I know I’m biased but I really do believe this: my husband Tim is an Old Town treasure. He has owned our business for thirteen years and over this time developed a reputation for being, and I quote from our clients, “so sweet,” “the most amazing guy,” “just wonderful,” and “a doll.” And he is all of these things!
Tim truly is a resource of knowledge for our clients and for me. His biggest fault is that he is too generous with his time. If you ask him a question he will stop what he is doing and answer it thoroughly and he is truly the most patient human I have ever met. So, I thought it would be fun over the summer to talk to Tim about his top tips for different subjects. We’ll keep them short and distilled so that you can soak up the knowledge and move on to sunning yourself by the pool (or daydreaming about it, if you’re like me and don’t have a pool).
This week, we’ll focus on diamonds and over the next couple of months we’ll cover silver care, custom design, and perhaps even one about parenting (because in addition to knowing everything about fine jewelry and silver, Tim is also a fabulous dad.) So, without further ado…
This may be contradictory for a list where I’m giving you expert advice, but my number one rule when buying diamonds is: don’t put too much weight in “expert” opinions or in diamond grading certificates. I think that the guidance of a salesperson or the grade on a certificate are better appreciated as tools for you to use when picking out a diamond rather than as The Authority on what to buy.
When I have clients come to me looking for very specific graded qualities, I always take some time to walk them through what these grades mean and how they can vary considerably between different grading authorities. It’s true that some grading houses are more scrupulous than others, and I have also noticed that even within a single grading house you can see a huge variation in standards depending on factors such as where exactly that diamond was graded.
For example, GIA has grading houses in Mumbai, New York, Bangkok, Johannasburg, Tokyo, Carlsbad, Ramat Gan, and Surat. Each of these houses has its own reputation for adhering to strict grading standards so you can’t necessarily trust that a “GIA certified diamond” will look exactly how you expect. Diamonds that look identical on paper may look noticeably different to your own eye — and even to the salesperson who is showing your the diamond. Always remember that you are buying the diamond so you should be shown and walk away with a stone that hits the marks for you, not for the salesperson who insists you need a certain color grade or size.
There are, of course, times when I meet with a client and find that their expectations and budget don’t align. For example, you won’t find a 2-carat diamond on a $1K budget. Aside from this rare occurrence, I always encourage our customers to stick with their own comfort level and ignore the noise coming from other salespeople (or nosy family members) about what they “need” to spend on their diamond. I like to work backwards from a client’s comfort point to educate them on what they can buy at that budget and what type of value they get from their diamond in this range. By working through what they want most out of their diamond — is it a big look? A beautiful colorless hue? — we can determine which other factors can be compromised on in order to meet their budget.
The old adage of “there is no such thing as a stupid question” is very true here. The fact is, unless you work in the industry you probably know very little about diamonds and what to look for in them. To make matters more difficult, so much of the industry is swept up in marketing so it can be very difficult to educate yourself about this purchase from an objective perspective. So, I always encourage our clients to ask tons of questions no matter how trivial or obvious they may seem. This is not only a big financial decision but it’s also a presumably permanent one. Of course you can re-do your engagement ring down the road but the goal is usually to avoid that, so it’s important to try and get it right the first time around.
This is also why I always expect to go through at least a couple of consultations with a client before they make a purchase. The first consultation is usually a little overwhelming in the amount of information we go over. More often than not, clients say that there is so much more to understanding a diamond than what they appreciated before coming in. I think that’s great because I want our clients to feel educated about their purchase.
Usually, by the second meeting my clients come prepared with a few questions based off of our first appointment and feel more comfortable jumping in with their thoughts as we go through our review. By the time my client makes his or her decision on the diamond they want to buy they feel 100 percent knowledgeable and confident in their choice, which is the best feeling for me as the guy who helped them get there.
If you’re interested in buying a diamond or know someone who could use some help, reach out to us to schedule a consultation. We firmly believe that this should not be a stressful process and we’re happy to share our knowledge with you so that you feel confident in your choice. Check us out and see how we’re different from other jewelers.
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.