Engagement Ethics Optimization: Estate Jewelry / MYOR
March 30, 2008 10:41 AM   Subscribe

Buying an engagement ring. Advice wanted on a) Estate Jewelry: recommendations on how to buy & not get ripped off. b) Make-your-own-ring workshops: how to get a good used diamond. c) recommendations for both of the above in the LA / SoCal area.

My sweetie wants a diamond ring for her engagement. I want to give her one. I would like to avoid Tifffany, Big Box stores and even (gasp) Blue Nile. I'd either like to make my own ring or buy her an unusual used one.

I'd like to either

i) Buy her Estate Jewelry: it's more unique, doesn't contribute significantly to the demand for new diamonds, and considering the value of diamonds drops precipitously after being used, should provide a good deal.

How do I get a good deal? How do I avoid being ripped off? Does anyone have any good recommendations from PERSONAL experience in Southern California with used/estate jewelry?


ii) There are workshops (in SF and NYC) where you can craft your own engagement ring with your own hands: they provide eco-gold and tuition and you provide the stone.
Does anyone know whether there is a similar person/organization who runs a workshop like this in SoCal? (google fails me on this count)? How would I go about buying a used diamond for this process?

I have seen the many questions on AskMe before, but none address the points above. Please: no all diamonds are evil spiels. No non-diamond gems. No new natural diamonds. If anyone can show me white synthetic diamonds that are indistinguishable from the natural stuff, go right ahead. I know her ring size and I know her taste: we've looked at rings together & have pictures of ones she likes.

I've made my peace with buying some compressed carbon. I just want to perform an optimization on the nature of the transaction to maximize my ethics within the framework of buying a Rock.
posted by lalochezia to Shopping (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I have a vintage engagement ring that my husband bought at a jewelry shop that specializes in estate/vintage pieces (in NorCal) though so I can't help with a recommendation). But the jewelry shop was totally fine with my husband taking the ring to a jeweler near by for an appraisal and an assessment of the ring's condition. You should be sure to do this, too.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 11:41 AM on March 30, 2008

any reputable dealer should be fine with an independant appraisal. so there's a good tell right there, if they say "no" then move on.
- FWIW, there are new processes for growing gem-quality diamonds in the lab, but they haven't really hit the market yet. if you are concerned about the ethics of the gem trade, you can buy one that came from canada. alot of people don't realise that africa is not the only major source in the world.
posted by swbarrett at 3:12 PM on March 30, 2008

Best answer: I bought an engagement ring from Antiquarius in LA in December (on Beverly near Robertson). They have a variety of estate jewelry sellers and the prices seemed okay - not much more than what you'd pay for a replica. And best of all, the GF loves it!

An independent appraisal was also provided and overall we had a very good experience.
posted by guruguy9 at 6:19 PM on March 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Along the lines of swbarrett's comment, gemesis is one of the places that does gem diamonds in the lab. It doesn't seem they have a southern cal store, but one of the options is an online place.

(Plus if you get a blue one it's a semiconductor, and that's just cool.)
posted by nat at 7:22 PM on March 30, 2008

Best answer: What nat said is correct, though technically, ALL diamonds are semiconductors. The color determines the impurities, which correspond to "dopants" in the semiconductor world. Gemesis is a good object for a lab-made diamond. I don't know if Apollo Diamonds are yet selling jewelery stones, though some googling is (1) sure to help and (2) likely to turn up the fascinating Wired article, "The Diamond Age." Lab-made diamonds are "real" diamonds, just like things that came from the ground. They are only distinguishable with extremely specialized equipment. The reason they're distinguishable is they're generally much MORE perfect than dug-up diamonds.

I'm not really knowledgeable on the specifics options you laid out, but they seem like good choices. A few thoughts:

1) If you're buying a loose stone, be sure to get an evaluation (GIA or similar). This is easy to do for a loose stone but not possible once it's been set.

2) Make sure you know your fiancee-to-be's tastes; an antique ring that's not her style (or a "homemade" ring that looks a bit too homemade would not be good choices. If this ring is no surprise (as it sounds like it isn't), show her pictures of a variety of rings and gauge her reaction to each.

3) Ask around and get references for antiques. Definitely get an appraisal, but keep in mind that appraisals are almost always significantly higher than the purchase price.

4) If you decide to make it yourself, keep in mind that making unique jewelery isn't necessarily easy, and you want to make sure you'll end up with a finished product you like. Also, definitely get a knowledgeable jeweler to "check your work" to make sure the stone won't fall out.

5) If you decide you'd prefer to design something but have a pro make it (or, work out a design for a custom ring in collaboration with a pro), I would HIGHLY recommend the designer/jeweler who made my wife's (sapphire) engagement ring and our wedding bands. Her name is Lisa Krikawa, and her business (now somewhat bigger than when we purchased, but still seemingly small) is www.krikawa.com. If nothing else, looking around her website might give you some unique ideas.

6) This is the most important: Remember that the ring is a symbol and isn't what's truly important. The thought you're putting into this is a good sign, as it suggests you really care what your fiancee things. But, the thing she loves is you, not the ring.

Anything else, feel free to MeMail me again. Also, kudos on MeMailing me and (presumably) the other people who are usually active on the subject to get our replies.
posted by JMOZ at 12:59 PM on April 1, 2008

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