by Fred Cuellar
by Fred Cuellar
by Fred Cuellar
Recently I ran across two enlightening articles in the New York Times: “When Gold isn’t Worth the Price”, and “A Seismic Shift in How People Eat.” The first article stressed the importance of corporations taking a responsible curator role in establishing the best practices for mining precious metals and gemstones. The second article related how big food manufacturers like General Mills, Tyson, Foster Farm, Kraft, and Hershey’s are now using ingredients labels that better reflect consumers demands for healthy foods that still taste great. As a nation we have learned the hard way that not everything we want is good for us. “Big Food” knew that we easily become addicted to products laced with sugar, salt, and fats so they fed them to us. Everyone has seen the consequences of allowing ourselves to eat high caloric foods with no nutritional value. Currently three out of every four of us are overweight or obese and for the first time, more of us are obese than overweight. “Big Food” finally figured out that it’s hard to keep profits up if the product is killing consumers.
These articles were they catalyst for me to think about diamonds and how they could be categorized as healthy or unhealthy.
WHAT DOES A HEALTHY DIAMOND LOOK LIKE?
Liquid: First and foremost, a healthy diamond is liquid. “Liquid” refers to two things; price transparency and cash liquidity. Price transparency allows the buyer to determine the diamond’s fair market price (FMP). Like a Kelley Blue Book evaluation, the FMP allows the buyer to shop intelligently and avoid price gouging. A fair premium to FMP runs about 10%. Hand in hand with price transparency is cash liquidity. The buyer must be able to know not only present-day cash value but future cash value. Healthy rocks are all bonded and the seller guarantees in writing that the diamond’s cash liquidation price is equal to price paid. The only prerequisites for the buyer are annual inspections and general maintenance.
Organic: A healthy diamond is organic, from Mother Earth with no preservatives. It might sound funny to you, but most diamonds sold to the public today are heavily processed. Fracture-filled rocks are diamonds with fillers. Annealed (heat treated) diamonds are diamonds that have been baked to improve color. Then, add bleached, laser drilled, and irradiated diamonds and the number of overly processed diamonds for sale go through the roof! Now mix in the fakes (diamond simulants and synthetics) and it’s hard for the customer to really know what they are getting. Healthy diamonds have no synthetic sanitizers, no chemical fertilizers, irradiation, industrial solvents or additives. Healthy diamonds are 100% organic. Accept no substitutes.
Value: For any gemstone to be valuable it must possess three qualities: beauty, durability, and rarity. If it’s missing any one of these three it misses the boat on valuable. It we look deeper, the word ‘intrinsic’ shows up. Some rare things have intrinsic value. Gold for example has an intrinsic value, not just because it is rare, but because people believe in it. What we believe matters. My father pointed out that if you add up all the ingredients that make up the human body, you find we are 61% H2O, 18% carbon, and a mix of other elements and minerals that when line-itemed add up to $160.00. Yet the value we place on human life is immeasurable. A healthy diamond isn’t intrinsically valuable because its ingredients are rare because they aren’t. Any chemist will tell you, the ingredients of a diamond are worth pennies. What makes a diamond mean something to us is the process, not the outcome. Man can make a diamond now in a few weeks. Soon in a few hours. The process is automated. But earth is another story. Hundreds of millions of years is quite the process, and we have always recognized that it’s the journey, not the destination, that matters. A healthy diamond is intrinsically valuable because it took the hard road, not a shortcut. We admire that. We cherish what we worked hard for, what didn’t come easy. A healthy diamond has intrinsic value because we believe in it; it is a reflection of us. We choose it as a symbol of our love because at the end of the day it is our relationships that matter to us most of all. If we didn’t take any shortcuts to get where we are, why would we choose a diamond that did? There is a quote I love and means a lot to me, “Better to die on my feet than to live on my knees.” What we stand for matters.
Environmentally Friendly: It cannot be overstated that the extraction of gemstones from Earth raises the possibility to cause harm to our environment unless it is carefully managed. According to The World Diamond Council the key challenge is land disturbance. The council states:
Most importantly, green diamond mining will always be free of using hazardous material.
Diamond mining uses a variety of methods, some of which involve the removal of large quantities of soil from the Earth. However it must be remembered that it is economically beneficial to recover the greatest amount of diamonds while moving the least amount of other material. Therefore diamond mines seek to have the minimum sized footprint, and move only the necessary material (known as waste) efficiently.
Modern day best practice calls for a full review of the plans for removal, storage, and return of this topsoil/waste and the environmental impact it will have to allow the area to return to its previous state.
In addition to land disturbances there are a number of associated challenges.
• Energy use and emissions
• Waste and recycling
• Use of water
• Impact on biodiversity
From exploration, open pit and underground mining, coastal and inland alluvial mining, marine mining, and even informal diamond digging, standards must be put into place to ensure the diamond you purchase is environmentally friendly.
Jewelry has always been a symbol of the love we share for each other. If we are going to continue those traditions we must be mindful of everything and that includes our environment. While unhealthy, non-environmentally friendly diamonds are now rampant in the marketplace, we can’t be lured by cheap prices and “bargains”. Remember: a bargain is something you don’t need at a price you can’t resist. If we continue to make poor choices that aren’t in line with our values, we will be doing nothing more than filling our junk drawers.
If jewelers expect to be trusted they have to be willing to tell us our diamond’s history with total transparency. We must demand guarantees (not worthless lab reports) that ensure the authenticity of our diamonds. A healthy diamond is Liquid, Organic, Valuable, and Environmentally-Friendly. L.O.V.E. Simply put, to the degree we love, we will be loved. Healthy diamonds – they are lovable.
by Fred Cuellar, author of the best-selling book “How to Buy a Diamond.” More questions? Ask The Diamond Guy®
When defining sparkle in a diamond, there are only two things that matter — efficiency and amplified light return.
A typical run-of-the-mill diamond has an efficiency rating of 35.5% and an A.L.R rating of five (5). Translation: The typical diamond returns 35.5% of refracted light back to the viewer’s eyes; leaks/wastes 64.5% through the pavilion floor of the diamond and only redirects the light internally five (5) times before it leaks out or is returned to be viewed.
A pinball machine is a good analogy here. Think of every ray of light as a pinball. Once the pinball is shot (refracted) into play within the machine (diamond) you score more points (flashes of light) every time the pinball bounces around (internal light reflections) before it is returned back to you in the form of sparkle. Sparkle equals efficiency rating x internal light reflections. So we could say that the typical diamond returns 35.5% of absorbed light and amplifies it five (5) times to give you a sparkle return of 177.5%. You get 77.5% more light then you put in even though there was a lot of waste. This is why most people who see practically any diamond will,at first blush, be impressed. The truth is even bad diamonds look pretty good. But, what if we’re not just looking for pretty good? What if our goal is to have the highest efficiency rating; the highest amplified light return? What would that look like? Well, let’s see, if we are going to hold the most breathtaking diamond in the world we’re going to have to be patient, and I mean really patient! The typical diamond that is cut these days is cut from two types of rough (name for what diamonds look like out of the ground) macles and flats. See below.
These are also called irregulars or preemies (300 to 400 million years old). Preemies are rough diamonds that Mother Nature did not allow to go to full term. Full term crystals, also referred to as sawables, are the most valuable. They are typically found in octahedron, cubic, and dodecahedron shapes. See below
The key to having the best finished product begins by only choosing full term rough. It takes a minimum of 800 million years, not 400 million years, for Mother Nature to deliver a magnificent fully crystallized, full term rough. The irregulars are flat, skipping-stone looking pieces of rough that have an irregular carbon atomic structure. Don’t forget shape determines function! If we don’t have a nice shape to work with we won’t be able to cut the diamond properly.
Ninety-eight percent of the diamonds being sold today are being cut from premature rough and only two percent are being cut from full term rough. So that’s step one. “Better ingredients, better pizza!” Once we’ve got the rare full term rough, we go through a second screening process and throw out any rough that has too much nitrogen or is too heavily included. In order to reach our goal the diamond must not be any lower than a hard graded VS2 clarity or H5 color. By hard graded, I mean the vendor guarantees that no accredited gemologist will ever grade the diamond lower than the assigned grade or you get your money back. Other rating agencies — GIA, EGL, IGI, AGS, etc. all soft grade their stones, which means they don’t guarantee their grades. Once we have the desired full term rough with the correct grades, we can move on to a master cutter. It doesn’t do any good to have the world’s greatest material if we put it in the hands of a poor craftsman. The master cutter will make sure the diamond is cut to class 1 or class 2 specifications (see other article on class of cut for explanation). But, basically, the diamond will have to meet strict proportion guidelines in order to handle the light properly.
Okay. Buy hard-graded full term rough (most expensive) and have a master cutter cut it (more expensive) equals finished product.
The picture you see is a photograph taken with regular light on a black field. What you are seeing is the most efficient, highest amplified light return diamond in the world! The name given to the most breathtaking diamonds has always been vivid! This is The Vivid White Diamond®!
Let’s do the math! The Vivid White Diamond® has an efficiency rating of 91% and A.L.R of 100. So if we want to calculate the sparkle of this gem we multiply the efficiency rating x the A.L.R. — 91% x 100 =9100% light return! 100% goes in; 9100% comes out!
The reason Cartier; Graff; Van Cleef & Arpels and Harry Winston get $35,000 to $56,000 for a single one carat diamond is actually rather simple. They are all vivid white diamonds®! When people run to online consolidators like Blue Nile, Amazon, or Ebay; mall stores like Zale’s, Tiffany’s, Kay’s, Jared’s, Robbins Brothers and big box stores like Walmart, Costco or Sam’s, you’re buying diamonds that are pretty good because you get 77% more light return in good lighting conditions but when you buy a Vivid White Diamond® you are getting 9000% more amplified light. Some old sayings are still true today, “You get what you pay for.” By the way, the #1 complaint a woman has about her diamond isn’t size, its sparkle. So, if you really want to make her happy buy The Vivid White Diamond®.
Cushions, Asschers, European, Old-miners, Rose cuts; all diamond cuts long gone like the era they flourished in. Gone like the flappers and the Roaring Twenties; gone like the Great Depression and the Zoot suits…or are they? Gadzooks, the Pillow Tops are back!
Practically every jeweler from here to Kalamazoo has resurrected Pillow Tops and is selling them as the diamond your “Nana” used to wear! Well guess what? Your “Nana” got wise and unloaded it when she realized that the Pillow Tops are the most overweight, chubby, least sparkly, worst value of all diamond shapes! Looks like we have to learn the lesson all over again. The lesson: The rounds are the most valuable and the Pillow Tops are just for show. If you want to impress for less bucks than step right up and buy a Pillow Top. If you want to invest in the best then avoid the inexpensive cushions and buy round.
As a nation, we learned these lessons and buried the Pillow Tops over 50 years ago, but just like a bad cold that you can’t shake the Pillow Tops are back.
It kills me to see one customer after another be hood-winked into buying these diamonds that should have stayed buried. This resurrection was made possible by hooking celebrities into buying “estate jewelry” which was later copied by the general public. Please if it’s important to you at all that your diamond be worth what you pay for it, leave the Pillow Tops on your mattress and away from your fingers!
I’m constantly asked to compare engagement rings from Harry Winston and Tiffany & Co. “Fred, is the Tiffany Embrace® better than the micro pave Harry Winston? Is the classic Winston better than a classic Tiffany? Or is the double claw prong solitaire of the Winston better than a Butter Cup Tiffany solitaire?” The answer? Depends.
Environment regulates behavior—so what’s your lifestyle? If you are a rock climber or a neurosurgeon, you need a ring that can handle that environment, if that is your choice. Not all wedding ring styles are as resilient as others. A six prong head is more secure than a four prong head; and the more diamonds in the ring the more possibility that one of them may fall out. So what is a person to do?
The task of any setting is to balance beauty and durability. If we want to be 100% sure your diamond won’t fall out, we can bury it in a block of platinum with a wall of metal surrounding the entire perimeter of the diamond. The diamond will be safe but the sparkle will be compromised because of the fortress that you’ve built around it. But today’s popular ring styles leaves the diamond almost “naked.” The shanks (the part that slides on your finger) are very thin and delicate. The head (the part that holds the center diamond) is mounted fairly high and tends to be decorated with a crown (halo) of small diamonds. Less metal and many small diamonds are what is selling these days to decorate the diamond you have chosen. Are they beautiful? Absolutely! Are they easily damaged? You bet! We are back again to the balance between beauty and safety—which is a lot like life. You can buy a castle and hide away in it and be “technically” safe but you will miss some beautiful experiences that always come with their share of risks. So what are my recommendations when it comes to these beautiful settings? Simple, pick what you love, pick what calls out to you. You know that life and rings don’t come with any lifetime guarantee to never fall apart or get hurt. But, if you are in a rock solid relationship with your jeweler they will give you lifetime repair guarantees that will cover any damage you might inflict on your beautiful new ring, at no cost to you, as long as you keep up with annual checkups. So don’t worry, while your wedding ring is a “symbol” of your love for each other and can be damaged, smashed, trashed or even lost, your love for each other is invicible! Have a great day! Hug a diamond. Talk to you next time.
Color Grading Scale
Checking your diamond’s report card.
Diamonds come in virtually all colors of the rainbow, from the “beautiful violet” of the Hope diamond to shades of blue, brown, gray, orange, etc. But colored diamonds are very rare and precious. Chances are, all the diamonds you’ll see in your diamond shopping will be white or yellow, and the whiter the better.
The yellow color in diamonds comes from nitrogen, and as a rule, the more yellow the stone, the less value it has. There’s a good reason for this. The yellower the stone, the less sharp and sparkly it appears. A whiter stone lets more light pass through it, making it sparkle and shine.
The exception to the rule is the canary diamond, which is a beautiful bright yellow and very expensive. Some people are more sensitive to the color of diamonds. What may appear slightly yellow to you may look clear to another person, so it will take a higher color grade to satisfy you.
The best way to judge the color of a diamond are to use either a Gran Fall Spectrum Colorimeter by Gem Instruments or compare it to a master set..
FRED’S ADVICE: Go for grades H or I. Once mounted they’ll look just as good to the average person as the higher grades, without costing a bundle. The average diamond purchased in the U.S. is color grade M or N, but the customer is usually told it’s higher.
HERE’S THE GIA COLOR GRADING SCALE:
D, E, F: Colorless
G, H, I: Nearly colorless
J, K, L: Slightly yellow
M, N, O: Light yellow
P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X: Darker yellow
Z: Fancy colors
Even though there are several grades in each category, there are slight differences between the letter grades. D is the clearest and most valuable, X is a dingy yellow and least expensive. Z grade-colored diamonds are the rarest and most expensive. A diamond so saturated with nitrogen that it becomes a deep, rich yellow is as rare as a colorless diamond.
MORE ABOUT COLOR:
Fluorescence is a diamond’s reaction to ultraviolet (UV) light. Some diamonds glow in different colors under UV light, and the general rule is to avoid them. If you put a diamond under UV light and it glows strong blue, the diamond may look dull in the sunlight. Diamonds with strong fluorescence may be worth up to 20% less than diamonds which do not fluoresce. Faint fluorescence which doesn’t fog the diamond is OK.
Corresponding grading means matching clarity grades with color grades. For every clarity grade, there’s a color grade that corresponds, or makes the best match in determining value. Diamonds that have corresponding grading sell for higher prices originally, and they also appreciate in value more than diamonds that don’t, and therefore have higher resale value. Buying a diamond with non-corresponding clarity and color grades is like buying a pink Porsche: it’s okay as long as you don’t try to resell it. The market for pink Porsches just isn’t as good as the market for, say, red Porsches.
Here’s a list of clarity grades and their corresponding color grades. Notice that for each clarity grade there’s a perfect match, and a high and low color that also works well.
CLARITY GRADE–COLOR GRADE–
ANNUAL INCREASE IN $ VALUE
FLAWLESS AND INTERNALLY FLAWLESS:
D (Perfect) ó 10.00%
E (Perfect) ó 9.25%
G (Perfect) ó 8.50%
I (Perfect) ó 6.50%
No corresponding color grades
The value of a stone is always based on the lowest clarity or color grade and its highest corresponding grade. For example: Let’s say you purchased a stone with a clarity grade of SI1 and a color grade of G. You can see above that G is not a corresponding color for an SI1 stone. The SI1-G diamond will cost you more than the SI1-H, but will appreciate no more over time than the SI1-H.
When you don’t correspond the grades ó say you buy high clarity and low color, or high color and low clarity ó you’ll never get your money back for the higher grade. For example, an SI1-F would resell no higher than the value of an SI1-H, and a VS1-I would resell no higher than the value of an SI1-I. A diamond that is not correspondingly-graded could be expected to appreciate 2% to 4% per year.
Clarity Grading Scale
I can see clearly now
The clarity of a diamond depends on how clear or clean it is ó how free it is of blemishes and inclusions, when viewed with the naked eye and with a 10X loupe, or magnifier. Let’s define our terms.
BLEMISHES: Imperfections on the outside of a diamond
Chip: A little piece missing, caused by wear or the cutting process. Scratch: A line or abrasion.
Fracture: A crack on the diamond’s surface.
Polishing lines: Fine lines on the stone’s surface formed during the polishing stage.
Natural: An unpolished part of the diamond.
Extra facets: Additional polished surfaces that shouldn’t be there and spoil the symmetry of a diamond.
Bearding: Very small fractures on an edge of the diamond.
INCLUSIONS: Imperfections inside a diamond.
Carbon: Black spots inside a stone.
Feather: Internal cracking.
Crystal: White spots inside a stone.
Pinpoint: Tiny spots, smaller than a crystal.
Cloud: A group of pinpoints, which may give the impression of a single large inclusion.
Loupe: (pronounced loop) a small magnifying glass used to view gemstones. Any good jeweler will let you use one, and show you how. They should be 10X, or 10-power magnification, and the housing around the lens should be black so as not to distort the color of the stone. The Federal Trade Commission requires diamond grading to be done with a 10X magnifier, and any flaw that can’t be seen under 10X magnification is considered nonexistent.
Here are the CLARITY GRADES OF DIAMONDS, as established by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA):
FLAWLESS: Free from inclusions and blemishes when viewed under 10X magnification. Very rare and very expensive.
INTERNALLY FLAWLESS: Free from inclusions; may have slight blemishes when viewed under 10X magnification. Also very rare and very expensive.
VVS1 AND VVS2 (VERY, VERY SLIGHTLY INCLUDED): Has minute inclusions or blemishes the size of a pinpoint when viewed under 10X magnification. Rare and expensive.
VS1 AND VS2 (VERY SLIGHTLY INCLUDED): Has inclusions or blemishes smaller than a grain of salt when viewed under 10X magnification. No carbon, fractures or breaks. High quality.
SI1 (SLIGHTLY INCLUDED): Has inclusions or blemishes larger than a grain of salt when viewed under 10X magnification, and these inclusions can be carbon or fractures. Almost all SI1 diamonds are eye-clean, which means the flaws can’t be seen with the naked eye. Good quality.
SI2 (SLIGHTLY INCLUDED): Has inclusions or blemishes larger than a grain of salt when viewed under 10X magnification, and some of these flaws may be visible to the naked eye. Borderline diamond.
I1 (IMPERFECT): Has inclusions and blemishes visible to the naked eye. Commercial grade. Not my taste!
I2 (IMPERFECT): Has inclusions and blemishes visible to the naked eye that can make as much as one-fourth of the diamond appear cloudy and lifeless. Same as above.
I3 (IMPERFECT): Has many, many inclusions and blemishes visible to the naked eye. Not a pretty diamond. Very little luster or sparkle. Bottom of the barrel.
FRED’S ADVICE: Aim for an SI1 diamond. Many people unwittingly buy I1 and I2 stones, but if you shop carefully you can buy an SI1 stone for the same price that most I2 stones are sold for.
The Kimberley Process and World Diamond Council are a sham.
Severe human rights violations, including murder, rape and forced labor, have taken place in the diamond fields of Marange, Zimbabwe. Recent reports from Human Rights Watch (HRW) indicate that these horrific conditions continue to take place.
Blood diamonds from Marange, Zimbabwe, have been issued Kimberley Process (KP) certificates and imported into the cutting centers, where they were cut and polished and then sold to dealers, jewelry manufacturers and retailers. Tens of thousands of carats of blood diamonds are now in dealers’ inventories and jewelers’ showcases — and are being actively sold to consumers.
The jewelry trade’s purchase and distribution of blood diamonds is funding a continuing cycle of horrific human rights violations. Our industry is providing money and distribution to those who murder, rape and enslave. Every time we buy or sell a blood diamond, we are sending a message of encouragement to the perpetrators of these inhuman crimes. We are legitimizing their dirty business. We become their partners in crime.
We must face the fact that the KP has been issuing certificates for Marange blood diamonds. The KP has made these “certified blood diamonds” perfectly legal. Customs officials did not — and do not — have the right to stop Marange diamonds with KP certificates. Instead of eliminating blood diamonds, the KP has become a process for the systematic legalization and legitimization of blood diamonds. When you get right down to it, the KP has become a blood diamond laundering system. The KP is not just a sham; it’s a scam.
To understand how this could happen, we must define “blood diamonds” and compare our definition to the KP definition of “conflict diamonds.”
Rapaport definition:“Blood diamonds are diamonds involved in murder, mutilation, rape or forced servitude.”
KP definition:“Conflict diamonds means rough diamonds used by rebel movements or their allies to finance conflict aimed at undermining legitimate governments, as described in relevant United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions insofar as they remain in effect, or in other similar UNSC resolutions which may be adopted in the future, and as understood and recognised in United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 55/56, or in other similar UNGA resolutions which may be adopted in future…”
The KP definition of conflict diamonds does not address human rights violations and does not include blood diamonds. It is a legal definition established by governments to limit the scope and authority of the KP. The KP is a highly politicized process controlled by governments for governments. Its primary function is to protect governments and their revenue — legitimate or not — from rebel forces and consumer boycotts. The KP is essentially agnostic when it comes to human rights. As HRW concluded in its November 6, 2009, report: “This diamond monitoring body has utterly lost credibility.”
In spite of the above, there is a common misconception in the jewelry trade that diamonds with KP certificates are free of human rights abuses. Trade organizations, under the misguided leadership of the World Diamond Council (WDC), have promoted and continue to promote the KP as an acceptable standard for ensuring human rights compliance, even though they know that the KP has been issuing certificates for blood diamonds that have penetrated the diamond and jewelry supply chain. The WDC refuses to inform the trade that the KP cannot be relied upon to ensure human rights compliance and that polished blood diamonds are in the supply chain. The WDC has lost its moral compass. Its primary loyalty is now to the KP and not to the diamond industry or even the basic principles of human decency.
What To Do?
• Raise Consciousness. We need to raise consciousness within the jewelry industry about the problem of blood diamonds so that people will stop trading them. Industry organizations that should play a role need to be awakened. I suggest sending emails to Terry Burman, chairman of Jewelers of America (JA), director of the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) and the WDC, at email@example.com; Matt Runci, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of JA, chairman of the RJC, director of the WDC, at firstname.lastname@example.org; Cecilia Gardner, president and CEO of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee (JVC), director of the WDC and CIBJO, at email@example.com. You might want to cc the email to other leaders and send a copy to us.
Ask these leaders to confirm that polished blood diamonds are in the distribution system and ask what you or they can do about it. Ask them to use their organizations to inform the trade about the problem. If you know anyone on the board of these organizations, give them a call and ask them to have their organization let people know about blood diamonds.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to help us raise consciousness. We will be holding conferences to discuss the issue at BaselWorld on Friday, March 19, 2010, at the Basel Congress Center from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., and the JCK Vegas Show, Monday, June 7, 2010, at the Sands Convention Center from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. We need new ideas and solutions. We need your help to get organized.
• Stay informed. Visit diamonds.net/zimbabwe for background information and google Marange diamonds to stay up to date. Help us stay informed. If you know about people or companies that are selling Marange diamonds, email us. While we don’t have the resources to investigate all claims, if a name comes up enough or the case is compelling, we will quietly notify relevant investigative authorities.
• Return diamonds that you suspect may be blood diamonds. Pay careful attention to diamonds that have a green hue. Unless you are absolutely sure of where the diamond came from, it is probably a good idea to return all diamonds with a green or green/gray hue in the D to Z and light green color range, not fancy green colors. While there are green diamonds from other places, about 60 percent of Marange’s cuttable diamonds are green and tens of thousands of carats have come onto the market over the past year. Furthermore, we are getting reports that the color of some green Marange diamonds is unstable and may worsen.
While many in the industry are opposed to the idea of returns, the hard fact is that you are going to have to make a personal decision about what to do. Thanks to the KP, blood diamonds are perfectly legal and you have no right to return them. On the other hand, do you really want to be selling what may be blood diamonds? It’s a financial and ethical issue with a high dose of uncertainty. There may be no clear answers. You might want to talk to a spiritual or ethical adviser.
• Ask Before You Buy. As noted in the HRW campaign*, “Zimbabwe’s Blood Diamonds, Ask Before You Buy,” asking is probably the most important thing you can and should do. Recognize that you are responsible for what you buy and that someone’s life may be at stake. Make sure you know who your suppliers are and ask them serious questions to ensure that the diamonds you buy are not from Marange nor involved in other serious human rights abuses. Err on the side of caution. Tell your supplier you really care about where your diamonds come from. If they know you care, they also will care. Make it a point to personally talk to every diamond supplier about human rights issues and how important they are to you.
You will also want your supplier to sign a document promising to refund payment for any diamonds that turn out to be associated with human rights violations. But don’t rely solely on the paper; remember to have the talk.
It’s time to transcend Kimberley and the WDC. One wonders how many lives will have to be destroyed before the demonstrations begin — before victims come marching down Fifth Avenue, as they did a decade ago. What will it take to get our trade to stop buying and selling blood diamonds?
I know that there are many good and decent people in the diamond and jewelry trade. And I know that many of you care but are frustrated and feel the situation is hopeless. I urge you to reconsider. I urge you not to give up.
We can and will beat this problem. It will take time and unprecedented levels of cooperation. But I do believe that there are enough people in our industry who really care about human rights and that we can make a difference by working together. There is so much good that we can do. I am confident that when the right people come together, we can and will build a more fair and ethical diamond market. We can and will create solutions that will make the world proud of us and our diamonds.
By Martin Rapaport
January 29, 2009
You see or hear the ads all the time—we sell only GIA, AGS, EGL etc “certified” diamonds with a “certificate” to back it up. Thanks for telling me—RUN! “Certified” is a word that is supposed to put you at ease, make you relax, so you put your guard down. But it is meaningless.
The lab “certificates” are riddled with disclaimers that specify it is strictly a bought opinion and in no way guarantees anything, making the “certificates” worthless. The jeweler will pretend he bears no responsibility because someone else graded it, so who or what “guarantees” the diamond? Nothing and nobody! Guess who is left holding the bag? Any jeweler who doesn’t tell you that “certified” does not guarantee anything, belongs in the same cell as Bernie Madoff. Look up the definition of certify (verb: certified) which includes “to guarantee as meeting a standard or to confirm formally as true, accurate or genuine.”
Do you know where the safest country in the world to buy a diamond is? Well, it’s not the United States anymore! It’s India where jewelers are buying back the diamonds they sell to customers who aren’t happy! “They’re not just selling diamonds, they’re selling security and trust”, said Marc Goldstein from Rapaport.* India is the first country whose jewelers stand behind the merchandise they sell with a lifetime buyback policy!
Currently only about twenty percent of jewelers in the U.S sell fully bonded diamonds! (Diamonds with a lifetime buyback policy). Disgraceful! I’m sick and tired of seeing a young couple down on their luck and being forced to sell their diamond to find out that it is only worth an average of 19.7% of what they PAID! Their usual response when they find out that they have been taken to the cleaners? “But it was “certified”?! Buying a “certified” diamond is about as safe as jumping out of an airplane without a parachute and told to flap your arms! I can’t be more serious about this pandemic that is destroying the integrity of diamonds. Please DO NOT buy a diamond from anyone who even whispers the word “certified”. Let 2010 be the year that we banish the dirty word “certified” from the diamond business forever and replace it with a fully bonded appraisal (F.B.A). That leaves you 100% in the driver’s seat! By refusing to buy any diamond that is misrepresented and only comes with a 30-90 day return policy you will never find yourself with a diamond you don’t want and no where to turn. Don’t buy “certified” diamonds from anyone! Fairness has to mean something again in the diamond industry!
*Goldstein, Marc. Rapaport. December 2009. Vol. 32 No. 12. Pg 49.
In the last two and a half years one out of every seven jewelers has gone out of business! Generations of jewelers have been wiped off the face of the map because they were ill-prepared for the next tidal wave of consumerism—Twitter, text message, Facebook, etc. connected consumers that don’t care what the old way to do business is because they want to buy their way on their schedule! Jewelers who had legions of fans have been left in the Sahara Desert as their fast track-spending baby boomers are off searching for the meaning of life and have put away their pocket books and wallets! Of the remaining jewelers, half are on life support betting on Christmas! If Santa appears, they may squeak by with their lives. If not? It’s Sayonara! Arrivederci! After the next 3 months, we will have a pretty good idea of which jewelers are going to survive and which ones will join the Tyrannosaurus Rex!
As a consumer here is what you have to be on the look out for:
1) Promises that seem too good to be true! If the jeweler keeps lowering the price until you buy he’s not going to be around tomorrow!
2) The lack of non-bonded diamonds; the bonding of commercial diamonds. If the jeweler is offering a lifetime buyback guarantee on crummy diamonds, it’s because they are just dynamiting the pond to get the most money in their pocket before they go out of business. Of course, they don’t have to worry about keeping a promise if they close up and leave town after the sale.
3) Over-stocked Cases! Desperate jewelers bring in a lot of jewelry on consignment that they haven’t paid for yet hoping to make a quick sale! If they sell it to you and they go out of business with out paying their bills you are in possession of stolen merchandise!
4) How long the jeweler has been in business now is irrelevant! Legacy jewelers are dropping like flies. Look for the little things like small repairs that haven’t been made, lights out in cases or outdoor signs that haven’t been replaced. Out of date décor. Does the place have a current minimalism look or old fashion iron stands behind the cases approach?
5) Look at the age of the jewelers. If everyone serving you is older than dirt there is a good chance there is a hole in the desert six feet deep that the company is going to be dropped into.
Are the sales people a little eager like their life depends on it or do they give you room to breathe? If they crowd you it’s because they are missing the crowds!
6) Flat out ask them if their diamonds come with “certificates” guaranteeing the diamond? If they say yes run for the hills! The FTC has deregulated lab reports to not be responsible for the exact accuracy of their grades as long as disclaimers are present! If the jeweler is telling you a piece of paper stands behind their diamonds and not the jeweler himself, you are talking to a dinosaur.
7) Does the jeweler have a social media director? If they don’t they are in the dark ages and will soon be left in the dark.
8) Do they try to make the sale today vs. giving you time to make your decision? If they’re rushing you they are hunting for cash.
9) And finally, who do you know of your friends that have recently bought from the jeweler? If you can’t quickly Facebook your friends and find at least a half a dozen happy customers it’s because they don’t have any!
The health of the “business as usual” jeweler is critical. They are on life support and if they are on life support, how are they going to be around to support you?
by Fred Cuellar, author of the best-selling book “How to Buy a Diamond.” More questions? Ask the Diamond Guy®
Ninety percent of all jewelry sold in the United States is prefabricated. Let’s see what Webster has to say. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word Prefabricate as follows:
Function: transition verb
1: to fabricate the parts of at a factory so that construction consists mainly of assembling and uniting standardized parts.
2: to produce artificially
Think about it! Ninety percent of all the settings that hold our diamonds and gemstones are manufactured PRIOR to knowing what diamonds or gemstones are going to go in it! That’s life in the 21st century—picking out a frame for a newly discovered DaVinci without bothering to ask the exact dimensions. That’s Crazy! But, I’ll keep going! All this Prefab jewelry is mass produced in such great quantities, (#1 goal being profit) that any decent quality control to insure against under-carating of the quality of the gold or precious metal is thrown out with the baby and the bath water! Prongs that should be hand rolled for durability and strength are plucked out of an assembly line machine losing an incredible amount of tensile strength (that’s what keeps your rocks in place)! Of course even under the most optimal conditions, using a Master Craftsman & Master Stone Setter, damage is possible but why would we want to increase the odds of an accident by over twenty times?! We might as well text and drive with an open container in the car! All right, don’t get me started! Here are the facts:
1) Prefab jewelry is a lot less expensive upfront but will cost you more on the back side with costly repairs.
2) Prefab jewelry is ordered out of a catalog so you may get it quick and fast but you aren’t buying something meant to last.
3) Prefab jewelry serves a place in our society the same way a place holder does. It’s a good band-aid until you know exactly what you want your dream piece of jewelry to look like.
4) Custom made jewelry is more expensive (but not unaffordable like some jewelers want you to believe) but will more than pay for itself when it lasts generations not
Here’s how you protect yourself:
1) Ask the jeweler if the ring was Prefabricated by him or anyone else.
2) If the ring was Prefabricated and you are willing to roll the dice with prongs that have been FORCED out of place to fit stones that were jammed into them, what guarantees does the jeweler provide when the little sparkly beauties start jumping ship?
3) If they say the ring is custom made will they put it in writing and guarantee any stone loss (Large main stones must be covered under a personal floater policy) as long as you bring it in for scheduled maintenance?
4) Did the jeweler attempt to show and sell you a setting first and then ask you to pick out the main stone? * Never put the cart before the horse!
5) And finally, how long did the process take from start to finish? If it took days and not weeks with several visits, I’m sorry my friend, you just bought a Prefabricated piece of jewelry and as the story goes “Prefab aint Fab!”
by Fred Cuellar, author of the best-selling book “How to Buy a Diamond.” More questions? Ask the Diamond Guy®
It’s April 7th, 10:40AM. Good morning or good _________(fill in the blank) wherever you are right now in the future. I say future because as I write this newsletter, it dawned on me that these words will not be received, heard, or read until sometime in the future, if ever! But I’ll press on anyway.
We do this all the time—talk, write, create, destroy hoping and praying to be noticed; hoping to be heard. When others give us compliments, we feel good; ignored we feel bad. Why do we give that power to others, the ability to affect us? Employed we have self-worth. Lose our jobs, we feel worthless. Why is our happiness dependent on others? How well do you treat yourself? You can be kind to yourself, you know? Some people say “I’ve been really beating myself up over ________ (fill in the blank). Really? Beating yourself up? Worrying? Complaining? As Doctor Phil would say, “How’s that working for you?” The solutions may be found in the new “Conceptual Age”.
The “Conceptual Age” is defined as an era of creativity, innovation and design. As Daniel Pink says in his book, The Whole New Mind,“Answers need more problems!” That’s what the “Conceptual Age” represents! It’s about being able to see the book, not just as a source of knowledge, but as a paperweight, a source of energy (burn it to stay warm), a hat, a bullet-proof vest or even a door stop. We need our answers to solve more problems. We need to see the book as more than just a book. A diamond can no longer be just a diamond—not in this day and age. We expect more from things. A toaster can’t just be a toaster! Any toaster can do that! It has to be a thing of beauty! Heck, it spends 99% of its time just sitting around doing nothing. It might as well look beautiful while it sits on your counter top! If you can’t see a toaster as art and art as toaster, you haven’t joined the “Conceptual Age”. You are still stuck in the “Information Age”, where everything was safe and linear. A problem had one solution. Very, very safe. Don’t want to get hit? Stop moving! Want to be safe? Be perfectly still! Quite the paradox. Static was the old safe. Momentum, frequency, vibration, sound, harmony and symphony are the new. Creating chaos to find order and center. This is the new reality. Our “Conceptual Age” fully bonded diamond now is beauty, durability, symmetry, meaning, value, story, safe haven, flexibility, liquidity, nest egg, college fund, retirement fund, rainy day fund, get-out-of-jail-free card, life saver, new car, new job, starting over, upgrade, downgrade, save a life, define a life, make a life, and more. Now quite simply a fully bonded diamond isn’t just carbon from the earth. A fully bonded diamond doesn’t just make a connection; it defines it. It expands it! It grows with you. It goes with you! It is a part of you! A fully bonded diamond, like true love, doesn’t come with rules, regulations, or limits! It is endless, indefinable, and unpredictable—it flows! Any diamond can take you from A to B. That’s yesterday’s Newtonian diamond. Only a fully bonded diamond can take you anywhere you want to go!
Yesterday’s diamond could only be a diamond—one that depreciated with time like a used car. Today’s fully bonded diamond is ready to be whatever you want it to be. As time goes by, maybe it will be a bigger diamond, or maybe you will transform it into a down payment on your dream home! Only a fully bonded diamond can be anything you want it to be because it is the only diamond in the world that is liquid!
Anybody can own a diamond. Not everyone can own the future!
P.S. Remember, “you are the master of your fate; the captain of your soul.” Invictus by William Ernest Henley.
by Fred Cuellar, author of the best-selling book “How to Buy a Diamond.” More questions? Ask the Diamond Guy®
March 6, 2009
They say that there are no atheists in foxholes. Well, I got news for you, there are no atheists or single men in foxholes! When bullets are flying, like the collapse of our economy, loss of wealth, rise of unemployment, women having octoplets (come on did you really need to complete a baker’s dozen plus one?), more and more couples are tying the knot! You can lose your job, your home, your pension, your life savings, but nobody, and I repeat, nobody wants to lose love! We can learn to live without a lot of things but love will never be on the list!
The good news is that for the first time in 28 years the price of “good” diamonds (defined as a diamond that will hold its value and/or appreciate over time) has DROPPED almost 6% over the last four years! This may not seem like a lot, but let me give you an example. The average “good” diamond sold in the United States in 2005 was a little less than half a carat and normally sold for $1700.00. This diamond would have traditionally appreciated in value/cost 6 ½% to 8 % per year. Translation to buy that diamond in 2006 would cost you not $1700.00 but a maximum of $1836.00! Then in 2009 it would cost $2312.83! That’s where the powers that be get you! “You’d better buy a diamond today because tomorrow it’s going to go up!” And, for “good” diamonds (not crummy ones) they were telling the truth! You can pay a little now or a lot more later. Your choice! Since the diamond market is not a free market (more of a monopoly) the dealer (Diamond Cartel) is holding all the cards! They wanted to raise the price and they did! Just like when the oil cartel kept manipulating the market to get oil to $147.00 a barrel-before it collapsed! Well, guess what? Supply super-exceeded demand! For the last few years diamond prices for the bread and butter sizes-1/3 carat to ¾ carat-have been flat! Then, the sky-rocketing prices of the one carat and larger stones that were being bought up as “safe havens” by investors, exiting the stock market are falling back to earth. Investors are now trying to dump their stock piles realizing cash is king!
What does it mean to you the average young man that wants to buy an engagement ring? It means the diamond you would have paid $2312.83 for this year is selling at 2004 prices! Or $1581.00! That is a $731.83 savings! Almost 50%! So when I say diamond prices are down 6% and you want to yawn, I am talking about 6% off of 2005 prices!! If you are looking for a big diamond, the savings are off the charts! If you followed my advice from May of last year when I recommended to hold off on making your diamond purchase (reference the Great Diamond Crash) you are in the money now!! You can actually buy a good beautiful, sparkly, gorgeous diamond without going to the poor house! Don’t get me wrong, good diamonds aren’t being given away; in fact they are still 300% more expensive than commercial grades (crummy diamonds). But they are at least affordable in dream sizes! So if you are like most couples these days and realize that it’s better to stay together and work as a team, now is the perfect time to buy your rock! Mark my words you will never see diamond prices like this again in your life time! People can live with a lot of things but regret isn’t one of them. Sometimes love means letting go but right now isn’t one of those times! Don’t let your love go, it may not come back!
by Fred Cuellar, author of the best-selling book “How to Buy a Diamond.”
More questions? Ask the Diamond Guy®
NBC Nightly News April 19, 2009
Let’s start by defining what an Independent Jewelry Appraiser is. Here we go! An Independent Jewelry Appraiser is anyone who decides to call themselves one. No laws prohibit anyone from hanging out a shingle that they are qualified to appraise jewelry. Doctors and lawyers need licenses to practice. Not jewelry appraisers. Now, there are appraisal associations, schools you can go to, fancy looking plaques you can hang on the wall saying you are qualified to appraise the burial site of King Tutankhamun but wishing or saying something doesn’t make it so. Only in the movies can you click your heels together three times and say “there’s no place like home” and be transported where you want to go. A lot of jewelry appraisers couldn’t cut it in the jewelry world. So, they became critics who take hush money from jewelers they secretly work for to sandbag the quality or value of an item from a competitor to undermine a sale!
Your typical predatory jewelry appraiser looks like your favorite uncle or like Barry Madoff. He’s nice, looks professional, compliments you, tells you how long he’s been in business, and says he is qualified to appraise anything. “It’s Appraisal Depot!” Coins from a sunken treasure chest? No problem. Antique silver, diamond encrusted butter knives that were owned by King Louis? Piece of cake! The predatory appraisers will always over value parts of what you bring in to gain your confidence, then under value or bury something else that they know will make you question your purchase.
So, how can you tell the honest appraisers from the dishonest ones?
Very simple: Take appraisers’ word with a grain of salt. They are looking out for themselves. If they are honest they will explain their limitations; if they are dishonest they will act like God. Finally, if you are lucky enough to have bought a Fully Bonded Diamond the quality is 100% guaranteed so you have nothing to worry about. If you like it, keep it. If you ever don’t, get your money back! The only reason you ever get an appraisal anyway is when the seller puts an expiration date on the “Lifetime Guarantee”. If the jeweler backs the quality and purchase (no ifs, ands, or buts) then the only test any piece of jewelry needs to pass is the “It takes my breath away” test. If a piece of jewelry does that then put it on! None of us can last very long without our breath!
by Fred Cuellar, author of the best-selling book “How to Buy a Diamond.” More questions? Ask the Diamond Guy®
May 14, 2008
If I had to take a guess, I would estimate that there are over one billion carats of diamonds in the hands of consumers. That is over 100 times the annual consumption gobbled up for weddings, anniversaries, birthdays and even Super Bowl rings. The diamond markets for consumers exist in two categories; commercial grade (bluff stones) and non-commercial (the good stuff). A good diamond is defined as a “diamond that will hold its value and/or appreciate in value over time.” The current “cut rate” (distribution of commercial to non-commercial diamonds) is 49 to 1. For every good diamond that is sold in the US there are 49 crummy (commercial) ones. The average resale value of a commercial grade diamond is 19.7% of the original dollars paid; the average resale value of a non-commercial grade diamond is 85%– worst case, 60%; best case, 100% or better. Diamonds have never been considered an investment instrument after one billion dollars was lost by consumers buying diamonds as a hedge against inflation in 1980.
But, it appears some lessons aren’t easily learned. For anyone who has been paying attention, you would have noticed that large, investment grade (IF, VVS1, VVS2 & D, E, F) diamonds have been sky rocketing in prices! Currently a 5ct D,IF is selling for over 3/4 of a million dollars. That’s about double what it was just a few years ago. However, we don’t have to look hard to see other commodities mimicking the same exponential, unrealistic growth. Oil, gold, platinum, rice, wheat, etc… everything is up! Way up! The question is this: is this the new reality or have we fallen down the rabbit hole? The prices people are paying for some diamonds is reflecting a market mania. The current diamond climate is creating a craze very similar to the tulip mania in the early 1600s in Amsterdam. Believe it or not, back then, at the height of the mania, a tulip went for $76,000 a bulb! Six weeks after smart money got out, the price had fallen to a dollar!
Within 12 months there are going to be a lot of sad people sitting on a lot of big investment grade diamonds that will be worth a fraction of what they paid. My advice is this: for the next year, stay away from 2ct+ investment grade diamonds unless you are willing to be a statistic in the great diamond crash of 2009. If you are going to buy a 2ct non-commercial rock that isn’t investment grade, you will still have to pay at least 20% more than what its cash liquidity is worth! That said, if the world ever wakes up and realizes that nobody really needs a diamond and everyone goes to the market to sell at the same time, tulips and diamonds will have more in common than being pretty; they’ll both be a cautionary tale.
More questions? Ask the Diamond Guy®
NBC Nightly News April 19,2009
What is the #1 requirement we have of a diamond? Hint: see title of article….Very good!! It’s bling–aka sparkle! We expect—heck we demand—that our diamond must sparkle. But let’s stop for a second, and ask ourselves what exactly is sparkle anyway? To answer that question we have to understand light. More precisely we have to understand “visible light”. (See footnote.)
Visible light is our fluid energy, and a diamond is our spectral container. A diamond can take light traveling in excess of 186,000 miles a second and bring it to a crawl at 77,000 miles a second before kicking the sliced and diced light back up into your face. The science of light works together with the diamond to give you sparkle! So what is sparkle? It is white light (brilliance) and colored light (dispersion) that is combined and returned back up to your eye. What a diamond does with light while it is the proud owner will determine how much is spilled/leaked (either out the bottom or sides) and how much will be returned to you, the viewer.
For quite a few years now, diamond cutters have known three things: 1) If the table %, crown angles, girdle thickness, and pavilion angles of a diamond are cut correctly, the interior of the pavilion (the ice cream cone part of the diamond) will respond like mirrors and return light back up to the viewers’ eyes. 2) The diamond cutters also know that depending on the shape and position of the outside facets (the ornaments that decorate the Christmas tree) could create intensity kaleidoscope patterns like hearts and arrows. 3) If you shoot enough light into any diamond of any proportions you could make it look decent as long as it stayed in a well-lit environment.
Where the charlatans took over was when they could take the longest visible wavelength (red), isolate it, increase its magnitude, and give a dead Christmas tree (poorly proportioned diamond) life. First, they put pretty Christmas lights and tinsels on the tree (arrange the facets to create the marketable heart-and-arrow pattern that Madison Avenue could sell to the consumers via Cupid). Others have also tried this lights-and-tinsels trick by creating dozens more facets. As light gets broken up more and more, consumers confuse the difference between more decoration and more sparkle! Do you create more pizza by slicing more pieces on the same pizza? It’s just the same amount of pizza with more SLICES!!! Second, they shoot the dead tree with a bath of red light to influence buyers that it is well-cut because of the presence of a manipulated pattern. Somehow the fact that the appearance of this predetermined pattern can theoretically appear in diamonds regardless of proportions is accidentally omitted in all marketing materials. No one tells you that you can get this with warped diamonds. No one tells you that you can get this with an off-make. Having the presence of this pattern does not ensure your diamond is well-proportioned! Finally, they would turn on a red light, stick it in a heavily lighted box with an instrument sounding name like “Brilliance Scope”, and pretend to measure the sparkle efficiency of the diamond by snapping photographs. Here’s a little question for all who use this equipment as a selling tool. How does this thing work? Apparently, this report is a relative comparison of one diamond to a number of other mystery diamonds. If we have a beauty contest between an ogre, a one-eyed Cyclops, and the wicked witch of the West, the witch may come out on top almost every time! Does this mean that the witch is beautiful? How can we be sure that the mystery diamonds are not ogres or Cyclopes? In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king.
Principles of physics and mathematics have not changed—only marketing strategies. Let’s go back to the basics. Tolkowsky and Ditchburn proved to us a diamond’s light can be maximized with correct universal crown angles, universal pavilion angles, total depth percentage, table percentage, etc. (See proportions chart on pages 45-47 in 6th edition of “How To Buy A Diamond”.) A diamond with all the correct proportions does not need any special lighting to tell you it sparkles. Under the right conditions, we can all take a good head shot, but we don’t have to take a shot to the head to realize that any diamond that needs an entourage of red lights and lighted boxes are not going to sparkle on a candle-lit dinner and a long walk on the beach under a silvery moon. Stop letting gimmicks mislead you. Let true science guide you to the light!
Visible light hides in a very small region in the electromagnetic field. At one end of the field, we find Gamma rays that travel at wavelengths 10^-6 nanometers (nm) to 10^-2 nm, X-Rays traveling from 10^-2nm to 10nm, and ultraviolet radiation from 10nm to 300nm. On the other side of visible light, we find infrared radiation, microwaves and radio waves. Their wavelengths start at 1nm and extend to 100km. Visible light is a very thin slice of ham squeezed together by two very large pieces of bread. The sun gives us white light (visible light) and a mixture of all the colors. Remember ROYGBIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet)? Each travels at its own wavelength—violet at one end, 400nm, and red (the longest) at 700nm on the other. Indeed, the butcher slices the ham we see very thin!
More questions? Ask the Diamond Guy®
This diamond, which was discovered in the famous Premier Mine in South Africa, has immense presence and beauty. It is exceptional not only for its size, colour and purity but also because it has beautiful proportions and exhibits the cutter’s skill at its height. The process of planning, designing and cutting the rough crystal, which took place in Johannesburg and New York, took over eighteen months to complete.
Its classic cushion-shaped form in reminiscent of so many famous and historic diamonds such as: the Cullinan II, 317.40 carats, presently in the Imperial State Crown of Great Britain; The “Regent,” 140.50 carats, presently in the Louvre Museum, Paris; and the “Queen of Holland,” 135.92 carats, owned privately.
Only very few “D” colour, Internally Flawless diamonds of over 100 carats exist in the world today and they truly rank amongst the earth’s greatest treasures.
This exceptional gemstone has been exhibited in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington during the month of September 2003, in an exhibition entitled “The Splendor of Diamonds”; this is a fitting tribute to such a rare and splendid diamond.
The appearance of such a diamond at auction is a very special event. The successful buyer will have the additional privilege of naming this unique stone which will certainly take its place among the most famous diamonds in the world.
I got home about ten minutes after six and my wife had pork chops and green beans waiting for me, (delicious). Regardless of the blaring T.V. that wouldn’t shut up about Michael Jackson, or a wonderful home-cooked meal, I couldn’t get my mind off that diamond. After dinner I went upstairs and flipped up my lap top to see what had gone on in the world while I had been focused on the high powered E-bay experience. What I noticed almost immediately was something I was expecting to see, but didn’t—the news release on the super-duper diamond. I checked MSNBC—nothing. I checked Sotheby’s web site results—typed in the sale number, lot number—nothing. They had no listing for a lot 606 ever being sold! What gives?! How can they not be listing the auction result on this item? All the other prices for all the other items were there, so where was the lot 606 result? I called the New York auction results number (kind of like trying to find out what the winning lottery numbers are). When I entered all the required information, a computer generated voice informed me that there was no lot 606. I then went back to MSNBC, but this time I checked MSNBC Europe. It was there I found my answer.
“Huge diamond fails to sell in Switzerland as bids fall short of asking price.
Most jewelry sold at auction has a hidden reserve that nobody knows about. I believed it to be the opening bid of seven million, eight hundred thousand Swiss Francs, making every bid after that a potential winner—how wrong I was. The next morning, I had but one question for Michael Hart; okay, maybe two. Was the diamond still available?
“Yes, Monsieur Cuellar, the diamond is still available.”
Dear Reader: The final bid was entered by the auctioneer himself. It’s not uncommon that the auction house can act like it has received a bid in order to get the price of the item where the seller wants it to be.
The next question was obvious. “Will you ask the owner if they want to go one on one with me over the sale of the world’s largest D color, Internally Flawless diamond ever auctioned?”
Michael said he would call back. I didn’t have to wait long for an answer.
“Fred, there is a Patti Wong on the telephone from Geneva. She’s with Sotheby’s.”
“Thanks Julie. Fred Cuellar here.”
“Mr. Cuellar. This is Patti Wong. I am in direct contact with the seller and we would like to open discussions with you on the sale of the 103 carat diamond.”
“Great! Now that the sale is over, what’s your client ready to take?”
“They want X plus Y. (X=a particular number of millions, Y=a particular number of hundreds of thousands)
“Patti, I’m not authorized to go any higher than X. Since X plus Y isn’t that much more that X, let’s sell a diamond!”
“Mr. Cuellar, I’ll go back to my client and tell them you made an official offer of X, but I’m sure they are going to want X with a little Y. I’ll be back in touch.”
Within ten minutes, Patti Wong was on the phone declining my offer of X and countering with X plus Y/2. I asked her since Y/2 was so small a percentage of the overall purchase price, why was the seller trying to nickel and dime my client? She only reiterated that X was declined and X plus Y/2 was the offer on the table.
The whole deal was officially over less than an hour later. My billionaire client felt insulted, as I figured he would, (his offer was more than fair) and pulled out of the negotiation altogether. I won’t discuss my final conversations with Sotheby’s, but what I will say is they did everything within their power to help the two parties come together. In the end, any client can sometimes be their own worst enemy. For the first time in my life, I truly understand the saying “penny wise, pound foolish.”
Orleans Counterfeit Diamonds
When I opened the package from O.C.D., I discovered that the three stones had been placed in a single plastic bag with a piece of cotton. A C.Z can chip another C.Z if they bang into each other. Strike one. The first stone I looked at was the marquise. It looked bright, had a good length to width ratio but when I louped it I found a baby size chip on the pavilion. (Nothing I probably couldn’t live with). The second stone I examined was the round. My first impression was that it looked a little flat (dead). Take a look at what I saw in photographs 1-A, 1-B, and 1-C.
There were crater size chips on the table and star facets of the crown. It’s as if I was looking at the dark side of the moon! Not acceptable! Strike two! The last stone the emerald cut, had chips on the keel (bottom of the rock) as well as polishing drag lines all across the stone. Strike three! For $50.00 a carat I should have gotten a magnificent hand cut C.Z. Opinion: Overpriced, poorly packaged, inferior quality.
The box from B.J, had three attractive gold lame´ drawstring pouches (see photo 2A) and a packing slip. There was no paper work explaining how to clean or take care of my new product, nothing about any guarantees or even the prices I paid, just my three little pouches. In each pouch I found the stone sitting on a small white cushion enclosed in a plastic case (the absolute best way to ship a loose stone!). See photo 2B.
As before, I looked at the marquise first. It was immaculate; sharp crisp edges, no rolled faceted junctions and expertly polished. The round was also bright and full of life! When I examined it further I found a very small chip on the pavilion (no big deal at all). The emerald was superb – one of the best hand polished jobs I’d ever seen on a C.Z. All the stones were well proportioned. Opinion: Good packaging, poor documentation on guarantees or cleaning, but excellent quality at a reasonable price.
C.Z. Platinum was more economical on the use of plastic cases and like Orleans Counterfeit Diamonds placed all three stones into one container. See photo 3A and 3B.
The marquise looked fair but had an unpolished girdle that lightly hazed the look. The round arrived broken! It looked like a windshield that had been pummeled by a hail storm! See photos 3-C, 3-D, 3-E. The emerald cut looked flat and lifeless, like plastic. All the pavilion main step facets were abraded. Opinion: At $25.00 a carat a fair price for non hand cut C.Z.’s. The warranties and return policies were stated clearly in the packaging materials, but the C.Z.’s are just run of the mill.
The price I paid for each stone was just $12.00! I expected machine-finished C.Z.’s. Boy, was I in for a surprise! The rocks were beautiful!! Well cut, hand polished, sharp, crisp, magnificent! As good as any C.Z, I’ve ever seen in my life and at truly a wholesale price. The emerald shape was cut to 65/65 specs; the round didn’t have a nick on it and the marquise shone like the sun. Opinion: In this round of imposters I was clearly smitten with Jewelers Direct. A great product at an unbelievable price! Take a look for yourselves.
(All photographs were taken by acclaimed photographer and artist Ricky Fernandez)
The Simulants and Synthetics
For the last six months I’ve been slowly and methodically collecting data on a group of gemstones I like to call the “Imposters”. An “Imposter” is any gem that claims to be as good or better than, just like, as hard, more beautiful than, but cheaper than a diamond. The “Imposters” come in two groups, the simulants and the synthetics. Let’s take one at a time.
The SimulantsA simulant is something that looks similar to a diamond but does not have the same properties (weight, specific gravity, refractive index, hardness, etc.). These would include c.z.’s, glass, white corundum, Y.A.G. (Yttrium Aluminum Garnet), Graffs simulant, The Asha, Diamonelle and Zirconite to name a few. Many of these companies (I won’t mention them by name, you know who you are) make some pretty outrageous claims. Some say they have created a super simulant that will sparkle and last forever. Well, I guess that’s true but for it to be true you cannot wear it.
It’s like those abdominizers that claim you can get rock hard abs while using their machine. That’s technically true but only if you diet and exercise and use the machine! Most, if not all of these companies will give you a ton of technical data meant to impress us. For example, they will tell us how brilliant and sparkly their fakes are and back them up with Sarin reports, megascope reports, brilliance scope measurements and on and on. Look, nobody’s disputing that a lot of these simulants are pretty (with the exception of moissanite) the problem is their hardness.
Can you believe this?!! For starters, whose in charge of deciding what normal daily wear is and second, where’s the common sense committee that decides when it is dangerous or not dangerous to wear your sparkly new “Imposter”? But you want to know the craziest part? It’s the fact that your typical c.z. runs just dollars a carat and some companies are selling their super rocks for up to $400.00 a carat!! P.T. Barnum was right, there is a sucker born every second and two to take his place.
Most of the prettiest simulants I examined were hand cut c.z.’s versus machine manufactured ones. And yes there are companies selling them for a fair price ($5 to $10 a carat wholesale; $20 to $30 retail). Ziamond, CZ Jewelry and Zirconite are companies that sell their product at a fair price.
Moissanite is another popular “Imposter” running as high as $500.00 a carat. They are more durable than hand cut c.z.’s but still no match for the hardness of a diamond. They are made by synthesizing carbon, hence making them doubly refractive. The biggest down side to these is their inability to obtain nice colors. All the moissanite I’ve seen has a grayish dull overtone.
A synthetic is a man-made diamond that has all the properties of a natural diamond (weight, specific gravity, refractive index, hardness, etc.) The only company making real man-made diamonds (yellow ones for the market) is Gemesis in Florida. They say synthetic whites will hit the market in eighteen months. Note: GE has been making industrial diamonds for years.
Crossing the Line
At this point it is impossible to grow or replicate a real natural diamond of any impressive size with a high clarity or color grade. Yet if you surf the web there are over a dozen companies claiming they are selling lab created diamonds; synthetic diamonds. Pure fiction.
More questions? Ask the Diamond Guy®
A. Look at the rock from the top and see how well the facets (cuts on top of the diamond) are joined. They should be sharp not rolled.B. Look at the girdle and see if it is faceted or frosty (a clear sign it’s a diamond) or waxy and slick (an indication it’s a fake).C. While you’re looking at your stone under magnification, look into your stone to see if you detect any flaws (carbon, pinpoints, small cracks). These are typically clear indications it’s the real thing since it’s very hard to put inclusions in a fake.D. After examining the stone, focus in on the stamps inside the setting. A stamp of “10K, 14K, 18K, 585, 750, 900, 950, PT, Plat” indicates the setting is real gold or platinum which gives a better chance that the stone in it is real as well. While you’re looking at the interior of the ring, also look for any “C.Z.” stamps that would indicate the center stone is not a diamond.