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Diamonds, Engagement Rings and Wedding Rings: Internet Versus Retail

©Andy Moquin; all rights reserved

Retail Jewelry Stores:
A common belief is that all jewelers are out to get you and that you're going to pay too much for a diamond or engagement ring. This is true for all industries and businesses, not just the jewelry industry. There are good businesses and there are not so good businesses. There's always a chance to pay more than you have to when buying a car, electronics, jewelry, or whatever. The key is to do your homework and find a jewelry store that you know is creditable; sometimes a referral from a friend is the best place to start.
diamond ring

Now it's true that most jewelry store prices will start off listing higher than many of the on-line businesses, but you have to consider all things. Who will size your ring when it needs to be done? How much will it cost when you have it done? How long will you be without your ring? There is a huge amount of convenience when buying local because many jewelers do all their work in-house. This means no waiting and sometimes you can actually have your ring sized or altered on the spot. Imagine proposing to your girlfriend and then telling her she has to wait 2-3 weeks before wearing it because it has to be shipped back to the on-line jeweler for sizing!

Other benefits are the warranties that come along with the purchase from a local jeweler. I had a customer come to our retail showroom not too long ago with a ring he bought from Bluenile. He brought his fiancé in to be fit for the ring and we sized the ring for $75.00. Two weeks later she came back and said that she chose to have the ring sized too small and needed to be sized again. Another $75.00! Now they're up to $150 in additional fees and they've only owned ring 2 weeks. Imagine the expenses you'll accumulate over the lifetime of the ring!

Another issue is the replacement of missing diamonds; today's engagement ring styles are very complicated and can be set with intricate diamond combinations. These tiny diamond accents are prone to falling out. When you need to have a small diamond accent replaced you could pay $75.00 to $150.00 in repair costs. Do you see the repair costs adding up? Most local jewelers value your business; in effort to keep you happy they'll take care of any costs associated with the upkeep of your ring. If you think I'm being one sided don't worry, I have a lot of positive things to share with you about buying on-line also!

One of the other benefits of shopping locally is the ability to see and examine the diamonds before buying. A big misconception is that all diamonds are graded exactly the same way and that an SI2 on-line is the same as an SI2 in a store. Truth is that every diamond is uniquely different and some diamonds are better than others even if the grades are identical. There are good VS2's and there are bad VS2's how do you know which one you have? You really need to see the diamond first hand and look at it under a microscope to be able to compare one to the next. You can have two diamonds graded exactly the same but one may be poorer a version of the same clarity grade because it was graded by two different people with different opinions. This of course greatly affects the value of the diamond and you're not aware of it unless you see them first hand. Shopping locally empowers you by allowing you to compare one diamond to next in real life situations.

Now if you say "that's all well and good but I still want the best deal I can get" and the bottom line price is still your biggest concern then simply be honest with the people you're shopping with. Truth be known, most jewelers are flexible in their pricing. You just have to communicate your needs with them properly so they know where you stand. They don't read minds and if you want the best deal you can get for a diamond then say that to them. You can't get what you don't ask for and nobody is going to volunteer this unless you ask for it. If you tell the local jeweler that you have been shopping on-line and you want them to match the price, they'll probably do it. The best strategy is to bring the Internet listing from the website that you are shopping with and give it to the jeweler. Ask them to show you a diamond of the same size, clarity and color, this way you are comparing apples to apples. In some cases they'll match the price and you'll get the best of all worlds including warranties, service, price and convenience!

There are no magical formulas or pixie dust that allows one on-line jeweler or retail jeweler the ability to buy a diamond for less than their competitors. Retailers and on-line jewelers pay the same amount for a diamonds and the going rate is the going rate. So your local jeweler has the ability to sell the diamond at the same price as the Internet jeweler, you just have to give him reason to. The best advice I can give you is "don't make them jump through hoops"; if they're going to give you a great deal don't make them work hard for it. Otherwise they may lose interest in the sale and say "No Thanks!". Be honest and fair with them and you may be surprised at how helpful they can be.

Internet Jewelers:
Ok I know you have been waiting for this, so here it is...

Yes, you can buy a diamond for less on the Internet! You'll also save the sales tax. However, you need to know that not all Internet jewelers are created equal and you really need to become familiar with whom you are dealing with. Lets start with some important issues. First, you should know that most Internet jewelers don't own their own diamond inventories. What they do is create computerized lists from diamond wholesalers and suppliers from around the country and place these lists on their websites. Now the problem with this is that these Internet jewelers have never seen the diamonds that they sell so they don't know what they are giving you. If you see a diamond listed on their site and ask them to describe it to you they have to call the supplier who owns the diamond and have them describe it to them first so they can describe it to you. That's fine as long as you are aware of the process.



Now, there are internet jewelers who do own their inventories and actually hand select the diamonds that go on their website. The benefit is that these internet jewelers have the ability to weed out problem stones because they get to see the diamonds before they buy them for resale. Allow me to give you an example of a problem diamond, take an SI1 diamond for instance. By definition, an SI1 diamond should not have imperfections that can be seen to the naked eye. However, I've seen GIA certified SI1 diamonds with imperfections that were plain as day when viewing the diamond to the naked eye. How does the internet jeweler that's selling computerized lists of diamonds know what kind of SI1 he/she is selling? They don't! That's why it is important to choose an internet jeweler who owns their inventory and hand picks each diamond personally. The benefit is that you can call them and ask them to describe the diamond to you to be sure that it's not a problem diamond. When wholesalers have problem diamonds that retail jewelers and Internet jewelers (that own their inventories) won't buy, they list them on internet websites because there's nobody to verify the problem. In the end you suffer because you unknowingly buy the problem diamond.

What's the solution? Work with an Internet jeweler that can hold the diamond in their hand and inspect it for you. Or work with a smaller yet trustworthy Internet jeweler who has a pulse on all the suppliers that they work with so they can verify the validity of the diamond grade. The larger Internet jewelers like Bluenile undoubtedly have a harder time weeding out the problem diamonds because they sell so many diamonds from these published virtual lists. Your diamond purchase is just another number to them while the smaller internet jewelers can spend more time with you on the phone answering your questions and sorting through their diamonds.

Another benefit to shopping online is the lack of pushy salespeople to deal with. As with many retail environments you'll occasionally run in to the hard-core salesperson at local jewelry stores. If you're the type of person who likes to move at his/her own pace and doesn't like to be pressured then the internet jeweler is a great option. If you find an informative site you'll have the time to gather information about diamonds at your own pace without the pressure of having to make a quick decision. You'll also cover a lot of ground very quickly because you can compare thousands of diamond prices with the click of a mouse. Shopping locally can be a long laborious process while spending hours at each location before going on to the next store.

If you choose to buy your diamond online, require several things from your Internet jeweler. First is a no-frills return policy, the standard for an established and creditable Internet jeweler is 30 days. Next is gemological certification, this is important because you want to be assured that the diamond is graded as fairly as possible. I would also only choose the Internet jewelers that display the BBB-Online Seal. The Better Business Bureau is a great consumer advocacy group and won't allow any website to display the seal unless their identity has been verified. They'll also remove the seal if the Internet site is abusing the use of the seal or is using unfair business practices.

In the end you'll have to decide what's more important to you, price or guarantees. Some people would never buy a diamond from an internet jeweler and some hate shopping locally. There are no secrets or shortcuts but you have to take the time to understand that there are pros and cons to both options. Nobody can say what's best for you and your fiancé but you.

Good Luck Shopping and feel free to contact me for any information about diamonds or diamond engagement rings!

Andy Moquin

President - Andrews Jewelers Inc.

CEO - Rokstok.com



Andy Moquin has spent 20 years in the jewelry business buying and selling over $20,000,000 in diamonds, engagement rings and custom designed jewelry. He has traveled to Belgium and Israel to work with international diamond dealers and works as an advisor for http://www.dbcdiamonds.com/ an international consortium of diamond dealers. His experience in jewelry business has become invaluable to consumers and business owners.

He can be contacted at AndrewsJewelers.com which is an on-line jewelry website specializing in engagement rings and wedding bands. They have over 5000 loose diamonds, engagement rings, and wedding bands available including world famous designers like Tacori and Verragio.


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