. At such a shallow depth, the diamond will exhibit light leakage as well and at certain tilt angles, you would be able to notice an unsightly girdle reflection under the table facet.

The Girdle Must Be From Slightly Thick to Thick

While Cartier claims that this is a criteria on their website but I’m glad it wasn’t enforced. Most of the round diamonds I had examined have a girdle range between thin – medium – slightly thick. Anyways, an overly thick girdle will cause the diamond to face up smaller.

The Next Statement Comes As a Real Shocker

For brilliant cut diamonds under 0.30 carats, Cartier allows a cut grade of “Good” to “Excellent”. WHAT!!?? As if the bar isn’t low enough, they are going even lower by selling you GIA “Good” cut diamonds? For the record, I recommend buying diamonds with nothing less than an Excellent cut.

To me, this is a huge red flag and something you need to beware of especially if you are buying a Cartier engagement ring with small sized solitaire diamonds (e.g. 0.25 carats).

MAKE SURE YOU CHECK THE DETAILS OF WHAT YOU ARE BUYING AND ASK IF YOU ARE NOT SURE!

Cartier’s Cut Standards Leaves a Bitter Taste in My Mouth

For the kind of ridiculous premium Cartier is charging you for their jewelry, one would expect only the top tier GIA triple excellent diamonds to be used. Frankly speaking, I’m shocked to see GIA “Very Good” cut diamonds being offered; let alone the thought of “Good” cut diamonds being used. What a joke!

When buying a diamond, I’m a firm believer that cut is KING. Just the fact that Cartier selects GIA diamonds with “Very Good” cut grades to make up their inventory reveals a lot about the kind of standards they have.

For the record, there is no lack of top-tier GIA excellent cut diamonds available in the market today. Extremely well-cut GIA triple excellent diamonds may be difficult to find but there are enough to go around (i.e. out of 100 GIA triple excellent diamonds, I can usually find 1-2 diamonds that meet my criteria to be purchase-worthy). There’s absolutely no reason to start selecting diamonds from the “Very Good” cut grade tier if you are really looking for quality.

GIA “Very Good” Cut Grade  Cartier Diamond Engagement Ring Reviews

During our visit to the store, we were recommended a GIA Very Good cut grade diamond by the sales staff and this diamond was based in Paris. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to inspect that particular Very Good cut diamond in person. So, I did the next best thing and searched for Cartier rings in the secondary market.

Here’s a GIA grading report for a Very Good cut diamond from Cartier which I found on eBay. Someone listed the ring for sale and it has all the relevant certificates of authenticity from Cartier and GIA.

cartier very good cut gia diamond

Speaking from a professional’s point of view, this is a diamond I cannot recommend to anybody in good faith. The proportions aren’t fantastic and the diamond runs a heightened risk of chipping due to its “Very Thin” girdle.

Unlike Cartier’s diamond selection standards, I review every single aspect of cut quality when picking out potential diamonds for purchase. Considering the price premium being paid for Cartier’s jewelry, one would expect more and not diamonds with Very Good Polish, Very Good Symmetry and Very Good Cut grades. And sad to say, this isn’t an isolated case with Cartier’s diamond engagement rings.

Here’s another Cartier diamond ring listing on the secondary market and I am using it purely as an educational example of the kind of quality you may expect to find:

cartier very good round diamond with thick girdle

Without the need to see this diamond in person, I can immediately identify a huge number of issues based on the diamond’s grading report. Let me list out the problems below:

1) The table and depth proportions combination is not ideal for light return.
2) The girdle thickness range is mediocre (medium-slightly thick is the max I would recommend).
3) The pavilion angle is too steep (41.4 degrees) and will result in light leakage.
4) There is a presence of a very small culet.
5) Polish rating is only Very Good.
6) Symmetry rating is only Very Good.

Mind you, these are NOT hallmarks of what a truly well cut diamond should have.

Why Is a GIA “Very Good” Cut Not Good Enough?

Interestingly, when I told the sales staff that Very Good cut diamonds will have issues with optical performance and/or durability and I didn’t want my friend to buy such a diamond. Could you guess what the Cartier’s sales staff reply was?

Well, he started to go about saying how Cartier’s diamond selection system is way above GIA’s grading criteria. “It doesn’t matter whether a diamond has a GIA “Very Good” or “Excellent” cut because Cartier uses their own benchmarks to select diamonds based on its appearances.”

That’s a huge claim that would probably work well with 99% of consumers.

Clearly, the sales staff has no idea how diamonds are graded at GIA because I did questioned him whether he knew about the GIA’s grading procedures. The sales staff (incidentally who’s also the boutique supervisor) thought GIA only graded a diamond’s cut based on proportions. Well, it isn’t.

GIA’s cut grade is determined based on a combination of measured parameters (e.g. proportions) and visual observations (e.g brilliance, fire). For people interested in more details, check out the following links for journal papers published by GIA:

http://diamondcut.gia.edu/pdfs/Estimating-a-cut-grade-booklet.pdf
http://www.diamondcut.gia.edu/pdf/cut_fall2004.pdf

In short, I can summarize the factors that determine GIA’s cut rating with the chart below.

what does gia assess during grading

When a diamond is graded “Very Good” by GIA, it means that the diamond didn’t meet the standards in one or more areas of “Face Up Appearance”, “Design” and “Craftsmanship”.

For example, if a GIA “Very Good” diamond is polished to excellent proportions and receives a rating of excellent for both polish and symmetry, this means the diamond FAILED the visual inspection tests for brightness, fire and scintillation for an excellent rating during the grading process.

You need to understand that every single GIA “Very Good” cut grade diamond receive the particular rating for some reason/s in cut deficiency. Based on Cartier’s sales staff marketing pitch, he wants us to blindly believe an “intangible aspect” of Cartier’s selection process that a “Very Good” cut diamond is a great choice because he is trying to sell it to us.

I’m not stupid and I don’t buy the claims. Instead, I want to base my diamond selection criteria on tangible facts and data.

Wait, What If I Stick to Only GIA Triple Excellent Diamonds at Cartier?

When selecting a well-cut diamond, GIA triple excellent diamonds are only a basic prerequisite to start your search in. That is to say, anything below a GIA excellent cut grading is an immediate no-no and should be eliminated.

Now, you need to understand that even within the GIA triple excellent range of diamonds, there are a lot of variations in optical performance and cut precision. You can read this article I wrote on this topic for more details.

For beginners who find it difficult to discern cut differences in glaring spot lightings of jewelry stores, I recommend using an ASET or Idealscope. This levels the playing field and allows you to critically review diamonds for their light performances.

At Cartier’s jewelry boutique, we were shown 8 diamond rings with GIA Excellent cut grades. Within these 8 diamonds, there was a mix of polish and symmetry ratings ranging from Very Good – Excellent. With these kinds of standards, it’s no surprise you probably won’t find exceptionally well-cut diamonds at Cartier.

Anyways, these ASET images are representative of what I see when I examined Cartier’s diamonds physically through my ASET scope. Out of all the 8 GIA Excellent cut round diamonds I had examined, all of them exhibited certain degrees of light leakage under the table.

examples of cartier round diamonds under the ASET

ASET images reveals how a diamond returns light and how well the diamond performs optically. For more details about ASET images, click this link. You can also make use of the ASET reference charts here for comparison.

What We Ended Up Buying – Cartier Solitaire 1895

I place a diamond’s optical performance above anything else and Cartier’s diamond rings fail to impress me. In fact, not a single Cartier diamond I had seen so far had passed my personal standards to be purchase worthy.

Since a Cartier ring was what my friend wanted, we had to settle for something less ideal in terms of cut. With limited selection choices, we also had to compromise on our initial specifications. We ended up paying an additional premium for a VVS1 clarity and purchased a diamond smaller than 0.50 carats. We also exceeded our initial budget and paid $7,000 for the ring.

slightly leaky diamond

Representative ASET image of round diamond we bought.
It’s not a bad diamond but it isn’t a great one either.

cartier solitaire 1895 in red ring box

Cartier Solitaire 1895 ring with center diamond: 0.46 carats, G color, VVS1 clarity and triple excellent cut.

gia triple excellent cartier grading report

The accompanying GIA report for the purchase.

cartier certificate of authenticity

Cartier certificate of authenticity which comes with every purchase.

Sales Policies, After-Sales Services And Trade Up Policy

Free ring cleaning service – This is a default policy almost every jeweler offers and is actually a marketing tactic to increase future sales. Speaking from practical experience, it is going to be a huge hassle to bring your ring down your jeweler every week in order to keep it clean. Instead, cleaning your ring at home takes only 5 minutes of your time and can be performed easily with simple tools like toothbrushes and soap.

Free ring resizing is valid within 3 months of purchase and depending on the type of ring designs, there are limitations in which the ring’s size could be altered. For example, plain solitaire settings like 1895 or Cartier d’Amour solitaire can have more leeway in size alterations. However, for rings like Cartier Destinée, Trinity Ruban or Ballerine designs, the presence of pave melees will restrict how much the ring size can be changed.

Cartier charges a workmanship fee for re-polishing your ring which many other jewelers perform for free.

And as far as I know, there are no trade up policies for purchased jewelry (with the exception of “exchanging” your purchase within 2 weeks for another jewelry piece of higher value).

Cartier’s Packaging – Gift Wrap, Classic Red Cartier Carrier Bag

Once the purchase was made, the sales staff mentioned that the ring box could be gift wrapped and wax sealed. What immediately came to my mind was the vintage looking wax seals that were hand stamped in the olden days.

I encouraged my friend to get it wrapped since it’s a complimentary service. After all, he can always unwrap it later if he doesn’t want to present ring box with the wrapping.

authentic red wax seal
metal stamp on hot melted wax fire

Here’s how imagined it was done at the back of my head…

Instead, here’s how Cartier packages the gift box in their showroom. First, they wrap the ring box in a piece of plain white paper. Next, they drip hot wax onto the package at the ends. Thereafter, they use a piece of pre-moulded wax seal and simply stick it over the hot wax.

cartier wax seal gift wrap

It’s a little disappointing because the purpose of the hot wax was to act as a glue instead of being used for the seal creation. There’s no stamping process involved at all. And because the wax seals are pre-moulded, each of them comes in a generic cookie-cutter shape. Personally, I feel that this standardization makes the wax seals lose its authentic appeal.

Shocking Price Comparisons of Cartier Vs. Other Jewelers

You probably knew that Cartier is going to charge you an arm and leg because of their branding. So, let’s put things into perspective and perform side by side comparisons against some of my recommended vendors. Once you see what the other jewelers are charging for their products, you will realize how excessive Cartier’s premiums are.

Comparison #1 – Cartier vs. Enchanted Diamonds

First of all, let’s take a look at what it would cost us for a platinum ring with a 0.46 carat, G color, VVS1 clarity diamond if we were to shop online at EnchantedDiamonds.com. Remember, we paid $7,000 for our Cartier ring. Feel free to click the images below for more details about the listings.

half a carat gia excellent cut

double prong solitaire setting in platinum

Guess how much the proposal ring at EnchantedDiamonds.com cost? With a more well-cut center diamond, the entire purchase comes up to $3,340 ($2,340 + $1,000). That’s less than half of what was paid for the Cartier ring and we gotten a diamond with bigger carat size and optical performance.


Comparison #2 – Cartier vs. James Allen

Now, I contacted Cartier’s client services via email and phone to check out the prices of Cartier’s diamond engagement rings. Here’s a screenshot of the email to show you what I was quoted with. The price of a 0.85 ct diamond with F color, VVS1 clarity would cost around $13,800.00.

exceptional diamond ring n4163600

At James Allen, here’s a diamond with similar specifications and I matched it with a platinum solitaire ring design.

james allen vs cartier review

platinum thin cross prong setting

The total cost of the ring at JamesAllen.com amounts to $7,425 ($6,600 + $825). Compared to the cost for a Cartier ring with similar diamond quality, that’s a stark difference.


Comparison #3 – Cartier vs. White Flash

Besides round diamonds, I also did an inquiry into princess cut diamonds to see if the absurd margins were similar across the board. Here’s a screen capture of the email where I was quoted $6,450 for a 0.50 princess cut diamond mounted in a 1895 setting.

cartier client contact solitaire 1895 princess cut

In comparison, here’s what an AGS000 princess cut diamond with the top-of-the-line optics would only cost you at WhiteFlash.com.

whiteflash vs cartier princess cut

whiteflash platinum vatche vs cartier setting

In total, shopping for a super-ideal princess cut diamond at WhiteFlash.com would cost you only $3,262 ($1,824 + $1,438). In this scenario, you are really getting a diamond with superb optics and it costs roughly half the price of a similar Cartier princess cut engagement ring.

In general, I found that Cartier’s rings cost a WHOPPING 2 TIMES MORE than a similar looking ring with better diamond quality based on my shopping experience. This means you can buy 2 rings for the price of 1 branded ring!

Conclusion of Our Cartier Review – Are They a Rip-Off?

The boutique manager I spoke to revealed that Cartier do not make diamonds, do not cut diamonds nor do they produce the diamonds they sell. They merely “hand pick” diamonds from their suppliers and when it comes to diamonds (like anything else in retail businesses), just because a brand name is attached to a piece of jewelry doesn’t necessarily means that it is of better quality.

Now, I know there are many people who would call high-end boutique jewelry stores a rip-off but I won’t go as far as to saying that about Cartier. I find them to be a respectable business and ultimately, it’s all about perspective.

Like any other premium jewelry brands (e.g. Tiffany, Harry Winston), you are definitely going to pay a lot more because of the branding and it really depends on what the name is worth to you.

In my personal opinion, I feel that their customer service is among some of the better ones I had experienced (better than how I was treated at Tiffany’s). However, is this experience and feel-good factor of owning a piece of Cartier jewelry worth the additional thousands of dollars for a purchase?

Well, I personally cannot justify paying 2 times more for a similar diamond ring I could get elsewhere. To me, the quality of the end product matters more because it is a tangible aspect that will “last forever”. In contrast, the 2-3 hours of shopping experience at Cartier will only slowly fade over time.

For people who aren’t brand conscious and want to get a bigger bang for their buck, you probably want to check out White Flash and Brian Gavin. Their signature ideal diamonds are polished to extreme precision and cut for optimal light performance. On top of better prices, you will also enjoy better sales policies like having the option for future upgrades.

I hope my personal experience with Cartier has given you some insights about their diamond jewelry and will help you make better purchasing decisions.

On a last note, I would love to hear your thoughts about buying diamond jewelry from branded establishments. Would you be willing to pay significantly more for a similar diamond ring because of a particular branding and why?

Feel free to leave your comments below!

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28 Comments

  1. nikolay-
    December 16, 2014 at 8:10 am

    Besides the Solitaire 1895 you reviewed, what about the other engagement ring designs like the Cartier Destinée, Cartier d’Amour, Trinity Ruban, Ballerine, C de Cartier and Honeymoon designs? Is the quality of diamonds better?

    I am looking for a ring with lots of smaller diamonds by the sides.

  2. Paul Gian-
    December 18, 2014 at 3:53 am

    From my understanding, the center diamond used is from the same pool of loose diamonds within their inventory. So, you will see the variations in diamond quality for these rings as well and the quality isn’t necessarily better or worse.

    You just need to be a little more selective to pick out the better ones.

  3. bhsumway-
    January 17, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    This a fantastically detailed and helpful article. Can you comment on your experience negotiating price with Cartier? Some jewelers claim that they don’t negotiate, but I have heard that Cartier does. Did they make any price concessions for you (and did you attempt any)? There is no doubt they would still be overpriced for the diamond anyway, but I am really enamored with the Trinity Ruban setting and I haven’t found anything comparable.

  4. Paul Gian-
    January 22, 2015 at 2:14 pm

    I did try to negotiate the pricing for the ring (out of curiosity) but was firmly rejected. If there’s a specific setting that you like at Cartier, you probably have to get it from them as other jewelers won’t be able to replicate the design (legally).

  5. blanket-
    February 13, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    Great article glad I read it before I went to the boutique. I realize the purpose for this article is to get people to shop at less branded places, but I can’t help but ask if you have any experience in Harry Winston and your thoughts on their diamonds?

  6. Paul Gian-
    February 22, 2015 at 10:43 am

    Harry Winston only carries D-F colored diamonds with VS2 or better clarity in their inventory. While these are properties that are “rarer” in nature, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are more beautiful. Cut is what really determines a diamond’s appearance and beauty. I will do an indepth review into Harry Winston in near future. Stay tuned!

  7. Leah Tong-
    April 30, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    This was an insightful post but I just wanted to say that I used the Cartier “Set for you” and my salesperson was able to pull the diamond I wanted within a week for me to look at personally before purchasing. So It was a great way for me to look for the specific specs and price I wanted. Also from what I understand, Cartier will always resize/clean your ring for free for life (at least what I was told). Thanks for the article!

  8. Paul Gian-
    May 2, 2015 at 5:39 am

    I’m pretty sure Cartier doesn’t do ring resizing for free for life. What they offered me was a free ring resizing within 1 month and any subsequent ring resizing will be charged at a pretty ridiculous pricing. Where are you based?

    Cleaning the ring for free for the jewelry’s lifetime is a common practice in the industry. Almost all mom and pop stores would do it for “free” just to have the opportunity for further upsells when you bring the ring in. More importantly, it’s a waste of time to bring your ring down to the store when you can easily do a better job at home within 5 minutes with a toothbrush and some detergent.

  9. AB-
    June 21, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    I wish I had found your website a few months ago! My fiance gave me a very generous price range and I convinced myself that I needed to have a Harry Winston ring. So I ended up with a smaller carat weight than I wanted and am now unhappy and looking to sell it to get a bigger carat without the name.

    As you say here, the experience was great at the store but when it was over I felt a little duped. I paid 3x the wholesale price!! I hope you do do a review of Harry Winston in the future.

  10. YJ-
    July 7, 2015 at 10:16 pm

    Good review! I don’t think I would have selected a lux brand ring if I wanted a solitaire engagement ring or a simple setting engagement ring as I think they are way over priced. I actually ended up picking the Cartier Trinity Ruban, because the detail was so beautiful and it wasn’t something other jewelers can easier copy. I have only seen one sorta replica of the Trinity Ruban and it did not look good. Plus I wanted something that shined every angle ;) The experience was great. We had to do a set for you as my ring size was 4.25 and they didn’t have anything in stock that would have fit me. I was able to see the GIA report before purchase but was unable to see the diamond itself. I did do my research on what to look for prior to purchasing. The ring came quicker than anticipated so fiance was able to surprise me still.

    I was told they did resizing for free for life and free engraving as well. I believe they said free polishing for wedding band but my hubby went with a Tiffany band so wont be using that service. We did get the Cartier card, so not sure if that matters or not and we are located in the US. Oh also, we got a bottle of Cartier champagne with our purchase as well. I would agree that Cartier has better service than Tiffany. I wish I lived near a Harry Winston so I can see how their service is.

  11. Paul Gian-
    July 13, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    Thanks for sharing your experience. The Cartier experience is great but the costs for providing this level of extra service (like the champagne) does come from the extra premium they charge. Unlike you, I didn’t actually get to enjoy a bottle of champagne! Would you be willing to share some details of your purchase? (i.e. diamond carat size, costs,)

  12. ash-
    September 8, 2015 at 10:36 am

    The price difference between an original Van Gogh signed by himself and an exact imitation without the signature would be huge despite the fact that the paper, paint, picture etc are exactly the same.

    Branding, though intangible, does indeed count for a lot. Otherwise there would be no brands, nor any sustainable business. Imagine going on the Antiques Roadshow with a branded ring, and one that was ordered online. I know which would fetch more.

  13. Paul Gian-
    September 15, 2015 at 4:11 am

    Agreed. If branding matters (e.g. if the fiancee does want a Tiffany ring) to you, then you would have to be willing to fork out the premium. If someone is simply looking for a diamond ring for practical reasons or looking for a stone with top of the line optics, branding would probably not be able provide a tangible aspect to what they need.

    In essence, it’s different strokes for different folks.

  14. Anna Sampson-
    November 25, 2015 at 9:47 pm

    Thanks for this great article!
    I have inherited a Cartier ring that I would like reset into a slightly different more modern Cartier setting. Will I loose a lot of value by resetting it at an independent jewelers in a similar style vs going back to Cartier to change the setting? Or is the diamond really the part that holds the value vs the Cartier setting and qudos associated with that? And so really it’s not worth the extra outlay to have it reset at Cartier?

  15. Paul Gian-
    November 26, 2015 at 5:35 am

    Go back to Cartier if branding and prestige is something you are willing to pay for. In terms of value, I would say that diamonds don’t hold value well regardless of where you buy them from.

  16. Alice xu-
    February 24, 2016 at 2:16 am

    Hello,
    I loved your article, it really is a ‘refreshing gem’.
    I haven’t had time to browse through your whole blog but I hope I’ll find a survival guide to read and understand these gem reports.
    I’m about to get engaged and me and my future fiancé were looking at rings. I fell in love for the ballerine diamond paved ring and did an inquiry on the price.
    Even as an amateur I was very disappointed by the prices, and the choices available.
    We are looking for a paved ballerine ring with a 1 carat diamond or maybe slightly less.
    The rings available (1.01c) were boasting prices such as 17200€ ( H VS2) or 32100 € ( D VVS1).
    And no details were given on the cut.
    I thought that maybe I could buy an excellent cut diamond that would have better characteristics and then have them mount it on the ring which I think should be less that 7000 something, and still be able to save a few grands.
    Anyway I still don’t know what the prices range should be, and what is an acceptable color or clarity or where I should look for reliable and honest advices/ stores ( ps I live in Paris).

    On one hand I do not care at all for the branding because I find that to be absolutely stupid to carry publicity for an entity that has no sentimental value or impact on my life, moreover that ring is the symbol of so many great values and I wouldn’t want it to be polluted by mass produced-meaningless-easy-vanity symbols ( my love is personal and pure as my diamond and so should my ring be too).

    On the other hand I browsed through so many models and my only favorite is that specific shape. So do you think within a budget of maybe 14000 that would be technically and financially possible ? Maybe would it be possible to reproduce that exact shape by a small jeweler ? What should I look for? Any references ?
    Thanks for your answer…

  17. Paul Gian-
    February 24, 2016 at 3:14 am

    It depends on how much sparkle you expect to get from a diamond. Personally, I’m really anal about cut and I expect the best of the best brilliance and fire from any diamond I buy.

    I can tell you that a 1 carat H VS2 diamond with a cost of $17k Euros is way way overpriced.

    https://beyond4cs.com/diamond-prices/

    Read the sections here as well: https://beyond4cs.com/step-by-step-guide/
    https://beyond4cs.com/truth-about-gia-triple-excellent-diamonds/

  18. Heather-
    May 17, 2016 at 9:07 pm

    Paul,

    If I purchased my jewelry from a over priced branded establishment I would be to embarrassed to tell anyone, which would defeat the reason for over paying in the first place.
    I love how well written and how much information you have given us. This has been a lot to take in, but well worth the time.

    Thank you,
    Heather

  19. Joao Abreu-
    June 26, 2016 at 5:02 pm

    Dear Paul,

    This was such an interesting read. Thanks for spending the time writing, I feel like a learned a lot. I recently bought a 0.7c GIA F colour triple excellent diamond which I am planning to set on halo ring once I receive it. I bought it online because I just thought it was much better value for money. Your considerations about proportions are interesting and I didnt really look at angles or anything like that which now makes feel a little bit worried. Fingers crossed :)

    thanks!!

  20. leo-
    September 20, 2016 at 6:47 am

    Great read! It’s all about prospective. You have to choose one regardless. To be quite frank Paul, sounds like you need to spend some faria holmez or make more money my friend. Nevertheless happy wife is a happy life? Now riddle me that??!!!??

  21. Paul Gian-
    September 21, 2016 at 1:49 am

    Yep. It’s about perspective. My wife’s happy because I can get her more jewelry (with better quality) for the cost of getting one at Cartier.

    : )

    Here’s the latest fancy yellow diamond ring I bought for her!

    https://beyond4cs.com/2016/08/cushion-cut-fancy-intense-yellow-diamond-engagement-ring/

  22. Chris Changprai-
    January 12, 2017 at 2:26 am

    Thank you for the article! If brand and prestige did matter, which jewelry house would say offers the best value?

    You didn’t discuss much about the quality of the settings. Would you say Cartier settings are of a high quality? Any jewelry house you would recommend in terms of setting quality and ring design?

    Thank you,
    Chris

  23. Paul Gian-
    January 13, 2017 at 2:45 am

    Cartier does a decent job in craftsmanship and I put them on the same level as many of the better online retailers here: https://beyond4cs.com/best-place-to-buy-engagement-ring/

  24. Jason-
    February 26, 2017 at 6:21 pm

    Paul! I am about to pull the trigger on a Harry Winston 2 carat ring but would LOVE your opinion on it before I buy it. Anyway I can share it with you? Maybe we can exchange emails?

  25. Paul Gian-
    February 28, 2017 at 2:30 am

    Sure. Get in touch with me via the contact page!

  26. Mary-
    April 24, 2017 at 2:45 pm

    Hi Paul,

    Can i ask your opinion with regards on Lee Hwa destinee diamond? Actually i bought few diamonds in Lee Hwa specially on their destinee ring. Since they have an upgrade term i use to do it every 2yrs up to the point i reach up to .63 CT color G VS1. If your going to check the price in there, it will cost you around 12-13k sgd. Sad to say i lost the diamond on my ring until now i can’t get over because the money i purchased on that ring is the hard earned money :(. I don’t know whose to blame on this but i may say that lee hwa ring although the diamond is good but the ring itself is not that sturdy to hold the big diamond. Probably the design i choose which ireally like it is not that perfect to hold that big size of diamond. I know that there’s nothing I can do and can not brinf this up to Lee Hwa but definitly they lose a good customer. Now i have second thought if i will buy another diamond ring in Lee Hwa still or will just look from another store. I was thinking cartier and tiffany and co. But after reading your articles i got confuse again but thans for sharing your expertise for buying diaminds. I really want to buy a new diamond so any suggestion you can give? I prefer same size or higher from my old one. Thanks

  27. Paul Gian-
    April 25, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    Lee Hwa’s Destinee is generally well cut but you pay a super high premium similar to that of Tiffany & Cartier. If branding is important to you, I suggest you stick with Cartier or Tiffany given that they are recognized for branding.

    If you want to get good value and truly well cut diamonds, read this: https://beyond4cs.com/best-place-to-buy-engagement-ring/

  28. Samron-
    June 6, 2017 at 8:02 pm

    If you’re budget is 4-6000 Cartier is not the place for you. If you are spending that little the advantages Cartier has won’t apply.

    Why would you get a small carat f color ring from the best diamond jeweler in the game? 6k you are barely paying for a decent setting. 40-60k you can get an imoressive diamond worthy of their settings and the history of the company as well as their ethical and sustainable policies. Only come to Cartier at that price point if sustainable and ethical diamonds are your biggest concern because nobody in the game has a track record as good as theirs. At the 4K-6k price range you are better off going to diamond district or zales. Why go to Mercedes to buy a Honda? You will end up in a Honda.

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