The Tiffany engagement ring is a classic design that exudes simplicity and elegance.
At that time, prong settings were unheard of because diamonds were usually set in bezel settings. Yet, this innovative ring design not only offered a secure mounting, it also raised the diamond higher in the setting and allowed more light to pass through for better brilliance.
Till this day, the Tiffany ring setting and its symbolic turquoise blue box makes Tiffany & Co. one of the most recognizable brand in the jewelry industry. As a testament to their success, most of the solitaire ring designs you see in the current market are actually “inspired” from the original Tiffany Setting.
In this review of Tiffany & Co, we will solely focus on their diamond engagement rings and reveal some of the shocking findings we discovered.
A Tiffany Diamond Ring: The Gemological Standards For Superlative Brilliance
Unknown to many people, Tiffany pre-screens their diamonds in order to maintain a level of consistency in their selections. Now, this is a common practice that can be found in many other branded jewelry stores like Cartier and Harry Winston as well.
Based on the information I garnered from their sales brochures and their sales representatives, the worst diamond quality that Tiffany carries in-store is I color and SI1 clarity.
Speaking from a gemological perspective, I want you to understand that there’s nothing wrong with diamonds in the lower color grades. In fact, it is a matter of personal preference and tastes. I know many readers in the western countries actually prefer to wear warm colored diamonds (e.g. J or K colored). And if you happen to be one of these people, you probably can’t find something of your liking at Tiffany.
Besides color and clarity, Tiffany also takes into account some other factors when filtering their diamonds. For example, if a diamond is deemed to have “strong” or “very strong” fluorescence, the stone is automatically rejected by their grading lab.
Personally, I find fluorescence to be an awesome gemological property and I absolutely love diamonds with fluorescence. However, I do understand Tiffany’s stand to “err on the side of caution” rather than to sell diamonds that may look milky/hazy due as a result of fluorescence.
Yikes! When buying diamonds, the grading report is an important piece of document because it tells you the quality of the diamond you are paying for. The shocking thing about Tiffany is that they grade their diamonds via an in-house laboratory.
If you had read my article on grading laboratories, you will know that I frown upon jewelers who use their own grading certificates instead of getting their diamonds graded at neutral 3rd party gemological labs like GIA or AGS. The reason is simple; you want an impartial opinion of the diamond’s properties from a lab where there is no conflict of interests.
Since Tiffany does not use external grading laboratories to grade their diamonds, there is no objective 3rd-party analysis of their diamond’s cut grading. Basically, Tiffany expects you to take them for their word on whatever they say about their diamonds. In contrast, two of the most reliable labs in the world, GIA and AGS, utilize well-vetted systems to assign diamond cut grades based on scientific studies.
Tiffany has an unusual “Presence” parameter listed in their grading certificates.
Do you understand all the jibber-jabble they use to describe “Presence” above?
The most important factor which gives a diamond its sparkle lies in how well it was cut. On the whole, I would say that most of Tiffany’s diamonds are pretty well-cut and display a fairly consistent quality. The same is true even for the smaller side diamonds as well.
Note: I say “pretty-well” because Tiffany’s diamond cut quality isn’t the best and this is evident when you start scrutinizing details. In fact, the majority of Tiffany’s casting and craftsmanship would only be “above average” if you have a discerning eye.
I’m a diamond connoisseur. Whenever I shop for a diamond, I examine every single detail carefully to see if the stone meets my expectations. Since Tiffany charges exorbitant prices for their jewelry, it would only be fair to expect nothing but the best. Sadly, that’s NOT what you always get at Tiffany’s.
Check out the Tiffany Diamond Certificate for a 1.75 carats round brilliant cut diamond below. I want to bring your attention to the Polish and Symmetry ratings as indicated by the 2 red arrows. Did you notice that the diamond was rated only as “Very Good” for both its symmetry and polish?
The best rating attainable for polish and symmetry in the Tiffany Gemological Laboratory is “Excellent”. If the cut quality standards at Tiffany is truly impeccable and the best of the best, there’s no way they would allow diamonds with “Very Good” ratings to get pass their quality control.
While the finishing of the diamond’s girdle does not impact the way it reflects light, it is a tell-tale sign of how much effort really goes into the polishing process. Bruted girdles are a thing of the last century and it’s a huge shocker to see a premium brand like Tiffany selling such diamonds.
Bruted diamond girdle at 40X – GIA
I’m seriously not a fan of bruted girdles and I hate it when the cutters leave a sloppy finish to the the diamond instead of taking a little extra time to touch up the girdle. Basically, it gives an incomplete look to the diamond because of its unsightly and raw appearance.
Almost all diamonds you find in the market have a faceted girdle finishing.
If you have a large budget or want to buy a ring with popular diamond sizes like 1.00 carats, you would have a larger amount of options to cherry pick your diamond from. However, if you have a smaller budget or want to buy smaller sized diamonds, your options will be severely limited.
When I called Tiffany’s customer service hotline to make inquiries for a diamond ring with a G colored, 0.7 carats center stone, I was pretty disappointed by the outcome. As it turns out, there was only a single Tiffany solitaire ring with a G colored center stone available in the entire inventory of their US operations.
Here’s an excerpt of a follow-up email from the Diamond Sales Professional after my telephone call. I had set my budget at around $7,500 and requested information of available diamond rings around that price point.
Based upon your inquiry for the Tiffany Setting, please view the following options from our Collection –
Carat .78 Color I Clarity VS2 $7,350.00
Carat .70 Color H Clarity VS1 $7,800.00
Carat .74 Color H Clarity VS2 $7,900.00
Carat .73 Color G Clarity VS2 $8,000.00
Carat .82 Color I Clarity VS1 $8,150.00
The above quotes are general pricing guidelines and all rings are subject to availability.
Tiffany engagement rings prices correct as of 27th Dec 2014 and are not inclusive of any local taxes. The diamonds come with varying standards in polish/symmetry which can range from ratings with Good to Excellent.
The sales representative did offer a few other options for my consideration but they were all of lower color ratings. The point I want to make here is that you get extremely limited choices to choose from. Depending on how lucky you are, you may not even find a single option available.
Even though Tiffany generally offers diamonds that are cut well, the onus is on you to cherry pick the best from what’s available. I recommend sticking to triple excellent ratings and using an ASET/Idealscope to select the diamond with the best light performance. Remember to look out for those issues I highlighted earlier as well.
Let’s do some price comparisons to see the huge disparity in prices and quality if you decide to shop elsewhere instead. Remember, I was quoted $8,150 for a 0.82 carats I color VS1 clarity diamond? Let’s see how much a similar ring with a more well-cut diamond will cost you at White Flash.
Compared to the TIffany ring, a similar one at Whiteflash will only cost you: $3983 + $725 = $4,708
Mind you, I am comparing a top-of-the-line ideal cut round diamond from Whiteflash against those found at Tiffany and it is still significantly cheaper!
Here’s another comparison of Tiffany & Company against another of my recommended jeweler, Enchanted Diamonds. This time round, let’s use the 0.70 H color, VS1 clarity round diamond quoted to us by Tiffany for $7,800.00 for a comparison. Could you guess how much it would only cost if you decide to buy a similar ring from Enchanted Diamonds instead?
The total price you would have to pay for the ring at Enchanted Diamonds is only $3,010 + $1,100 = $4,110
In retrospect, that’s roughly half the price for a Tiffany diamond ring. If you are wondering why diamond rings from other jewelers are so much cheaper and better in quality, that’s because you are paying Tiffany for their brand name!
The return policies are only applicable if you made a purchase in the U.S. Any items (except for fragrance) can be return within 30 days for a credit or exchange with a valid sales receipt.
For Tiffany’s diamond rings, you can do an upgrade by trading in your old ring for a new one that’s at least 2 times of the original price. For example, if your old ring costs $5,000, your new purchase must be of at least $10,000 in value. The caveat here is that you must do the upgrade within 5 years and your old ring must be subjected to an appraisal by Tiffany’s certified gemologist.
Like most other jewelers, Tiffany & Co. offers a lifetime of after-sales support for mundane stuff like free ring cleaning and other services (e.g. prong tightening, ring re-polishing). This may sound like a big deal but it really isn’t because you can easily get the same kind of services for free with any decent jeweler.
At this point, I also want to mention that ring cleaning can be easily performed at home with a toothbrush and soap water in under 5 minutes. The truth is, it is going to be a hassle and a waste of time to bring your ring down to a Tiffany store just to get it cleaned.
Since Tiffany doesn’t sell loose diamonds and you have to buy a diamond ring “off-the-rack”, the pre-mounted setting may not be in the exact finger size you need (the default ring size is 6). That said, it is possible to get a free complimentary ring sizing done within the first 90 days of purchase. Any subsequent ring resizing will be charged at a relatively expensive fee of $170 if you need to go up in size.
Beyond the intangible aspects of good customer shopping experience at Tiffany’s, you only get good (and NOT necessarily the best) quality products at extremely high prices. The truth is, there are many other places that can offer you better quality diamond products and merchandize than Tiffany’s.
However, I would concede that the sales environment and Tiffany experience is something that most other jewelers cannot replicate. After all, Tiffany is highly respected and had been around since 1837 (that’s more than 170 years!).
This tiny blue box packs a huge amount of prestige and history that few other jewelers can match.
When it comes to buying premium products, it boils down to the value you place on a brand name. If the feel-good factor and the ability to tell everyone you bought your ring from Tiffany & Co. is important to you, I feel that Tiffany offers the most “prestigious” branding in jewelry and their prices are indicative of that.
However, if you want to get more bang for your buck and are willing to do a little homework, you can easily find a better quality diamond somewhere else with better terms and prices (about half the price of a Tiffany ring).
Speaking from my personal point of view, a diamond is just a diamond. The branding that a company places on it doesn’t necessarily makes it better than others. I strongly encourage you to make your purchasing decisions based on tangible data and not blindly believing in marketing sales talk.
I think that it is ridiculous to pay 2 times more for a purchase when there are available options to buy a better quality diamond at significantly lower prices. But that’s just me. What do you think? Do leave a comment below! I would love to hear your own opinions about buying branded goods and why you think they are or aren’t worth it.