Buying a diamond, whether it's for an engagement, birthday, or other occasion can be a substantial purchase. For example, the longstanding "rule" for an engagement ring is to spend two month's salary. While not all brides-to-be will scrutinize the valuation, it is important to pick a quality gemstone above all else. If you're purchasing it at a traditional jewelry store you have the luxury of seeing it up close and personal but you'll also typically pay a higher price. Whereas the online route may have more uncertainty you'll have a wider selection to choose from and likely pay less than you would at a jewelry store. Both options have their tradeoffs, so it's up to you to make the final decision. Regardless of which course of action you choose, use these 4 techniques to select your gemstone:
The 4Cs are Fundamental
Jewelers often throw around the 4Cs (cut, color, carat, clarity) without bothering to educate customers on exactly what they mean. If you're like many consumers and place your trust in someone else to find your perfect rock, don't. It can be easy to mislead a customer when they have no notion of what they're buying. Do yourself a favor and know what features to look for, that way you won't be taken advantage of.
Cut-Considered the most important of the 4Cs, the cut is what determines the way it will interact with light and consequently the amount of sparkle it creates (known as scintillation). Look for a stone that is symmetrical, has defined angles, and calculated planes. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) grades the cut from 'poor' to 'excellent'.
Color-This interestingly enough refers to the diamonds absence of color. The less color it has, the higher the value. While it may not be noticeable to the naked eye, the stones color has a significant relation to its price and overall quality.
Clarity-The clarity of a diamond refers to the number, size, and location of the internal inclusions as well as external blemishes. The clarity grade ranges from flawless (with no inclusion or blemishes) to included (clearly visible inclusions). Be careful with the lower clarity grades because they're often discounted but don't have nearly the same value as higher grade stones.
Carat-The carat is another way of indicating the diamond's weight. As you probably already know, the higher the carat weight, the more you'll end up paying.
If you're purchasing a diamond from an online retailer you might see a range for each one of the aforementioned points. It's crucial you request the exact grades and have it backed up with a grading report from the GIA or other reputable gem authority.
Here are a few other tips to remember when buying jewelry online:
- Research reviews and customer feedback. Is the website a household name, like Kay Jewelers, or are you dealing with a foreign seller? It sometimes be difficult to seek recourse from fraudulent sites when they're oversees. This isn't always the case but it's a relevant factor to take into consideration.
- Find out their return policy and get it in writing. The last thing you want to do is play the 'he said' 'she said' game if you don't get what you bargained for. Save yourself the aggravation and request all claims in writing.
- Have the gem appraised. A certificate of authenticity is great and all but it's useless if it doesn't accompany your stone. Misleading transactions happen all the time but you can have the upper hand by taking it to an appraiser immediately after it arrives to ensure it matches the description and paperwork. As an added precaution you can also choose to have it laser-inscribed by a gemologist.