Firstly, and most importantly, choose a diamond because you absolutely love it and not as a statistical exercise. Often in the shop, customers who first come in have become so boggled by the four C's and making comparisons, that they have forgotten they're buying the most significant (and probably most costly) item of jewellery they'll ever purchase. Every diamond on earth is unique, however as with everything else in life, there's a whole spectrum of quality and value out there, so it's important to be familiar with the 'four C's'.
Cut, Colour, Clarity and Carat are all equally important factors when when purchasing loose diamonds and each variable can affect the price you will pay for the diamond. So, some homework required -but not a degree!
Many of our customers are often quick to get up to speed on the Colour and Clarity as the driving force behind their choice of diamond, however for me, the most important aspect of any diamond has to be the cut. The cut of your diamond is the only element that is not determined by nature, but by man, during the process of cutting and polishing the stone. At the most basic level, we all want a diamond to sparkle, and this is where a very good or excellent cut comes into play. Too deep or too shallow and the light won't reflect as well, making all the other characteristics, such as clarity, obsolete. So make sure you pay attention to the cut of your diamond. Whilst I'd advise an open mind on clarity, the cut is one aspect of your purchase where there should be little or no compromise. As with all of the four C's, the details will be available on the diamond certificate, so just ask to see it and pay attention to the polish and symmetry.
Ironically the most rare and valuable colours D, E and F, are in fact deemed 'colourless'. When I'm grading loose diamonds, the colour at the top end of the spectrum is always the most tricky and when showing loose diamonds to customers, I often differentiate them for comparison by asking, which looks 'brightest?'. Unless specific colours are requested, in store, we stock colours from D-H (D being the top banana). If you have budget in mind, and want my advice, then colour is the more visible aspect of the diamond than clarity, as it's an area where you really can see a difference, so try and stay somewhere at the top of the table if you can!
Here's where my opinion might be a bit provocative, as honestly, I think people can get overly hung up about the clarity of a diamond. Now, i'm not suggesting that everyone is wasting their money by wanting internally flawless diamonds, as who wouldn't want perfection, but it comes at a price, so be prepared for that. We always encourage customers to have a look at their diamond through the jeweller's loupe, as it can be really interesting to see where the naturally occurring inclusions are and also allow you to make decisions based on the merits of an individual diamond, not the stats alone.
Of course, we don't advocate that you lump for anything that has black marks ( I1-3 - imperfect), as that's just a nasty stone, but there's a lot to be said for a good SI1, (some slight inclusions, but nothing visible to the naked eye). Obviously, if budget dictates, then naturally a clearer diamond will give you the best sparkle, so if you can, then yes go for a VS1/2 (very slight inclusions) or perhaps higher, but all i'm saying is - think about the variables and what is important to you.
The only caveat to my above advice comes when buying a less faceted shape, such as an Emerald Cut. Here you have a clearer cut of diamond, where inclusions stand a chance of really standing out, so don't be afraid to be picky, as a good jeweller will take you through all of this point by point.
The size of your diamond (if it's cut well), will depend on the carat weight. We divide a carat into 100 smaller units of measurement, called points, as the average customer may be buying a fraction of a carat, such as 50 points (0.50ct), being half a carat. By nature, quite a lot of ladies gravitate towards some of the larger stones we have in our counters, as certainly they can be pretty impressive, but don't forget size isn't everything!
The final consideration that I personally think is often overlooked, is the Diamond Certificate. All of the above points should be explained to you by the jeweller, and verified by an independent laboratory report. Well respected labs include the GIA, HRD, IGI and EGL, and certainly with any item of value,your insurer will certainly prefer a certificate for your purchase. Be wary of any salesperson pushing an 'in-house' certificate, as often this has not been undertaken by a qualified diamond grader, so is worthless and frankly annoying.
Last but not least, a couple of tips to ease your expedition.
- If the price of a loose diamond seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- If you are shopping for a diamond together, talk budgets before you leave the house! Nothing makes for a more uncomfortable experience than either a domestic, or a man with a financial meltdown.
- Consider as many different shapes and styles as you can. Don't be intimidated by pushy sales people, or feel you have to buy something on the spot. In our store, we will always have a loose diamond to fit with your hopes and dreams, and any item of jewellery can be made up to order.
- If you are brave person to choose a diamond as a surprise, then keep it simple. Do your big thinking in advance, what is his/ her fashion style, build and even job? Which ring is going to fit into their lifestyle?
- Go for timeless - it might be fashionable now -but will you still love it in 20 years...?
- Scary as it is - think ahead. Will the design you like work when it comes to wedding bands? Talk to the jeweller, and make sure if it's unusual, that there's an unusual wedding band to match!
That's it folks. My thoughts. Our advice is always free - so don't hesitate to pick up the phone, or come see us. We are always happy to help.