Holidays bells ring this time of year, and so do engagements and wedding bells! Let's talk about a different kind of ice (diamonds) this winter. If you're thinking about getting your significant other some bling, we scored some insider tips to help you shop!
We spoke to Diamond Expert, DPA (Diamond Producers Association), Grant Mobley, about how best to get the most value for your buck if jewelry is on your wish list.
IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT DIAMONDS:
When choosing a diamond, it's important for you to know the difference in the material. There are natural or lab-grown diamonds.
"A lab-grown diamond is really just a manufactured product. It's made to look like a natural diamond. And, the very quick growth process of a lab-grown diamond creates distinct impurities in the growth structure that make it distinguishable 100 percent of the time from a natural diamond," said Grant.
You can expect natural diamonds to cost more than one that is lab-grown. Grant explained that real diamonds are more valuable. He told us, "It has an intrinsic value because it is a finite product, similar to an original painting. Let's say a Picasso -- an original Picasso has undeniable value; whereas, a repaint of the Picasso may look the same, but it has no actual value because you can make them in unlimited quantities. This is kind of the same with a lab-grown and natural diamond."
Grant added that lab-grown diamonds are not eco-friendly either because they are produced with large amounts of fossil fuels and leave a big carbon footprint.
"Essentially, what they are doing is they're trying to create enough energy to condense a process that took the earth millions of years to do. They're condensing that process down into a period of two weeks," said Grant.
We warn you all the time to be extra careful about reading fine print, especially when it comes to promotions. Grant told us that some jewelers and retailers might use words like man-made, cultured or above-ground, and they mean lab-grown diamonds.
As we always do, we encourage you to do your own research and compare prices on your own. Do remember the Four C's: Cut, Color, Clarity and Carat. But, Grant says that these specifications aren't everything.
"The 4-C's are only a part of the story and that's really why you need to see the diamond in person, and you need to buy that diamond that really speaks to you. Don't just buy something because of what it says on a piece of paper, because two pieces of paper may say that the diamonds are the same thing, but in reality they could look very different," he said.
Grant added that it's always best to go to a reputable retailer or some place that has been personally recommended to you. Be sure to check the reviews so you feel comfortable and can trust this investment process.
He also mentioned that regular maintenance will help your diamond pieces hold their value as well, whether that refers to a physical condition or an emotional attachment, as some pieces of jewelry become heirlooms, handed down from generation to generation.
Grant brought in colorful diamonds, and showed us how they can actually range in colors like the rainbow. The diamond rings were stunning! Check out our Facebook Live!
Here are some additional tips. When it comes to prices, set a budget. Also, you can attempt to negotiate the prices too. Grant told us that fine jewelers won't typically raise or lower prices during the holidays. In our research, it seems that some of the most common retailers do adjust pricing and have already starting running campaigns with incentives. So, use our tips and Grant's tips when doing your homework.
If you're looking specifically to buy an engagement ring, then Nerdwallet has 12 tips to help you save:
1. Set a maximum budget (and stick to it!)
2. Learn the Four Cs of diamonds. (We spelled this out above, but make sure you understand what each one means)
3. Comparison shop. (Again, remember Grant's warning that only seeing something online or on paper may not be what it seems. Also, the two papers can say the two rings are the same with different prices, but you need to see them in person to make a completely educated decision)
4. Avoid gift-giving holidays. (This one is debatable, according to our research and information that Grant told us. It's definitely possible stores could mark up prices, but market them to be lower with ads and other incentives, but fine jewelers typically don't do that)
5. Pick fractions: Rather than picking a 1.50-carat diamond, you could get the 1.47-carat one to save as much as 15 percent. (Grant told us that in these cases, you're simply saving slightly more, but getting less diamond. And, if it's harder to find the fraction carat, the price could potentially go up for demand)
6. Consider a halo: By placing a circle of diamonds around the center stone, a smaller rock in the middle can appear larger than it really is, and overall, you can save more!
7. Or, go frill-free: If you're not sure what type of setting your significant other will like, buy something simple and then take it in with her later to select a setting of her choice. Some jewelers will give you a discount on a new setting when you trade the old one in for an upgrade.
8. Be skeptical with your jeweler. (Grant offered unique perspective with this. Personally, I don't trust many people with my ring, even to clean it! When I mentioned that to him, Grant talked about how trust is so important when it comes to jewelers. So, he recommends working with a retailer that someone referred you to, that has been around for years, and has great reviews)
9. Consider alternative stones
10. Ask about the return policy
11. Get it insured
12. Keep up on maintenance. (Grant said that you can clean your diamonds regularly, using dish soap, a toothbrush and some warm water. He also recommends getting it professionally cleaned at least every six months)
Here is something else to think about...One of our reporters told us that her fiance bought her ring from Costco. It was very similar to a ring she wanted, of the same quality and everything, but it was about $3,000 or more less than the price they say at a jewelry store! Unfortunately, shortly after, one of her small, band diamonds fell out. In her specific case, Costco offered her two options. They could either fix it by taking the ring back for about eight weeks to replace the diamond and secure the setting, or give her a brand new ring in two days. She chose the two-day option, and actually got a better quality ring with a slightly bigger diamond, at no additional cost! Another bonus was her fiance went into the store to pick it up, and they put the ring box in a big store box. So, it simply looked like he was bringing something from the shop home, not a ring! Perfect for being incognito to keep the proposal a surprise!
So, I know we sound like a broken record sometimes, but we just want to enforce that it's vital for you to do your own research and to make sure to buy carefully. Grant told us that he believes that these diamond pieces can even last beyond your lifetime.
"What's so amazing about fine jewelry is that it is something that will last forever. And, the diamonds are not going anywhere. So, as long as everything is taken care of, it'll last forever. It'll be there for your great-grandchild or the great-great grandchild, and that's really part of what makes it so special."
Happy diamond shopping!