Sourcing a diamond online is easier than ever now and it’s a trend we’ve been seeing with increasing prevalence for years. From an independent jeweler standpoint, we’re pretty ambivalent towards online diamond sourcing, but frankly, it’s a necessary fact in our industry and, well, it is what it is!
That being said, if you’re considering sourcing a diamond online, I went ahead and put together some suggestions to keep in mind while doing your research in order to make your purchase as stress-free and rewarding as possible.
1) Know that when you’re buying online, you’re buying a grading report (with a diamond attached to it)
Diamonds are largely traded based on grading reports that attempt to define rather subjective traits such as color and brilliance. When buying a diamond, it’s important to keep in mind that these grading reports aren’t always completely on-the-nose correct – because, really, there is no such thing as irrefutably correct when you’re talking about grading. One grader’s F color is another’s G, and one lab’s VVS2 grade is another’s VSI. And, FYI, some grading reports can be very wrong. So, sure, you can learn all about the Four C’s and purchase accordingly, but it will be hard for you to know exactly what all this means without seeing the diamond in person and comparing it to others. And, grading is incredibly important in pricing a diamond, meaning that if you opt for the “finest” grade in every category to play it safe, you’ll be paying a lot more than you would if you allowed a little leeway.
2) Comparing diamonds means understanding your diamond
Two diamonds with identical grades can have very different looks. This is why we always get in multiple diamonds with differing grading for our clients to examine in person because to know is to compare. Often, clients will learn through comparison that one aspect of a diamond’s grade – color, for instance – is much more impactful to their own eye than clarity. Or, they may find that for the perfect brilliant sparkle, perfect or near-perfect clarity is actually imperative while color is a little less noticeable. Buying online makes this compare and contrast exercise extremely difficult, so always see if you can put a couple of options on your card with the intent of returning some or all of them after comparing them.
3) Some jewelers won’t work with you if you buy your diamond online
Some jewelers consider online diamond marketplaces to be a huge no-no in the independent industry and, frankly, we can’t blame them. The online market completely stripped the profit margin from the diamond trade. Blue Nile created a searchable database for average consumers to shop direct-to-consumer prices, leaving independent jewelers with scant opportunities to make real money off of diamond sales. But, if you ask me, this isn’t wholly bad – transparency in the marketplace can be a good thing and opens doors to more consumers who couldn’t previously afford this commodity. It forces jewelers to be more creative with their companies and can raise the bar overall. So, while we are happy to work with clients who source their diamonds *ahem* elsewhere, some jewelers will flatly refuse to work with you. It’s best to do your research first.
4) If you’re planning to source your diamond online, please don’t ask for a ton of diamond buying advice from a jeweler!
This is a little bit of a pet peeve. It’s completely fine in our book to buy your diamond online. But, please don’t ask us for expert advice on your diamond purchase! Relying on a real diamond expert to guide you through an online purchase while not buying directly from them is a really uncool thing to do. This is tantamount to walking into Bellacara, asking for a custom beauty consultation, and then buying everything they recommend through Sephora. If you want a jeweler to simply confirm that what you purchased is, in fact, a diamond (or a sapphire, or any other type of gemstone), this is completely fine. Asking for a complementary off-the-cuff expert appraisal of the quality of a diamond you purchased online? Maybe think on that one.
And, this brings us to my final pitch for considering making your diamond purchase from a local, independent jeweler rather than online. I’ll put it bluntly: when you buy a diamond online, you’re taking for granted the idea that a local jeweler will continue to be in business and be available to set and take care of your treasure for the rest of your life, despite you undercutting a huge income source for this jeweler. Diamonds might be a commodity good, but expertise, craftsmanship, and trustworthiness are not. I often see direct-to-consumer marketing, which will say things like, “quality without the markup” or some ringing tune like that. It’s important to keep in mind that for local businesses, that “markup” pays for our location, alarm system, employee salaries, health benefits, tools and equipment, insurance, local taxes, and the multitude of other expenses having a physical location entails. Without that markup, small businesses, in large part, can’t exist.
But, if you really see the value in buying your diamond online, don’t fret – we’re here for your setting! Happy hunting.
Alexandria & Company is an Old Town-based workshop and design studio specializing in creating and restoring fine jewelry and silver hollowware. They are the in-the-know jewelers of Alexandria and have been serving clients out of their small workshop for decades. Tucked in their historic building on South Royal Street, the team at Alx&Co. brings a personalized, modern approach to their craft – this is not your average stodgy jeweler or antique shop. Visit them during their walk-in hours or online to view their collection of handmade fine jewelry or to drop off a repair project; or, if you’re feeling creative, make an appointment to talk about that custom design project you’ve been imagining.
121-B South Royal Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Design Studio Walk-In Hours (all jewelry services): Wednesday – Saturday 12-6pm
Silver Workshop Walk-In Hours (all silver repair and restoration services): Wednesday or Friday 12-6pm, or by appointment
Appointments encouraged for custom design.