My 1st Million At 33 – yes, you can do it too

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  • Guess where I bought my diamond engagement ring?

    Posted by Frugal on January 26th, 2007

    AskMr.CreditCard.com sent me a post on buying diamond ring at Costco. And he asked me for my comments on buying diamond rings at Costco or at Tiffany. I definitely think it’s okay to buy the diamond ring from Costco. Well, guess where I bought my diamond ring for my wife? I bought it from an internet site! Back in 1997!!

    Obviously I am not that trustworthy of everything I see, read, or buy from the internet. So here is the procedure that I followed, which I believe to be safe enough for me to do such transaction:

    1. ALWAYS use credit card or Cash on Delivery (COD) for internet transactions if possible, even if you need to pay extra 2%. This is true, especially for big amount transaction. The added cost far outweighs the consumer protection that comes along with credit cards. I will consider alternative payment methods only if the site is extremely well-established, such as Amazon.com, Buy.com, etc. MOST of the Ebay frauds occurred because people use checks instead of credit cards for transactions.

    2. After you do all of your comparison shopping in Carat, Clarity, Color, Cut, and Certificate, make sure to check out the merchant at www.bbb.org for ANY unresolved issues or bad records. I will NOT do any business with any companies that doesn’t have a clean record for jewelry-related products. There are a few kinds of business that may get more consumer complaints than usual due to huge amount of transactions (it’s percentage of complaints that count). Those are exceptions though.

    3. You should buy a bare diamond stone rather than a diamond ring if buying from internet. The reason is that you should get your diamond inspected by a local independent gemologist. For a thorough inspection, the diamond must be unmounted from the ring. You should always buy a certificated diamond if it is bought at internet. That way, you can match your diamond with your certificate specification. Your gemologist can also show you how it matches up in the clarity spec under a microscope. You should have him or her walk you throught the spec of the diamond. And most important of all, before you leave from gemologist, make sure you are taking your diamond home, and not a swapped stone. I think you could probably ask the gemologist politely to make the microscope inspection as the last (repeated) step, and/or diamond-test the stone before you leave. You can test the diamond-tester by bringing in non-diamond rings and/or anything else. Use the diamond tester on the non-diamond materials and you should get a negative response. And if you have some real diamond materials, you should get a positive response when testing it. Make sure that the diamond tester is not a fake one. When doing the tests on diamond tester, you should borrow the diamond tester and personally perform the test yourself. Unless that diamond tester is a fake one with remote controllability, you won’t be cheated. If you don’t know what a diamond tester is, go to a local jewelry store for some comparison shopping and personal education, and they will be more than happy to show you how the pen-like diamond tester works.

    4. And then, you will need to choose a ring and get it mounted too. When you find a jewelry store that will do it for you, you should make sure that the person who is mounting the diamond is at the OPEN & CLEAR (behind the transparent glass wall) location where you can personally watch him mount the stone. Again, you want to leave with your diamond, not a fake. Diamond-test your diamond ring again to make sure you’re leaving with a diamond. Again, don’t forget to test their diamond tester yourself with the same procedure above.

    5. After that, you should go back to your gemologist again for inspection, mounted or unmounted. The best is to negotiate a deal for the dual inspections that you will be requesting from the same gemologist.

    6. Yeah, a lot of work to save big money. You’re done! Well, hopefully that your darling will like what she sees, or better yet, talk with her first about your purchase process.

    I followed pretty much the above procedure literally in 1997. That was the only way that I could trust what I bought. I paid about $5800 for a 1.03 carat, H color, VS2 clarity, pretty good cut, and GIA certificated diamond. Yeah, and I didn’t need to pay sales tax. I also paid about $50 to $80 for the gemologist. The ring that I got probably cost less than $300 including mounting only because it had two smaller low-quality side diamonds.

    I think the price went down a little bit by maybe some $500 after a couple of years of even more vehement competitions on the internet. But I can tell you FOR SURE that you can definitely get a better deal than Costco if you buy your diamond from other big “wholesale” diamond sites.

    Actually, so far in my life, that $5800 is the most expensive luxurious item that I’ve ever bought. I felt so uncomfortable about such purchase that I thought it could only be right if I donated some $2500 to ChildReach in 1998. I can and could never justify such a purchase based on my personal belief. ChildReach actually sent a representative who visited sponsors around the country to pay a visit to me & my wife. We paid for her $5 lunch when she visited us. She said she was surprised to see young and “generous” people. But I was too shameful to tell my wife and ChildReach’s representative about why I donated the money.

    I’m not sure if my wife would understand, or others. I feel okay if I’m not donating big money when simultaneously I’m not spending big amounts on non-necessary items on myself or my family. But I consider diamond rings or any jewelries as non-necessary items.

    In any case, I hope my diamond buying tips would be helpful to you. There had been so many diamond sites popped up after 1997 that I cannot really tell you which would be the best sites. I believe back in 1997, the better sites were named something like diamondcutter.com or wholesalediamond.com, or something like that. But whatever sites you’ve chosen to do business with, you MUST check it out at bbb.org, and get some references, and/or even their banking reference.

    Well, the most important thing is that my wife really liked her diamond ring. It won’t do you any good obviously if your girlfriend insists on buying from Tiffany. But maybe you can tell her that Frugal also bought it from internet! My own personal experience is that once they see the ring and with the certificate, they fall in love, and won’t really complain.

    P.S. Both my wife and I think it’s okay to get a diamond ring from Costco. Why? Every diamond is truly kind of unique. But once you classify them based on the 5 Cs (or the more common 4 Cs + certificate), they are really just another type of commodity. It makes absolutely no visible or even invisible difference between the two same quality diamonds if they are cut in the same way. Certainly, Tiffany sells most ideal cut diamonds. But you can also get ideal cut diamonds elsewhere. Make sure the ideal cut definition is the same if not very close. Some sites will have a more loose definition so you will need to get the exact dimensions of table width, girth, depth, etc. to compare to the ideal cut dimensions.


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    19 Responses to “Guess where I bought my diamond engagement ring?”

    1. Mission Debt Freedom Says:

      I think what you did for the wife was very nice. I was flat broke when my wife and I married and I bought her engagement ring and wedding band from a pawn shop (she doesn’t know…I sure hope she doesn’t read this blog!).

      I’ve made a promise to myself that as soon as we are debt free and have some emergency savings I am going to sink some funds for a few months and upgrade her ring. Maybe I’ll do it for an anniversary gift.

      I’ll hang on to this post so I can be an informed shopped when the time comes. Thanks for passing along the info.

    2. F2O Says:

      I bought my fiance’s stone from an estate. Then pretty much followed the same steps you did for verification and setting. Turned out to be a great deal. The guy had bought it in 1981 as an investment and it had been sitting in a safe for the past 25 years.

    3. SlashChick Says:

      I would frankly strangle any lover I had who spent $6K on a diamond ring for me. But put it toward something fun (vacation) or something that is useful and actually appreciates in value! Yuck…I will never understand the obsession with spending that kind of money on something that is so impractical. (And YES, I am a woman!)

    4. Lazy Man and Money Says:

      I spend $6300 for a 1.63 carat, I color, SI1 clarity, excellent cut, diamond that checked out when sent to an independant appraiser. I used the forums and search engine at http://www.pricescope.com. There’s so much information there and the price search is around 30% better than what Costco can give you.

    5. Mr Credit Card Says:

      Hey Frugal

      Looks like that was a pretty smart move on your part. Thanks for sharing these tips (though having said that, I bought mine at a plain old fashion jeweller!). You clearly did your homework on this one.

    6. sanjay Says:

      Just wondering, I read an article about bluenile.com on nytimes recently. Did you buy yours from there? Also, are local jewellers nice enough if you go with 3 diamonds and ask them to mount it on a ring?

      My sister is a certified GIA gemnologist and she works as a jewellery designer here in bangalore.

    7. Frugal Says:

      SlashChick,
      Glad to hear that there are women out there who think diamond is just a stone.

    8. Frugal Says:

      Lazy Man and Money,
      Thanks for your pointer. Looks like you’ve got yourself a very good deal.

    9. Frugal Says:

      Sanjay,
      I didn’t buy mine at bluenile.com. Mounting 3 diamonds may be quite a lot. In my case, I only bought and mounted 1 diamond. The other 2 side diamonds are obviously some cheezy cheap quality, but it seemed to help a lot to make the center one glow. Better check with your local jeweler on the mounting.

    10. Frugal Says:

      F2O,
      Seemed like you’ve got yourself a good deal too, :) .

    11. Frugal Says:

      Mission Debt Freedom,
      I think it’s so much more important to get one’s financial house in order. To do otherwise is simply fiscally irresponsible.

      You’re definitely doing the right thing. When you’re fiscally responsible to yourself, you are helping yourself AND your family.

      Best luck.

    12. Novice Says:

      http://www.pricescope.com/ is the starting point for price shopping once you know exactly the kind of diamond you want. Blue Nile is much more expensive, and really for the less sophisticated. Another great site is niceice.com. Their selection is limited, but the diamonds there are up to very exacting standards. I highly recommend pricescope for searching far and wide, and niceice for a hassle free high quality merchant.

      The 4Cs are really the barebones basics, and it takes a basic understanding of cut angles like crown and pavilion angles to get a diamond that is truly amazing. The Holloway Cut Advisor is also a must to double check that your diamond will be amazing http://www.pricescope.com/cutadviser.asp

    13. Grant Says:

      Nice idea. I shopped around on the internet and when it came down to it, I ended up having a retired jeweler friend order and make my wifes engagement ring.

      There may be deals to be had from the internet, but I didn’t have enough confidence in spending that much money purchasing diamonds from the internet.

      Grant

    14. Frugal Says:

      Novice,
      Thanks for your detailed info. They were great resource links.

      Grant,
      If the internet price is not 15% cheaper, I probably won’t consider such method either. Back in 1997, internet prices were probably some 25% cheaper. But of course, things have changed a lot.

    15. Tim Says:

      I bought my wife’s engagement ring from bluenile and did so after having done extensive research on diamonds.

      Novice, I don’t know where you are getting the BN is more expensive and for the less sophisticated. That is absolutely not true. Even if you got to periscope that you recommended, you will see BN at the top of the list for the cheaper diamonds. Additionally, BN has one of the better CS that I’ve seen, where you can get the loose diamond shipped to you and return it and get a different one if you choose without having to pay shipping. I’m not trying to sell BN, but your statements are absolutely false.

      Another point to note is that GIA has gone to a new certificate with more information. New certificates can be purchased from GIA or free depending.

      If having an independent gemologist look at your stone, ensure that the gemologist is actually one that has training on the specific stone. Also look for other things like being a member of one of the appraiser groups. Not all jewelers are necessarily qualified or can give you an accurate valuation. You might feel good that you paid $3k for the diamond and the jeweler gives you an appraisal for $10k. What does this mean, it means you are going to pay more for insurance (presuming you are insuring it) than what the diamond is worth. Figure spending about $100-$250/hr to appraise a diamond from a certified appraiser. remember, you want to get an accurate valuation of what your insurance company will more than likely be able to replace a lost ring for. since they buy alot or have dealings with stores to replace rings, they are obviously going to get a better deal on replacement than you will. So the actual cash value claim, might make you unable to buy the same stone for the same price you had bought in the first place.

      Don’t be lured by “wholesale”. There is no such thing as wholesale diamonds. the RAP sheet is also a ficticious pricing list for diamonds and used to control the cost of diamonds in the industry, nothing more.

      If you buy on the net off an auction site or sites like Craig’s List, and you are trying to buy a name brand (i.e. Tiffany’s, cartier, etc) ensure that the ring actually makes sense. I saw an add for a Tiffany’s diamond engagement ring, that was something like H, SI. Knowing that Tiffany’s does not sell an H, SI engagement ring, you can avoid these kinds of traps. What happened was that the seller was trying to sell the ring as a Tiffany’s ring, because the band said Tiffany & Co, but the diamond was clearly from some other source.

      You can also go to sites like GIA’s site to put in measurements of the diamond.

      The problem with name brand stores like tiffany’s is that is what you are paying for is the name, so you pay a huge premium because of it. My wife’s friend absolutely in no uncertain terms had to have a tiffany’s engagement ring, despite being able to buy the same diamond ring for half as much. In the end, it is what your finacee will be happy with in the long run.

    16. john Dealdon Says:

      I shopped around on the internet and when it came down to it, I ended up having a retired jeweler friend order.

      There may be deals to be had from the internet, but I didn’t have enough confidence in spending that much money purchasing diamonds from the internet.

      But i find the suitable place from where i can purchase diamond jewlery. that place is http://www.aceexclusive.com/products/jewellery/rings/?cid=31

    17. Frugal Says:

      John Dealdon,

      Trust is the most important in business. I think you made a good choice.

      Thanks for your input.

    18. Diamond engagement ring enthusiast Says:

      You nearly feel like you’re gambling online when you hand over loads of cash. I don’t think I could just hand over $6,000 without seeing the stone first. I don’t care what it says on paper, you have to kown what you are buying and is it beautiful in your hand and not just on paper…

    19. Gary Diamond Says:

      I have to agree with most of you on this post, I to haven’t been able to buy that diamond that my fiancée wants but the day we get married I will place that diamond on her finger thats one thing I am sure of.