*Do note that our writings are based on our personal opinion and only serves as a reference or guide.
In this article, we will share the pros and cons as well as risks from buying diamonds from online boutiques and international luxury brands.
Buying Diamonds From Online Boutiques
For our article, we will use James Allen as an example for online diamond purchases as they are one of the most well known and highly recommended sites.
Other sites include:
In searching for a diamond on James Allen's website, this is all the information that is available for a random diamond that we have chosen. It is amazing that James Allen will show what the diamond looks like with a 360 degrees view, but their certificates are only shown upon request which you have to contact their customer service.
In our opinion, this way of filtering of diamond options without certificates being readily available may result in accidentally leaving out the good diamonds, i.e. those with GIA excellent cutting that may qualified as an AGS ideal cut. This can only be avoided if you key in all the proportions in James Allen's advanced search.
If you are very particular about choosing the best diamond, you will need the individual cut proportions that is written on the certificate. As I mentioned in this article, a small percentage of GIA Excellent cut diamonds can be further streamlined into AGS Ideal cut. Having to contact customer service for every potential diamond may be a hassle to some customers who are looking for these Ideal cuts.
However the GIA Diamond Dossier Certificate does not provide all cut proportions necessary to differentiate these diamonds. This will be explained below.
Also, from the images and video shown, you will not be able to examine the fire (rainbow dispersion effect) and scintillation on a diamond which is an important visual factor.
From our experience, we have seen diamonds that have amazing paper grades and decent static images but when it comes to examining the diamond in real life, it lack fire. This is what we call in the trade as a 'dead stone' and is a risk factor that is partly based on luck when purchasing diamonds online.
Even upon receiving the certificate, as mentioned in the clarity grading article, there are certain types of inclusions you should avoid as it will not be fully represented in the certificate. This makes examining the uploaded diamond pictures and videos crucial but also create room for misjudgment if a buyer is inexperienced.
Firstly there a few types of diamond certificates, the ones that you will encounter are the 'GIA Diamond Grading Report' and 'GIA Diamond Dossier'. The latter is a semi-report which cost less and are usually done for diamonds with lower grades or smaller sizes, depending on the retailer.
The GIA Diamond Dossier Certificate on the left is a typical GIA certificate that does not provide a diamond plot and does not provide the cut proportions.
Under the clarity characteristics, they would describe the type of inclusion, be it cloud, needle or crystal.
This means that you know there is a inclusion, but you will not know exactly how big it is, or if a crystal, will it be a colourless or black crystal.
Now for the GIA Diamond Grading Report Certificate. which is the full report.
However, similar to the Diamond Dossier Certificate, note that crystal colours are also not stated.
Also, another type of inclusion to avoid is called the twinning wisp, show above previously. These are stress lines in the diamond that are visible and may cover a significant portion of the stone.
In our training in GIA, we are taught that we should represent twinning wisps with just 2 lines, even if there are plenty which covers majority of stone.
These are some limitations that a diamond certificate will not be able to inform you, which leaves you to the diamond videos and pictures uploaded to try to detect them. One thing good about buying online is that many boutiques offer a refund if you are not satisfied with the diamond, giving you a peace of mind.
In our opinion, if you are confident in relying largely on the diamond images and the information that the certificate can provide, buying diamonds online would be a good cost savings option.
However if you want to make sure you find the best diamond, it becomes very important to view the diamond in real life with the explanation of a gemologist who will related other aspects like fire, scintillation that is not mentioned on the certificate.
Luxury Brands (In-House Laboratory)
Luxury brands comes with luxury pricing. That is of course expected given all their costs of running business in that scale. While some brands will market their diamonds as the best, in our opinion, diamonds are all the same. Unlike coloured stones, geographic origin does not matter for diamonds as long as they are not from conflicted regions who use diamonds to finance war.
A branded diamond will still be subjected under the GIA grading and hence the corresponding value in the resale market, irregardless of the brand. Furthermore, the only way to differentiate a branded diamond is through the laser inscription on the diamond which is not easily visible to the naked eye.
Hence if you buy a branded diamond, you would be paying for branding, packing and design (if any) but when worn on a finger, it will look like any other diamond.
*Branded designs however, may retain some value depending on the market preferences
Some brands may only offer their in-house certification. This means that they grade the diamonds themselves without using a third party neutral laboratory. Firstly there may be a conflict of interest, compared to providing a GIA/AGS who provides independent third-party opinion. Remember how a certificate is a testament to a diamond's quality and hence value. This also applies to international brands, who may charge a premium, but may not always be offering the best diamonds based on GIA's standards.
There are times where an in-house graded diamond deviate from GIA's grading standards which is the international standards where prices are based on.
From our experiences, some boutiques may say that their in-house diamond graders are from GIA, and hence the standards are the same. This is a vague statement that could mean that either their in-house graders used to work for GIA as graders or they have only taken a course from GIA. Read my article here to understand how the latter, Professional Diamond Graders come about. In essence, it is quite an easy process with 2 weeks of learning if you are fast. But this experience level is different from being a GIA diamond grader - those that work in GIA, not merely taken a course from GIA.
I could say that I am a GIA Gemologist, but this is a confusing term. A GIA Gemologist works for GIA as a Gemologist. However, I am a Gemologist who was merely accredited by GIA, meaning to say, graduated from GIA. That is the difference in the terminology that may cause confusion in customers by saying that a certain organisation are or have GIA Diamond Graders. Most of the time their in-house diamond graders are merely certified by GIA, rather than have worked for GIA.
*For us gemologists, we usually say we are GIA Graduate Gemologists (G.G.), as a standard. In our experience, most reputable dealers would not omit the word 'Graduate' in his or her titles and advertisements.
Upon reading our article, it is important to really know what you are looking for and what you prioritise, be it cost savings, a good resale value, or branding, if you are trying to get the best diamond for your requirements.
Head back to our Ultimate Diamond Buying Guide to learn about the other components of diamond grading.