Here is a beautiful testimonial that a recent customer of ous sent us a link to. He originally posted this on his personal blog which you can see at www.russmann.com. I am taking the liberty of cutting and pasting this testimonial in it’s entirety here on diamond views. In addition to Russ’ positive experience with buying our Exceldiamonds-SuperbCert Super-Ideal Hearts and Arrows ideal cut diamond diamond engagement ring online, is his informative information regarding his overall diamond shopping experience. For you consumers first starting out on this journey, there is much to learn from Russ’ shopping experiences. Read on.
Russ & His Bride!!
January 11, 2006
Are You In the Market for A Diamond Ring?
My Story of Buying an Engagement Ring
Are you in the market for a diamond ring, an engagement ring, or jewelry? Do you care about acquiring the highest quality product for a fair price? Do you want to make the best impression possible with your gift? This is the story of my four month journey learning the ins and outs of the retail diamond market, the custom jewelry market, and the jewelry appraisal market! Perhaps a short read will help you accomplish your goals in your own purchase.
If youâ€™re looking to buy diamonds for any occasion, or other jewelry, itâ€™s important to know what youâ€™re getting yourself into, and once you know, itâ€™s easy to see who you can trust. Donâ€™t just blindly hand over your two months salary, or whatever your budget is, to anyone and hope they give you something worth the money â€“ get an education!
In May of 2005 I decided it was time to propose to the most beautiful woman on the planet, and started shopping for an engagement ring. See her picture to the left â€“ I told you she is beautiful! Iâ€™m Italian, so before laying down the dough for something I like to know that Iâ€™m getting a good value, and not just being played like a schnook. What I found in the diamond retail market is a huge variance and not a lot of help for the little guy.
Diamond education is actually harder to come by than you might expect. If you go to the mall (affectionately known as the maul in the industry) I guarantee the salespeople will not educate you about diamonds. The few who appear to be educating you are very slanted toward pushing their products, so what you get for an â€œeducationâ€ is nothing but a bluff. One maul store tried to sell very poor quality rocks with their â€œproprietaryâ€ cut that was really nothing special, but it gave them justification for inflating the price on very cheap rocks. There are four main factors to consider with a diamond: Carat Weight, Color, Clarity, and Cut. To that I personally add Commission, Commodity Value, and Cost, because as a man I want to get the best value for my commodity, while at the same time valuing the emotion involved.
Buying a diamond involves a lot of trade-offs, and each person wants something different when it comes to carat, color, clarity, cut, and cost. Taking those five â€œCâ€™s,â€ pick 4 and weâ€™ll talk.
Carat weight is easy to understand â€“ the bigger the diamond, the more carat weight it has. For an engagement ring, your woman will look at it several times a day for the rest of her life, some estimate a million views in her lifetime, and letâ€™s face it, size matters. I personally decided to get a 1 carat stone. A one carat stone where I come from is basically ridiculously enormous, but the effect I was going for was to really pamper my lady and communicate that sheâ€™s ridiculously special to me.
Color is easy to understand as well. The scale goes from D which is completely colorless and for normal jewelry ranges to about J, which has a noticeable yellow tint when you look at it carefully. I wanted to go with something in the GHI color category, because these are colorless to the naked eye, but some color can be seen under magnification. Since my lady wouldnâ€™t be putting her ring under magnification or using special equipment most of the time, I thought that was a reasonable trade-off.
Clarity has to do with inclusions. Inclusions is an industry word which simply means natural imperfections in the stone. A stone graded as IF is â€œInternally Flawlessâ€ and has no imperfections. VVS1 is Very Very Slightly Included Level 1, VVS2 is slightly more inclusions, VS1 has more, etc. VS2 is the lowest grade at which you definitely cannot see any inclusions with the naked eye. SI1 is the highest grade at which it is possible to see an inclusion, but itâ€™s definitely visible under 10X magnification. I chose to shop between VS1 and SI1 for clarity. At the SI1 end of the scale I was a little nervous, and since thatâ€™s where I ended up buying, let me explain why.
The cut is the only human-regulated part of the diamond. A diamond cutter gets a raw diamond stone from the mines and has to figure out how to make a masterpiece out of a chunk of carbon atoms. The important factor in the cut is how the cut affects light return. When your lady looks at her ring, and when her mom looks at it, will they see something dull and un-amusing, or will it shock them with its brilliance and sparkle? Thankfully, there is science involved in the cut which helps in locating a well cut stone. You can find information about table percentage, pavilion depth, polish, and symmetry anywhere on the net, but Iâ€™d like to share some things which really made a difference to my decision. The crown and pavilion angles are not commonly reported on a diamond, but they have an important impact on the light return of a stone. A picture says 1000 words:
When a diamond cutter decides to go the extra mile, he can create an â€œIdeal Cutâ€ diamond, with proportions within very exacting limits which should cause the maximum light return possible. When you start shopping for Ideal Cut diamonds, some things become apparent. The discount stores rarely deal in Ideal Cuts. The healthy wealthy stores like Tiffanyâ€™s and Co. do not deal in Ideal Cuts. Depending on where you live, local retailers are not dealing in Ideal Cut stones. This leaves the consumer to surf the net and try to find a needle in a haystack of options.
For the amount of money I was spending on an engagement ring, I didnâ€™t want to be disappointed by the light return. It would seem little consolation to me to know my stone rates high in color, clarity, carat weight, and cost if when someone saw her left hand they didnâ€™t see â€œWOW.â€ Incidentally, when they do see â€œWOWâ€ people tend to want to know about the other factors. Even though there is a bit of a premium on Ideal Cut stones, because they take about twice as long for a diamond cutter to produce as a non-ideal stone, I chose to maximize on the cut.
Everyone is working with some type of budget. When you decide what youâ€™re going to spend, and which parts of the other 4 â€œCâ€™sâ€ equation are important to you, it starts coming down to nickels and dimes. Should I buy a D color, VVS2 clarity, Â½ carat stone, or for the same price should I buy an I color, SI1 full 1 carat stone? Each person must answer this question for himself, and thatâ€™s why you need the knowledge. There are a few sites on the web that sell diamonds from a list of available diamonds in the country. They donâ€™t carry the stones in stock, and theyâ€™re all selling from the same list. These sites include bluenile.com and dirtcheapdiamonds.com. You can find some smokinâ€™ deals on these sites, but there is a very important drawback to consider.
Thereâ€™s a world of difference in buying a stone that has all the mathematical proportions correct from a list, and buying from an experienced jeweler who has the rocks in stock and can provide extremely detailed information on light return, as well as the mathematical proportions. In my shopping experience, I did not find this service with list sellers, I did not find this service with Costcoâ€™s wholesale jewelry program, and I did not find it with Tiffanyâ€™s and Co. Where I found this level of personal service and support is ExcelDiamonds.com with Barry (Baruch) Gutwein.
Barry took the time to help me understand the parts of the diamond market that were more confusing to me and make recommendations based on my needs and desires. For each of his SuperbCert branded Super-Ideal Cut diamonds, he takes the time to provide all this information:
GIA grading report
Actual Hearts and Arrows photo
Actual ImageScope photo
Actual Inclusion photo
Additional diamond photos
Many sites will show photos of a â€œsimilarâ€ stone, which isnâ€™t what youâ€™re buying! Donâ€™t be fooled by this, be very careful as to what youâ€™re looking at in the picture. Once you finally settle on a stone, make sure you put it into something beautiful. Take time to pay attention to the setting.
Tiffanyâ€™s and Co. invented the classic diamond solitaire setting that is the epitome of elegant style in engagement rings. The classic knife-edge ring in platinum is very beautiful and does an amazing job of setting the stone in a way to maximize the effect of all that light return. Unfortunately, Tiffanyâ€™s sells mandatory blue boxes with each ring, and those blue boxes apparently cost as much to produce as the diamond and setting put together. I found that a frugal shopper could spend about Â½ the dollars to get a perfect stone and setting without the blue box. Not all replicas are created equally, however. For the setting that I like, cheap replicas are available everywhere, but theyâ€™re not custom created for the stone, the basket in which the diamond sits is sized to be approximately fitting, then it is molded to hold the stone. Itâ€™s also soldered to the shank in most cases, rather than the whole thing being one complete piece of metal. I chose to spend about three times as much as the cheap replicas in order to have one that looks perfectly like the original, and is made 100% custom from start to finish. That choice paid off very well. Barry at ExcelDiamonds.com happens to carry what I consider to be the absolute best in Tiffany-style settings.
To wrap it all up, with all that information and research, which took about 4 months of speaking to salespeople, visiting different locations including Tiffanyâ€™s in Portland, and several local shops, this is what I purchased for my beloved:
Carat : 1.03
Cut : Super Ideal, H&A
Clarity : SI1
Color : H
Measurements : 6.54 – 6.58 x 4
Depth : 61%
Table : 55%
Girdle : Thin to Medium, Faceted
Culet : None
Polish : Excellent
Symmetry : Excellent
Clarity Characteristics : Crystal, Cloud, Needle
Fluorescence : Medium blue
Crown Angle : 34.3
Crown Height : 14.6%
Pavil. Angle : 41%
Pavil. Depth : 43.3%
Pictures are included at the end of this article.
In the end, I purchased from Barry at Superb Cert, and didnâ€™t go to either Tiffanyâ€™s or Costco. Hereâ€™s why:
I found someone on diamondtalk.com who pointed out via PM that no one knows she’s wearing a Tiffany unless she tells them. When they see it, it’s pretty, but the ring should speak for itself. Since I could get a lot more brilliance and bang for my buck elsewhere…
And my (now wife) isn’t the type of gal to care about the brand name. She does care about the quality, and if she knows a certain brand is quality she likes that, but in the end, she’d rather have something awesome that isn’t a brand than something less awesome that is a brand.
For the undereducated buyer, Costco is probably a good choice. However, once I settled on wanting a specific setting, Costco can’t help. The Tiffany classic e-ring setting is the classiest ring I’ve seen, and Costco’s version of it misses the boat. Their rocks are decent, but in the end I wanted the most brilliance for the buck and decided an ideal cut was necessary.
The Winner: SuperbCert – Barry and Judah Gutwein
Their Tiffany setting is 100% perfect. In fact, it’s more perfect than the original. The prongs that hold on the rock are chevron’d at the top, whereas the originals are just flat. It adds to the look and class. My wife and I visited Chicago for our honeymoon, and went to the Tiffany’s there. She compared her ring to what they have in the case and was honestly more impressed with hers than what Tiffany’s was selling. SuperbCert’s ideal cut stones are a little more expensive than the “diamond list” retailers like Blue Nile etc. However, I am comfortable paying that little extra to get full disclosure on the exact rock I’m purchasing online. With the others, you get specs but no light analysis, inclusion map, etc. Also, they’re hand picked by Barry and Judah specifically as excellent light performers. I understand it is possible to get a 0-0-0 that is still not actually looking good under light conditions.
They were able to work with me on price point and Barry was the absolute best pre-sales service to work with. No one else even came close.
I really recommend getting a thorough education on diamonds before buying. If you don’t have time for that, I believe you can trust Barry to shoot you straight.
The Proposal, and Why Light Return is Important
This is the part of the story Iâ€™m sure youâ€™ve been waiting for. How did the proposal go? Did she like it? Did her mom like it? Is she the envy of all her friends, enemies, and coworkers?
To propose I decided to recreate our first date as closely as possible. I kept track of what I wore that day and dressed the same. I picked her up at the same time, and had the same music playing in the car. I wasnâ€™t able to use the same car as our first date (I had borrowed a Porsche Boxter, but my friend has since sold it), but we did take a nice car. I took her to the same restaurant and on the same after dinner drive to a view spot for a romantic setting to sit and talk.
The restaurant is called The Wine Cellar and is a wine bar with live jazz and blues every night. We got an out of the way table and ordered two flights of port, and something to snack on. The Wine Cellar is very dimly lit, and a candle on your table provides most of the lighting. At the right time, I got on my knee and presented her with the ring and a question.
It was at this point that the light return of a Super-Ideal Cut stone became very important. In the low lit club it showed brilliance and fire that was unbelievable. The size was noticed second, as it just shone so clearly. We left and took a walk, and under some fluorescent lights it returned so much white light that it was a bit surreal. The next day, in the sunshine, it was a driving hazard as it did its best to knock out the eyes of anyone on the road. Bottom line, itâ€™s a hit!
And, she said yes. Sheâ€™s quite impressed, and her mom is impressed, and her women friend just canâ€™t help but to gawk and giggle over the deal. An unintended consequence of this is her unmarried friendsâ€™ boyfriends now have a lot of work cut out for them. I hear that at least one of them wants my help when he gets ready to go shopping.
If youâ€™re looking for a quality diamond, a quality setting, and a reasonable price for diamond jewelry, I seriously recommend that you give Barry at ExcelDiamonds.com a chance to help you find the best deal for your money. Barry is the type of guy who doesnâ€™t hoard all the good stuff to himself, so he created a referral program to bless those who send business his way. When you contact Barry, please go to this page:
Refer A Diamond
Click the radio button next to this:
a new customer; I have been referred by a friend who has purchased from Excel Diamonds previously: Below please find my information. I have been referred to SuperbCert/Exceldiamonds prior to my purchase by the individual below.
For my information, please use this:
First Name: Russell
Last Name: Mann
E-mail Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Best Contact Phone #: 208-773-6310
If you do contact Barry about a diamond, let me know, Iâ€™m interested to see what others experiences are at this!
For more pictures, see the rest of this article.
Once you have your ring, make sure you get it independently appraised. If you pay more than 1 large for it, you’ll probably want some type of insurance for loss, theft, etc. 99% of the appraisers out there are connected with a jewlery retailer. It is not possible for these people to be truly objective about the value of any jewlery, as they have a stake in selling you something other than the appraisal. I found the only independent appraiser in Spokane, WA – Jan Jennings. Her company name is Master Jewelry Appraisal Services and she did a great job for us. Her phone is (509) 534-6555.
If you get an ideal-cut stone, make sure your appraiser includes this information on the appraisal, because that is what the insurance company will go off of if you need to make a claim. They will replace with like kind, so make sure the details of your cut and setting are well understood. Re-appraise every 5 years to make sure the value you’re insuring is proper to the actual stone.