Should you just buy one ring for your wedding, or do you need two—one to use as an engagement ring, and another to give as a wedding band?
Can an engagement ring be used as a wedding ring? presenting an engagement ring at the time of proposal and a wedding band during the marriage ceremony is fairly traditional. Once married, both rings are usually worn together on the ring finger of the left hand. Still, you could certainly vary these cultural traditions and take a more unique approach.
How can you know whether you should get one ring or two, to cover your engagement and marriage? We’ll try to help you determine which path to take throughout the remainder of this article. Keep reading!
The Difference Between an Engagement Ring and a Wedding Band
An engagement ring is used to symbolize a commitment to another person—specifically, the commitment to legally marry them. It continually reminds the person wearing it of their commitment, and also visually notifies other potential suitors that the engaged person is ‘off the market.’ The engagement ring is generally presented, and given, during the proposal, when one person asks the other to marry them. Engagement rings are traditionally worn by women, but not men, which is strange, I know.
These rings (which are sometimes now referred to as e-rings for short) are typically much larger, more ornate, and expensive than the wedding band that is added during the marriage ceremony. The e-ring will often have a large center stone, and may have other smaller stones acting as additional decoration around the center stone or around the outside perimeter of the ring.
A wedding band is typically smaller, more simple, and somewhat less expensive than the engagement ring. This is often a band that’s lined to some degree with diamonds or other gems. Those stones sometimes go all the way around the outside of the ring, but other times, only cover the top portion. The gems that line the ring are generally very small which is one reason why these rings typically cost less than the engagement ring. The wedding band is generally kept fairly simple and narrow, so it can butt up closely against the engagement ring and looking like the two rings coordinate if possible.
The wedding band isn’t given in advance of the wedding ceremony, like the engagement ring, but is instead given at the conclusion of the successful union as a symbol the marital vows.
The Engagement ring and separate Wedding Band help to distinguish phases of the relationship and celebrate significant milestones. The real reason for the tradition, however, comes down to marketers trying to sell more diamonds and precious metals for their clients. They have promoted and encouraged the notion that there’s a specific way that ring gifting should be done for engagement and marriage, that conveniently allows them to sell two rings instead of just one. Of course, they would encourage you to come back and buy additional rings for anniversaries too.
Is a Wedding Band Necessary?
The common tradition of giving an engagement ring and a coordinating wedding band isn’t bad, as long as you know that it isn’t really necessary—it’s optional.
As I’ve mentioned in other articles, I knew NOTHING when I started shopping for rings for my girlfriend (now wife of 20 years) in 1998. I certainly didn’t know the difference between an engagement ring and a wedding ring. I knew you bought a diamond, and that was about it.
I was a student at the time, and I ended up borrowing money to buy the ring. That diamond engagement ring also acted as her wedding ring. It was a pretty ring, but not extravagant.
Over the past 20 years, no one has ever asked my Wife if she’s only engaged…or married. I guess they see a rock on the ring finger of her left hand and figure she’s married. This just hasn’t been an issue at all—not even once. There’s nothing wrong with buying a wedding set, some of them are really beautiful, but if it’s a financial burden, or you don’t like the look, you don’t have to go that route.
I would suggest that you have an open conversation with your partner to learn their preference. Some people love wearing multiple rings, others are more minimalistic, and would prefer just one.
The Cost of Adding a Wedding Band
If you’re buying a diamond Wedding Band, they’ll commonly range from approximately $1,000 to $3,000. Of course, that’s just an average—it is possible to find higher, and lower, cost bands.
If money is tight, like it was for me when I was getting married, an extra $1,000+ might be difficult to swing. If you like the idea of the Wedding Band, but need a more ‘frugal’ option, you could get Cubic Zirconia or some other diamond simulant for the second ring. Because the stones on a Wedding Band are typically very small, it would be hard to tell it doesn’t also contain diamonds. You would end up with the look you like and the price you need.
If you REALLY need to tighten your belt financially, you could explore bridal sets that give you both an engagement ring and a wedding band, which both have diamond simulants in them. Again, a diamond simulant is a stone that looks a lot like a diamond, but isn’t. These rings can be really beautiful, and can bring your total cost down to $100 – $1,000, depending on your choice of metal and stone types used. Sterling Silver will be on the less expensive side, with 14k or 18k gold (white, yellow, or rose) on the more expensive side.
Click the following link if you would like to visit the retailer that I would typically go to for very inexpensive bridal sets. These are typically Sterling Silver ring sets that run $200 or less.
If you want to spend a little more, to get gold instead of silver, try the mid-range bridal sets available through this online retailer. Use your mouse to hover over the ‘Bridal’ tab, and then select ‘Bridal Sets’ below. 10k to 14k gold will run about $800 for many of the available options.
How to Wear an Engagement Ring and a Wedding Band at the Same Time?
The most traditional way to wear a Wedding Band and an engagement ring together (at the same time), is to put them both on the Ring Finger of your left hand. Why your left? Because the long ago, the Romans believed that there was a unique vein (the vena amori) in the ring finger of your left hand that ran directly to your heart. The heart has long been associated with love and commitment. Wearing the ring that symbolizes your deep love and lasting commitment on the finger with this ‘love vein’ was symbolic. Even though modern anatomy doesn’t support the theory of a special vein that runs from that particular finger to your heart, it’s a symbolic sentiment and tradition that continues today throughout much of the world.
When both rings are worn together in this way, placement is traditionally important. You would put your wedding band on first (nearest to your heart), and your engagement ring on the same finger, so the two are side-by-side.
Some brides don’t like the look or feel of having two rings on the same hand, so they often do one of the following variations.
Wear one ring (typically the wedding band) on the ring finger of the left hand, and the other ring (the engagement ring for example) on the corresponding finger of the right hand.
Wear one ring on the wedding finger of your left hand, and the other ring on another finger of your left hand, or any other finger of your right. You certainly can wear both rings on different fingers of the same hand if you’d like.
Wear one of your two rings on a chain that you wear around your neck as a necklace.
While the three additional options outlined above aren’t very traditional, you can vary the norm if you want, or need, to accommodate your style preference or comfort.
Using a Wedding Band Instead of an Engagement Ring
Brides who don’t like the look, or feel, of wearing two rings at the same time, can keep things really simple by leaving their engagement ring in a jewelry box at home, and only wearing their wedding band. Because the wedding band is often more narrow and simple, it can often be the most comfortable option.
Moms sometimes choose to do this because a big solitaire can sometimes get in the way or scratch the baby if you aren’t careful. My wife started just wearing a wedding band when our children were young for that very reason.
How to Make Just One Ring Feel Special
Purchasing a separate e-ring and a wedding band isn’t the only way to mark or celebrate your transition from being engaged to getting married. Another potential idea, is to buy a nice engagement ring that’s topped with a quality Cubic Zirconia. Once you’re married, you could swap out the CZ or a diamond, a Moissanite, or a colored gemstone of their choice. Another simple and inexpensive option, that could be meaningful, is to ‘borrow’ the engagement ring in the days leading up to your ceremony to have the inner band engraved with a special message. When you give the ring back during the wedding ceremony, it isn’t the same old ring. It’s the same ring, we an added sentimental value (the special new message).
By doing it this way, you keep your upfront costs low, but still give your soon-to-be spouse something different and special to mark the occasion (a special new message, a new gem, or some other stone).
Where Do I Put My Engagement Ring During the Ceremony?
You typically move your engagement ring, temporarily, to your right hand, so that the ring finger of your left hand is vacant and ready to receive your wedding band during the ceremony. You can move your engagement ring back over to his normal position, behind the wedding band, after the ceremony.
Can Any Ring be Used as an Engagement Ring?
Absolutely! Whether it looks like a traditional engagement ring or not, you could use it. I’ve heard of people during hard times (like The Great Depression) using a piece of yarn tied around their finger. It isn’t very traditional, but it can carry the same symbolism that more traditional rings do.
Do Engagement Rings Have to Have Diamonds?
No, it’s really a matter of personal preference. An engagement ring doesn’t have to contain a gem of any kind. It could contain a simulant stone, or no stone at all if you’d prefer. Similarly, there are no real rules for the metals either. It could use a precious, semi-precious, industrial, or plated metal.
It’s the 7th most visited site in the US! You can buy almost any household item, fashion accessory, jewelry item, or home appliance there. But is Craigslist.org a safe and effective place to shop for diamonds?
Can I save money by buying a diamond off of Craigslist? You can save significant money by purchasing a used diamond engagement ring, or wedding ring, through sites like Craigslist. New diamonds typically lose at least 30% of their value when they’re purchased. When you buy used, you don’t incur the initial drop in value, but get to take advantage of it instead.
Yes, sites like Craigslist can be great places to buy rings at big savings, but they can also be dangerous places to do business if you aren’t careful. Throughout the rest of this article, I’ll show you how to stay safe as you shop for a gently used version of your dream ring.
Why People Sell Used Diamonds at Deep Discounts
Why would anyone sell a perfectly good diamond ring for WAY less than they originally paid a jeweler for it? It happens. Here are some of the most common reasons.
She/he said ‘No’
Pre-wedding break up
There’s pain at the center of many of those reasons that people have for dumping their diamonds. They need to get rid of the ring quickly, to either separate from the emotional pain that the ring triggers in them, or to recoup money that they desperately need.
It’s sad that people sometimes have to deal with these types of issues. We aren’t there to make their problems worse. As buyers, we can actually help them by purchasing their ring, allowing them to move on with their lives, and probably get more money out of their ring than they could in any other way. When they get a little more from you than they could elsewhere, and you save thousands of dollars on your ring, it’s a win-win situation.
How Much Are Used Diamonds Worth?
The moment that you purchase a new diamond ring, it’s value plummets. Why? It’s really the same reason that new cars have a big drop in value the moment you drive them off the lot. No one wants to pay new diamond prices for a used diamond (even a slightly used diamond). If a buyer isn’t saving a significant amount on the purchase of a used ring, they’d rather buy directly from the jeweler, where they feel more certainty about the quality of the item they’re purchasing.
To resell a used diamond, you’ll probably need to discount the gem (or ring) by a minimum of 30%, but it often takes a 50% to 70% discount to get it sold. To put that in perspective, a $5,000 diamond ring, would likely resell for between $1,500 to $2,500 as a used ring (even if you just bought it yesterday).
Sellers have several common options for moving their ring, but none of them are typically as favorable as selling private party through a site like Craigslist.
Sell the ring back to the Jeweler
Sell to a pawn shop
Sell through an auction (online or offline)
Sell to a local, private party, buyer
Selling back to the jeweler seems like an easy answer. Seems like they’d be willing to pay maybe $4,500 to buy the ring back, right? Wrong. The $5,000 price tag, in our example, is their retail price. They can buy diamonds at wholesale. Wholesale pricing is probably considerably lower than $4,500. Why would they pay more for your ring than they could buy if for through their suppliers? They wouldn’t. Another important consideration, is the fact that they get special payment terms from their suppliers. For example, if their supplier gives them 90 days ‘same as cash’ terms, they can try to sell their new inventory before having to pay for it. If they buy your ring, they have to come out of pocket with cash, to pay for the ring in advance. That’s a way less attractive proposition for them. The only way to entice them to pay cash up front for your ring is to give them a super deep discount. In reality, you’d probably need to sell to them for less than you could get by selling to a local private party buyer that’s preparing for their own upcoming wedding.
Pawn shops are typically terrible places to sell. You can get cash quickly, but it comes at a high cost. Pawn shops make money by reselling to their customers at discount prices. Because they need to resell at a discount, they need to buy at a deep discount to create sufficient margin. Pawn shops often seem to prey on the desperate. It’s a place to sell quickly for a low-ball amount when you can’t hold out for something more.
Auctions can be done locally or online. In both cases, buyers are looking for a deal. They certainly don’t want to buy at auction price that’s even remotely close to retail. In addition to the sizable discount that they’re looking for, there are selling fees that need to be factored in. Because of both of those factors, auctions typically aren’t a good way to maximize the amount of cash that you’re able to get by selling a used diamond ring. What auctions do offer, like pawn shops, is a fast sale.
Private party sales can be made through local classified ad sites like Craigslist, through word of mouth, or through little ads posted to physical bulletin boards in your town or city. Private party sales typically involve selling your ring to a buyer that’s preparing for their own upcoming wedding. Purchasing a used ring allows them to save a considerable amount, and it allows the seller to get money for their ring than any of the options mentioned above would be able to offer. In that sense, it’s an ideal outcome for all involved.
The Cost of Being Too Trusting
While there are opportunities to save significant money on a diamond engagement ring, anniversary ring, or wedding ring through sites like Craigslist, there are also real dangers. Scam artists from around the globe have found these platforms to be happy hunting grounds from ripping people off.
Remember, that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is (emphasis on ‘probably’). It’s alright to find a real bargain—even something that’s unbelievably inexpensive, as long as you recognize that you’re entering potentially dangerous waters and proceed with extreme caution. When sellers are eager to unload their item, you might be able to buy a quality ring at a ridiculously low price, but you can’t let greed or fear of missing out (FOMO) cause to you enthusiastically rush into the eager arms of a skilled scam artist.
Misrepresented Product: The biggest risk that most buyers face when purchasing diamonds from a private party source, is misrepresentation of the item. There are many diamond simulants that aren’t diamond at all, but look a lot like the gem (enough that they could easily fool many potential buyers). Some look-alikes are made of glass or Cubic Zirconia, for example, and could have an actual value of $30 or less, but they’re being sold as ‘diamonds’ for thousands of dollars.
To protect yourself, ask to see a diamond grading report. Go to the website of the company that issued the grading report to confirm that the report is real. You should be able to enter the report number to see a copy of the report information online. If the report is a fake (which isn’t very common for typical jewelry) the report number either wouldn’t be found, or the diamond description and information wouldn’t match the report you were given.
Switch Out:This is a less common scam to see with a Craigslist sale, but it’s still good to be aware of this because it could happen. After having a real diamond ring tested, or evaluated, they can switch the ring for one that looks nearly identical with an inexpensive simulant on it. You leave the transaction satisfied that you protected yourself and purchased a genuine item at a great price, but in reality, you may later discover that you ended up with something quite different than you bargained for.
To protect yourself, make sure that you control the ring after it’s tested or evaluated by a local professional (if you choose to have it double checked). Once you’re satisfied with the results, you can pay for the ring and be on your way. There’s no need to hand the ring back if you plan to purchase it.
Promises to Ship: One of the most common scams that scam artists try to pull on sites like Craigslist.com, involves telling you that the ring needs to be shipped for some reason. They’ll tell you that their sister has it in another part of the country, but they’ll overnight it to you, or that it’s currently being cleaned or graded. They suggest that you pay for the ring outright, or that you just pay some of the money until the ring arrives. They tell you that you can bring the rest by once the ring arrives and you’re fully satisfied. Whether you put down a couple of hundred dollars as a deposit, or you give them half upfront, you’re unlikely to ever see those people again. You likely won’t get anything in the mail. If you do, it won’t be what you were expecting.
To protect yourself from this scam, make a rule that you aren’t going to buy from any private party seller that says they need to ship the ring. If they bring that up, you should immediately turn around and walk away—no exceptions.
Robbery: Stories have hit the news networks of people getting robbed when they show up to buy an expensive ring. Bad guys can lure you in with a deal seems too good to be true. When they list a $20,000 diamond ring for $2,500, they know that you’re probably going to show up with $2,500 in cash. Shortly after you show up, they take your money, and you leave empty-handed (but hopefully not physically hurt).
There are actually several things that you could do to protect yourself from this type of crime.
Take multiple people with you to make the purchase. There’s safety (at least greater safety) in numbers.
Ask the seller to meet you in a very public place (preferably one with cameras). They may appreciate that protection too if they’re a legitimate seller.
Tell the seller that you won’t be bringing the money when you come to see the ring. If you like the ring, then you’ll go get the money. This gives you a chance to get a feel for the ring and the seller before carrying large amounts of cash.
As you can see, buying on Craigslist, and other similar sites could provide real savings, but the risks are also very real. It’s a ‘buyer beware’ type of environment, where you can’t be too trusting, regardless of how nice or honest a particular seller might seem.
Buying Through Auctions
Auctions come in two major varieties (online and offline). Both could potentially lead to some good buying opportunities, but the MAJOR disadvantage of buying there, is that you don’t have much opportunity to research a given ring that you’re going to be bidding on before committing to the ring. In many cases, you don’t get to try it on before buying it either.
You may like the way a ring looks in the pictures that you saw, but HATE the way it looks on your hand, for example. If you purchase through an online auction, in particular, you have a much higher likelihood of wasting your time and money.
Safer Sources of Used Diamond Rings
If you’re interested in buying a used engagement ring, or wedding ring, you may want to look into an online retailer that has a reputation to protect. They often verify the pre-owned rings that are available through their site. That’s the best way to ensure that you aren’t going to be WAY overpaying for some simulant that only LOOKS like diamond.
To check out one of my favorite sources for used rings, click HERE. In addition to earth grown diamonds, you can often find lab grown diamonds, Moissanite, Morganite, and other gemstones on the site too.
The supplier that I go to for used rings, also offers other used wedding jewelry, wedding dresses, veils, and other items that you could potentially save considerable money on.
Do You Negotiate Engagement Ring Price?
Attempting to negotiate price is a good idea if you can do it in a way that isn’t offensive. If you offer a lower price than the seller is willing to take, and they decline the offer, you’re no worse off than you would be if you never tried. Your efforts to negotiate will often save you money.
Is Diamond Jewelry a Good Investment?
Diamonds typically aren’t a good financial investment. They’re an investment in your relationship. They’re a deeply symbolic piece of personal property, that’s meaningful to your relationship. In reality, if you have to resell the diamond, especially in the near-term, you’re likely to take a loss on it.
Which Diamond Shape Has the Most Sparkle?
The Round Brilliant shape is ideal for maximizing the sparkle of your diamond because of the number of facets it has, along with their positions, angling, and symmetry. The Oval, Marquise, and pear-shaped stones have cuts that have lots of sparkle too, but generally not quite as much as the Round Brilliant.
It’s easy to feel a little lost when reading about, or discussing, lab-grown diamonds, because so many different terms are used to describe them. This article will help you get familiar with the most common terminology.
What is a Lab-Grown Diamond called? Lab-Grown Diamonds are commonly referred to by many different names, including:
Lab Made Diamonds
Above Ground Diamonds
Man Made Diamonds
Various combinations of all these names are also commonly used.
So many names are used for man-made diamonds, that things can get confusing fast. In the remainder of this post, we’ll discuss why so many are used, and why some have been heavy promoted, and lobbied for, by certain industry segments.
Why So Many Names Exist for Lab Grown Diamonds
When industries are young, it’s common for there to be many names floating around for certain type of process or technology. The lab created diamond industry is still quite young. While groups like General Electric have been working to manufacture quality diamonds for decades, it’s only in the very recent past, that the technology has evolved to the point that lab-cultured diamonds are now visually indistinguishable from mined diamonds. The similarities aren’t just based on appearance. Lab diamonds are now just as hard, and durable, as earth-grown diamonds.
Different name variations can become established and entrenched in geographic regions. For example, people in some parts of the US refer to a typical carbonated beverage as a ‘Soda,’ other regions would refer to the same drink as a ‘Pop,’ and still, others would call it a ‘Coke,’ regardless of the cola’s brand.
Communities of various types can also adopt common usage of the name that seems to suit them best. These can be professional communities (like geologists), or non-professionals (like wedding bloggers). The fact that each community can have different names that get entrenched and ingrained in their communication culture, helps perpetuate the use of a wide variety of names that are continually floating around, both online and offline, that all describe the same type of product.
Names Used for Traditional Diamonds
Traditionally, diamonds are just referred to as ‘diamonds’. Because lab grown diamonds are also ‘diamonds,’ there are now terms that are used when someone wants to make it clear that they’re specifically talking about traditional diamonds that were excavated from the earth. Here are a few examples.
Below Ground Diamonds
Earth Grown Diamonds
Of course, there are also combined variations of those names, like ‘Earth Mined Diamonds’ too. Mined diamonds that were produced with slave labor, that fund wars, or that use child labor are known best by the following terms:
Unfortunately, Conflict Diamonds continue to be smuggled out of banned nations, and in through non-banned nations to sidestep regulation. It’s a flawed process. Lab diamonds, on the other hand, are always conflict-free.
How Names Shape Sentiment
The mined diamond industry has a strong, and fairly universal, opinion about the name they would like lab diamonds to be known by. Of all the potential names listed above, they would prefer for people to use ‘Synthetic.’
When your average consumer hears the term ‘synthetic diamond’ they interpret the name as ‘FAKE’ diamond. Since lab-grown diamonds are so much cheaper than mined diamonds, the mined diamond industry needs to differentiate the two, and position lab-grown diamonds as cheap substitutes. The name ‘Synthetic’ helps with that aim.
Every heard the term Aquaponics? That’s a process that some people use to grow vegetables in water rather than soil. When I say ‘rather than soil,’ I mean it—no soil. It works. A tomato grown by this method, for example, is a REAL tomato, that’s that same as a field grown tomato in every regard (look, taste, nutrition, cell structure, etc). The tomato didn’t come through a traditional channel (growing in dirt), so should it be called a ‘synthetic tomato’? Of course not. It’s not a fake tomato—it’s a real tomato that was created in an unusual way. Could the label ‘synthetic diamond’ scare some buyers off that might misunderstand the label? Of course!
In a very similar way, man made diamonds aren’t really ‘synthetic.’ They’re real diamonds that came to use through a non-traditional channel—but that’s not necessarily a bad thing if the traditional channel is completely controlled, manipulated, and overpriced.
De Beers has made an absolute fortune manipulating the opinions of nations through the clever conditioning of marketers. Just as they carefully conditioned nations to abandon cultural norms, and adopt new traditions that revolved around diamond gifting as part of weddings and anniversaries, they have also tried to shape public opinion against lab created diamonds.
They fought and lobbied along with the rest of the industry for the term ‘synthetic’ to stick as the standard term, used across government and industry, for lab diamonds. Jewelers, news programs, diamond grading companies and many others across the industry seemed thrilled to adopt and use the terminology.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) made headlines around the world in 2018, when they announced new guidelines regarding the use of the term ‘natural’ when used as a descriptor for diamonds, and ‘synthetic’ when used as a descriptor for lab-created diamonds.
The FTC is an agency of the United States government, that’s responsible for regulating the claims and tactics of advertisers. They essentially police the industry with the US.
After a great deal of debate, study, and consideration, they found that lab-grown diamonds aren’t clever lookalikes—they’re actual diamond, in every sense. Yes, they’re made differently, but they’re made of the same stuff, have the same look, and share the same key characteristics.
The term favored for lab-created diamonds by the mined diamond industry, ‘synthetic’ didn’t fit well. It implies that lab-grown diamonds might look the same, but it’s fake—just a cheap imitation. Again, the FTC found nothing ‘fake’ about lab-grown diamonds. Because of this, their 2018 release on the issue advised marketers away from using the term ‘synthetic’ to describe a competitor’s lab created diamonds.
On the other hand, they also made it absolutely clear, that man-made diamond manufacturers and retailers have to disclose the origins of their lab-made diamond through the term they use to describe it. They can’t refer to their lab created product simply as ‘Diamond.’ Instead, they need to call it something like ‘lab created diamond,’ ‘lab cultured diamond’.
If lab created diamonds are truly just like mined diamonds, then why the need to differentiate? Several reasons:
Earth-grown diamonds cost A LOT more, and people want to make sure they aren’t paying earth-grown prices for a lab-grown product…even if both items look identical and are equally durable and functional.
Some people specifically want and earth-grown diamond for a particular reason
The notion of the diamond forming deep in the earth over millions of years seems romantic or intriguing.
They’ve bought into the notion that earth-grown diamonds are more desirable and valuable.
Simple transparency. Consumers have the right to know the origins of the product they buy if that information is going to be valuable to them. They can then decide if the information is going to influence their decisions from there.
They also said that earth-grown diamond companies can’t refer to their product as ‘natural diamond.’ That could also confuse consumers and potentially lead them to look at various diamond options differently than they otherwise normally would.
How the Term ‘Synthetic’ is Still Being Used Since the New Guidelines
Marketers are generally careful to avoid using term ‘synthetic’ in diamond ads and other marketing efforts, but the guidelines don’t apply to countless other use cases. Radio hosts, newspaper columnists, and industry educators that aren’t directly marketing diamonds still can, and do, use the term ‘synthetic’ in (intentionally and unintentionally) misleading ways to describe lab created diamonds.
Because of this, many people still use the term publically. It’s probably also used thousands of times daily by jewelry professionals across the country (and around the world) during live conversations in their store. Those live conversations are obviously very difficult for consumer protection groups like the FTC to monitor.
How Much Do Lab Created Diamond Engagement Rings Cost?
The gem for a typical one-carat lab-created diamond engagement ring should cost roughly $2,400. In addition to the impact of the carat weight on the price. Pricing will also vary based on the color, cut, and clarity of the diamond. Those that are colorless, and those with vivid coloring, will cost the most.
What are the Advantages of Buying Loose Lab Created Diamonds?
It’s much easier to shop for your best price on truly comparable lab-created diamonds when you’re evaluating loose stones. If they aren’t loose, comparing stones becomes much more difficult, because the metal type, the weight, and the design of the ring itself can cause big price swings from ring-to-ring.
Can You Buy GIA Certified Lab Created Diamonds?
GIA does certify lab-grown diamonds, but they’ll only provide a range for color and clarity, rather than a specific grade. For this reason, few lab-created diamonds are sent to GIA for grading. Labs like IGI (among others) grade all varieties of diamonds with equal standards, so they’re typically preferred.
Diamonds are a beautiful gem, but there are many beautiful precious and semi-precious gems that cost a lot less. People from many cultures spend serious money on this sought after rock—but, why?
Why are diamonds so valuable? Value is based on the principle of supply and demand, however, the supply of earth-grown diamonds has been carefully controlled to create the appearance of rarity, which artificially drives prices higher. For many decades, De Beers controlled supply as a Monopoly, today, the industry controls it as a Cartel.
The role of diamonds in our culture has changed so much over the past hundred years! Knowing something about that history will help you to understand exactly why diamonds are valuable today, and why we continue to buy them even when they’re so expensive. Keep reading!
How Diamond Engagement and Wedding Rings Became Popular
Cecil Rhodes was born in England but later lived in South Africa, where he rented water pumps to diamond miners. He shifted the focus of his business when he saw an opportunity and purchased his first diamond mind from two brothers with the name De Beer. Over the next several years, Cecil purchased mines and merged with others, until he eventually controlled nearly all diamond mining in South Africa.
Control over South African diamond production wasn’t enough for Cecil, he had a grander vision. He wanted to be able to have control over diamond prices. The only way to do that was to control supply—not just for South African diamonds, but the worldwide supply. He formed two distribution companies to help him accomplish the control he was seeking. The first, which was headquartered in London, was called ‘The Diamond Trading Company.’ The second, which was based in Israel, was called ‘The Syndicate.’
Many other mining companies quickly began moving their diamonds through the new distribution companies that Cecil had formed. When Mr. Rhodes died in 1902, he had come to control all but 10% of the world’s rough diamonds flow between his production and distribution companies.
Earnest Oppenheimer also owned a diamond mining company. In the wake of Cecil’s passing, he starting buying his way into De Beers, until he eventually became Chairman of the Board 1927. Earnest took the stranglehold of De Beers to a whole new level by negotiating exclusive agreements with diamond buyers that forced suppliers to send their rough diamonds through the distribution companies that Cecil had formed if they hoped to sell them—they were left with no alternative. The De Beers family of companies had created a true monopoly. The controlled the pricing and terms under which diamonds were sold worldwide.
The Great Depression shook Americans to their core. It left them deeply frugal and practical in their expenditures. Diamonds were rarely part of engagement or wedding rings at the time. Other types of stones were commonly used instead. Most women didn’t even want a diamond at the time. They would much rather have a washing machine or a new oven—something more practical.
De Beers identified the United States as the next big growth market, but they had to get past the frugal tendencies that were so prevalent at the time, so they hired the N.W. Ayer advertising agency out of New York. The agency was tasked with creating demand and convincing Americans to open their wallets for diamonds by making an emotional appeal rather than a practical one.
Who could effectively argue that people of time NEEDED a diamond for practical reasons—especially when they were so expensive? That couldn’t have been done, so they instead created an emotional draw. The new marketing slogan in 1947 really struck a nerve with the American consumer. The infamous slogan was, ‘A Diamond is Forever.’ Their marketing messages intertwined the concept of love and diamonds until the idea was adopted into American culture.
Through constant conditioning from marketers, we began to, at least subconsciously, believe that love and diamonds went together. The greater the love…the larger the diamond. Women expected a diamond a proof of love. Men felt pressure to propose with a nice diamond as a symbol of their value as a future husband. By the 1960s, diamond giving (and expectation) had been fully ingrained into the American culture.
With one powerful market conquered, De Beers set out on conquest for similar victories in new markets around the globe. China, Japan, and India have all proven very successful markets to infuse a diamond culture into. These were places that also didn’t have a tradition of gifting diamonds as part of the courtship and marriage process. Several of those cultures still practice arranged marriages heavily, but skilled and persistent marketers have created thriving business for the diamond industry in each of those lands … along with many others.
When De Beers entered Japan in 1967, fewer than 5% of brides received diamond rings. Less than 15 years later, roughly 60% of brides in Japan were receiving diamond rings. It became the 2nd largest market for the company, delivering more 1 billion dollars a year to the rich and growing organization. China has had a similar story of growth and acceptance. In China, they’re also testing new messages that are being embraced and fueling sales. Advertisers tell Chinese women that they don’t need to wait for a man to get a diamond. That it’s a statement of achievement and self-sufficiency, so many working Chinese women are buying diamonds for themselves, in addition to those purchased and given in marriage.
How Rare are Diamonds?
Most people tend to believe that diamonds are rare because they’re so expensive. It must be the universal principle of supply and demand at work, right? The answer is ‘yes’ and ‘no’. It’s more like artificial (carefully controlled supply) and demand—which leads to an artificial (carefully controlled) price. Because the mined diamond industry is run like a cartel, they can control supply and ensure that they never release too many diamonds into the system.
If they didn’t have such tight control over supply, too many diamonds would certainly enter the market and prices would fall. This means that diamonds don’t have a true, open market, value that’s in line with their retail price. They have a price that’s artificially high, as a direct result of market manipulation.
Do you know what it costs to extract a 1-carat diamond from the earth? You might reasonably get $1,000 or more, I mean they’re hard to find, right? De Beers released reports in 2015 that listed their cost per carat that year at just $104! Can you believe that! Diamonds don’t cost so much because they have to, they cost as much as they do because they want them to—they want a big fat markup, and they want people to strive for diamonds as a status symbol. They can ONLY survive as a status symbol as long as they’re very expensive.
Because mined diamonds are controlled by a cartel, diamond prices have had little of the price fluctuations that are common with other commodities. Diamonds aren’t nearly as rare as they make them appear to be. In fact, De Beers related distribution companies have a warehouse full of diamonds that are held back in London. They won’t outpace demand. They would rather sit on their excess production as long as needed.
The Rarity of Diamond Compared with Other Precious & Semi-Precious Stones
How many grown women do you know that don’t already own a diamond (ring, earrings, necklace, bracelet)? Probably not many. How rare can diamonds be if that’s the case? There’s plenty of supply to stock jewelry stores around the globe. When was the last time you saw a jeweler that was out of inventory—never, right? Diamond is actually one of the most common gems. It’s estimated that 147 million carats of diamonds were mined in 2018.
Many other gem varieties are far more rare. Rubies, Emeralds, Sapphires are a few examples.
Morganite is a stone that’s another interesting example. It’s far more rare than diamond. Why then isn’t Morganite a more expensive option? Because no one has created a Morganite monopoly and hired talented advertisers to convince you that you need to buy it to prove your self-worth or the value of your love.
Prices also haven’t been hiked to a point where they can be used as a status symbol yet. If all of those elements were put in place, it’s conceivable that Morganite, as just one example, could potentially become a more envied, sought after, expensive, and exclusive option. Man Made Diamonds, Moissanite, Morganite, Sapphire, Aquamarine; any stone that’s beautiful, to the person giving and receiving it, can symbolize love and commitment just as well as any other.
How Diamonds Would Change in a More Open, Free Market System
When diamonds were discovered in Russia, De Beers bought up their supply as diamonds were released into the market. They didn’t want competition from their mines. They were smaller and lower quality stones, so they used them largely for embellishment around rings with larger center stones and for eternity bands. When competing mines opened during the decades that De Beers had a stranglehold on the industry, they would push them out of the market by whatever means necessary. They were very effective at defending their monopoly.
What would happen if there were no monopolies or cartels in the diamond industry? What if individual suppliers competed in the open market in terms of price and quality? In that environment, do you think we’d be paying $4,000 to $25,000 a carat for diamonds? Of course not. There’s an ample supply of the gem available in Africa, Canada, Russia, Australia, and other nations. Price would be driven down as suppliers improve processes and find ways to produce the gems more inexpensively
Why do we continue to pay the inflated prices by the diamond cartel? Because we’re trying to find and buy something external to fill an inner need. When you boil it down, the marketing messages that De Beers has pushed on us through newspapers, magazines, and the airwaves for generations has taught us that diamonds give us significance. They make acceptable, maybe even envied—but at least not looked down on.
We wear them to show that we’ve achieved success in love or wealth accumulation. In reality, though, they don’t mean either. People with large diamond rings often have horrible marriages. Those with simple diamondless wedding bands also have a shot at wonderful, loving, marriages. People that really can’t afford diamonds may purchase them, so they can appear wealthier than they actually are. Again, in all those cases, we’re really chasing a feeling of value and significance without realizing it.
The demand for diamonds that fuels sales for the diamond industry doesn’t come from the beauty of the stone. It comes from what we think stone means—what it says about us. De Beers has shaped that narrative. They’ve invented what it means (self-serving as that is) and we’ve willingly accepted the conditioning that they’ve tried to feed us. Ultimately, much of the monetary value in diamonds is based on fake things—fake (manipulated) scarcity, and untrue insinuations that a stone, of any kind, can fill internal voids and perceived inadequacies.
Don’t get me wrong. Diamonds are beautiful, and I don’t think that people that want to own them are weak or small minded. When we’re conditioned by the media, marketers, or society to think and spend in a particular way, we often don’t recognize the conditioning. We rarely snap out of it long enough to see things from another perspective and realize that we have a choice.
Lab Created Diamonds
De Beers have fought, and feared, competition since their inception. They’ve tried hard to maintain absolute control over supply, so they won’t outpace demand and cause prices to fall. Knowing that, how would you expect De Beers to attack a significant competitor? They try to flood their market with lots of product (more supply than demand) to lower prices. This is exactly what they did in 2018 when they shocked the industry by announcing that they were going to start producing and distributing lab created diamonds under a sister company’s brand. Their intention was to devalue man made diamonds in hopes of driving competitors out of business, and discrediting lab created diamonds in the eyes of consumers, as a volatile product that can’t maintain real value.
De Beers, and the rest of the mined diamond industry, is trying to defend their ability to keep prices artificially inflated, while laboratories are making man made diamonds that look visibly indistinguishable (even to gemologists and jewelers)! The stones are also made entirely of carbon, they’re just as hard and equally durable. Best of all, lab-cultured diamonds cost about half as much as earth-grown diamonds.
The mined diamond industry mostly treats lab-grown diamonds like 2nd class citizens that barely deserve to be acknowledged. They’ve fought hard for the right to refer to man-made diamonds as ‘Synthetic Diamonds’ (which insinuates that they’re fake, when they aren’t). That battle was lost in 2018, when the FTC (The Federal Trade Commission) came out with some new guidance, indicating that lab-created diamonds are actual diamond, and that it’s a misleading and deceptive practice to refer to them as ‘Synthetic’ for that reason. By the same token, it also said that buyers deserve to know what they’re purchasing, and that lab-created diamonds must be titled so it’s clear that they weren’t earth grown.
How long will people continue to pay twice the price for an earth grown product that has the exact same appearance and function as the lab grown version? Will the price gap continue to widen? There will probably always be those that prefer to purchase earth-grown diamonds, but the masses of people that are interested in exploring lab created diamonds is exploding right now! I can’t wait to see what happens to the industry over the next 10 years! I’m guessing that earth grown diamonds will still be selling, but they’ll lose significant market share to laboratory diamonds that are more environmentally friendly, socially responsible, and economically feasible for many consumers.
Why are Some Diamonds More Expensive Than Others?
The cost of diamonds varies based on 4 main factors (color, cut, clarity, and carat weight). Diamonds that have vivid coloring (especially natural coloring), for example, cost more because they’re more uncommon. Larger diamonds, and those with very few inclusions, also cost more for the same reason.
Are Diamonds Bad or Unethical?
Diamonds come through many channels, and they aren’t all immoral or unethical. Canadian diamonds, for example, are free of human suffering, but do have an environmental impact. Lab created diamonds provide the beauty and durability of a mined diamond, without such severe potential social and environmental impact.
Why are Diamonds Valuable to Scientists?
Diamonds are helpful to scientists when cutting really hard things. They’re incredibly hard and can be used to cut things that we have difficulty cutting (especially with precision) in any other way. They can also be used to manipulate visual light, which can be useful in various machines and computing.
A diamond purchase isn’t a small expense. There are many ways that you can get ripped off, whether buying from a local jeweler, online, or private party. This post will try to help you avoid common tricks, traps, and deceptions.
How can you avoid getting ripped off when you buy a diamond? There are many specific ways to protect yourself, but above all, don’t be overly trusting. You deserve to have evidence regarding the quality claims that are made about a ring that you’re prepared to spend thousands of dollars on. Any reputable seller will understand and cooperate with your request.
So, what exactly do you look for as warning signs, and ask for as meaningful substantiation of quality? We’ll dive into those specifics below—so keep reading!
What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You
I was 23 when I walked into my first jewelry store. I had no idea what I should expect to pay for a diamond engagement ring. I had no experience with gems or precious metals. I knew that cost would increase based on diamond size, but that was literally ALL I knew.
The salesman that saw me walk through the doors of store probably sized me up in seconds and thought ‘fresh meat’! I tried to play it cool…like I’d looked at hundreds of rings and knew EXACTLY what I was doing, but that was a facade that was easy to see through.
You know when someone that knows nothing about cars goes in to have their car fixed by a new mechanic and doesn’t want to seem like a sucker, so they try to fire of the little bit of car vocabulary that they know, and make it crystal clear that they have NO IDEA what they’re talking about. That was me. I had ‘sucker’ drawn on my forehead.
Because I knew nothing, and the salesman could sense it, he started pulling out rings and telling me about them. His choice of words made each ring seem like such a rare and valuable find. I was mostly worried about the overall look of the ring and the ultimate price tag (after all, I was shopping with borrowed money that day—which is a topic for another time).
I had every intention of trying to stay in a section of rings that was less expensive, but ring by ring, we moved down the display case. Each ring seemed more valuable and wiser than the last, but the cost difference wasn’t huge. He told me about inclusions and had me look through his loupe. I actually paid MORE for a diamond that had fewer/smaller inclusions—inclusions that you only see with a Loupe. In the 20 years since I bought that ring, do you know how many people have looked at my wife’s ring through a Loupe? Take a wild guess. Yep, zero!
“There’s a sucker born every minute” – PT Barnum
I bought a ring that day—at my very first store! Did I pay too much? Probably, on several levels. The really scary thing is how clueless and susceptible I was. That experience is one of the major reasons that I started this blog. I want to help you feel less like a fish out of water. I’d love for you to be someone that can confidently shop for your engagement or wedding ring, knowing that you’re going to be able to find the ring you love, get a great value, and protect yourself from dishonest players. Don’t get ripped off when you buy a diamond. Some common tactics, used by the shifty, are outlined below.
Common Diamond Scams:
There are 4 main categories that drive, or determine, diamond value. They’re commonly referred to as the 4 C’s. The categories include cut, color, clarity, and carat weight. Since each of those four areas is a driver of value, they’re also areas where dishonest sellers often try to deceive unprepared buyers.
Despite the efforts of law enforcement agencies and government watch groups like the FTC (Federal Trade Commission), we can’t be completely sheltered and protected from dishonest sellers. While agencies do their best to set and enforce guidelines that certainly help, we still live in a ‘buyer beware’ environment. The following scams are common ways that dishonest sellers often try to deceive and take advantage of unsuspecting buyers who are looking for a bargain.
Multiple color grades
Naturally colorless diamonds (those that don’t have any degree of a yellow or brown hue) are a rare find. Because they’re rare, they’re also valuable. In fact, the more colorless a diamond is, the more valuable it is. The colorlessness of diamonds is graded on an alphabetical scale that runs from ‘D’ through ‘Z’. A diamond that’s graded with a ‘D’ is perfectly colorless. An ‘E’ is slightly (almost imperceptibly) tinted. An ‘F’ is a little more tinted. As the scale continues to progress, diamonds display a progressively darker hue.
One little trick that sellers sometimes use to deceive buyers on the value of a particular diamond, is to list multiple color grades for it. For example, a ‘J’ diamond might be promoted as an ‘H, I, J’—meaning that it falls someone in the ‘H’, ‘I’, or ‘J’ portion of the color scale. No one would want to say that an H grade diamond is an ‘H, I, J’, because ‘I’ and ‘J’ are less valuable grades. Potential buyers often assume that an ‘H, I, J’ diamond is possibly an ‘H’, and therefore justify spending a premium for an inferior diamond. A diamond should really only have one letter representing its color. If you find a seller listing a range I’d suggest that you buy elsewhere. If you decide to continue looking at a diamond that has a color range listed, always base the price you’ll pay on the highest (most tinted) grade that’s listed. For instance, In our previous example, you would base what you’re willing to pay on the assumption that the diamond is a ‘J’ for color (not an ‘H’).
Lighting can make things look a lot better or worse than they might otherwise naturally appear. Any photographer can attest to that. Jewelers know it too! Light can influence your perception of color and brilliance. Because of that, you might LOVE diamond that you found in the display case of your local jeweler—it was PERFECT—until you pulled it out again to look at it when you got home. It looked like an entirely different ring! It has a yellow hue that you swear wasn’t there before.
Because lighting can distort your perception of color, you should look at diamonds in various types of lighting. It’s perfectly fine to walk over to a different corner of the store to get to a different kind of light if needed. Stand by a window if you can to get some natural light, or walk outside (with the jeweler’s permission—and company probably) if needed too. It’s a big investment, so you’re completely justified in double checking the color and brilliance of the ring in various types of light.
Selling a Diamond Simulant as a Natural Diamond
Diamond simulants are diamond impersonators. They’re look-alikes. They could be made of glass, plastic, stone, or any other non-diamond material. They may look like diamond to an untrained eye, but they don’t have the same hardness, durability, or other characteristics. Most importantly, they don’t have the same value.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with buying a simulated diamond, as long as you know that’s what you’re buying and it’s priced accordingly. The problem is the deception that leaves you paying WAY more than you should for the item you’re buying.
Selling a Synthetic Diamond as a Mined Diamond
This situation is similar, but still, a bit different than what we just discussed with Simulated Diamonds. Remember simulants are look-alike diamonds. Synthetics, however, are REAL diamonds—they’re just made in a laboratory instead of excavated from the earth. What do I mean by ‘real’ diamond? I mean that synthetic (or lab created) diamonds are made entirely of carbon. They’re also visibly identical, equally hard and just as durable. Even though they are real diamonds, and look identical, no one would want to purchase a synthetic diamond at mined diamond prices, because synthetic diamonds are usually 30% to 50% less expensive.
Even though lab created diamonds look identical to mined diamonds, there are still some pretty simple ways to try and confirm the nature of what you’re thinking of buying. Here are a couple of initial options
Under 10X to 30X magnification, carefully examine the rim that runs around the girdle of the ring. That’s where labs, like GIA, will typically make an inscription on man-made stones, to make them easier to identify as such. Only stones that have been graded by them will have an inscription. If the seller has a grading report that they can make available to you, it will clearly indicate if the ring was lab grown. There are also machines that can identify whether a gem is earth-grown or lab-grown. It may be worth paying for such a test if a grading report isn’t available to confirm that info for you.
I’m hearing more common stories now about jewelers unknowingly selling lab-grown diamonds as earth-grown diamonds. Again, they’re visually indistinguishable, so it would be easy for a jeweler not to know if the wrong product is sent to him. It’s a case, where the scam is apparently happening further up the supply chain. A grading report from a reputable lab can help mitigate that risk for you. Ask to see if they have a report for the diamond.
Selling a Simulant as a Lab-Grown Diamond
Simulant stones can be represented as a lab-grown diamond too. Again, simulants aren’t diamonds in any way, shape, or form, but they do look similar (not the same—but similar). Even though lab created diamonds are substantially less expensive than mined diamonds, they’re still far more expensive than most simulated diamonds (like Cubic Zirconia). While there’s nothing wrong with CZ, for those that understand what they’re buying and pay an appropriate price, no one would want to pay lab diamond prices for a simulant type product. For example, simulants may have a value of $10 per carat, while a lab diamond, might be closer to $1800 per carat.
Weight deception comes in two main forms. The first, is approximating (or rounding up). Someone might say that a diamond is approximately 1 carat, but the cost difference between a .9 and 1-carat ring can be significant, so you’ll want to know the exact weight.
As we discussed with color, sellers would likely never approximate when the approximation doesn’t work in their favor. For instance, someone with a 1.09-carat diamond would never say that the diamond is approximately 1 carat. That would short-change them on weight, which is an important driver of value. Because of this, if a diamond is advertised as an approximate weight, please seek one specific weight measurement, and if possible, have it weighed again, in front of you—or check the grading report, from a reputable lab, for confirmation.
Sellers also use terms related to weight measurements that can sometimes be deceptive to unaware buyers. Carat Weight (CW) is a representation of how heavy (how large) a particular diamond is. Carat Total Weight (CTW) is a representation of how heavy all the combined diamonds on a given ring are. The distinction between the two numbers is important because very small diamonds are much less rare and valuable.
Very small diamonds can also look good even if their color and clarity aren’t great. They’re used for additional decoration around the larger center stone. When there are a lot of them, it can increase the CTW quite a bit. The unsavvy buyer (like I was), assumes that the CTW number represents the weight of the center stone, and could easily end up paying far more than they should for the ring. Some sellers will display both a CW and CTW, which is fine. When the CW is missing though, buyers are more prone to confusion. They often overestimate the value of a given ring with multiple tiny diamonds surrounding a larger diamond.
Not Disclosing Treatments
Using machinery, technology, substances, or processes to artificially improve the appearance of an earth mined, or a lab-created, diamond, is referred to as a ‘Treatment’ or ‘Enhancement.’ The HPHT (High-Pressure High-Temperature) process, for example, can be used to make a naturally tinted diamond more colorless. That process can be used to improve the color qualities of both earth-mined and lab-grown diamonds.
It’s important to be aware of this, because naturally colorless diamonds are far more rare, and valuable, than treated diamonds are. Because of that, enhanced diamonds will sell for less than natural stones with the same color qualities. Heat treatment can also be used to intensify the color in diamonds, making them more vibrant, and therefore, more attractive and valuable. Some of these treatments are literally impossible to detect, so manufacturers and jewelers are ethically bound to disclose them. In reality, many certainly don’t. I was visiting a big box retailer yesterday and stopped by their jewelry counter. They had signs throughout their jewelry counter stating that buyers should assume that all stones have been enhanced, unless otherwise stated, for individual rings. That was good to see, but many sellers can, and do, conceal that information in order to deceive buyers and improve profits. Awareness is helpful. You can directly ask your jeweler if individual diamonds have been ‘treated’ in any way.
For the record, there’s nothing wrong with treated, or enhanced, diamonds, as long as you’re paying a price that’s appropriate for what you’re getting. Treated diamonds are wonderful because they allow you to get a stunning ring for FAR less than a natural stone with the same qualities would cost.
Deceptive Grading Reports
I’ve referenced certificates, or grading reports, several times. Certificates from well known and established (reputable) laboratories can substantiate claims about a particular diamond and provide peace of mind, but you still have to be cautious with grading reports. There are two common ways that grading reports can be used in scams.
Fake grading reports are sometimes provided. These bogus reports might have the appearance of being from GIA or another quality lab. If you base your buying decision on a fake report, you’re sure to lose significant money on the transaction.
Real reports are produced, but they’re from garbage laboratories that can’t be trusted. There are unscrupulous labs that are almost like mail-order degree mills for college students that want to buy a degree without cracking a book. These dishonest laboratories provide a very nice looking certificate that can report exaggerated or completely false quality data on the diamonds they issue reports for.
When it comes to grading reports, you have to consider the source. These reports can be incredibly helpful, or garbage, depending on where they come from. We’ll share a list of the most trustworthy labs below. Avoid putting much weight in reports from other organizations.
We’ve all been drawn into stores because they advertise liquidations or huge sales. They may say they’re having the sale because they’re going out of business, moving, over-stocked, because there’s a holiday, or any other reason. They list a really high retail price and then a huge limited time discount.
Our defenses are weakened by the fear of missing out. You may buy a ring because sales psychology predictably worked as the jeweler thought it would, and a sense of scarcity drove you to act ‘before it’s too late.’
As the saying goes…
‘if something ‘looks too good to be true, it probably is.’ -Unknown
In reality, retailers often mark their inventory up, so they can mark it down. In other words, they list an unreasonable retail price (something no one would ever really think of paying as the everyday price, and then claim to discount to a lower price that’s typically pretty close to normal retail (sometimes the sale price is still quite a bit more than the object is actually worth).
Rather than shopping with the sellers that have sensational sales, you’ll probably be far better off, dealing with reputable retailers (online or offline) that post fair prices all the time. There’s nothing wrong with a sale, but when you see extremes or sales look a little gimmicky, proceed with extreme caution.
Diamond Switch Outs
Most jewelers are certainly honest, but ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ Having said that, it’s very possible for jewelers to swap out your diamond for another stone, and in most cases, you probably wouldn’t notice. There are two ways that this scam can take place. The first, happens when you drop your ring off for repair work, or to be cleaned, they simply remove your diamond and replace it with a less valuable man-made diamond of similar size, or a high-quality diamond simulant.
CBS News reported on an allegation made by MANY customers of one large jewelry chain that claim to have had their diamond switched out for a different stone (like Moissanite) when they take it in for cleaning or repair work.
The other way that swap-outs can occur, is that jewelers show you loose diamonds. Once you select the one that you want, the jeweler quickly swaps it with a similar looking diamond of lesser quality before mounting the diamond to increase their profit margin on the ring. They know that making slight adjustments to color quality, inclusions, or size, are unlikely to be noticed or challenged.
So what’s the solution to switch outs (stealing your diamond)? It’s to have the jeweler map out your diamond on a piece of paper, showing the location, and type, of each one. Inclusions are fairly unique. If a swap out happens, the map they drew is your proof that you dropped off a different ring than they returned to you. An honest jeweler will understand, and won’t mind giving you this additional confidence that you’ll get your original diamond back. A dishonest jeweler will be put on notice that you’re not an easy target, and won’t be worth the risk.
We’ve discussed ways that unethical jewelers can deceive customers and take advantage, but please understand that most of the tactics addressed above can be used by businesses or individuals. Buying a used diamond ring from a local seller can potentially save you a lot of money if you’re very careful with what you buy. Just realize that there are two very real dangers with placing too much trust in what the seller tells you.
They could be dishonest and trying to take advantage—so be careful. We’ll talk about specific ways that you can protect yourself below.
They may be honest but misinformed—which could still be bad news for you if you place too much trust in what you’re told about the ‘diamond.’ If someone was given a Moissanite engagement ring, but they were lead to believe that it’s a diamond engagement ring, they may honestly believe that’s true. They aren’t trying to take advantage, and wouldn’t want to lie about the stone if they knew differently. This is an example of where honest people can unintentionally mislead us on the value of a ‘diamond’ they’re selling. The good news, is that there are ways that you can protect yourself from these situations, and any of the others outlined above.
How to protect yourself
Hopefully, the common scams outlined above only have you worried enough to exercise caution and take steps to protect yourself. You can navigate these waters safely if you’re cautious. What specific steps can you take though, to protect yourself from falling victim to these common scams and countless variations? Here are some initial options:
Become a Skeptic
Above all else, you need to make sure that you’re not too trusting. When you accept what others say without questioning it, you become an easy target. When you have a healthy level of skepticism, you ask tough questions in order to verify the information that’s been shared with you. Questioning helps you avoid time wasters, so you can find the right ring faster and avoid many pitfalls along the way.
Check the Grading Report
Whether you’re buying from a jeweler or through a private party, you should probably insist on grading report from a well established, known, and trustworthy laboratory. Here’s a list of the labs that could fit into that category:
Of all the labs listed above, GIA is the one that’s the most known and trusted, they’re the gold standard in the industry.
As I mentioned above, SEEING a report is only the first step. Validation of the report is a critical second step. The certificates that most labs issue have security features in the paper like holograms and micro-print lines that can help you determine authenticity. You also have the ability to look up certificates through the websites of these labs to verify the information contained on the report that was shown to you. If you can’t find the report through their search feature, you could call the lab for further assistance. If they still aren’t able to find evidence of the report on their end, you should walk away from the transaction—the provided report is probably counterfeit.
Look for signs of reliability
You’re always going to be safest buying from well-established companies that have forged a solid reputation for honesty and quality over many years. Especially when you’re dealing with a company that’s new to you (one that you don’t know much about), it’s a good idea to check their reputation online.
This is a fairly easy process that shouldn’t take a great deal of time, but can provide you with a lot of comfort and reassurance both before and after your transaction. The BBB (Better Business Bureau) and the FTC are two great places to start your research. Searching company reviews through Google, Yelp, and Facebook can also be incredibly insightful. Not all complaints should cause major concern, but complaints that illustrate a pattern of dishonesty should be taken incredibly seriously.
Look for a Money-back Guarantee
Nothing instills more confidence that a retailer is selling a quality product, than when they stand behind it with a money-back guarantee. Not all companies offer one, but I’d certainly favor those that do. In other words, not offering a money-back guarantee isn’t an indication that a company is crooked, but offering one can be an additional positive signal that a retailer is operating honestly—as long as the retailer is established and has a reputation that you can rely on.
Pay with a Credit Card
Pay with a major credit card, even if you have all the money you need to buy the ring with cash. It’s not about reserving your cash, and certainly isn’t about getting a bigger ring than you could afford to purchase outright—it’s fraud insurance. If you purchase the ‘diamond’ with a major credit card, and then soon after discover that it isn’t really a diamond, for example, you might be able to dispute the charge with your credit card provider to get your money back. The same is true if you order online and your package never arrives.
If you paid cash for the same ring, you’re probably going get stuck with an expensive lesson. It’s probably going to be tough to get your cash back. You only real course of action would be a lawsuit, but that takes time, money, and a solid case. You may, or may not, have a solid case in the eyes of the judge, but it’s a huge hassle and it’s going to take a long time to see through. Even if you win the lawsuit, you aren’t home free, you just move into another painful phase of the process—collecting on a judgment. The kind of deadbeat that would lie to you in order to sell some cheap simulant as a diamond, is probably going to be shifty and difficult to collect from. Even if you win a judgment, you may never see money from the award. I’ve been down that road before myself. Won a judgment, but even professional collectors, I was unable to collect on it. For all those reasons, I strongly advise that you pay with plastic!
Why Do Diamonds Cost So Much?
Diamonds remain expensive because of market manipulation, not natural scarcity. High prices mean healthier profit margins for suppliers, but they also help diamonds maintain links to social status that drives additional demand. That status based demand would dissipate if everyone could easily afford them.
Do Diamonds Appreciate in Value?
The diamonds used in engagement rings, and wedding rings, typically don’t appreciate enough to provide a return, especially after inflation. They’re too small. Diamonds bought for these applications shouldn’t be thought of as ‘investments’. When this type of diamond is resold, it’s typically done at a loss.
Are Diamonds Unethical?
Diamonds aren’t inherently unethical. If you’re concerned about unknowingly buying a Blood Diamond, the environmental impact of mining, or involvement of child labor, a lab-grown diamond could be a solution. They provide all the beauty and durability with a lower financial, environmental, and social cost.
Lab created diamonds are rapidly growing in terms of awareness and popularity. They last just as long, look just as beautiful but cost A LOT less.
Why are lab diamonds so much cheaper than mined diamonds? Market manipulation controls supply and keeps the cost of earth-grown diamonds artificially high. Without that continual manipulation, prices would come down. Lab diamonds don’t have the same level of market gaming, which accounts much of the cost difference for these two types of diamond.
What other factors are at play? There are several, actually. We’ll dive in deeper, and discuss them, throughout the remainder of this post.
3 Reasons for a Price Gap That You Might Guess—But You’d be Wrong!
First, “They’re cheaper to make in the lab than mine from the earth”. While this is an explanation that could make sense on the surface, you’d be surprised how little diamonds often cost to harvest from mines. In fact, De Beers has released financial statements in recent years, showing that their diamonds cost about $104 per carat, on average, to produce.
Excavating diamonds from the earth takes dynamite, trucks, backhoes, pickaxes, etc. Producing diamonds in a lab requires incredibly expensive, and highly specialized equipment. Since technology continues to evolve, that equipment needs to be replaced fairly regularly in order to keep up with the techniques and processes that are producing the best results. Between the equipment needed, and the lab quality ingredients needed to form the diamond, the process isn’t inexpensive.
Second, “Lab diamonds are lower quality products, and are less durable.” In reality, lab-grown diamonds are identical to earth grown diamonds. They look exactly the same, in fact, even a professional jeweler or gemologist can’t tell man-made diamond apart from an earth-grown diamond based on visual appearance.
The commonalities between lab diamonds and mined diamonds go well beyond the surface. Lab cultured diamonds are just as hard, which means they’re also just as durable. Diamonds are the hardest natural material known to mankind. They rate at ‘10’ (the highest possible score) on the Mohs Scale of Hardness. That level of hardness doesn’t only apply to earth mined version, lab-cultured diamonds are just as hard—and sometimes even harder than earth-grown versions. This extreme hardness helps protect diamonds from scratches, gouges, and scrapes.
Third, “Lab diamonds don’t have to be transported as far.” Mined Diamonds are produced in countries that span the globe, but so are lab created diamonds. In both cases, shipping over long distances is often required. Individually, diamonds are extremely light, so shipping isn’t a major expense. It can’t be a significant contributor to the cost difference between laboratory diamonds and natural diamonds.
The Actual Causes for a Cost Gap Between Lab Grown & Earth Grown Diamonds
Market manipulation is the biggest cause of the pricing gap between mined diamonds and lab diamonds. Diamonds can command big dollars, only because they’re viewed as rare and exclusive. What would happen if the cost of diamonds fell all the way down to 25 cents per carat tomorrow and prices stayed there from now on? Would Kim Kardashian continue to flaunt big diamonds? Would red carpet runways in Hollywood be peppered with them? No. The wealthy want to wear them as a symbol of wealth and success. The non-wealthy want to wear them to give the appearance of wealth and success. That cycle of demand can only continue as long as prices remain high.
The mined diamond industry understands this concept better than anyone. They control prices, and keep them high, by carefully regulating supply, so it doesn’t outpace demand. If supply is always kept low enough, there’s a simulated rarity, and that’s all that’s required to keep profit margins high and keep the cycle of diamond demand churning.
Competition is a key ingredient if you want lower prices. Without competition, people often have to pay whatever is asked. Generally speaking, the more competition there is in a particular space, the lower ultimate product costs will be. The mined diamond industry isn’t very competitive really. De Beers has operated as a monopoly in the past. It’s reported, that De Beers pressured, coerced, intimidated, and threatened mining operations to ‘play ball’…or get targeted. By shutting them out of important business circles and other tactics, they were able to gain ownership of nearly every significant mine and provided nearly all of the diamond supply for many years. Today, De Beers and the mined diamond industry seem to operate more like a cartel that works together to fix prices.
Labs, on the other hand, are typically real competitors—rather than a united front. The more competition that joins the industry to create diamonds in the lab, the more downward pressure there will on man-made diamond prices. This is one of the biggest reasons that De Beers started competing in the man-made diamond space last year. They hope to become significant competition to bring down prices, and hopefully, drive some players out of business. They also hope to make the product look ‘cheap’ and undesirable to push prices way down over time and ruin the market. They hope that potential buyers will equate inexpensive lab-grown diamonds with Cubic Zirconia.
Technological advances naturally make labs more efficient, bringing down production costs, and also driving down retail costs for lab-grown diamonds. Mined diamonds, on the other hand, have much less impact from regular technological advances. Even if a breakthrough reduced production costs significantly for mined diamonds, they wouldn’t want retail prices to come down in proportion, for the psychology of diamond sales and demand that was mentioned earlier. Decreased production costs, would simply mean that their profit margin goes up.
Different types of customers are served by each type of diamond. People are wanting to use a material object (like a diamond) as a status symbol (class differentiation) are going to be most interested in mined diamonds. They can (and want to) pay a lot for the gem, because the high price tag is what makes them feel a cut above others that can’t afford similar gems.
Buyers of lab created diamonds are people that are value conscious. They love the look, and feeling, of a diamond wedding ring but aren’t planning to get one for some combination of the following reasons.
They can’t afford to spend what a diamond ring would cost
They aren’t willing to spend what a diamond ring would cost
They’re looking for a more environmentally friendly ring
They’re looking for a more socially responsible ring
Will Prices Continue to Fall Until Lab Diamonds are as Cheap as CZ?
I’ve heard this type of speculations before, but I doubt that will ever happen. Why? There are several reasons:
Because these lab diamonds are REAL diamonds. Won’t fall to $25 per carat if mined diamonds are $5,000 per carat.
Because they’re expensive to cut. Since diamonds are so incredibly hard, it takes special equipment, and well-trained cutters, to cut them properly. That adds a fixed cost. CZ is much softer and easier to cut. The process is often done by machine.
The manufacturing process is highly technical, specialized staff members are costly, and the machinery used to make the gems is incredibly expensive.
The earth-grown diamond industry would love, and encourage, the general concern that man-made diamonds are going to continue to fall in value until they’re as inexpensive as CZ. That narrative helps the earth grown industry defend the high price tag on their goods, and also helps them attack the lab-made market as ‘worthless fakes’. Because man-made diamonds are visually identical, equally durable, but much less expensive, they seem to try every angle and take every opportunity to spin information and attack the lab-grown side of the market.
The Savings from Lab Grown Diamonds Go Well Beyond Dollars & Cents
So far, we’ve talked about the reasons that financial costs are so much lower for lab-grown diamonds than they are for earth grown, but there are other areas of savings that are even more significant—and important.
The Environmental Costs and Savings
Mining can take a heavy toll on the landscape and waterways where excavation is focused. Soil erosion and water pollution are common side effects in many areas. Those ripple effects of mining impact both plant and animal life. They can be devastating at times, leaving some heavily mined areas nearly impossible to inhabit.
Laboratories that grow diamonds certainly aren’t carbon footprint free, but their environmental impact is much lighter than mining companies can offer—especially in unregulated, or under-regulated, areas.
The Social Costs and Savings
You’ve probably heard the terms ‘Blood Diamond’ and ‘Conflict Diamond.’ Both of those terms refer to the violence that takes place when militant groups take control of diamond mines and then use the profit from their diamonds to arm themselves. These groups use their weapons to commit acts of genocide or to challenge governments.
They also will typically compel people to mine the diamonds as forced slave labor. If the can’t, or won’t, produce the diamonds that are demanded of them, they could be beaten, raped, mutilated in some way, or murdered. They become an example for the others that keep the rest of the group working hard out of fear.
In reality, Blood Diamonds turn the stomach of most people around the globe. While steps have been taken to help keep Blood Diamonds out of our market, international groups, including the United Nations have found that they’re continually entering the market anyway. Motivated criminals break rules and smuggle their diamonds across borders to side-step international efforts to ban them. That means that essentially any jewelry shop across the country, or around the world, could have blood diamonds on display, without the shopkeeper’s knowledge. In fact, they might swear up and down that NONE of their diamonds are blood diamonds. The simple truth is that they don’t know that—they can’t know it.
One way to ENSURE that you aren’t purchasing a blood diamond, is to buy a lab created version. You avoid unintentionally funding wars and bloodshed when you buy lab-grown, but you also eliminate the risk that slave labor was used to bring your diamond to market. It just doesn’t seem right to have the symbol of your love, brought to you through an act of hate.
Only a small portion of all mined diamonds are blood diamonds, but even a small portion is a great deal too much. Lab diamonds are SO MUCH cheaper than earth-grown diamonds financially, socially, and environmentally!
Are Lab Created Diamonds Worth Anything?
Lab created diamonds do have financial value. They aren’t cleaver look-alikes, they’re actual diamonds. The lab version is an alternative for people on a tight budget, who don’t want to sacrifice beauty or durability. When sold used, they’re discounted to roughly the same extent as natural diamonds.
Are GIA Certified Lab Created Diamonds More Expensive?
A GIA certified diamond might cost slightly more than a non-certified version, but not always. Jewelers often absorb the cost. Certification provides added confidence to potential buyers. IGI and other international organizations also provide reputable certification services and could be less expensive.
Can You Tell the Difference Between a Lab Diamond and a Natural Diamond?
Lab created diamonds and mined diamonds are so identical, that no one can tell them apart based on look or feel. They look identical and have the same relative hardness. Distinguishing the two would require specialized testing equipment that certification laboratories like GIA and IGI have access to.