clicking before you start spending on color, clarity, cut and
carats. Not only can you get a sparkling education online, you can
By Jennifer Mulrean
Diamonds. Gold. Rubies. Emeralds. Name your fancy and
take your pick from seemingly hundreds of e-tailers eager to sate your every acquisitive
desire. The big names include Tiffany's, Mondera, Ashford and Blue Nile, but there's also a horde of
lesser-known sites vying for your
The wealth of choices can be daunting, but some
jewelry is especially well-suited to online shopping: Diamonds and,
to a lesser extent, precious metals such as gold and platinum are
generally priced according to widely accepted industry guidelines
for determining value, making it easier to compare prices and shop
with assurance. With this column, we'll search for the best deals on
Four C's add up to your
Diamonds a girl's best friend? I'm not so sure,
but the boy buying the baubles might have a best friend in the Net.
Here, novice jewelry shoppers can learn all they care to about the
Four 4 C's -- color, cut, clarity and carats -- and a crucial fifth
Gemological Institute of America (GIA), which devised the "Four C"
grading system, offers a free online course on how to buy a diamond.
It walks you through a mock purchase, explaining the grading system
as you go. Here are some of the basics:
Diamonds are generally graded on their lack of color and rated
from D to Z+, with D being colorless and Z+ being "fancy
Practically the Holy Grail in the jewelry world, the "ideal cut"
is said to produce maximum brilliance, though the exact dimensions
are widely debated. In general, cut refers not only to shape --
such as "marquise," or "round brilliant" -- but also to the
diamond's proportions, symmetry and "finish," which refers to the
precision of its cut and its polish.
The GIA scale ranges from F ("flawless") to I3 ("included," which
means the diamond has internal flaws that are obvious when
magnified 10 times.) The stones in the middle range -- from VVS1
to VS2 (diamonds whose internal blemishes are hard to spot at 10
times magnification) -- make up the bulk of the retail market,
according to the GIA.
This is probably the most well-known measure of a diamond's worth.
Carats measure weight. Because larger diamonds are more rare, buying two half-carat stones costs
less than a single one-carat diamond, all other ratings being
A diamond's cost depends on the combination of
its Four C ratings. So a 1-carat diamond can cost less than a
.75-carat diamond with higher color, cut and clarity ratings.
Finding the goods
When I first ran a quick shopping bot search for diamonds on MySimon, it turned up a number of offers from
Mondera, The Diamond Co. and Ashford, though search results will change over time. The most striking find -- for pure sticker shock
-- was a 6-carat diamond ring listed by Ashford for $129,000. Those with more limited funds can narrow the search to specific price
ranges or carat weight. This still leaves a fair amount of mousework, since you'll have to click through on
each offer to compare all the specifics of cut, clarity, etc.
When searching for a maximum
1.5-carat brilliant round diamond on MySimon, I found the best price from Ashford,
which had a 1.06-carat, color K (a distinctly yellowish tinge), VS2,
"ideal" cut diamond for $3,070 -- on sale from $4,060. Their most
basic platinum setting cost an additional $295, though even cheaper
yellow and white gold settings are available for $99 (Indeed, a
yellow gold band might be preferable if you were to go with a
K-colored stone). Similar searches on other shopping bots failed to
better this deal, though they're by no means comprehensive. I did
find a coupon code at iMegaDeals and FatWallet that could be used to offset the cost
of Ashford's settings by 15%.
As I've mentioned in previous DollarWise columns, shopping bots are great for
surfacing deals you may not find otherwise. In this case, I noticed
that Ashford's site has an "outlet" section with special deals,
which is where the above diamond was listed.
Getting closer to the
Another tactic is to simply type "wholesale
diamonds" into a major search engine. You can search by cut, price
range and carat weights at sites such as Diamonds on the Web,
American Diamond Wholesalers and Wholesale Diamonds, though these
last two are both divisions of American Diamond Group and seem to
offer the same inventory. McGivern Diamonds, based in Ohio , says it will beat
competitors' prices on similar stones, so it's worth checking here
before making your final purchase.
Diamonds USA is the U.S. sales arm of David Braverman diamond cutters in Israel
and offers "below wholesale" prices. Though I couldn't find a diamond with the same
combination of ratings as the one at Ashford, a 1.03-carat VS2, with a more expensive H color (a very slight tint) was selling for
$4,120. Also, all prices include shipping and handling and a complimentary 14K gold setting.
The Diamond Source USA is another cutter
that sells diamonds on the Net. Pricing is very straightforward. All diamonds with the same 4C ratings have the same price per carat.
Also, should you later decide you'd like to upgrade to a bigger or better diamond, they will credit you 90% of the purchase price of
your diamond toward the cost of your new one. (The original diamond must have also been purchased through them). The online price list
may not exactly match the available inventory, so you'll still need to contact a sales rep to find out what's in stock.
facets to consider
As with all purchases, going with a retailer you
already know may soothe your nerves, but you'll likely be paying for
the brand as well as the diamond. Going with a lesser-known retailer
or wholesaler, on the other hand, means it's important to research
the return policies.
MSN eShop's buyer's guide to diamonds
recommends buying only from sites where you have at least 30 days to
return the jewelry for full refund. McGivern Diamonds, for example, gives you only
seven days to make your return for a full refund.
As an added safety net, you may want to investigate your credit-card company's policy on
disputing purchases, should the jewelry never arrive or prove to be of lesser quality than expected.
And wherever you discover the elusive perfect stone, it's a good idea to get an independent appraisal before the return period expires.
To see the actual page on the MSN site, click the following link:
MSN Money central