Diamonds: Know before you buy

Published 11:02 pm Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Selma jewelers said shoppers should make sure they are purchasing from a reputable dealer when purchasing diamonds and know the different elements that go into selecting a good dealer. Above, a shopper looks over a diamond engagment ring at Jewelry Kingdom on Highland Avenue. -- Chris Wasson, Photo

Now that the holidays are over, don’t put the Christmas décor away just yet. With New Year’s only days away, there is still time to surprise your sweetie with that one-of-a-kind gift: a diamond.

But before you invest thousands of dollars in a crucial purchase, at least know what to look for.

Ilyas Inan, head jeweler at Jewelry Kingdom on Highland Avenue, said when looking for a jeweler, make sure they are legitimate.

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“An honest jeweler is key,” Inan said. “Also, just because a jeweler is big doesn’t mean he/she is honest.”

Diamonds come in many different shapes: princess, round, heart, emerald, oval, pear, trilliant (wedge), cushion, radiant and marquise.

According to diamond experts, more than 65 percent of the world’s diamonds come from African countries and the round diamond makes up 75 percent of total diamonds sold in the U.S.

When looking for a diamond, be sure to look for the “four Cs,” which include cut, clarity, color and carat.

The cut of a diamond is the most important feature, and determines a diamond’s brilliance when light is reflected through it. A cut can be very good (excellent), good, poor, fair or ideal.

A diamond is an excellent cut if light reflects back to the eye, but a poor cut doesn’t reflect light well, resulting in less brilliance.

Perfect diamonds are rare therefore clarity looks at the number and size of inner flaws in the diamond and shows how clear a diamond is.

The clearer the diamond, the more expensive it will be.

Carat is the weight of measurement for a diamond and color determines desirability. Colorless diamonds tend to be the most desirable because they “sparkle” more.

Inan suggests some jewelers try to deceive uninformed customers by selling them fakes.

“There are jewels called ‘fraction filled’ or, clarity-enhanced diamonds,” Inan said. “These diamonds look high quality, but they are really a lower grade.”

Jim Truax, owner of Butler-Truax Jewelers, said there’s one rule of thumb to remember: The bigger the center stone, the more valuable the ring.

“The solitaire, or 1 carat stone, will be more valuable than a 1/2 carat,” Truax said. “One big diamond will be more valuable than one medium-sized diamond with accent stones around it, and if a diamond looks like glass then it’s probably a fake.”

Truax said the “round” diamond tends to be a top seller.

“The round diamond is the most popular and the princess shape comes in second,” Truax said. “The cushion (half round and half squared) and radiant (more rectangular), are the next popular.”

Truax believes it is hard for the average person to spot a good diamond and, therefore a professional’s eye is beneficial.

“The main reason people go to a jeweler that’s been in business for a while is because that jeweler is reputable,” Truax said. “People ‘trust’ in us to be fair and to educate them.”

For those who are still confused about finding that perfect fit, Inan said there is a solution to picking a quality diamond.

“Have jewelers test diamonds with a diamond tester machine — every jeweler should have one,” Inan said. “The diamond tester checks to see if the diamond is real, but a gemologist can check for the quality.”