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Your Diamond Buying Guide

Nancy Patterson December 5, 2012 Easy Street No Comments on Your Diamond Buying Guide

If you read my letter three weeks ago, then you know what great money savings tip I’m going to tell you about today. In that post I told you about the five items not to buy on Black Friday. They were items that companies would advertise as insane deals, but in reality would get cheaper as Christmas got closer.

One of the items was diamond jewelry. I’ve actually been dying to write this letter for the last six months, but I thought I should wait till December to tell you about it because so many people buy engagement rings this month.

To tell you the truth, December is actually the worst month to buy a diamond ring. Despite retailers putting up signs declaring sales and discounts on diamond jewelry, prices are at their peak right now. Think about it, why would a store offer a discount on an item at a time when they are most in demand. Retailers only offer sales in slow times to drum up business.

The best advice I can give you if you want a great deal on a diamond jewelry piece is to wait till the summer. Sales are at their lowest of the year then and jewelers offer deeply discounted sales to move product.

But since most people buy these gorgeous jewels this time of year I thought it important to tell you how you can still save money. I’ve got a lot to tell you, so let’s get going!

First off, remember the four C’s to get a good deal on diamond jewelry. Carat, color, clarity and cut are four characteristics that determine a diamond’s quality and price. Understanding these grades before you make a purchase will end up saving you money.

1) Carat

Carat refers to the weight of the diamond. The more it weighs, the more it costs. And just like some other things, size does matter.

Don’t stress if you can’t afford the very enviable one carat diamond ring. There is a little white lie I am going to tell you to save you big bucks and keep you from getting in trouble with sweetie. Actually you are going to tell the white lie, but don’t worry no one will be able to catch you in it.

The price of a diamond rises substantially at each carat mark. One carat costs a lot more than a 0.95 carat. Visually no one can tell the difference between the two. They will look like the same size to the naked eye. Look for rings that contain stones that are a tiny bit under the mark. For example buy a .45 carat diamond ring instead of a half carat one. Once the stone is mounted the difference will be negligible in terms of looks, but you will notice the savings in the price.

2) Color

Although most diamonds appear colorless, jewelers refer to most diamonds as a shade of the color white. They rate them on a scale from D to Z, with D being the highest grade and Z being the lowest grade.

Colorless diamonds are very rare and are rated on the high end of the scale. They reflect the most light and are therefore the most sparkly. The less color a diamond has, the more it costs.  The farther down the scale you go, the more color the diamond will have.

Color is an area where you can skimp to save a lot of money. Choose a ring with an H or lower grade. They will still look glittery and sparkly but the price will drop at least 30 percent from that of a D, E or F rated stone. Anything higher than an H or an I grade is for someone who has a lot of extra money.

3) Clarity

A diamond’s clarity refers to its blemishes or inclusions as jewelers say. If you want to save money, color and clarity are the two best characteristics to compromise quality on. Mostly because you won’t be able to tell with the naked eye that they are any less brilliant than higher quality stones.

Jewelers rate a diamond’s clarity on an 11 grade scale. Grades range from F to I3, with F being the high end. F stands for Flawless; it is an extremely rare diamond that even most jewelers never see. Then it goes to IF which means internally flawless. The next two grades are VVS1 and VVS2, which stands for Very, Very Slightly Included (remember included means blemishes). Then you have VS1 and VS2 which means Very Slightly Included. Next you have SI1 and SI2 and on down the line to the lowest clarity grades of I1, I2 and I3.

A jeweler will try to tell you otherwise but diamonds can still look luminous below the six highest grades. Stones graded SI1 and SI2 mean that there are inclusions visible under ten times magnification, but will appear unflawed to the naked eye. They will save you a bundle and no one will be any wiser.  The point of a diamond piece of jewelry isn’t to produce a return on investment, only to look fabulous.

4) Cut

All the research I did on diamonds said this is the area where you don’t want to cut corners. That’s because the cut has a huge influence on the diamonds sparkle and brilliance. The more light a diamond reflects the higher it’s perceived value is.

Jewelers rate a diamonds cut on a 5 point scale. It goes from Excellent to Very Good to Good to Fair and ends with Poor. A diamond rated “very good” or “excellent” will cost about 10 percent more than a “good” stone. From the top to the bottom of the scale expect to see about a 50 percent difference in price.

It’s important to mention that cut is not the same as shape. Cut is how well the shape is cut, including proportions, finish and symmetry. The shape refers to the contour of the stone. It can be a round, pear, marquise, princess, emerald, square, oval or heart shaped diamond.

A round shaped diamond is the most popular and perhaps not coincidentally the most expensive. To save money opt for an oval, marquise or pear cut, which carry more of the carat weight at the top, thereby appearing larger.

Brand Name vs Generic

The four C’s are not the only characteristics that influence price. Where you buy your bauble makes a difference in price too. Just like at the grocery store, brand names cost more. Tiffany & Co. has its “Lucida” stones and Kay Jewelers advertises the “Leo Diamond.”  These brand names drive up the price 15-20 percent more than a generic diamond with the same attributes.

Buying jewelry from brand name stores like Tiffany’s can also affect the price. That little blue box will cost you thousands of dollars more for the same exact stone as opposed to a wholesale store like Costco.

Buying Wholesale

Another popular way to save money on diamond jewelry is to buy from a wholesaler. This cuts out the middle man (ie the stores that have to pay for employees, locations, utilities, equipment, etc) and can save you thousands of dollars. What’s great is that the savings will more than make up for what you’d pay to have the stone put in a setting.

You can find diamond wholesalers online. Try an internet search for “buy wholesale diamonds” or “buy loose diamonds.” Each site should let you put in your search criteria based on the 4 C’s.

Once you’ve located a stone you want do a thorough search on the merchant. Look at their return policy, the fine print, online reviews. And only buy from merchants that offer GIA certified diamonds. If they don’t you may not be getting what you paid for. Ask the merchant to send you the GIA certificate before you buy so you can verify the stones quality.

Once you pay for and receive the stone, take it to a jeweler to have it appraised. Take the GIA certificate with you and have them verify that the stone matches the characteristics on it. From there you can take it to brick and mortar jewelry stores to pick out a setting for the stone. Be sure to visit several to make sure you are getting the best deal.

Price on the Tag

Did you know the average mark-up for a diamond ring is 300%? So even when jewelers advertise 50 percent off deals, they are still making 150% profit. That’s why you should never be afraid to negotiate for a lower price.

It doesn’t matter if you are buying from a jewelry store at the mall or an independent store; all stores mark-up their wares outrageously. Sometimes independent jewelers have more leeway to offer discounts because they are not controlled by corporations and have less red tape.

Ask for a discount if you agree to come back later to purchase wedding bands. The more business you promise them, the more likely they are to cut you a deal. And because credit card merchant fees are so high, some stores will give you a discount if you pay in cash.

In the case of a diamond, knowledge can be the difference between over paying and getting a great deal. Putting a price tag on love is hard, and it often causes us to overspend. But paying more than you have to is crazy, maybe that’s where the saying “crazy in love” comes from.

Keeping Money in Your Pocket,

Nancy Patterson

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