When I Bought My Diamond Engagement Ring

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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