Gimme the rock, I'm taking it to the hoop!
November 5, 2005 8:45 PM   Subscribe

Experiences buying an engagement ring from some guy in the jewelry district? And some other related questions...

I have been advised to avoid regular retail stores and head down to a wholesaler. Anyone have any further advice here? I live in LA - I saw the thread from a while ago reccomending a jeweler in the Valley, and I will likely check that place out. Other local reccomendations are more than welcome. This is a semi-secret from my girlfriend, though I know she wants to get married. So any clever ways to divine her ring size are also appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Shopping (15 answers total)
Ask her mom what size she wore when she was your girlfriend's age. Barring that, a jeweler should be able to get you a ballpark number from her height and weight. Any place that's worth patronizing will let you swap out sizes later if it isn't perfect.
posted by salad spork at 9:07 PM on November 5, 2005

My suggestion is that with a diamond, size is the most important characteristic. Once you leave the jeweler, no one will ever look at that stone with a loope again. All that VVS stuff is a crock of sh*t. A full carat gets it noticed forever more .

If she wears other rings, swipe one of those and trace the interior on a piece of paper. Bring that to the jeweler.
posted by Argyle at 9:34 PM on November 5, 2005

Try eBay. I'm serious, there are legitimate jewelry sellers with 100% positive feedback (with hundreds of customers). I got my engagement ring from this guy. He's out of the jewelry district in NYC, so you wont be able to go to his store, but I talked with him over the phone, and he does custom work too.
posted by thewittyname at 11:07 PM on November 5, 2005

It's more difficult to ensure that you get a good selection of diamonds untainted by slavery if you go on spec. Often they have to order in a good range of blood-free diamonds. It can be best to call ahead. If you care about this issue, ensure you get a legit certificate of origin.
posted by meehawl at 7:11 AM on November 6, 2005

I'm recently married and found a great jewler in Santa Monica, Bubar's . William Bubar, the owner, is incredibly helpful without being pushy or overselling. He did a great job resetting some of my grandmother's stones and also making wedding rings from scratch, all at a great price.

One thing I liked about using a jewler that is close by was being able to go back and forth easily. Before making each ring, he showed me the wax models with the stones in them and it was a useful step. Also, picking up and resizing was a snap.

I did horribly at guessing my wife's ring size, her hands are way smaller than I would have guessed, I think I was off by almost three whole ring sizes. She didn't wear rings much, so I sneaked the one she did have laying around and it turns out that the ring loosely fit on her middle finger.

If your girlfriend wears rings, I would suggest trying to take one in or at least measuring the inside diameter.

If you have any specific questions about Mr Bubar, you can email me, address in profile.

If you do go see Mr Bubar, tell him that Jonah sent you. I don't think he will give you an special treatment or anything, he treats everyone very well. The reason why I ended up going to him is that a while back I was searching for something for my then girlfriend and Mr Bubar treated me great, even though I didn't end up buying anything.
posted by jonah at 8:04 AM on November 6, 2005

I worked as a trade journalist in the jewelry industry for many years, with much of that time spent covering the diamond business. From what I learned, I would never buy a diamond from a retailer. Graded diamonds are commodities and there is no need to pay retail price. Online vendors can offer certified diamonds which are EXACTLY the same as the stones you buy in a shop for a much better price.

If you're buying a diamond, you really need to educate yourself first. Take a few days to study the material and decide which criteria you value. There are plenty of education sources online. This is a good article from the Gemological Institute of America.

Online diamond merchants usually offer loose stones or completed rings. If this were my ring, I'd buy a loose stone and have a local jeweler mount it. That way I get the great price on the stone and can personally ensure the setting turns out the way I like it. Another advantage to using a local jeweler to mount your stone is that you can sort out any sizing problems as mentioned by jonah above.

To find the diamond I would visit several offline diamond dealers and look over their stones (do not buy a diamond that has already been mounted, you cannot tell its true quality that way), decide which qualities are important to me and which I can compromise on, then find a stone with those exact specs online.

Although I never purchased diamonds from either, I have personal experience with two online vendors (here and here) and I would buy from whichever offered the best deal. (Disclosure: I was once employed by this vendor.) Both have been in business for several years and are well established. There are other diamond vendors online. I have no experience with these.

If you choose to buy offline, then (in America) the LA or NYC jewelry districts are your best bet. I personally cannot reccomend any dealers in either city.

Having said all this I personally believe that diamonds are a scam. The reality of the diamond marketing industry is well documented with the best text on the subject this article originally published in the Atlantic.

"Blood-free" diamonds do exist but they are almost impossible to identify. Diamonds do not have DNA and the industry is so sleazy that many stones called blood-free are actually rocks unearthed by child slaves in Angola and smuggled out in exchange for weapons. The only way to know for certain where a particular diamond comes from is to dig it out of the earth yourself.
posted by soiled cowboy at 9:14 AM on November 6, 2005

The only way to know for certain where a particular diamond comes from is to dig it out of the earth yourself

What about real Canadian stones?
posted by meehawl at 10:40 AM on November 6, 2005

I did horribly at guessing my wife's ring size

Me too (and I even had her sister help). In retrospect, I wish I'd ignored the whole subject and just bought it as is (which turned out to be just about right), going back to alter if needed. In the event, we wound up going back and making the poor guy undo most of the work he'd done trying to get it to the imaginary size in the first place. It's really not that important that it fit perfectly; if she likes it and you, that's all that matters. The rest can be taken care of later.
posted by languagehat at 11:11 AM on November 6, 2005

Ring size is usually the same as shoe size. I have no idea why this is true, but I learned from the daughter of a jeweler and we tested the theory at a party once (about 25 people, only two were different and then only by one size). YMMV of course.
posted by cali at 11:46 AM on November 6, 2005

What about real Canadian stones?

The Canadian mining firm would have to be selling the stones direct to consumer. The level of flim-flammery in the business makes most other distribution routes suspect.
posted by soiled cowboy at 1:35 PM on November 6, 2005

Some Canadian stones are marked as such
posted by jb at 5:16 PM on November 6, 2005

we started ringshopping with a friend's jeweller-dad's wholesale guy in NYC's diamond district. To study up on the wholesale market, I sprung a couple hundred bucks for the latest issue of the Rapaport Diamond Report, the industry standard pricing guide.

But then we started getting concerned about the whole blood diamond thing, which was really breaking at the time (y2k), so we opted for buying a certified vintage diamond from an auction instead. [Both major auction houses have several large jewelry auctions/year; there must be other reputable ones, too]

Net net, we picked a ring that we liked, I went to bid on it. The auction turned out to be almost all diamond dealers and a few casual retail customers. On less design-y pieces, the dealers would invariably bid right up to the Rapaport numbers, then the room'd go dead. I ended up getting the ring we wanted at one bidding increment (100? 250? I forget) over the wholesalers I was bidding against, but still <5 0% the retail price for an equivalent new, blood-soaked>
Another vintage option is to go for an older cut, like an Old Mine cut. These stones are less brilliant (fewer facets) but more distinctive. Dealers usually recut them into smaller, flashier, more expensive stones, so if size matters, you can buy more carat for your $ than with a modern cut. Of course, the blood on those stones is probably from King Leopold's Congo or something, so it may be a tossup.
posted by gregorg at 5:18 PM on November 6, 2005


Seriously, the diamond-obsessed consumers there will help you get all your questions answered.
posted by lalalana at 5:37 PM on November 6, 2005

There's even less point repeating a link four times when you screw it up each time.
posted by languagehat at 7:38 AM on November 7, 2005

The Canadian mining firm would have to be selling the stones direct to consumer

I specified Canadian with laser etching ID tag through Blue Nile, and later had it examined by a jeweller to check the authenticity and that the tag matched the mine stock spec'd on the certificate. It did.
posted by meehawl at 9:49 AM on November 7, 2005

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