Diamonds have become one of the most popular duty free gemstones on every island. And while most jewelers will provide you with some type of verification of diamond quality and value, it is still quite difficult for you to know if you are getting the proper quality that is being represented to you. But if you follow the following three shopping steps you will at least be able to determine certain quality factors without having to travel with a gemologist.

  1. Look to see if you can spot any inclusions within the diamond with your unaided eye. If you cannot see any inclusions without magnification then the stone is considered “eye clean” and will have a clarity grade of at least S12, which is a fairly good grade diamond. Diamonds are rated as follows:
    FL = Flawless
    IF = Internally Flawless — minor surface blemishes
    VVS1-VVS2 = very, very small inclusions
    VS1-VS2 = very small inclusions
    SI1-SI2 = small inclusions
    I1-I2-I3 = Imperfect — I1- inclusions visible to the eye.
    I2-inclusions start to affect beauty
    I3– inclusions affect beauty and may pose a threat to structural integrity.
  2. Does the diamond, or diamonds, appear colorless, or does it seem to have an off-white or yellowish tint of color. Diamonds that face up white, which means they show no recognizable color when viewed from the top of the stone, then the stone will be of at least a J or K color which are also fairly good diamond color grades. If the stone shows marked color then it is most likely in a lower color grade.Another important point when shopping for diamonds is to look at all the diamonds set in a cluster ring, tennis bracelet, or other cluster of stones. Make sure that all stones are well matched for color. Check to see that one or more stones do not stand out as being different colors than the rest. All diamond cluster jewelry pieces should be well matched for both color and clarity.
  3. Check the diamond for brilliance or fire. This is the reflection of spectral colors that you see being transmitted out of a diamond. Take the stone out from under the jewelry store display lights and look at it in a shaded area. A well cut diamond will still show brilliance, even in subdued light. If the diamond’s brilliance substantially diminishes when taken out of the direct light it may not have proper proportioning.

When shopping for diamond tennis bracelets don’t get greedy. No one is going to sell you a fine quality 1.00 carat diamond tennis bracelet for $199.00. You are going to get broken stones, off colors, and poorly cut diamonds.  That’s simply what you get for $199.00 for a one carat bracelet. If you want a fun bracelet that is what we call a flash for the cash then this bracelet is fine. But of you go home and find that the diamonds are broken and heavily included, don’t ask for a refund. If you pay a cheap price, you get cheap bracelet.

Another important point about diamond shopping is price comparisons to U.S. retail prices. Here again, many island jewelers use the same trick as many U.S. jewelers claiming big discounts. The only way someone is going to give you 60 percent off is by marking their price tag way up, just so they can make it look as if they are giving you a big discount. Or they may be claiming to sell at 60 percent less than the US retail price of the merchandise. Either way, I have never found any island jeweler who could offer even the slightest proof that their prices were 60 percent off.

Weight of a diamond vs size. The two are not the same. A diamond that weighs less than one carat may look larger than one that weighs more than one carat. This is because in some cases the weight may be concentrated in the depth. A diamond that is shallow will look bigger but will handle light differently that a deeper diamond.  This is called a “spready diamond” in the trade.

Will a diamond cutter  sacrifice beauty for weight? Many times a diamond cutter will make a diamond a little shallower or a little deeper in order to make it weigh more. Thats because the weight is usually the first consideration for most people.  Another  reason is that the diamond cutter gets paid more for a heavier stone.   It also just sounds better to have a diamond that weighs 1.00 carat rather than one that should weigh .98 carat. Extra weight can change the most desirable angles and therefore the amount of light that radiates from the stone. Carat weight is easily defined , a number  that friends and family will understand before angles of refraction. The weight is definitely an issue that belongs in the balance.

Cut is different than shape. Cut refers to how a diamond is proportioned. Shape refers to the outline of the diameter. Some popular shapes are round, oval, square, pear, rectangular, trillion, and heart shaped. Each of these shapes can be cut in different styles of faceting. For instance, when a square shape is cut with triangular and kite shaped facets the cutting style is known as princess cut. When the same shape is cut with long rectangular facets, the style of cut is known as a step cut or an emerald cut. Round diamonds are usually cut in a style with 57 facets known as a brilliant cut.

Proportions determine brilliance. A properly cut diamond will reflect nearly 100% of the light entering the surface. If cut out of proportion, some of this light is lost through the bottom or side of the stone. If a diamond is cut too deep, light goes through the top and out of the side, making the stone look dark. If it is cut too shallow, light goes straight through the top and out of the bottom making it look lifeless.

Think of a diamond as a light reflection machine. When light enters the flat surface of the table and exits through the angled facets of the crown, a flash of prismatic colors can occur. This is called dispersion. When light bounces off the perfectly polished surfaces of diamond facets, a rapid fire spark of white reflected light can occur. This is called scintillation. A diamond must be cut  to catch every beam of light and choreograph its movement perfectly within the stone. If the dance is successful, the light is released back to surface where it is caught by the eyes of those who admire it. This total display of light is known as brilliance.

Buy what YOU like. Diamonds are a personality stone.  Some enjoy the perfection of a flawless white diamond,  others appreciate the fire, depth and brilliance of the many fancy colored diamonds.   Ask your jeweler to see his collection of fancy colored diamonds, you’ll be captivated by their charm!

Fancy colored Diamonds are in huge demand in Europe and Asia and their popularity is increasing in the US market.  The enhancement process to get a Diamond of good color is expensive and they never know what the results will be with each individual Diamond.   Because of this the price of a quality colored Diamond, especially of a rare color is very high and will only go higher as popularity increases.   Most of the larger, finer Fancy Colored Diamonds are only available in the Caribbean due to their world wide client base.  Jerry Seinfeld recently purchased a fantastic 4 ct Fancy Yellow Diamond for an undisclosed amount.

Natural versus color enhanced: between the two Natural is more desirable and of course will cost more.   The majority of fancy diamonds on the market today are treated to enhance the color.   Enhancements need to be disclosed to the consumer.    Some colors look better enhanced than natural, pink for example, but the choice should be the consumers on which they prefer.

Most desired colors of Fancy Colored Diamonds:

Red– Extremely rare to find as a natural and so would demand a huge price and because of this the color enhanced Red Diamond is in high demand.

Pink–  The natural Pink Diamonds are disappointing to look at, the color is darker than you would expect.   The color enhanced Pink Diamonds are very popular, they are Hot Pink and deep in color.

Purple–  The natural purples are light in color, like a pale orchid.  The color enhanced are like grape juice and look best in white gold or platinum.

Blue– A Natural Blue Diamond is very difficult to find and can be very high priced.   Color enhanced blues are extremely popular especially with the fancier cuts, again white gold or Platinum.

Green and Yellow-  Naturals in these colors are very popular and have a wonderful warm, fiery aura especially with a nice gold setting.   Color enhanced yellows are common and will be reasonably priced, a wonderful conversation piece to show off to your friends.

Orange–  Natural orange Diamonds are plentiful & extremely popular.  They look stunning in Gold.  Its difficult to get a color enhanced orange Diamond that looks as nice as the Natural.

Champagne–  Naturals are available in abundance and look best in fancier cuts.   A wonderful bargain for those on a budget.

Black–  Naturals are available in abundance.  It is more porous and fragile but its gaining in popularity especially on the fashion runways and nightclubs of New York and Southbeach.  The Hottest trend is a fancy black center stone surrounded by a white melee.  The prices on Black Diamonds are reasonable just remember their fragility.

Unlike the clear diamonds of engagement rings, which are single crystals, black diamond consists of aggregations of individual crystals, which lend the gem its dark color. The largest black diamond ever found was a carbonado from Brazil; named Sergio, the stone weighed 3,167 carats.

The “Vulcan”, the biggest single crystal diamond of 178.88 carats ever sold by auction is shown in Paris June 13, 2002. The diamond which will be sold on June 27 is estimated to fetch between 800,000 and 1,200,000 euros ($756,000 to $1,134,000).  The stunning stone, which boasts an interior of amber-colored crystallized graphite formations, originally weighed more than 380 carats but was shaved down to half its size to show off its fine features.   The diamond is mounted onto a platinum and white gold broach that would risk tearing all but the toughest of evening dresses.

“What exactly does color enhanced mean?   Are they Dyed?”

Diamonds can be irradiated and annealed (controlled heating), coated, laser drilled and bleached, and filled.  In the case of fancy colored Diamonds which are color enhanced irradiation and annealing produce orange, yellow, brown, green, and blue diamonds.  More rarely they produce pink, purple and red stones.   The best way to tell is under magnification.   Coated Diamonds often have an un-natural appearance when you look at them table down under a Diamond Light.

Our advice to consumers is to get a Fancy Colored diamond with a certificate from an independent gemological facility.  If your jeweler tells you you don’t need this for this natural Diamond of Color, be wary.   As always do your research before you buy, be informed and you will make a wise purchase that you will cherish forever.   A color enhanced Diamond is wonderful, in some cases much nicer than the natural color, and will give you years of enjoyment.   But customers need to be informed that it is color enhanced.

Fancy colored Diamonds are another reason shopping in the Caribbean is a good choice.   In the US ask your jeweler to show you his Fancy Colored Diamonds.   They may show you 10 or 15.  However visit an Island Jeweler and they will show you 40-400 to choose from.  Wider selection means you will most likely find the one that suits you best.  You won’t have to “settle” with something you don’t really care for.

Diamond is the birthstone for April.

Legend has it that the first diamond that Europeans found was in the pouch of an African Shaman. The projective powers of the diamond touch the spirituality in us all. It is protective and affords us courage and peace. It is the symbol by which many of us promise our devotion to one another.

The first recorded diamond engagement ring was given by the Hapsburg Emperor Maximillian I to Mary of Burgundy in 1477.  Louis IX of France (1214-1270) had previously issued an edict limiting the wearing of diamonds to kings, and forbidding all women (including queens and princesses) to wear them!

Small numbers of diamonds begin appearing in European regalia and jewelry in the 13th century, set as accent points among pearls in splendid wrought gold. By the 16th century the diamonds become larger and more prominent, in response to the development of diamond faceting, which enhances their brilliance and fire. Diamonds come to dominate small jewels during the 17th century and large ones by the 18th century. They ultimately supplant the gold settings in visual impact, so gold is replaced with the more sympathetically colored metal, silver, and, later, platinum.

During the middle ages, people knew no way to test a Diamond for genuineness except to scratch glass with it.  This is a poor test, because glass can also be scratched by corundum, beryl, topaz, zircon, spinel, quartz, and other stones.  Consequently, stones were often described as diamonds when they were actually something else.

Rabbi Benoni, (fourteenth century mystic) said that a Diamond brings on a spiritual ecstasy and makes its wearer “invincible”.   His contemporary, the alchemist Pierre De Boniface, said “invisible”.  Diamonds were thought at that time to possess magical qualities, to disperse vain fears, quell all quarrels and contentions.  It helped those who were “lunatics” and those possessed by the devil.  When worn on the left arm it gave victory over enemies, tamed wild beasts and helped those troubled by nightmares.

Mary Queen of Scots owned a talismanic Diamond that was supposed to preserve her from poisons.   Perhaps she needed a talisman to prevent be-heading.

In 1534 Doctors attempted to cure Pope Clement VII by dosing him with powdered gems, which included a large Diamond.  He succumbed to his illness.

The earliest European ornamental and regal applications feature diamond points that resemble the Roman style of natural points in rings. Unlike the Roman examples, the European points may have been polished, if only to remove surface irregularities and coatings of any foreign mineral. The taboo on modifying a diamond crystal into a gem, which originated in India, ends around this time in both Europe and India. There is no recorded explanation, but the implications of the rise of diamond’s popularity in ornamentation are nothing short of revolutionary — as more diamonds reach Europe, demand for the brilliant gem increases.

The earliest diamond-cutting industry is believed to have been in Venice, a trade capital, starting sometime after 1330. Diamond cutting may have arrived in Paris by the late 14th century; for Bruges — on the diamond trade route — there is documentation for the technique in 1465.

The Peacock Throne:  As described by a traveling gem merchant, Jean Baptiste Tavernier (1605-1689)  Its design featured an outspread peacocks tail of blue sapphires and other colored gems  and a body of enameled gold and gems, with a large ruby in front from which hung a pearl (10 grams)  On either side of the peacock stood bouquets of flowers made of gold and gems.  An open-set Jewel at the front had hanging from it an 80-90 carat Diamond surrounded by Rubies and Emeralds.  When the Shah was seated he had this jewel right in front of him.

The Peacock Throne is in the Iranian collection.

The Crown Jewels of Britain are housed in the Tower of London and include the historic St. Edwards crown and the Orb and Scepter (all used in coronation ceremonies), and the Imperial State Crown.  This collection includes some of the worlds finest gems.  Cullinan I, the worlds largest cut Diamond, is set in the scepter.  Cullinan II, the second largest, is in the state crown, with the Black Prince’s “Ruby” (actually a red spinel), and the Stuart sapphire.  The Koh-i-noor, the Diamond with the longest recorded history, is set in the crown the Queen Mother wears on state occasions.

Many stories about Diamonds purported to explain how to feed them and make them grow, or how to get more of them.  Even into the twentieth century, some have believed that the diamonds found in sands and gravels had a meteoric source and have “dropped from the skies”….being literally a gift from heaven.  Though very small diamonds are sometimes found in meteoric material, this is not the source of gem gravels.   Some people believed that two diamonds placed together in the right circumstances could mate and produce offspring.

Some feel strongly that a Diamond works as an energy absorber and transmitter.  It is after all a crystal that has grown in the earth.   Some claim that it magnifies all other stones and can “amplify and penetrate”.

Today Diamonds continue to be researched.  Due to human desire for Diamonds many have tried to produce synthetic Diamonds.   However nothing produced by man will ever compare to a Natural Diamond produced by God.