May 23, 2017

Diamond District: What You Must Know Before Shopping

Read more about Diamonds

Don't shop the Diamond District until you know these terms. They could prevent a scam.

Research is the key to success with diamond shopping. This is true whether you shop at the local mall or the diamond district. Start with the 4 C's, which you can read about in this article. Then research the stores within the district.

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Finally, read on to learn the lingo you may hear. Some terms are good, while others rope you into a scam. It's about much more than the cut, color, clarity, and carat. Before you fall for schlock (junk), read on to learn more.

Don't Fall for Color Scams

If you're looking for a yellow diamond, you can easily be duped on the color. Who wouldn't fall for a slick salesman selling a beautiful canary diamond?

Yellow diamonds (commonly called canaries) are naturally colored and are rarer than white (or colorless) diamonds. They're known as a fancy-color diamond. But watch out: not all yellow-colored diamonds are canaries. In fact, it may not even be a true fancy-color diamond.

Yellow diamonds are graded as follows:

  • Fancy Light Yellow
  • Fancy Yellow
  • Fancy Intense Yellow (at this grade, the diamond is nicknamed as a canary diamond because of the very intense color)
  • Fancy Vivid Yellow (this is even rarer and has a very high price premium)

But be aware: You may know that colorless diamonds are graded from D to Z. The lower you go means that the diamond has more of a yellow tint (that turns brown as you get to Z). A sneaky salesman may try to sell you a low-colored diamond and say it's a Fancy Light Yellow diamond.

You may hear the term "fancy" and be fooled into thinking it's a rarer yellow diamond, when it's really a low-colored white diamond. This makes for an easy scam.

A Colorful History

Every diamond has a history. In the diamond district, some have a longer and more colorful history than others. Don't assume your diamond came right from within the Earth, though. Check out some of the unbelievable histories of the district's diamonds.

If you want a brand new diamond, don't fall for the back alley diamond. These are diamonds sold on the secondary market. In other words - someone else owned it. Maybe this doesn't bother you, but you should know its origination. Personally, I would want to know the history. For example, was it stolen? How many people owned it? These are just a few questions that pop into my head.

Another term you may hear is estate diamond. This word often conjures up thoughts of the deceased. It makes sense. We have estate sales when someone passes away. However, in the diamond district, estate just means the diamond was owned by someone else. It's just a fancier term for back alley diamond. However, there is nothing elegant about it. Maybe someone just called off their engagement last week and sold their diamond. It could also be the wedding ring of a 90-year-old woman who just passed away. You deserve to know the history.

Finding Magical Prices

Diamonds jump up in price significantly at certain carat weights. These are known as magic sizes.

The magic sizes are 0.5 carat, 0.75 carat, 1.00 carat, and every half and whole carat afterwards.

Take a look at this pricing example:

Screenshot from James Allen Website

As you can see, a 0.5 carat diamond is almost twice the price of a 0.4 carat. It again doubles when you go up to .75 and then again at 1 carat. That price increase is exponential.

A good trick to get more value for your money is to look for diamond sizes just under these magic numbers. A 0.90-carat diamond can cost as much as $1,000 less than a 1-carat diamond. Visually, with all other factors being equal, you wouldn't notice much. For the eye to notice a real size difference, the diamonds need to be about 20% apart in size.

Tip: If you want to know the starting price for price negotiations, you want to ask "What is the rap?" You are asking what the Rapaport Listing Price is at that time. This is the standard jewelry pricing for the industry. The report bases the prices on several factors, including the size, clarity, and color of the diamond. These prices change every Friday.

Keep in mind, though, diamond pricing involves many other factors. For example, cut grade isn't factored into this report at all, and that has a huge effect on cost. You can refer to this price as a starting point, but not as the final say.

We suggest you spend 15 minutes to read our in-depth guide about what affects diamond prices. We give you a lot of examples to show how much different factors can lower or raise the price.

Avoid Too Good to Be True Prices

Not all pricing is good in the district. You may be lured in by "50%" off sales or "today-only" deals, but never trust them. This is shady tactic to make customers think there is a special deal, when really, the seller just marked up the prices of his diamonds. You should never feel pressured to buy.

Also watch out for hawks while traveling the district. These so-called salespeople try to lure in you with special deals. Some may not sell diamonds directly, but try to convince you to visit a specific store. In exchange, the hawks get a small commission if you purchase the diamonds. The police are cracking down on these salespeople, but you will still find them throughout.

Watch for Optical Illusions

The bigger the better when it comes to diamonds, right? The diamond dealers know this. They know people want a large-looking stone at the best price.

That's why you must watch out for spread stones. This means it is cut shallower, with a larger width and smaller depth. A shallower cut makes it look bigger face-up - like an optical illusion.

These diamonds look much bigger than they weigh. A one-carat diamond may look like a 1ΒΌ-carat diamond just because it is spread. And most likely, it'll cost the same as another 1-carat diamond that's non-spread. So you think you're getting a great deal.

But watch out: diamonds that are cut too shallow won't properly return light to your eyes. They leak light out the bottom, so the diamond won't be as brilliant. So really, it just means poor cut. If you want quality, you want an ideal cut that will reflect as much light as possible. But the term "spread" sounds better than poor cut, right? Don't be fooled.

Know the Different Cuts

One of the 4 C's of diamond shopping is the cut. Cut is what determines how brilliant the diamond is. Luckily, you should be able to see the difference with your eyes.

You may hear the terms single cut or full cut. Single cut diamonds usually have 17 or 18 facets (as opposed to the normal 57 facets), so they are not nearly as brilliant. Small side diamonds (or melees) are often single cut, because they are too small, although there is a bigger demand for full precision cut melees now. If your center stone is single cut, though, you will notice a huge difference.

Also, don't be fooled by elegant sounding terms like "Old European cut" or "rose cut." These are all vintage cuts from old techniques. They have less facets and don't have the ideal proportions for maximum brilliance. Of course, if you enjoy the vintage, romantic look, and purposely want an antique-looking stone, then go for it by all means.

Tip: It's okay to have single cut melees because they're too small to have a visible difference. And you'll save a lot price-wise, too.

The Fake Diamonds

If you hear the term doublet, don't think you are getting something special. A doublet diamond is actually not a full diamond. Dealers glue the top of a "real" diamond to another stone (usually a cubic zirconia) to make it look whole.

This way the dealer can sell the "diamond" for much more than it is worth. You can look at the girdle of the diamond to tell. This is the line that divides the top and bottom of the diamond (the crown and pavilion). A distinct line will tell you that you have a doublet, although you usually need a jeweler's looking glass, or loupe, to see the difference.

The Exaggerated Grades

Grade bumping might sound like a good thing to a college student, but don't assume it is good in the diamond district. Many shady dealers will use this tactic to make you think you are getting a better diamond.

The Federal Trade Commission does legally allow jewelers to be off one grade with respect to color or clarity. This leaves room for error. This means a jeweler can sell a diamond as a VS2 G when it's really an SI1 H. That makes a huge difference in price. Some jewelers even bump it up by 2 grades, which allows them to sell the diamond for much more.

This is why you should never buy a diamond without a lab certificate. We only recommend getting a diamond certified by GIA or AGS. It is more expensive to obtain a report from these labs, but their grading requirement is the most consistent and stringent. Serious high-quality jewelers will know to only use them.

Artificially Improved Diamonds

You may hear the word "enhanced" and think it means the diamond is better. But they're really another knock to the quality. It means it's a low quality diamond that has been artificially improved, and is now selling at a higher price.

  • Clarity enhanced means the diamond's flaws have been manually removed. The most common method is the laser drill. It means the diamond had some type of flaw that the dealer drilled out. The laser drill literally drills a hole into the diamond. This makes the dark impurity disappear. However, this may make the diamond weaker. And of course, the more holes there are, the weaker the structure.

  • Color enhanced diamonds use a high temperature, high pressure (HTHP) treatment to make a yellow/brown diamond white. Again, this makes the diamond more brittle. And you're paying more for a low-quality diamond.

The Federal Trade Commission requires that any artificial enhancements be disclosed on the report. This is another reason why we only recommend GIA or AGS certified diamonds. The report will tell you if the diamond has been laser drilled or color enhanced.


About a third of all diamonds have natural fluorescence. This is when the diamond has a blue glow under UV light. It could be from a slight blue glow to very strong. Usually, fluorescence has a negative stigma (as it can make a diamond appear hazy), but sometimes, a diamond with fluorescence has a beautiful blueish tint and can appear even whiter.

The term "blue white" used to be for high-quality colorless (D,E,F) diamonds with strong blue fluorescence and no negative effect on appearance. These were very desirable and sold at a premium. It was thought that the blue fluorescence made an icy-white diamond even whiter and more beautiful.

However, many diamond retailers started using this term to sell their low-quality diamonds with fluorescence. Because of the wide misuse, this term has technically been banned. But a shady jeweler could still try to tell you that a diamond is "blue white" and make it sound more special.

There is nothing wrong with fluorescence as long as it doesn't make the diamond cloudy. And there is usually even a small discount for diamonds with fluorescence. If you don't mind this effect, just make sure you examine the diamond in different lighting conditions (away from the bright store spotlights!) and see if you notice any cloudiness.

And if you're specifically looking for a stone without fluorescence, ask the jeweler to view the stone under UV light.

Protect Yourself: Avoiding the Switcheroo

So you have waded through all this tricky lingo and potential scams and actually found the perfect diamond at the Diamond District. Congrats! You have also picked the setting and just need to pick up the finished ring later.

Wait, not so fast. Before you lay down any money, you need to take steps to protect yourself.

You see, an untrustworthy jeweler could switch that perfect diamond you picked for a lesser quality one (as the average person will not be able to tell the difference, especially if it's set in a pretty ring). And you will have no proof, unless you are smart enough to get it beforehand.

It's very important to get the 4 C's (carat, clarity, color, and cut) in writing, as well as any other features such as fluorescence. Even better, ask if the jeweler can go over the diamond's flaws with you and plot them on a clarity plot. This acts as a "fingerprint" of the diamond. This way, when you go back to pick up the finished ring, you can have the jeweler examine the diamond with you again, and match up the flaws. If a jeweler refuses to do this, then don't do any business with him/her.

The Bottom Line

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Know your stuff before you hit the district. Make sure you learn about the 4C's and other factors that affect diamond pricing. Doing business with a store that has a good relationship with its diamond dealers provides the best results. You want the most bang for your buck, but you don't want to sacrifice quality. Dealers with a good eye and stores with good business sense provide the best deals.

If at any point the deal feels like a scam, don't do it. There are hundreds of other stores to shop in the district. This lingo should give you the confidence necessary to make a good deal on a diamond worth your money. Happy shopping.

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Best Place to Buy Engagement Ring Online


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