We are asked this question about diamonds every day by wary clients who suspect that there has to be more to the online story than meets the eye. The answer to this questions is as frustrating for professional diamond buyers as it is for the online consumer.
Let’s start with a typical scenario to help us consider this question…
In this situation, I am a young consumer who has never purchased a diamond. Equipped with the best information the web has to offer about the 4Cs of diamonds, I go to today’s most prominent online diamond selling site to see what I can find. I am required to enter my preferences in the 4C categories of Carat weight, Clarity, Color and Cut in order to see what is available. If I search for only round diamonds and enter 1.00ct for weight, SI2 for clarity, H for color, and Very Good for Cut, then click “search,” my results today (1/28/16) are as follows:
Number of search results: 101 diamonds
4C characteristics: 1.00ct, SI2, H, Very Good cut
Prices: ranging from $3796 to $5993
That is over a $2000 spread for diamonds that should all be the same, right?
I realize that there must be other factors that affect the price. In order to use the advanced search options, I have to know more than just the 4Cs of diamonds. I must refine my search based on a range of possibilities in the areas of fluorescence, polish, symmetry, table percentage, and depth percentage. At this point, I must go back out on the web to search for more information regarding these criteria. The results vary and are somewhat subjective. Here is an example of what I find:
With such a wide range of possibilities, I do not know which criteria to choose. Further research shows that even the experts disagree on what combination of these advanced factors create the most beautiful diamond. This is frustrating for me! I decide that I might need to make some calls to find out if there is someone who knows more and would be willing to advise me about the prices I see. I look online, find a local diamond store with good customer service reviews and decide to make the call.
On the other side of this scenario is the professional diamond buyer with 3 times Malcolm Gladwells’ “10,000 hours” under his belt. If I am on this side of our story, I answer my phone several times a day to answer questions about diamonds.
In our story, I quickly realize that I am speaking to someone who is educated, has done good research, and already understands what can be gleaned online. I am being asked to quote diamond prices over the phone based on only part of the criteria that affect diamond prices. This is difficult for me! I want to help guide this person toward a good decision, but I cannot provide any real quality information unless I can actually show the subtle differences I am explaining. The price differences then become self evident.
The web cannot explain these differences because it cannot show two diamonds with matching certifications under real lighting conditions side-by-side. I cannot answer these questions over the phone for the same reasons. I can, however, show GIA certified diamonds in my store and reveal if they were graded by GIA labs in the United States or GIA labs in India where the standards are different, making the value look better than it really is. (The reason that GIA India isn’t allowed to grade diamonds larger than 1.99ct.) I can also show a diamond under different lighting so that you can know if it will look as beautiful outside as it does inside. I can demonstrate with a microscope how the internal characteristics of two diamonds with the same clarity can look completely different. Without showing these factors in person, a comparison of prices is really a dis-service to callers and allows them to possibly make an ill-informed and costly decision.
What they don’t realize is that when diamond cutters put their final price on their diamonds, the diamonds of like-certificates are lined up and priced within a range according to their beauty. More beautiful diamonds are priced higher than other diamonds with the exact same quality reports simply because they look better to the eye.
This is why there is a $2000 online spread today on the price range of diamonds with the exact same 4Cs.
My experience and reputation within my industry allows me to obtain and show my customers a selection of diamonds that will provide the best value for them. I can easily give them the knowledge and confidence they need to choose a diamond that they will be proud to give or to wear without ever wondering if they made the right choice. And I can give them the best price, often competing with online prices when we are comparing “apples to apples.” I will also allow them to trade their diamond later and give them every penny paid toward a larger diamond.
Today’s savvy diamond buyers have two choices in diamond buying:
• Go online and find the lowest priced diamond being offered based on the 4Cs and your best ability to decide on advanced quality factors. It is not a hidden fact that 50% of online diamond sales are returned. These sites gladly accept their diamonds back within 30 days allowing their customers to choose a different diamond from their stock. This can even be done multiple times to allow you to purchase a diamond you are happy with.
• Find a professional with good customer service reviews and go to that store. Look at several diamonds side-by-side. See for yourself how small factors affect the price and beauty. Use the expertise being offered to help you choose the most beautiful diamond for the best price the first time.
Keep in mind that researching diamonds without seeing them is like buying a house site-unseen based on images and an online description that meet your “must have” list: great location, 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, outside living space, 2 car garage, etc. If you chose to do so, you might get a great deal, but you may never know if you could have found something better with an equally good value if you had taken the time to compare many options in person before making your decision. You might even find that there was a better house at a better price that you might have liked more if you had been willing to take advantage of the services offered by a local expert.