Almost everything is available to buy online these days, from groceries and razor blades to flights into outer space. It should come as no surprise that buying even something as personal and unique as a diamond has become an increasingly popular online shopping experience for many.
As we all become more comfortable with shopping online, and with the potential pitfalls associated with it, it is important to understand that buying a diamond isn’t exactly like buying a pair of shoes.
With that in mind, we’ll take a look at some of the basic considerations when buying a diamond online, offer a few tips on the best way to find a great deal, and take a quick look at a few of the most reputable sellers.
Tip 1: Learn the Diamond Basics: The 4 C’s
All diamond shopping should start with an education, and online shopping is no exception. Be sure to do your homework and understand what is meant when you read about a diamond’s color, cut, clarity, and carat weight—the famous “4 C’s.”
Simply put, color is a measure of the diamond’s variance from perfectly colorless; a diamond’s cut determines proportion and symmetry, which affect brilliance and fire; clarity is a measure of the number, size, and nature of inclusions, or slight imperfections; and carat weight is the actual weight of the diamond itself.
Any diamond shopping should begin with a good understanding of how these categories affect the overall look of the diamond, and which factors are most important to you as an individual shopper.
Tip 2: Understanding Diamond Grading Reports
In order to effectively compare diamonds when shopping online, you’ll need to understand a bit about diamond grading reports. Diamond grading reports (or certificates) are issued from gemological labs, and they detail the results of scientific analyses of the stones.
This kind of independent, objective, third party assessment of the 4Cs is crucial to knowing the quality of the diamond you are buying. Unfortunately, not all gemological labs are created equally. Not all the labs use the same scales, or even the same standards of quality.
The Gemological Institute of America, the GIA, is the leading gemological lab in the world. Their grading reports are well respected, and they grade diamonds to the highest standards. The GIA rates color on a scale that runs from alphabetically in descending order from D to Z, with D indicating a colorless stone, the most desirable.
The clarity scale runs from Flawless to Included 3, with the following terms applied in descending order of quality: Internally Flawless (IF), Very Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2), Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS 2), Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2), and Included (I1, I2, and I3). The cut scale is used only on round brilliant diamonds, and runs from Excellent to Very Good, Good, Fair, and Poor.
The American Gemological Society, (AGS), is also widely respected for its ethical standards and consistency, but they use a grading metric for color cut and clarity that runs in descending order from 0 to 10, with 0 indicating the highest quality. You’ll need to do a little homework to accurately compare diamonds rated by these two labs. For instance, a diamond rated VS1 for clarity and G in color by the GIA would be rated 3 in clarity and 1.5 in color by the AGS.
There are two other labs that regularly issue grading reports, the European Gemological Laboratory (EGL), and the International Gemological Institute, (IGI), but the reports these labs offer are simply not of the same quality as the GIA or the AGS reports. IGI and EGL reports are consistently more lenient, and can sometimes be a full grade higher than AGS or GIA reports on the same stone.
While you can compare one IGI report to another IGI report, comparing an AGS or GIA report to an IGI report can be misleading. Make sure you know which lab is responsible for the diamond’s grading report, and evaluate it accordingly. For more information, check out our article: Understanding Diamond Grading Reports.
Tip 3: Make Sure You Know the Specifics About Individual Stones
When buying a diamond online, the precise quality of the stone you’re buying is only as good as the information offered about it. Because small changes in diamond grades can greatly affect value, it’s important to know the specific grade for color, clarity and carat weight.
Some retailers will offer their diamonds within a range of these categories, and as a result, you won’t know exactly what you’re buying. Insist on exact grades for color, clarity, and carat weight, and never buy diamonds advertised to fall “within a range” of grades. You’re most likely to wind up with stone that falls somewhere near the bottom of that range. Get more information in our article: Understanding Popular Diamond Cuts.
Tip 4: Verify the Diamond Grading Report with the Laboratory
All of the major gemological labs offer services that allow the buyer to verify the grading report before purchase. These simple to use online systems allow the buyer to submit the grading report number to the appropriate laboratory, confirming that the diamond in the online description matches the information stored at the laboratory.
Tip 5: Consider the Source (Diamond Retailers)
By considering the source, we’re thinking of the seller, not the actual diamond mine. You can do more than look into the seller’s reputation by looking for reviews, and customer satisfaction surveys.
Consider how long the company has been in business, and what sorts of trade associations it might belong to. Trade associations often have professional and ethical guidelines that members must adhere to. A quick google search can reveal quite a bit about the company.
Also look into where the online retailer is located. For retailers in the United States, buyers have certain protections through organizations like the Federal Trade Commission, the Jeweler’s Vigilance Committee, and the Better Business Bureau. Buyers should beware of out-of-country online retailers as they are not necessarily covered by the same regulations, and legal recourse can be difficult or impossible.
Tip 6: Make Sure Your Diamond Payment is Secured
Verify that any payment option you use is through a secured transaction. If the seller accepts credit cards through their own website, make sure that the payment process happens on an https:// URL, a secured and encrypted version of http://. You can also look for safety seals from VeriSign or Symantec SSL.
Tip 7: Check the Return Policy for Your Diamond
Inquiring about the seller’s return policy is a must. Most online retailers will provide a minimum of a 14 day money back guarantee. Any online diamond seller that doesn’t have a reasonable return policy should be a red flag warning. Be certain you understand the entire return process as well. Which shippers are used? Do you have to pay for return shipping? How about insurance? Never ship a diamond without insurance.
Tip 8: Watch Out For Hidden Fees When Buying Your Diamond
Finally, be aware of hidden fees, like additional handling fees and fees for certificates. Shipping fees can be hefty, especially for more valuable diamonds, so make sure you understand what is included in the purchase price. All shipping fees should be for fully insured shipping, with no exceptions.
Tip 9: Check for a Diamond Laser Inscription
For even more confidence in the diamond you’re buying, find out if it has its grading report number laser inscribed on its girdle. Laser inscription is clearly visible under 10x magnification, using a simple jeweler’s loupe, and is often added to a diamond before it is first sold.
The unique number will match the grading report, further confirming that the diamond available for purchase is the actual diamond described in online marketing. Also, once you have the diamond in hand, you may wish to have it appraised by an independent appraiser to confirm that the seller’s description of the diamond matches the grading report and other paperwork.
With all these tips for buying a diamond online in place, let’s take a quick look at a few of the best online retailers, and how they compare.
Buying a Diamond at Tiffany & Co.
Tiffany & Co. may be the most famous bricks-and-mortar storefront when it comes to diamonds, but buying a diamond online from the storied business can also be a good option for many. What you should expect when buying Tiffany is that you will pay more for the exact same diamond than it would cost at Blue Nile or Costco.
Where’s the bargain there? In the brand name itself. As long as the diamond from Tiffany remains in its Tiffany & Co. stamped and serial numbered setting, it will always be worth more than the non-branded, generic diamond. Its resale price will be based on its original Tiffany & Co retail price, and not just the price of the generic diamond.
Another advantage to having a Tiffany & Co. diamond is that it will always be easier to resell to a private buyer through a site like eBay, especially if you have the original receipt, Certificate of Authenticity, and the original box. Buyers are assured of the quality of the stone thanks to Tiffany & Co.’s solid brand reputation. A diamond from Blue Nile or Costco may be nearly identical to the Tiffany stone, but without the Tiffany brand name behind it, it will never retain as much value as the Tiffany diamond.
Buying a Diamond Ring at Costco
One of the best values in online diamond engagement ring shopping is undoubtedly Costco. As the definitive wholesale retailer, Costco has established a reputation for deep discounts and great value. In a test run by Good Morning America, a diamond from Costco was appraised as undervalued by 17%, whereas a similar diamond at Tiffany & Co was found to be overpriced by 58%!
Though Costco has one of the best return policies in the business, many of their diamonds come with IGI lab reports, so customers should be aware when comparing Costco diamonds to others. That said, no matter the lab report, Costco consistently delivers great value. Their diamonds are never overpriced, so that even with the more lenient grading of the IGI, buyers can be assured that they’re getting at least what they pay for.
Buying a Diamond Engagement Ring at Blue Nile
Blue Nile is the largest internet diamond retailer on the market, known for their vast selection of diamond engagement rings and an even bigger selection of loose diamonds, all available at competitive prices. With no storefront, they have been able to keep prices down due to limited overhead. Blue Nile has a good reputation for customer service, and a simple return policy that includes a self-addressed mailing label on the invoice, making Blue Nile arguably the best online shopping experience available.
The prices at Blue Nile may be a bit higher than Costco, but they use only GIA and AGS lab reports—the best in the industry—so the quality of the diamonds they sell is beyond question. Perhaps the best feature of Blue Nile is simply the selection of loose diamonds. For those looking to spend the majority of their budget on the stone and not the setting, Blue Nile offers the best quality and most seamless shopping experience for loose diamonds anywhere, with the best value assured.
For information on how to buy a diamond engagement ring when shopping on a budget, read our article: Affordable Engagement Ring Ideas.
How to Sell Your Diamond & Engagement Ring
If you own a large carat diamond ring that you would like to sell for a fair and substantial cash offer, contact Diamond Estate Jewelry Buyers today. We are widely recognized as the best place to sell a diamond in the country, and our diamond buyers specialize in diamond engagement rings with appraisal values into the five and six figures.