Shopping for the perfect diamond ring means education before purchasing

Claire Norton

When shopping for your “Pinterest perfect” ring, it is important to keep in mind what to look for, in terms of quality and value, in a diamond.

Before approaching the counter at a local jewelry shop, keep in mind that all diamonds fall under a particular rating system.

Based on the individual diamond’s features, each stone is graded based on its cut, clarity, color and carat — size and weight. Geologists, as well as jewelers, also use the same method of grading.

“There is an alphabetical grading scale that goes from the letter D, where they are perfect diamonds, through to Z, which are horrible diamonds,” Paul Spry, professor of geological and atmospheric sciences, said.

Because every person’s preferences are different, the value that one person might be looking for may be different than others considering someone might prefer only one of the four grading criteria.

Gary Youngberg, co-owner of Ames Silversmith, said when searching for a diamond, it is important to become educated on the grading system to decide what is most important.

“Out of all of the jewelry stores that people could walk into in this country, 80 percent of the stores don’t have the knowledge or the equipment to do their own grading, and people end up paying too much for something,” Youngberg said. 

A diamond’s cut is the shape of the diamond. Many different styles and cuts of diamond stones are offered, including princess, pear, oval, round, etc.

“[The cut] is probably the most overlooked aspect of buying a diamond because most stores don’t have the capability of showing and teaching that,” Youngberg said.

Clarity, another feature, is based on how many inclusions are in the inside of the stone itself. These inclusions are usually only visible underneath a microscope, but greatly affect the cost of the ring.

Color, meaning if the diamond does not appear white or clear looking, is another factor that plays into grading diamonds.

“A ‘D’ diamond has no yellow in it. As you go down the alphabet, it becomes more yellow and eventually, at the end of the alphabet, it gets more brown,” Spry said.

Spry also said if the diamond’s grade is down to a “J,” the naked eye would be unable to tell if there were to be any yellow internally.

The carat, which is the most influential criteria that determines the cost of a diamond, is the representation of the weight or size of the stone.

Ames Silversmith has trained all of its employees under the Gemological Institute of America to be able to provide professionalism and education about the stones and diamonds it sells.

When shopping for engagement rings, today’s couples are often distracted by the sales coming from well-known commercial jeweler retailers and are mislead in that regard, Youngberg said.

He also said if more people educated themselves about how diamonds are graded and let the store clerks teach them about what stone they are about to invest in, grief would be saved.

However, Youngberg said there’s a problem with the jeweler industry: “mall stores” are allowed to claim their rings are on sale from a not-so-regular and extremely high price.

“They get a diamond from the corporate office, the corporate office says it is ‘X, Y and Z’ and that’s what they sell it as,” Youngberg said. “The problem is if a customer asks, ‘Well how do I know it’s that quality?’ The person behind the counter can’t teach them.”

Youngberg said every individual is looking for a different feature in a diamond, which makes the educational part, before purchasing a diamond, that much more important.

“You may find that clarity is most important to you,” Youngberg said. “The next person may say, ‘no, clarity’s not that important; I’d rather have the whitest stone I can buy.’” 

Spry also said diamonds are not as rare as the consumer market is led to believe.

“It actually turns out that diamonds are not that uncommon,” Spry said. “They are found in very specific rock types but are actually relatively common. And the reason why they are so expensive is simply [because] of an incredible marketing scheme.”

Spry said artificial diamonds, or Cubic Zirconia, are less expensive and completely identical to real diamonds to the untrained eye, but jewelers are able to test the stone to tell the difference.