Given that a company like Samuel Jewelers was recently caught allegedly selling synthetic diamonds as natural stones locally in retail stores, it is fair to ask if buying diamonds online is safe. Also, if it is safe to buy diamonds online, what are the best ways to go about it, and what factors should one consider?
This article will explain:
- how to buy diamonds online safely
- what are some of the ways to verify if an online business is legitimate
- the seven factors about diamonds important in determining price and overall brilliance
- the four scenarios that people often consider while deciding how to prioritize the 4Cs of a diamond.
Before answering these questions, it is essential to note that most diamond companies (online or retail) work with a network of diamond dealers worldwide and do not own the stones listed on their websites. Instead, they are intermediaries between you and the dealer. Once they sell a diamond to you, they ask the dealer to send it to them, following which it is passed on to you. This is why you might find the same diamond on many different websites.
James Allen is an excellent resource that can significantly help compare loose diamonds and their prices and view them at 40X magnification to identify the locations of inclusions. The website has always been the cutting-edge of the best internet technology for diamonds.
Answer to the First Question
Yes, it is entirely safe to buy diamonds online. One of the largest online retailers, James Allen, was recently sold for $328 million. On the surface, it might look like just a website, but it is a comprehensive corporation on the backend. If it was not safe to buy diamonds online and James Allen did not have a large volume of transactions, why would Signet buy it for that amount?
The online diamond industry has revolutionized the diamond trade. In the past, local retailers would rip off customers because they were unaware of how to compare diamond prices due to the lack of access to any source for reference. Today, buyers can easily compare diamond prices on 4 to 5 websites and have a good idea of how much a diamond is worth in a given range, say a Round cut diamond, VS1, F Color, GIA Graded, Excellent Cut, and with No Fluorescence.
After over a decade of experience in the diamond and fine jewelry industries, here are some of the most important words of wisdom that we can share with you to consider while shopping for a diamond:
- Lifetime warranties and lifetime upgrade policies are worth an additional 5% of the price, but most reputable online brands have the best prices in any case. Your jewelry will need servicing (stones will fall off, and resizing/polishing must be done after a while), and unestablished brands are not equipped to provide long-term service even if they commit to you (you must ask: would they be around after a year?). What if you need to upgrade to a bigger stone after a few years? Would they offer you fair terms to upgrade? This is why sites like James Allen might be your best bet in the long run.
- Even if unestablished brands offer you a return policy, they might not have the cash flow to pay your money back on time. Make sure the beautiful experience of buying a diamond or engagement ring is not turned into a nightmare and that a comprehensive return policy covers you.
- As demonstrated in the Samuel Jewelers' case, all sorts of games are being played by jewelers to sell you inferior and fake stones. To safeguard against such games, buying from a reputable site is recommended. James Allen's brand value is $300+ million; a site like this has every reason to sell you what they claim to protect their brand name.
- Finally, we cannot emphasize the importance of proper diamond certification enough. We strongly recommend GIA and AGS as the best labs. If you are in the market for an AGS Ideal Cut diamond, we recommend Brian Gavin Diamonds. Brian is a 5th-generation diamond cutter, and the diamond trade is more than a business to him. These are the kinds of folks you want to deal with if you want your experience to be pleasant with a jeweler you can rely on in the long term.
The important question is how to buy a diamond online safely and which merchants to trust and which ones not to trust.
Paying attention to seven factors while shopping for diamonds online is crucial. They will be explained in the subsequent factors, but let us discuss some important methods that can help you determine whether an online business is safe. These methods can help you assess any online business, not just jewelry.
How can an online business be a legitimate and legally approved entity?
Check website security:
The first fundamental element to look for in a website is a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate or inscription. As shown below, it is either a green https or a lock sign next to the website's domain name. The domain should state https, not http, especially on the checkout page. While anyone can get an SSL certificate, it is still essential for the security of your credit card information. It encrypts your credit card information so that it cannot be stolen by the vendor or anyone else as you enter it into the website's order page.
Do they Accept Credit Cards and PayPal?
If the website accepts credit cards and PayPal and has legitimate business bank accounts for wire transfers, it is a helpful indicator that the business is legitimate. No bank in the U.S. would issue business bank accounts without verifying a business's proper identity and documentation. Notably, the U.S. government treats diamond dealers like banks. Therefore, they must institute comprehensive anti-money laundering (AML) programs, which banks must verify before approving their business accounts.
Some folks may still trick banks. If you are still unsure about a business and cannot help the deal they are offering you, go with PayPal as it will give you money-back guarantee protection if something goes south.
Who are they affiliated with?
The third element is the website's affiliation with third parties, such as the Better Business Bureau. To qualify for BBB, you must have one year of industry-specific experience and business registration documents. While vendors have to pay a monthly fee to remain accredited, it is still a fantastic verification tool for buyers because it shows that the seller is serious about their reputation and is also committed to high-quality customer service, especially if they do not have many negative reviews online.
The Art of Telling Bogus Reviews from Good Ones!
Reading reviews is the most critical factor. However, while doing so, you must keep the following three points in mind:
- These days, service providers can get you bogus reviews. Therefore, to verify legitimate reviews, look at reviews on multiple platforms, like Google, BBB, Yelp, Facebook, and industry-specific review sites, like wedding wire, or third-party marketplaces, such as Amazon/Etsy, if they sell products there.
- Look at the date range of the reviews. It may be more helpful to see 30 positive reviews of a vendor over three years than 100 reviews in one or two months. The primary question to ask is how long they remain consistent in their customer service.
Finally, make sure you review their policies and feel comfortable with the terms of the sale.
The Seven Factors that we should consider while shopping for a diamond online:
While shopping for a diamond online is safe, it can only be a sound idea if you fully know what you are doing. The good news is that the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) has made our life easy by introducing a standard method for assessing the quality of a diamond. It can help us determine the prices of diamonds because they have become a commodity.
The industry's standard is called the 4Cs: Carat weight, Cut, Color, and Clarity. In addition, we also use three other vital factors in determining the price of a diamond. These are the shape of a diamond, the presence of fluorescence, and how it is graded or certified by a third party.
The shape of the diamond affects the price simply because certain shapes require bigger rough diamonds than others and look visibly larger. For example, a well-cut round-shaped diamond is usually 6.5 millimeters in overall diameter when cut and polished, whereas a square princess cut would be 5.5.mm. We have developed comprehensive guidelines for each shape of a diamond. Please refer to them for reference.
The carat weight of a diamond is straightforward; the larger the stone, the more expensive it is. However, the prices of diamonds jump significantly as they get more prominent because of the scarcity element. For example, a 2-carat stone is much scarcer than a 1-carat stone, implying that the former will be two times the price of the latter.
The cut of a diamond is significant because it determines the level of brilliance and fire. Unfortunately, stones are often badly cut due to the poor skills of the cutter, but in other instances, dealers will purposefully cut stones deep to save rough diamonds and sell you a 1-carat stone that should be 0.8 carats if cut well.
White Diamonds with no color are preferred over ones with a yellow tint. Therefore, the absence of color gives a diamond a higher value. D-F color range diamonds are considered colorless, while G-J is near-colorless, followed by other color ranges until Z. D is the highest color grade. G is an excellent color grade for maximizing quality and size. Colors up to I or J are still good for maximizing the budget.
Clarity is also essential in a diamond as it examines the level of inclusions, such as black carbons or crystals. Clarity ranges from Flawless and Internally Flawless (FL/IF) to Very Very Slightly Included 1/2 (VVS1/VVS2), Very Slightly Included 1/2 (VS1/VS2), Slightly Included 1/2 (SI1/SI2), and Included 1-3 (I1-3). FL and VVS ranges are considered extremely high quality. VS ranges are also eye-clean and beautiful diamonds. SI1/2 are excellent budget options and can often be eye-clean, depending on the type and location of inclusions.
Fluorescence in a diamond can rarely affect its appearance (making it hazy or oily) but is not often a negative factor. Fluorescence can make yellowish diamonds (H and above color) appear whiter because of its blue color, which is complementary to white. However, it is generally considered a negative factor, especially in the D-G color range, and can affect the price of a diamond. Please refer to our guidelines on fluorescence for reference.
Now you must be wondering how grading/certification affects a diamond's price. Firstly, it costs money, and a dealer must wait for a month or two for a lab like GIA to grade a diamond. The cost for grading is naturally added to the final value of the stone. Secondly, since some labs are not as consistent/strict as GIA, dealers will sometimes grade their diamonds by them to get better results and offer higher prices. However, you are not getting better prices, but inferior diamonds graded higher than their actual quality. We recommend always going with GIA, though the American Gem Society Labs (AGSL) can also be a decent lab if you find a good deal.
Finally, when shopping for a diamond, one of the most challenging questions for you is how to decide which C of the 4Cs to compromise on and how to pick the suitable stone.
There are four scenarios that we have seen people consider over the last 10+ years:
Scenario 1 – The buyer will only care about the highest quality of the 4Cs (what they consider investment grade). An example for this range would be FL-VVS1 Range, D-E Color, GIA/AGS Graded, Excellent/Ideal Cut, and No Fluorescence. If you can afford it, it is a fantastic option.
Scenario 2 – Buyer would maximize budget and still get the best looking stone—quality is still a preference. So, they would go for something like an F/G color, VS1-SI1 clarity, No to Faint Fluorescence, GIA/AGS graded, and Excellent to Very Good Cut with great proportions. (Such stones are our ideal choice because they are in high circulation and easy to resale).
Scenario 3 – The buyer wants to get the largest possible stone but within a good color, clarity, and cut range. Hence, they would go for a larger SI1-SI2 diamond (preferably eye clean), H-J color, Medium to Strong Blue Fluorescence, GIA/AGS graded (IGI/HRD would be fine too), and Good to Excellent Cut as long as the stone still has good brilliance and fire.
Scenario 4 – Buyers in this category do not mind overly compromising on one of the 4Cs to get a big stone. Here, we often recommend compromising on the color so you can still get a clean stone with optimal brilliance. To make the best choice, you should look for an L-Z stone with VV/VS clarity, medium to strong fluorescence, and a good cut to get the most fire and sparkle out of it.
To conclude, yes, it is safe to buy diamonds online. However, you should ascertain that you buy a GIA or AGS-graded diamond from a reputable site. A firm return policy and a long-term commitment from the jeweler are also critical.
Contact Sharif through our home page for assistance and guidance if you need further advice or help in finding a diamond.