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Secrets diamond buying skills from a professional diamond buyer

By Daniel Parisi Jr.
The Frugal Gemologist
Diamond & Jewelry Broker, Gemologist

One of the most valuable memories in life is the look of your love when she sees that shining diamond ring on her finger for the first time. If there are any magic moments in life, that is one.

Nothing expresses love and commitment like a diamond. This rare natural stone's history and lore of romance makes all who receive one the center of their universe. A diamond's beauty energizes the whole person with a light show unique in the gem world.

Diamonds are unique, just like the love it expresses, but unlike love we must put a value on a diamond.

The value factors of a diamond are like anything else, supply and demand, but when you can carry a million dollars worth in your pocket the standards to evaluate diamonds are extremely exciting. The four c's of carat, cut, color and clarity determine a common comparison. They don't set the price, just the basis to determine the price. In the final analysis the price of a diamond is whatever two people agree it is.

The easiest starting place for diamond value is carat. All carat describes is how much a diamond weighs. Diamonds are small so the scale it is measured with uses very small units of weight. A carat equals 1/5 of one gram. An illustration of the weight is that it would take 12 1/2 carats to equal the weight of one penny.

     Diamonds are even weighed accurately at fractions of a carat. ¾ or ½ or ¼ all a faction to a carat could be stated as .75 carat or .50 carat or .25 carat. This helps make the most confusing weight associated with diamonds a little more understandable. A carat is divided into 100 points. Each point is equal to 1/100 of a carat. So 50 points is equal to .50 carat or ½ carat. The point weights have nothing to do with the cut of a diamond just how much they weigh.

Diamond professionals love insider terms. It adds to the mystic of the diamond in their eyes. There are many more ways to describe a diamonds weight but they all can be translated to a carat and its fractions. Find a system you like and make the salesperson convert the weight to fit your comfort zone. If you are looking for a ¾ carat diamond and they are talking points or 3 gainers, make them convert it to your understanding. It is their job to give you clear information to compare.

The cut "c" of the 4c's has two components. The first component is simple. The cut can refer to the shape of the stone. Round, marquee, pear, oval, square, princess all describe the shape of the gem. Round diamonds are by far the most popular cut in diamonds under three carat. The diamond's shape should be one of the earliest decisions you make. It will determine the style of ring and influence how much stone you can get for the money.

The second aspect of cut is the most complex of all the evaluation steps. Cut is the way the facets are positioned on the diamond. When the diamond cutter carefully and precisely arranges the facets the diamond comes to life. If the job is done haphazardly the diamond loses its brilliance.

So how can a diamond buyer learn cut to judge the quality with confidence? There are three ways. First learn all the angles and percentages of each facet and exactly measure each stone to do an analysis of the cutting style. This should take two to ten weeks of eye cramping work to learn. Second get a chart of the ideal cut percentages and angles and find a diamond that has been certified and match the stone to the chart. This way deals with numbers but is very doable. Third, trust your eyes. All the numbers and angles and percentages tell anyone is how well will this diamond do it's light show. Look for the life of the diamond and you will know its cut. Find the brilliance, fire, sparkle you want and the cut will take care of itself.

Clarity aspect of evaluating a diamond's value is professionally one of the most challenging yet the diamond buyer has the advantage of appreciation. If you appreciate the stone, that is the most important factor.

The technical system for grading clarity is very detailed. The major difficulty is the transition points between the higher and lower grades. Assessing the clarity grade of a diamond is a lot like a baseball umpire. Most of the calls are clear cut, everyone agrees. But the border line calls can create big argument. In the diamond world, a higher grade costs money and may put the diamond you like just out of the price range.

The clarity chart of brief description of clarity grades and terms will help with an overall understanding of clarity grading. Those terms are important to diamond professionals. But how can a diamond buyer effectively grade?

Insider's secrets to diamond grading are fast, accurate assessments that are easy to learn. Let's start with low grade stones. If you can see any inclusion with a non magnified look at the stone, the diamond is a lower grade. You don't have to know the type of inclusion, if you see it, the stone is lower value for the size of the stone. The next step is using a magnifier of 10 power. When you get the diamond in focus if you see any inclusion easy it is the mid grades. Remember this is a stone you can't see anything with the unmagnified view. The next higher grades are if, under magnification, you have to look hard to find anything. You are looking at a nice diamond. The highest grade diamonds are when you can't find anything under magnification even when the professional shows you where to look.

Warning: These insights don't make you a diamond professional. There are diamond characteristics that greatly impact price which fall outside this brief description. The two major ones are very small pinpoints that can cloud the stone. You may not be able to see them but if the over all diamond looks cloudy or milky, it is a lower grade stone.

The one area of clarity you must rely upon the integrity of the diamond seller is if the diamond has been treated. Fracture filled and other treatments must be disclosed. But you should ask just to make it clear. A treated diamond is almost like a salvage car. You may buy one but at a good discount and you want to know about it. Treated diamonds must be handled differently in the repair process so tell them if you bought one.

When you comparison buy a diamond you can remember the different clarities and judge the best option for the value from store to store. The 4th "c" is color. This is the easiest to understand, yet one of the hardest to judge. The professional education organizations also teach that a person does not have color memory precise enough for color grading. How can you to overcome the color assessment problem?

Judging diamond color is actually looking for the absence of color or transparency (except in fancy color diamonds). A letter grade starting with "D" means totally transparent. The scale then moves down the alphabet to the next level of less transparency color. D to F are colorless grades, G-J are near colorless, K-M faint yellow on down the scale to more inner color. Colorless is also called white.

The key to judging color is a master. Master sets cost a lot of money and only make sense for the diamond professional to own. The secret for the diamond buyer is have your own color grading master stone. If you own a diamond bring it with you as you shop. Compare all the stones you are looking at to your diamond. Note: keep your diamond very clean to judge accurately. It does not matter if your diamond is yellow or D colorless you are using it as a measure to judge other stones. If you don't have a diamond use a CZ, but have something to compare against. The light source will dramatic impact the color you see, so bring you personal master with you and you will be able to compare with confidence. Remember, trust you judgement.

There is one more "C" if you are looking to buy a previously owned diamond. Condition is critical to value in estate diamonds. A chipped diamond loses a lot of value. You must look very carefully for chips. Chips may be under a prong. It would be a good idea after you agree on a price of a non-chipped diamond to have the diamond removed by a jeweler just to make sure. This costs a little but can save you from a poor buying experience.

In a technical versus emotional sale, which one will you pay more? Yes, the emotions that motivate the diamond purchase are extremely valuable. The amount of money you are willing to spend to express your true love has nothing to do with the quality of the diamond. Your mastery of the technical evaluation of diamond quality will determine the diamond's value. If you keep the diamond buying on the technical valuation versus emotions you will end up with a larger, higher quality diamond to express your love.