Bahamian professionals offer tips for buying diamonds
WHAT-TO-DO NASSAU, CABLE BEACH, PARADISE ISLAND - JULY 2006 EDITION
Judging the value of a diamond is no job for an amateur. Unless you’re a trained gemologist, you probably can’t tell the difference between a superior stone and an inferior one.
Fortunately, expert help is available in the long-established jewellery stores and boutiques along Bay St in downtown Nassau in The Bahamas. The owners are unanimous in advising prospective buyers to beware of cut-rate prices.
You can find cheap diamonds at many places today, including on the Internet – in fact, about 450 diamond engagement rings are sold every day on eBay, according to some published reports.
No doubt some of these are first-rate stones but, “You get what you pay for,” warns the International School of Gemology. According to that prestigious authority, “Most of the diamonds that big discount stores are selling would have been used for saw blades a few years ago. Now they are in jewellery.”
Georgia Russell of Crown Jewellers and The Diamond Store on Bay St advises buyers to deal with reputable jewellers. Only a professional can explain why two seemingly similar stones can have different prices. A minor blemish can drastically cut the value of a diamond. Russell’s advice is to think first about how much you want to spend, and look for a diamond that “fits within your budget.” Then rely on an expert to help you select the best gem for the money in your price range.
Jewellers also urge customers to ask for a Diamond Grading Certificate, which describes the quality of the stone you buy – a document to keep among your important papers. And buyers are warned against certificates that display the word “sample.”
Diamonds are crystals, formed deep within the earth – perhaps 60 miles deep – where high temperatures and enormous pressure transform soft carbon into the hardest natural objects known to man. Then they’re forced up toward the surface in kimberlite pipes (an igneous rock formation). Most of the world’s diamonds come from Africa, but they have been discovered elsewhere, especially and most recently in Canada’s far north.
All diamonds are valuable, says Russell, but each one is unique and each one is graded to reflect its individual value, according to four standards.
FOUR CS OF VALUATION
Diamonds are valued on what the professionals call the four Cs – carat weight, clarity, colour and cut.
• Carat weight – diamonds are weighed in carats with one carat equal to 1⁄5th of a gram. There are 100 points in a single carat, so a 25-point diamond is 1⁄4 of a carat. All other factors being equal, larger stones are more valuable than smaller ones.
• Clarity – the location, type and number of inclusions (interior flaws) and blemishes (surface flaws) help define a diamond’s clarity. There are several grading scales, but the one used by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) is probably the best known. The GIA scale has 11 grades. The greater the clarity, the more valuable the stone.
• Colour – the GIA colour rating evaluates the colour of a diamond from D (colourless) to Z (light yellow or brown). Generally, a colourless diamond is more valuable than a lightly coloured one, however, brightly coloured stones may be worth more. Yellow is the most common colour other than colourless. Other colours – red, blue and green – are extremely rare and command high prices.
• Cut – the GIA cut scale ranges from excellent to poor and evaluates several characteristics including brightness, fire and scintillation. According to the GIA, a polished diamond’s beauty lies in its complex relationship with light; how light strikes the surface, how much enters the diamond, and how, and in what form, light returns to your eye.
For a more detailed explanation of the four Cs, check the GIA website at http://howtobuyadiamond.gia.edu.
Indira Rolle, promotions manager with Jeweler’s Warehouse, says the cut of a diamond is the one C that is most influenced by man – the others are dictated by nature.
“Cut is the most important factor in the overall appearance of a diamond,” she says. “It will dramatically influence its fire and sparkle, for it’s the cutter’s skill that releases its beauty.”
CONFLICT AND DUTY FREE
Conscientious diamond buyers are insisting that stones come with a fifth C designation, known as “conflict free.”
This term was coined to identify legal stones and to stem the flow of illegal gems from Africa – that is, diamonds appropriated by rebels in war-torn countries in order to buy weapons.
“As far as I know, only conflict-free diamonds are being sold in The Bahamas,” says Russell. Since there is no way to distinguish a legal diamond from an illegal one by looking at it, however, careful buyers should once again deal only with reputable dealers who can offer the conflict-free assurance, as well as certified quality at a fair price.
In The Bahamas, diamonds are sold duty free, which means you can save a bundle over stateside prices. There are no hidden sales taxes or extra charges, so the price you see is the price you pay, however, you may have to pay a duty when taking the stones into your home country. Russell points out that “loose diamonds are duty free going into the United States.”
ADVICE FROM THE EXPERTS
When comparing diamonds, buyers should compare stones with the same carat, clarity, colour and cut ratings.
“The most common mistake is that people confuse weight with quality,” says Tyrone Saunders, owner of the Diamonds Forever shop in downtown Nassau. But bigger is not always best.
Saunders encourages buyers to concentrate on colour and clarity, rather than size, before making a final decision. In the long run, the higher quality diamond will be the better investment, he says, even if the stone is smaller than a cheaper one.
Recognizing that diamonds are a serious investment, Saunders encourages his customers to have an ID marker etched into their new acquisition.
Etching is relatively new. You can have your name or another identifying mark microscopically etched into the stone. This doesn’t affect its quality but, should the diamond be lost or stolen, the etching will identify it unmistakably as yours. Saunders says it’s impossible to remove an etching without damaging the diamond.
Disclaimer: The information in this article/release was accurate at
press time; however, we suggest you confirm all details and prices
directly with vendors.