Saturday, November 27, 2021

Over the Coals

All That Glitters

Submitted Photos


Flawed Diamond.

In case you did not know, diamonds are made from carbon, a similar composite to coal or graphite which is identical in nature. Just add intense heat, enormous pressure, and a few million years then presto, you have a diamond.

The term being “taken over the coals “reflects a negative one-sided business transaction that tends to benefit the seller and not the unfortunate buyer in the long run. And it usually results in “buyer’s remorse”, aka “an unhappy camper!”

Over the years, as an appraiser of fine jewelry, I have witnessed many cases (hundreds in fact!) where folks simply paid way too much for a diamond or precious stone jewelry.

This is not to be misunderstood or confused with designer or branded styles where one has to expect to pay more just for the name. Such as the particular brand of a high-priced handbag my wife apparently has an addiction to. A well-made leather handbag is a leather handbag… right? Well, not according to her.

Are diamonds, on the other hand, just diamonds? There are good quality and bad quality, as I have mentioned in the past – the four C’s of carat, color, clarity and cut. All these factors determine the cost of a diamond. If you score low on all the above, you should have also paid a low price. (I always like to add another “C” … cost to the formula above because cost kinda matters.) Think of the grading system as a sliding scale. A nice medium H-I white color diamond with a few inclusions or flaws, say SI2 clarity will and should cost considerably less than a high color (D) flawless diamond (FL) – thousands of dollars in fact.

The whole reason for this article is to understand what you are, in fact, paying for. A dark or off-colored, highly imperfect diamond is cheap money wholesale. I have seen them for sale for a few hundred dollars and seen unsuspecting consumers pay thousands for the same thing just because they put awful stone quality in a popular selling ring style. Large chain stores in the past were notorious for that practice. Many Caribbean and European tourist traps still do the same bait-and-switch transactions. That’s where they show you a nice diamond and in the process of “wrapping it up”, you get something different. Something way different!


Clarity Grading Chart.


I have seen the same practice in so called “auction liquidation sales” – horrendous quality diamonds and gemstones set in excellent quality heavy gold or platinum pieces. They are nowhere near the price paid when appraised by professionals.

Always look at the sales slip and make sure the diamond is described in detail. If it is a low-grade diamond mentioned on the receipt, and you thought you were buying a good quality, question it then and there! If it describes good quality and the diamond is not when appraised back home, you will have some recourse, and can challenge the sale and demand a full refund… sometimes. Consumer laws are very lax or non-existent in some foreign countries, so remember BUYER BEWARE. If it is too good to be true it probably is! It took someone I know years to get satisfaction, when a well-known diamond company in Puerto Rico charged her 25,000 dollars for a diamond that only appraised for 5,000 dollars here.

So, avoid being taken over the coals and be an informed consumer. Ask questions about the quality of the diamond you are contemplating buying, avoid in-house grading systems such as A, B or C quality. It’s their own way of saying good, bad, or downright ugly diamond quality.

A diamond with a G.I.A. (Gemological Institute of America) certificate has a worldwide system of grading diamonds and can be trusted for accuracy and a non-bias description of the diamond. Expect to pay a bit more for that professional certification option when you purchase a fine diamond. Believe me it’s worth the peace of mind. 

For any questions or inquiries about diamonds you can e-mail me at I will be happy to inform and help. 

Richard Alan is a designer and goldsmith and the owner of The Harbor Goldsmith of Marco Island. Go where the islanders go, a purveyor of fine diamonds since the late 1970s. He welcomes your questions and comments about all that glitters.



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