There they are...case after case of sparkling beauties! Smiling sales people eager to show you anything, and what appears to be a pit boss in the back for ground support. There's a guard at the front door and you wonder "Is he here to protect the jewelry store from being robbed or to make sure I leave with something!" Jewelry stores and their overly eager commissioned sales people can be a little intimidating for the average bear, but not for you!
I'm going to teach you five simple little tricks that will not only make your experience of buying an engagement ring enjoyable, but put you in command of your purchase. The goal is to get your dream diamond for your dream gal, at a dream price. The sooner you can get the purchase of the ring taken care of, the sooner you can get on one knee (or both knees if you have to) and lock in the deal! If you are like most men (I include myself in this group), you don't look like Brad Pitt and are still amazed that someone will go out with you regularly, much less spend the rest of their life with you! According to the 2002 U.S. Census Bureau Report, 31.7% of men will never marry in their lifetime! Isn't that amazing! Let's not make YOU part of that statistic.
Here are the five lifesaving "take charge tips" I like to call "The Alphabet Rules." Here's how to buy a diamond engagement ring.
- Loose. The first tip in buying engagement rings is pretty easy. If you are buying an engagement ring, only consider buying a diamond that hasn't been mounted yet. You want to see it LOOSE! It has been a closely guarded secret (until now) that jewelers will take their crummiest diamonds and put them in settings and stick them under hot spot lights. The vintage valuable rocks are hidden in the safe in the back! There are four reasons for this 1) if the diamond has a few knicks or chips, they can be hidden under prongs; 2) if the diamond has a little body color (a little yellow), they can use the setting to mask it; 3) if they are rounding up on the actual weight of the diamond, you can't put it on a scale; and 4) it's very hard to have the diamond's proportions checked out to guarantee your diamond will keep sparkling for many years and anniversaries to come. So remember, you want to buy a diamond separately from the ring.
- Magnify. Once they bring you some loose diamonds, ask them nicely to place each one under a microscope and point out the imperfections. Ask if the diamond is "eye clean" or not. You want to avoid diamonds that you can see imperfections with your own eyes because they don't hold their value or beauty. Have the jeweler assign a clarity grade to each diamond you are considering and try to stick to diamonds that are only slightly imperfect (SI) to very slight imperfect (VS). Once the diamonds are removed from the microscope, have the jeweler place each one upside down in a white tray (looks like a business card that is folded down the middle) to see if the diamond appears yellow against the white background. The good ones, the near colorless ones (G, H, I color grade) won't have a yellow tinge. If a diamond looks clean, white and big enough to you, ask if it is well proportioned? These will be Class 1&Class 2's. If the jeweler is uncooperative in any way or seems bothered by your intelligent questions, ask for the manager (he was the pit boss I mentioned earlier).
- Negotiate. The typical retail markup in a jewelry store is 100% (double) and in some stores as much as 400%!! Never pay sticker at a retail establishment. They expect you to negotiate; think of this like buying a car. A good general rule of thumb is to take their first offer and cut it in half and begin the negotiating from there. If you can end up 30-40% off their original price, you have probably done pretty good for yourself. It is not unusual that during this negotiation the jeweler might throw in a free or heavily discounted setting and explain what kind of warranties come with the purchase. The best warranties aren't warranties at all but guarantees. Avoid the "lab grading reports"; they can be in cahoots with the jeweler on the evaluation, and instead, get a Fully Bonded Appraisal (F.B.A.). F.B.A. diamonds come with a lifetime, buy-back and exchange policy. F.B.A. diamonds are the gold standard for the top quality diamonds on the market. Lower quality merchandise only comes with lab reports that don't guarantee anything.
- Opinion. Now that the diamond, setting, price, and guarantees have been settled, the jeweler is going to need a day or two to mount your selection. For some unscrupulous jewelers, this is a time where they may try to switch your selection for something else. So let the jeweler know up front that once you pick it up, you are immediately taking it to an independent appraiser to make sure everything is copasetic. When the jeweler knows his work is going to be double checked, they always take special care to get it right and not make any mistakes.
- Plot. Your final failsafe before you leave the jewelry store is to have the diamond you have chosen plotted. This is like getting a fingerprint of the diamond that can be compared to the diamond at any time - to make sure your diamond is always your diamond. Take your plotting with you and bring it back when you make your pick-up so it can be compared to the diamond you are taking home. Even the most honest jeweler in the world can make a mix-up and set the wrong diamond in the wrong setting. A plot will be the only way to be 100% sure that all the time you spent picking out that diamond doesn't go to waste.
L, M, N, O, P . . .. Loose, Magnify, Negotiate, Opinion, and Plot ~ The Alphabet Rules ~ Five little tips that could save you a lifetime of headaches. After you have the ring in your pocket, you'll have completed a big part of the perfect proposal, but it's only a part. If the romance muscle in your brain doesn't workout regularly and you need a little help to get those romantic juices flowing, read on to "How to Propose Marriage" and we'll see if we can help get you to the altar in record time!