Top 5 Diamond Buying Scams
By Devorah Isenberg , Friday, April 22, 2011 9:44 AM
Many people are afraid of buying diamonds. After all, no matter how much you learn and research, if you aren’t a certified gemologist, it can be difficult to know exactly what you are buying and whether you are really getting a good deal. And as with anything as small and valuable as a diamond, there is always the fear of being ripped off or scammed by an unscrupulous jeweler. Most jewelers are honest businesspeople who are genuinely trying to help you get a great diamond and a beautiful ring, but there are always a few unscrupulous jewelers out there, and you need to know what those scams are like so you can avoid them. After all, if you are spending all that money on a high-quality diamond, you want to make sure it is worth every penny.
Total carat weight scam
If you buy a diamond ring with the center stone pre-set into the setting, the product description may list the total carat weight (CTW) in addition to the carat weight of the center stone alone. This isn’t exactly a scam, but if you aren’t reading carefully, you may find yourself with a smaller center stone than you are expecting. CTW is actually the aggregated weight of the center and side stones, not just the weight of the center stone by itself. You can't compare prices with another ring if you don't know the weight and quality of the main diamond. One large diamond is worth much more than six small ones that equal its weight, and of course every factor of diamond quality will influence the price as well. If the center stone is a certified loose diamond, like a GIA certified diamond, the jeweler should be able to provide you with a certificate ascertaining the quality of the center stone which will make comparison shopping easy. If the store can't provide you with carat weights of the individual stones, shop elsewhere.
The huge sale scam
The fact is that in today’s tight diamond market, jewelers are not making huge profit margins even on the most exquisite diamonds. If you see a "Diamonds Half Off!” sale, don't fall for it. Liquidation and "going out of business" sales are the same. These "bargains" typically mean the dealer marked up the original diamond price to double what it's worth and is offering the customers "an incredibly low price." If a dealer can afford to mark it down, then he marked it up too high from the start. An honest and fair jeweler can offer you a good price and great customer service on a quality diamond, but no dramatic discounts or unbelievable sales. Remember, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
If the diamond advertised is said to be sold out when you get to the jeweler or contact a sales representative, be cautious. A reputable jeweler should be able to source a very similar diamond for you even if the original stone has been sold. If the advertised diamond is an unbelievably good deal, and the dealer cannot offer you anything similar, there may be a bait-and-switch scam going on. In a bait-and-switch scam, the seller baits the customers with the fake diamond, then switch to something with a high profit margin. If a store can't find another diamond just like it the one it originally offered, scram.
Bright light scam
Be aware of the effect of the lighting at the jewelry store. Some jewelry stores use lightbulbs that have a strong blue component that makes yellowish stones look whiter. Some lightbulbs have strong ultraviolet wavelengths that make many diamonds look especially white. Ask to see the gem without the bright lights in another part of the store before you agree to buy. Compare stones of the same color rating and different cut qualities to see how white the diamond will look under natural and sun light. If you buy a diamond from a certified Internet retailer, you don’t have to worry about the bright light effect—just compare color ratings and cut quality between stones. (Stones with a very good cut rating, like the A Cut Above super-ideal diamond, often appear whiter than their color ratings would imply.)
If the diamond’s description states it weight as ¾ carat, the actual stone could weight as little as .7. That would mean that you are paying significantly more for a diamond that weighs less than you think it does. Also, since prices tend to leap at certain round price points, a diamond just shy of a major “landmark” size should cost relatively less than a diamond that is .5, .75, or 1 carat. Be sure to check the exact carat size (a GIA certified diamond will always state this information clearly) before buying a certified loose diamond. If the jeweler will not give you the exact weight of the center diamond, go elsewhere. To ensure that your diamond is exactly what you want, be sure to get an independent appraisal.
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