Ring Bling
October 26, 2009 4:27 PM   Subscribe

Buying antique diamond engagement ring, appraisal or just go with it?

I am engaged, I asked, she said yes. We are buying a ring together. We went to 2 jewelers to look around and nothing really had much of a soul.. it was kind of like tell us how much $$$ you have, and we will give you as big a hunk of carbon as you can afford, down to the dollar. We didnt find anything either of us liked.

We went to an antique jewelery shop in beverly hills and found something we really like... according to the owner it is platinum and edwardian, early 1900s. A unique design, lots of very nice filegree work with a bombe shape and 5 smallish diamonds set down the middle. We were both drawn to it immediately, and I think it is perfect.

Now, the problem, how do I know I am not getting ripped off here?

The good points:

1. This is a reputable store in beverly hills, there are famous people who get jewelery from here to wear for events, they have an armed guard, the whole bit, so its not like buying from some random guy from ebay or in an antique show... I feel like anything I am going to buy from here is legit.

2. This piece is one of the cheapest pieces in the store... we looked at many other things first that were 4-5 times as expensive and were kind of surprised when we heard the price for this ring (we were about to leave, everything else was way out of our price range), although it is not nearly as bling as the others. This for some reason makes me feel less like he is trying to rip me off, its small potatoes for him and not worth any ding to his reputation if he somehow misrepresented his inventory.

I am taking this guy at his word that this is an antique ring, that it is platinum, that the diamonds are real ect. We looked at rings for a whole day and you can tell that this one was crafted really well compared to many others... it is very sparkly, I cant see any imperfections with my naked eye.

OK bottom line, I like the ring, I have a good vibe from the owner and establishment, I negotiated the price down about 15% by paying cash, it is right at the $$ amount I want to spend. Should I just bite the bullet or should I be cautious and hire some 3rd party to verify everything and give me an estimate? I dont know anyone who knows anything about rocks.

posted by outsider to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (15 answers total)
if you chose the ring for beauty and not as a status symbol, then i wouldn't get it appraised.
posted by nadawi at 4:30 PM on October 26, 2009

Response by poster: that is another point nadawi.. I kind of know going in to this that any $$ I spend on a diamond is basically gone... not something I can resell for anything near the money I spent.
posted by outsider at 4:36 PM on October 26, 2009

I would get it appraised for insurance purposes and just to make sure you're getting what you paid for. Genuine antique, Edwardian platinum diamond rings are very, very rare and a lot of times the shop owner won't even know it's a skillful copy.
posted by Issithe at 4:41 PM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

Buy an electronic diamond tester. You're gonna have to have the balls to walk into the shop and ask to use it though. Unless there are alarm bells going off in your head I'd take them at their word.
posted by fire&wings at 4:44 PM on October 26, 2009

You don't need to buy a tester for this (although they can be handy to have). Just walk in and ask them to test it.
posted by jgirl at 4:48 PM on October 26, 2009

Even reputable jewelers have been known to rip off people (there's a well known case here in Australia, for instance), so my feeling is that buying jewelery is always a little bit of a gamble, unless you know your stuff about jewelery. So I say just go for it.

You could always ask if they provide some kind of statement, certificate or guarantee of quality with the ring. If they don't, this question is at least likely to have the owner want to prove the ring is worth the money in one way or another. This will probably give you some peace of mind, at any rate.
posted by Effigy2000 at 5:06 PM on October 26, 2009

I'd ask them if you can have an independent appraisal. I can't imagine a reputable establishment could possibly object, if for no other reason than you'll want to have it insured.

And I say go with your heart. I gave my wife a hundred year old, very unique ring. She loves it and gets complimented on it all the time...not that I'm saying that's important to her or anything like that.

I know you lurk here sometimes, honey.
posted by JaredSeth at 5:12 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Now, the problem, how do I know I am not getting ripped off here?

Do you like the ring enough that you're willing to pay the asking price for it? If so, then you're not getting ripped off. If not, then don't buy it.

The appraised value of an engagement ring is irrelevant to what it's worth to YOU. It may be worth more or less to you than its book value, but you are buying something explicitly for its sentimental value, not its book value.
posted by dersins at 5:14 PM on October 26, 2009

Of course you should get it appraised. No offense intended, but would you buy a home without an inspection, a used car without a mechanic looking at it first? A reputable jeweler should be able to supply a detailed statement of the stone measurements, quality, and size (you can do a very good approximation of these things when stones are mounted).

Also, unless there is a hallmark that shows specifically that the ring is platinum (marked PLAT), the jeweler should either have an appraisal for the ring that shows it is indeed platinum, or should have tested it.

If they have no paperwork and have done no testing or measurements on their own, ask if you can leave a license and credit card with them and then have it independently appraised by a qualified jeweler , preferably a Graduate Gemologist. You'll need an appraisal for insurance purposes if you buy it, anyway.
posted by Flakypastry at 5:22 PM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

Congratulations on your engagement! Edwardian platinum diamond rings aren't particularly rare, at least around Washington, D.C. And, generally, these vintage diamond rings are considerably less expensive---and much more beautiful---than contemporary rings you would find at chain jewelry stores. They are also one hell of a lot less expensive than diamond rings at, say, Tiffany & Co., and they really do have more character. Contemporary jewelry can be quite cold looking, imho.

Whatever diamond you buy, the money is gone unless you're making a very large (and, imho, very crappy) investment. Since you're choosing an antique ring that is one of the least expensive in the store, I don't think that's the case. You really shouldn't think of the ring as an as something redeemable for cash. This is a token and a pledge of love and as such is priceless.

So, buy the ring that your fiancee loves to wear and look at and get all romantic inside thinking about you etc. If the store is reputable, the diamond is real. It is probably even an old rose cut or mine cut stone. Nobody would bother faking those old cuts on cubic zirconia or moissanite. Also, diamonds aren't particularly rare. If the ring has other stones, particularly colored stones, they could be paste, but generally they're tiny or baguettes, and that doesn't really matter. If the diamond in the older ring sparkles, it's real.

Don't overthink this or be too wary. Enjoy!
posted by WyoWhy at 5:51 PM on October 26, 2009

Get it appraised for insurance purposes, and might as well do it before you buy it. Get it appraised to avoid (greater) heartbreak if it is lost, stolen, or damaged.
posted by titanium_geek at 6:19 PM on October 26, 2009

As an appraiser, I would also ask for an outside appraisal, or at least a check to be CERTAIN that the jewel IS a diamond instead of paste, that the metal IS platinum.

Ask the dealer if they have an appraisal or could recommend someone to you to appraise the ring, or can test the stone and/or metal for you. If the dealer has documentation that satisfies your mind that the item IS as represented, then that is fine for now. Ask about their return or guarantee policies, and make sure you can and do meet your responsibilities in it.

Testing the stone is a simple procedure, there is a machine that can test it without damaging it at all, it just has a probe that touches the stone. The metal is tested usually with an acid, and may have marks on the inside from previous metal testing. One or two such marks, which may look like a pin mark, are ok, but a lot of them may give questions!

Are there maker's marks or hallmarks on the item? That can also give you an idea of the quality. If it's Tiffany, then I'd feel fairly confident that I was getting what I was told, but if it says Coro or Trifari, I'd be laughing and saying no!

Of course, if the stone IS glass, and CAN be attributed to George Strass, it could be worth WAY more than a similar diamond! LOL!

I think I know the BUILDING that the dealer is in, the dealers are for the most part genuine and honest, and have been there for many years. Some of them do have some gorgeous things!

Congrats on not only your engagement, but also finding a special ring that will please you both, that is a MAJOR accomplishment! It sounds beautiful, and will only increase in value through time!
posted by Jinx of the 2nd Law at 9:07 PM on October 26, 2009

The only reason to get it appraised is for insurance purposes. But a simple photograph and receipt from the reputable store might suffice for that.

If it is beautiful and you can afford it, I wouldn't bother to get it appraised. You won't be able to sell it for anything close to the appraised value anyway, and of course you don't want to.
posted by alms at 9:11 PM on October 26, 2009

FYI: I'm pretty sure you'll want/have to get it appraised for insurance purposes.
posted by chunking express at 9:07 AM on October 27, 2009

You also might want to purposefully look into antique copies. Old gold and platinum can be less durable than new rings. I made the mistake of getting my wife an antique white gold setting and it broke several times before we gave up and sold it for scrap and had a new setting made for her.
posted by TruthAboutDiamonds at 2:45 AM on November 2, 2009

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