For those of you who haven’t heard of De Beers, they used to control the world’s diamond supply (and indirectly, control prices) up until the 1990s because of their huge mining operations.
When new mines were discovered around the world, the diamond supply market was changed completely as newer players entered the global mining industry.
As a result of increasing competition and political changes, De Beers core business of selling rough diamonds became affected. In a smart corporate move, De Beers created the Forevermark brand to diversify their business into the retail industry. Interestingly, De Beers chose to position Forevermark as a luxury product brand to compete against well established brands like Tiffany and Cartier.
In May 2008, Forevermark was officially launched by the De Beers Group of Companies. Since its inception, Forevermark had experienced phenomenal business growth. Today, Forevermark has become a global brand with a huge consumer reach. Through partnerships with large jewelry chain businesses, Forevermark diamonds are now sold in thousands of retail stores across different countries in the world.
In this review of Forevermark diamonds, we decided to take a closer look at whether they stand up to the marketing hype surrounding the brand.
On their website, Forevermark promises their consumers that their diamonds are beautiful, rare and ethically sourced. They even claim that less than 1% of the world’s diamonds have the eligibility to become a Forevermark diamond.
From the way the ForeverMark diamond is described, it may sound like a big deal. In reality, it is largely a well crafted marketing campaign. You see, with the Kimberly Process and strict custom laws in place, it would be extremely difficult to find a conflict diamond even if you wanted to buy one.
And if you think about it logically, just about any other diamond you see in reputable stores can be just as rare, beautiful and ethically sourced. In this context, De Beers’s diamonds aren’t really that special or different.
Perhaps the highlight of Forevermark’s marketing tactics lie in the Forevermark inscription which is performed using “highly confidential patented technology”. Unlike the usual laser inscription process used by gemological labs like GIA, the Forevermark inscription is only 1/20th of a micron deep and is found on the table facet.
From a consumer’s point of view, the inscription doesn’t make the diamond more beautiful or change it in any discernible manner. From a practical perspective, the identification mark isn’t that any much different from those typically inscribed into the diamond’s girdle using lasers. The main point about doing this boils down to marketing.
In fact, the president of Forevermark U.S., Charles Stanley, mentioned that the inscription is part of a product branding and I quote “the Forevermark inscription fundamentally is the visualization of the promise — it is a key part of the brand to help the salesman with the sale.”
First of all, I strongly encourage you to read through the marketing material that De Beers created for the ForeverMark diamonds at this link. If you pay a little attention to what they say in their promotional material, you will actually find some contradicting statements that will leave you scratching your head.
For example, in their “Diamond Buying Guide”, De Beers even tells you that a diamond must have very specific angles and proportions in order to maximize sparkle. Yet, the irony is that many of the ForeverMark diamonds aren’t cut to great proportions and they allow stones with “Very Good” cut ratings to make it pass their quality control process.
Here’s an example of a Forevermark round diamond which is cut to overly deep proportions and will impact the diamond’s performance. By light physics, the extremely steep pavilion angles (41.7) will also adversely impact light return.
Besides experiencing light leakage, this diamond faces up smaller because weight is hidden from view in the face-up appearance. And to state the obvious, a Very Good cut diamond doesn’t offer you maximum sparkle or performance.
Interestingly, De Beers also claims that less than 1% of the world’s diamonds are eligible to become a Forevermark diamond. Naturally, you would expect a strict selection criteria similar to those imposed by high-end boutique stores like Harry Winston (D – E color and VS2 or better clarity) or Tiffany (D – I color and SI1 or better clarity).
Instead, Forevermark’s quality standards dictate that their diamonds must be at least 0.14 carats in size, above an L color, above an SI2 clarity and a cut grade of Very Good or better. Yep… You didn’t read that wrong nor did I make any typo errors. Forevermark allows diamond colors all the way down to L which means your diamond will show a tinge of yellow if you decide get a diamond in the lower tiers.
Just to be clear, I have nothing against buying warm colored, tinted or lower clarity diamonds. The point I am making here is that diamonds with lower color/clarity combinations aren’t top-tier or should be considered rare in the context of rough supply.
Don’t believe me? All you need to do is to quickly search online or visit your local jewelry store and ask how many D/IF diamonds they have as opposed to H or I colored SI1 diamonds.
I got a shock when I first saw the Forevermark grading certificates in a local jewelry store. For a brand who’s building a luxury status in the mindset of consumers, I didn’t expect the grading report to look like a piece of plain white corrugated cardboard.
Initially, I thought it was a duplicated copy of the grading report until the sales person told me that it was indeed the original copy. Here’s how a Forevermark certificate looks like:
Aesthetic reasons aside, the more important point I want to highlight is that Forevermark diamonds are graded by De Beers’s Forevermark Diamond Institutes.
Instead of sending diamonds to neutral 3rd party labs like GIA or AGS, the diamonds are graded by De Beer’s own Forvermark Diamond Institutes. If you had read my article on the importance of independent certification, you will know that I have no love for such practices.
To be fair, I haven’t been able to critically examine a large sample size of loose Forevermark diamonds under laboratory grading conditions. As such, I cannot verify the kind of standards Forevermark is using or how well their standards compare against GIA’s. At the end of the day, the onus is on you to trust what the seller claims the diamond to be with their grading report.
Forevermark diamond rings can usually be found at larger jewelry retail establishments. If you want to know how much additional premium Forevermark charges, you can easily perform your own price comparisons using online vendors as a benchmark. Here’s a couple of comparisons I made…
In the first lineup, I found a 1.51 carats Firemark princess cut diamond mounted in a white gold solitaire setting at King Jewelers. The ring costs a whopping $17,700. Interestingly, this diamond also has a GIA grading report on top of the in-house Forevermark certification document.
At Blue Nile, I managed to find a slightly larger princess cut diamond of 1.57 carats with a clarity grade of VS2 as well. The price for the loose diamond alone is only $9,092. To complete the ring, I selected a similar looking cathedral platinum prong setting which costs $990.
The total cost for a similar looking ring at Blue Nile is only: $10,082. That’s a savings of more than $7,600 and you also get a higher quality diamond (better symmetry/polish ratings and strong light return)!
In the next line up, I selected Forevermark’s signature “Center of My Universe” ring design for the comparison. At King Jewelers, I found a “Center of My Universe” listing with an F color VS2 clarity center diamond. The retail price for the halo ring is $9,460.
At White Flash, one of my recommended vendors for buying ideally cut diamonds, I found an exceptionally well-cut round brilliant diamond with the following specifications:
For the ring setting, I selected a premium Ritani setting which features a pave halo and rows of accent diamonds on the shanks.
In total, the completed halo ring would only cost: $4,018 + $1,990 = $6,008. Bear in mind that you are getting an extremely well-cut diamond which only exists in the top 1% of the entire market of polished stones. Unlike Forevermark’s marketing claims, the WhiteFlash diamond is backed up by tangible and scientific data of its precise cut quality.
For the next comparison, I selected a 14 karat yellow gold solitaire diamond ring from Forevermark. The ring has a round brilliant cut center diamond weighing 0.50 carats and retails for $2,795 at Days Jewelers.
In contrast, a well-cut GIA triple excellent G color SI1 diamond from James Allen only costs $1,430. If you add in a 14k yellow gold solitaire setting which costs $390, the total price for the ring is only: $1,430 + $390 = $1,820
Compared to the Forevermark diamond ring, the James Allen ring is 35% cheaper! And this is despite the fact that you may actually receive a diamond of lower quality (e.g. H color SI2) with the Forevermark option.
Well, if you have too much money to spare or like buying branded goods for the feel good factor, Forevermark might be the jewelry brand for you. Do note that Forevermark charges a premium that is on par to big brands like Cartier or Tiffany. However, the main difference is that their brand recognition isn’t on the same level as Cartier and Tiffany in the eyes of the general public.
Also, if there are certain Forevermark jewelry setting designs that you like, it is very unlikely for you to find an identical design elsewhere (due to copyright issues). In this case, shopping at Forevermark would make sense even though the prices are expensive.
In terms of marketing, Forevermark receives a 2 thumbs up from me. Their catchy slogans and clever word play with “forever” and “promise” is ingenious. After all, De Beers is the same company who created the most successful marketing campaign in history to make us believe diamonds are romantically associated with love. Honestly speaking, I wouldn’t expect anything less.
In terms of diamond quality, you get a mixed bag with the Forevermark brand. Sure, it is possible to find ideally cut diamonds in their inventory but you will have to be extremely selective of your choices.
Given the vast variance of diamonds with Very Good to Excellent cut grades and Good – Excellent symmetry/polish ratings, they may not be the best place to shop for diamonds if you are a discerning shopping who expect nothing but the best.