Diamond in the rough
November 14, 2006 5:37 AM   Subscribe

I have to start looking for a diamond engagement ring. I am getting a lot of conflicting information on the best means of finding and buying a ring. Some people in Bermuda are telling me they have found the best deals in Bermuda. Others are saying to go to BlueNile.com. And others are telling me to go to Diamond City in NYC, etc. etc. So......where should I get the diamond, where should I get the band, or should I get them together? I don't mind traveling if I have to. Help me topple the DeBeers monopoly while at the same time making Rachel very happy.
posted by jasondigitized to Shopping (30 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Topple DeBeers by buying estate jewelry.

I have been happy with Nelson Rarities in Portland, Maine. The have estate jewelry from all kinds of eras, and are knowledgeable, artisticly informed and honest. They have a great inventory, too, which, of course, varies. Best of all, you are not filling the coffers of the evil diamond industry!


There are probably other places similar to this, of course, but these guys rock. (I have no affiliation other than 'happy customer' status.)

posted by FauxScot at 6:05 AM on November 14, 2006

Me and my wife got our wedding bands in the Diamond District of New York, at this place on 47th (the name is a good sign), just off 6th. It's a collection of booths and stalls inside so comparison shopping is easy and these guys love to haggle. There's several other places just like it nearby.
posted by jonmc at 6:06 AM on November 14, 2006

I will related experience from friends who told me they had terrible problems with authenticty, they were sold something looking very much a diamond by a jeweler, turns out it was not whay they paid for, even if still a diamond.

Could be an insolated instance ,tho. Depending on how much money you are going to spend, I wouldn't try to save much, rather I would go to a place that is VERY reputable and very well extablished for many many years.

Or maybe skip the diamond idea altogheter and getting something less precious, as my wild guess is she is after the engagement ring, not the diamond on it.
posted by elpapacito at 6:08 AM on November 14, 2006

Or maybe skip the diamond idea altogheter and getting something less precious, as my wild guess is she is after the engagement ring, not the diamond on it.

I am a guy, but I get the feeling girls love their diamonds.

As far as where to get a ring, I would get recommendations from friends, where they bought and where they were satisfied with the service. I had no clue and so went shopping with a friend. I ended up purchasing at a medium-sized establishment that appeared sincere in their business. The salespeople were friendly and not at all pushy. So if you find salespeople are not friendly and/or pushy, find another place you are more comfortable with.

There is a national organization that "verifies" the authenticity of the diamond, and its rating. Each diamond is rated as to it's four "C's". You can look this up online, or any good store will tell you about it too. Go to several stores before you pick a store you like.

I wouldn't go to a booth in a mall. Remember, you will want to have a place you can return to for ring resizing, cleaning, etc.
posted by cahlers at 6:19 AM on November 14, 2006

I went the BlueNile.com route and could not be happier.
posted by photodegas at 6:31 AM on November 14, 2006

Blue Nile is a highly regarded site for buying diamonds, but for estate jewelry I recommend Topazery.com or a trip to Royal Street in New Orleans. (I'd link to the site of the store, Wellington & Co, where I got my wedding band, but the site seems to be down.)
posted by pyjammy at 6:53 AM on November 14, 2006

I had an amazing experience buying from exceldiamonds.com, which is the online store of a jewler located in the diamond district in NYC. It was a little cheaper than a comparable diamond on bluenile.com and WAY cheaper than any store I visited. I'm sure other online stores are good as well, but I had a great experience with exceldiamonds and recommend them without hesitation. I even called Barry (the guy who owns the shop) and spoke with him a couple times and he answered all my questions without ever pressuring me to buy at all.

Three pieces of advice:
1. Do your homework. Learn as much as you can stand about the diamond certification standards and the 4 Cs. It won't take long and you'll soon feel comfortable enough to recognize value and quality.

2. Don't buy anything in a store. You'll overpay. A lot.

3. Given the choice between a huge rock and a smaller, high quality diamond, take the high quality every time. I did and haven't regretted it even for a moment.
posted by jtfowl0 at 7:07 AM on November 14, 2006


They say best place for diamonds.

Same quality as Tiffany at less than hald the price. No pretty blue box tho.

BUT it's Costco - a blue company that actually pays it's employees well!
posted by beccaj at 7:12 AM on November 14, 2006

What about buying a Canadian diamond? They're mined and cut in an ethical manner by Canadians. The cutters are native Inuit trained by Russian Master Cutters. It's an alternative to DeBeers.

Good Luck!
posted by LunaticFringe at 7:18 AM on November 14, 2006

My husband went through Washington Diamond, and bought a loose Canadian diamond. They were absolutely wonderful to work with when we went back to pick out wedding bands, and he says they were great with him, even when he changed the setting at the last minute. They were willing to teach us about diamonds and they gave us a great price. I don't think we overpaid. Couldn't be happier.

Washington Diamond
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:23 AM on November 14, 2006

So, the question you really have to ask yourself, is what kind of diamond do you want? Do you want to buy into DeBeers' idea that it has to be a mined diamond that they can charge you an insane amount of money for? You can now purchase lab grown diamonds that will be more perfect than any mined diamond you can find and it is a fraction of the price. These aren't fake diamonds, they are real diamonds grown in a lab. Take a look here.
posted by chrisroberts at 7:34 AM on November 14, 2006

Best answer: the question is about diamonds so here's my diamond answer.

the great thing about the diamond district in NYC is that, like jonmc mentioned, they have giant rooms filled with little booths that do great work. You can walk from booth to booth and get the best deal you can. And you will get get good deals there. The quality is just as good as any name brand and you get more control about what you want.

Bluenile is a good baseline for what a diamond should cost. Find out the kind of diamond you want and the price range and take that to a store. DO NOT GO TO A MALL STORE - those places are utter crap. Once you find a jeweler, talk to them. They should be able to tell you where the diamonds are from, what different cuts mean, what the color ratings mean, etc etc. The little booths want to make a sale so feel free to haggle. The worse they can say is no.

So my advice is to check on the diamond district in nyc. You should be able to get a great deal there and get awesome workmanship and service. However, you might not be able to buy the ring right off the shelf from these places (if you are looking for a complete ring). It will probably take time for the piece of jewelry to be made. If you're in a rush, be aware that some places might not be able to suit your needs especially if you are requesting a weird ring size.
posted by Stynxno at 7:37 AM on November 14, 2006

chrisroberts, those aren't diamonds, those are (I'm guessing) moissanite - silicon carbide - or perhaps cubic zirconia. Take a look at Gemesis or Apollo for a lab-grown synthetic that is chemically/physically identical to diamond.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 7:51 AM on November 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

The Wired Magazine article "The New Diamond Age" is a few years old now but would make interesting background reading - particularly if you think that a high quality diamond must necessarily be natural these days.
posted by rongorongo at 7:52 AM on November 14, 2006

OK, a few suggestions-

As others have said, make sure your fiancee to be wants a diamond. My (now) wife didn't, and I got her a lovely sapphire ring (see part 3 below).

OK, good- now that you've established she wants a diamond, you have a few choices to make, and they depend on knowing her very well, which we here on AskMe obviously don't.

1. Is she one of those people who has dreamed of a little blue Tiffany & Co. box all her life? If so, then you don't really have a choice, but your problem is solved.

2. Otherwise, does she want a fairly conventional (diamond solitaire or similar) ring? If so, Costco really is the way to get a lot of ring for your money and a nice guarantee. If you dislike Costco, I've had friends who were happy with BlueNile, but Costco has a pretty great assortment and is a good company to work with in general.

3. Is she unique? One-of-a-kind? Would she want a equally one-of-a-kind ring? If so, get thee to a jewelery designer. The best way to do this is either ask around (I have a recommendation for an outstanding designer if you don't mind doing things by FedEx instead of in person; anyone can feel free to email me for the recommendation) or look around and see whose aesthetic you (and more importantly, your fiancee-to-be!) like. Then, talk to them and figure out the design for Rachel's ring. If you're unsure as to what she would like, consider asking her friends who know her taste very well, but be careful; a friend of mine asked the wrong friend and got recommendations for hideous and gaud art deco rings. Fortunately, he knew better than to take that advice.

If you need more suggestions, feel free to email.
posted by JMOZ at 8:09 AM on November 14, 2006

I've weighed in on the diamond vs. no diamond issue before, so I won't here. I will point out that the grading agency mentioned above is probably the GIA. A reputable dealer should be able to provide you with a GIA report on any stone you might want to buy, or give you a guarantee that the stone will grade at what he is selling it as or better if you get a GIA report yourself. That is, he will tell you the clarity, color and carat weight (and cut) of the stone and he should tell you he will refund your money if the GIA doesn't confirm that. As a novice there is no way you can tell the difference between, for example, and E and F color or VVS1 and IF clarity stone, though the price difference can be enormous.

As others have said, if you want to stick it to DeBeers (and you should) buying estate is the way to go, at which point the stone quality will matter less, though you still may want a GIA report for your own purposes.
posted by The Bellman at 8:16 AM on November 14, 2006

Bah. Thanks for the correct linkage Dipsomaniac. Guess I should read a little closer to the sites I link to.
posted by chrisroberts at 8:25 AM on November 14, 2006

One addition to the Wired article link. Gemesis was the company that they were writing about. They are now knocking out some rather beautiful looking yellow diamonds - guaranteed laboratory grown. They mention some resellers. This would be another way of toppling DeBeers if you are interested.
posted by rongorongo at 8:42 AM on November 14, 2006

For reading up on diamond essentials, Pricescope has interesting forums in which a lot of diamond professionals seem to participate.
posted by ubu at 8:58 AM on November 14, 2006

I second Costco.

Learn how to judge diamonds for youself, as much as you can, then evaluate the diamond you intend to buy yourself. Yeah, it takes years to become a professional appraiser, and all that, but learning a few key points can really help.

Also: Diamonds made using chemical vapor deposition and Gemesis stones.
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 9:10 AM on November 14, 2006

Mod note: question is about buying a diamond, please take ZOMG DIAMONZ talk to metatlk or email
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:56 AM on November 14, 2006

I wouldn't go to a booth in a mall. Remember, you will want to have a place you can return to for ring resizing, cleaning, etc.

Mall stores do all of that.

DO NOT GO TO A MALL STORE - those places are utter crap.
posted by Stynxno

You couldn't be more wrong. I wouldn't go to a mall store either. You pay a premium. But there are very reputable companies that in fact work out of a mall. As long as the diamond is graded, you'll know if it's crap or not. It makes no difference if you get it in the diamond district of ny (which isn't a choice anyway for many people) or not. A graded diamond is a graded diamond. It's the price that changes.

And if she has her heart on a little blue box with a red ribbon, getting a diamond from the ny city diamond district is getting her crap.
posted by justgary at 10:15 AM on November 14, 2006

A graded diamond is a graded diamond. It's the price that changes.

Exactly- so why would you go to a place that's going to cost you a fortune? My sister just got engaged; her fiance went to Zales. He paid 1k for a little below 1/2 kt in 18k White Gold. For that price, he could've gotten a lot more somewhere else. (I, of course, will keep that thought to myself come Christmas time).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:31 AM on November 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

Engagement rings are such a personal thing... it all depends what you mean by "getting the best deal." Is the size of the diamond the most important thing to your girlfriend? If you're looking to maximize size, something like the diamond district in NYC where you can buy the diamond and setting separately is probably your best bet. If you just want a really nice ring and size is less important to her, someplace like Tiffany's really is going to get you a better quality setting/band (visually, really, they just look better (at least I think so)).

So I guess my answer is just that you know your girlfriend's taste, so go to wherever seems to give you the best value on whatever's important to her.
posted by rachelv at 10:46 AM on November 14, 2006

Going against tradition here, but what I recommend is giving her a "trinket" ring, and letting her pick her own jewelery. I would have been really annoyed by some huge sticking up rock setting that are the common ring of the trophy wife. I work with my hands every day, and I need practical rings that don't get caught on stuff or snag things.

Also, I'm super opposed to diamonds. I don't really need to wear the blood wages of a child to prove that my husband loves me, ya know? (I have a diamond, but it's an estate diamond that was reset by my jewelry designer into a setting that works for me. I would have been just as happy with an emerald or sapphire, to be honest.)

Mefites seem to attract brilliant, talented and creative partners. If the "asking" is going to be a surprise, I really recommend finding a trinket, and asking her to go along to pick the style/size/rock for the ring she's going to wear for the rest of her life.
posted by dejah420 at 11:32 AM on November 14, 2006

buy in a classy and reputable auction. get a stylish period piece. you'll be bidding against dealers and serious collectors, but, thinking ahead to the greatgreatgreat grandchildren, the ring will more likely hold its value.
posted by londongeezer at 11:38 AM on November 14, 2006

I bought a (non engagement) ring at zales factory outlet and was very happy with the purchase.

when you are buying in such a store, make sure you sign up first at their website and get like a 20% off coupon- also make asure they offer a money back guarantee.
posted by Izzmeister at 12:47 PM on November 14, 2006

If you do get to NYC for the diamond district, shoot me an email. I've never ring-shopped myself, but one of my best friends has a great connection in the DD. Basically his wife picked out what she wanted at Tiffany's, and he was able to get essentially the same ring for oodles less through his guy. Don't want to say much more than that on the green (don't worry, its completely legit), but my email is in my profile.
posted by allkindsoftime at 4:21 PM on November 14, 2006

I bought a diamond pendant in Dubai. Very good value. No taxes. Horrified (in a good way) by the difference in what I paid for it and what the insurance company valued it at when I got back to Australia. The difference nearly covered an airfare from Dubai to Australia - return.
posted by dantodd at 8:13 PM on November 14, 2006

A recommendation re: buying both rings at once - if the engagement ring has a wedding band to "match", and that's the direction you guys want to go, either buy it now or make double-dog sure you have the info you need to get it later. We were engaged for almost 3 years before marrying, and luckily ersatzjef never cleans out his wallet - he had to dig out the business card with the style number and information for the wedding band to match the engagement ring, both of which had been discontinued. The jewelry store had to have one made by the designer.
posted by ersatzkat at 9:24 AM on November 15, 2006

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