Ruth Donaldson, Heirloom London.

If it sounds too good to be true...

If it sounds too good to be true...

If you're planning to buy a diamond ring - whether it's an engagement ring, an eternity ring, or just because you want one - it's important to understand what you are buying and ensure you get the best quality for your budget.

Did you know that until the middle of the last century there were no common guidelines for choosing a diamond? However, a global standard was eventually adopted, through the efforts of the Gemmological Institute of America (GIA as it is more commonly known).

The 4 'C's is a brilliant crash course on diamond qualities to help you understand what will affect the value of a stone;

Colour: A scale which begins with the letter D, representing colourless, and continues, with increasing presence of colour, to the letter Z.

Clarity: Small crystals can become trapped in a diamond when it's forming. These become 'inclusions' and may affect overall stone appearance. While no diamond is perfectly free of marks, the closer it comes, the higher its value.

Cut: A diamond's cut grade is valued by how well a diamond's facets interact with light and not, as many think, anything to do with the shape of the stone. The best proportions, symmetry, and polish will ensure stones with the most sparkle.

Carat: This is stone weight. Each carat can be subdivided into 100 'points.' A jeweller may describe the weight of a diamond below one carat by its 'points' alone (for instance a diamond that weighs 0.25 carats as a 'twenty-five pointer.')

However, the 4Cs are not perfect. Two diamonds may have the same certification, and yet still be visibly different. With over 16,000 different quality combinations, all evaluated by human eyes, one man's treasure may be another's trash. Genuinely good diamonds are always in high demand and will always command a better price.

As with most commodities these days you can, as an individual consumer, choose and buy your own. Online diamond sales have been perceived as a boon to cash strapped consumers. With access to thousands of diamonds online anyone can choose their diamond, through well known, and less known, diamond sales portals. Bargains can be sometimes be found - but usually if the price is too good to be true, then be very wary. Online descriptions provide no assurance of stone quality or service. This has given the industry headaches with diamond scandals a popular media story.

Unless you know what you are doing it's always best to buy from a reputable diamond dealer or jewellery concierge service. Diamonds are not cheap - so make sure you are spending your money wisely and getting the best stone for your budget. You can still pick the quality and cut of diamond that suits you - but do it with the full understanding of what you are buying and why.

It is worth doing some homework before you go shopping for a diamond, and the 4Cs are a good starting point. The good news is however, that expert help can actually save you money - so your budget will go further. Going straight to a trusted brand or expert is a great way of making your budget work harder, as effectively you are working with an industry insider who knows how to achieve the best value for their clients.

I see myself as a 'diamond headhunter'. I don't offer my clients thousands of diamonds, but I do source the best available for my clients' needs. It is a bit like an audition, there is a starring role for a stone in an engagement ring, and a good personalised buying service will determine which stone offers the wow factor the client wants. This service is not just for the ultra-wealthy. For example, our clients might have a budget of £2,000 - and with that they can still own exceptional jewellery.

So how do you find the right expert to work with?

Be wary of companies who are advertising themselves in managed offices, and who offer hundreds of thousands of stones in 'their inventories'. They are highly unlikely to carry any of the stones - they will likely offer you 'alternatives' which will they claim are 'just as good'

Avoid people who won't physically show you the stone you are buying unless you've paid for it. Approach with caution - a stone should always be available to view

Stay well away from any company offering investment diamonds. Too many individuals have been duped into worthless purchases. These are often 'get rich quick schemes' that are not run by someone with any real diamond expertise.

If it sounds too good to be true. It unfortunately is 99% certain to be just that!

By understanding the basics of the 4Cs and getting some expert help you can be sure to get the best diamond for your money - and be confident that the stone will bring you pleasure, and a good return over the long-term.


Engagement ring obsessive Ruth Donaldson is the founder of Heirloom London, a unique personalised jewellery buying service. Sourcing from the finest stones and best designers to present the perfect piece for you or your loved one, Heirloom makes fine jewellery simple.