How to Buy a Diamond: Avoiding Common Pitfalls

Purchasing a diamond is a significant investment, and being well-informed can help you avoid common pitfalls and deceptive practices. Here are key areas to be aware of to ensure you get the value and quality you expect.

Misgrading: Beware of Overstated Quality

Many diamond dealers use the grading terminology established by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). However, not all dealers grade their diamonds accurately. Some unscrupulous dealers may intentionally overstate the quality of their diamonds, claiming higher grades than what the diamonds actually possess. Others might lack the expertise to grade accurately, resulting in unintentional misrepresentation.

How to Protect Yourself:

  • Insist on Certification: Ensure the diamond comes with a certification from a reputable laboratory such as GIA or the American Gem Society (AGS).
  • Get a Second Opinion: Consider having the diamond evaluated by an independent gemologist before finalizing your purchase.

Treated Diamonds: Know the Facts

Diamonds can be artificially treated to enhance their appearance and hide imperfections. Common treatments include:

  • Dyeing: Adding color to mask imperfections.
  • Coating: Applying a thin film to improve color.
  • Laser Drilling: Using lasers to remove inclusions.
  • Fracture Filling: Filling cracks with a glass-like substance.

These treatments are often not permanent, and sellers might not disclose them, leading to overpayment for lower-quality diamonds.

How to Protect Yourself:

  • Ask Directly: Inquire if the diamond has undergone any treatments.
  • Verify with Certification: Check the diamond’s certification report for treatment disclosures.
  • Seek Professional Advice: Have the diamond examined by an independent expert if you suspect it has been treated.

Under-Carating: Understand True Weight

Some advertisements for diamond jewelry can be misleading, especially those promoting “one-carat total weight” or “half-carat engagement rings.” “Total weight” refers to the combined weight of all diamonds in the piece, not just the main stone, which can be deceptive.

How to Protect Yourself:

  • Clarify Weight Details: Ask for the exact weight of the center stone and each individual diamond.
  • Verify with Certification: Ensure the certification specifies the carat weight of the main diamond separately from the total carat weight.

False Pricing: Avoid Inflated Discounts

Some dealers inflate their prices significantly so they can offer large, misleading discounts (e.g., “50% OFF!”). This practice makes it seem like you’re getting a great deal when, in reality, you might be paying more than the fair market value.

How to Protect Yourself:

  • Do Your Research: Compare prices from multiple reputable sources to understand the fair market value.
  • Question High Discounts: Be skeptical of large discounts and verify the original price.

Diamond Appraisals: Ensure Independence

Appraisals are essential for verifying the value of your diamond, especially for insurance purposes. However, there are no strict regulations on who can appraise diamonds, leading to potential conflicts of interest.

How to Protect Yourself:

  • Seek Independent Appraisers: Choose an appraiser who is not affiliated with the jewelry seller.
  • Check Credentials: Ensure the appraiser has recognized certifications and credentials, such as those from the American Society of Appraisers (ASA) or the National Association of Jewelry Appraisers (NAJA).

Summary: Making an Informed Purchase

Buying a diamond requires careful consideration and due diligence. By understanding common pitfalls such as misgrading, treated diamonds, under-carating, false pricing, and the importance of independent appraisals, you can make a more informed and confident purchase. Always insist on reputable certifications, seek independent evaluations, and conduct thorough research to ensure you receive the quality and value you deserve.