When prices are high and the product is complicated, scammers abound.
When you’re shopping for a diamond engagement ring, the most important thing for getting a great deal is education. Once you’ve mastered the 4 C’s of diamond buying, you’re ready to start shopping. Making a large purchase can be nerve-wracking, but there are steps you can take to protect your investment. The first is knowing what red flags to watch out for.
Buying a “synthetic diamond simulant”
First up, one of the fastest rising scams in the diamond engagement ring world. With the advent of man-made diamonds entering the retail marketplace, dishonest “diamond” dealers are taking advantage.
There aren’t any tests that can easily prove a man-made diamond from a natural, mined diamond. So any disclosure laws would be hard to enforce. It’s up to diamond dealers to disclose to you whether a diamond was created in a lab.
Because of this, most traditional brick and mortar and online jewelers don’t sell synthetic diamonds. Instead, these lab-grown diamonds are typically sold by niche dealers who exclusively sell synthetic diamonds. There are several reputable man-made diamond dealers, and they’re very upfront (and excited) about telling customers they grew their own diamonds. They almost exclusively sell online.
However, the synthetic diamond simulant dealers capitalize on this by mimicking the layout and wording of their websites. They use search results to their advantage, so they show up right alongside the lab-grown diamond results. Their online stores can be very misleading, with plenty of talk about diamonds grown in a lab, and how synthetic diamonds are indistinguishable from natural diamonds. Which is true. But synthetic diamond simulants are very distinguishable – they aren’t diamonds!
Most of these sellers bury the “simulant” part of their product description in the fine print, and rely on customer confusion in a relatively new marketplace. So customers end up buying a CZ, moissanite, or other diamond simulant, thinking it’s a lab-grown diamond.
How can you avoid getting duped? Lab-grown diamonds are just that:diamonds. They’re priced accordingly. The price-per-carat of a white synthetic diamond will be very close to a naturally mined diamond with the same clarity and color characteristics. These diamonds are also typically smaller than 2 carats, unless you are looking for fancy colors (colorless diamonds are harder to grow this large.) Does the price look good to be true? It probably is.
There’s nothing wrong with buying a CZ or moissanite or other diamond simulant instead of a diamond, but you should always be well-informed about what you’re purchasing.
Buying an Undisclosed Treated Diamond Ring
On that note, let’s talk diamond treatments. A diamond treatment is any process that enhances the appearance of the diamond through cosmetic means. So heat treating a diamond to improve color, or fracture filling a diamond to improve clarity both count. Re-cutting a diamond to improve its proportions does not.
When a diamond is treated for color, it may look nicer, but will still be the same diamond it started out as. Its price should reflect this, not jump to the higher price a naturally better colored diamond would command.
When a diamond is treated for clarity, the same rule applies. And in some cases, it lowers the value of the diamond because certain clarity enhancements can affect the structural integrity of a diamond.
Either way, the diamond dealer paid less for a treated diamond than he would have for a natural diamond with the same grade. He’d better be passing those savings along to you.
How Can You avoid getting duped? Always read the fine print when shopping online. You might find a note in the listing details, or possibly on the diamond’s certificate. Though be aware that certain labs, like the Gemological Institute of America, won’t grade diamonds that have undergone certain irreversible enhancements.
You can – and should – always ask the seller if a diamond has been treated. If you suspect it has, but the seller can’t prove otherwise, it’s best to walk away.
You can read more about diamond treatments thanks to GIA.
Buying a Designer Engagement Ring from a Non-Authorized Retailer
Let’s say you fall in love with a particular designer engagement ring – but not necessarily the designer price tag. You find that it’s the same price at all the local jewelers you visit. Except for one, where it’s a few hundred dollars less.
Of course, it’s the one you don’t see listed on the designer’s website, but their rings look similar to the other jewelers’ by the same designer. What’s not to love?
Well, it’s very possible that you’re buying a knockoff engagement ring at best or a counterfeit at worst. One is illegal, and the other is a bad investment.
When you buy a designer ring, you’re not just paying for a recognizable name engraved on the inside of your ring. You’re paying for superior craftsmanship, higher quality materials, and generations of trade-secret techniques.
Most importantly, you’re paying for the designer’s warranty. They stand by their rings for a lifetime, that’s something you won’t get from someone who’s knocking off their rings.
How to avoid getting duped: Find an authorized retailer near you on your favorite designer’s website. Before purchasing your ring, ask the jeweler about any paperwork that comes with your setting, and what warranty comes with the ring.
Buying a Diamond Based on Certificate Alone
This isn’t explicitly a scam, but it can definitely venture into scammy territory.
No two diamond grading labs are the same. Because no two gemologists are the same. In fact, the same diamond, graded by the same gemologist on the same day, might score a different grade each time. It’s a nuanced expertise, based on opinion, that’s easily influenced by everything from the grader’s mood to her caffeine intake for the day.
It’s also a way that some diamond graders try to increase the price of their product. A diamond might score better grades at a less stringent lab than it would at another lab with stricter grading criteria. Guess where the diamond dealer is sending his diamond?
However, a certificate is just a piece of paper. Yes, it can give you peace of mind. But the things it evaluates, like diamond color (in which it’s nearly impossible to see differences) or diamond clarity (which is graded at 10x magnification) are very difficult to detect “in the wild” when a diamond is where you want it – glittering on the hand of a proud wearer waving it around.
How to avoid getting duped: Shop with your eyes! You will be able to see a superior diamond when you’re shopping. You’ll be able to decide which color grade is the best way to spend your budget. You’ll see how undetectable certain inclusions are. And you might save thousands by relying on your own judgement, rather than a gemologist’s alone.
Buying a Diamond with Forged Papers
If a diamond’s certificate is important to you, make sure you’re getting the real deal. First of all, most diamond certificates should have built-in authenticity measures. GIA, certificates, for example, have hologram, security screen and microprint lines that prevent them from being forged or duplicated.
You can also contact the grading lab if you suspect your certificate might be forged or altered. They should be able to look up your diamond by certificate number and tell you if the information on the diamond’s certificate matches what’s in their database.
How to avoid getting duped: Look first for any signs of tampering on your diamond’s certificate. If you suspect anything fishy, reach out to the grading lab to verify you really are getting what you pay for.
Buying a diamond doesn’t need to be complicated, and shouldn’t be anxiety-inducing. The best way to avoid getting scammed when making this big purchase is to work with a jeweler you trust.