In the market for a shiny stone? Listen to these 40 experts.
Diamonds are a girl’s best friend — and a man’s worst nightmare. But for Paul Gian, they’re something else: an obsession. One you can benefit from.
The 31-year-old works in marketing for a Singapore-based web design company, and learned about diamonds the same way most guys do: When he had to, because he wanted to propose.
But instead of dropping thousands of dollars and calling it quits, he documented the whole process — from checking out the local stores to shopping around online, right up through the proposal itself — on a website called Beyond4Cs.com.
He only became even more interested in gems (he’s currently studying rubies and sapphires) after she said “yes.” He later earned multiple diamond and gemology credentials from the Gemological Institute of America, one of the major diamond grading groups and the creator of the famous “4 Cs.”
“TheKnot.com did a survey that revealed the average groom spends three months to look for and purchase a diamond,” Gian says. “I feel that the average person would probably need at least 8-10 hours of research/diamond browsing time to learn how to make the right choices.”
Gian is determined to save you some of that time — which is why he recently released a survey he personally conducted with dozens of industry experts.
41 experts, 1 conclusion
Suppose you know nothing about diamonds. Where do you start? What’s the most important thing to understand? What would a pro do?
It’s something Gian gets asked all the time.
“On a day-to-day basis, I receive emails from readers with questions about buying diamonds and getting second opinions about potential purchases. Almost everybody has different requirements,” Gian says. “I think that many people ask this question because they want an expert to reaffirm their decisions.”
Well, here’s your affirmation, from more than 40 diamond industry experts…
The most important factor is diamond cut.
That’s not the same as a diamond’s shape — it’s about the diamond’s proportions and sparkle. (Naturally, Gian has a whole series of articles about cut.)
Nothing else came close. Here are the top five factors to consider when buying a diamond, according to 41 experts:
- Cut — 23 experts (56 percent)
- Lab report — 12 experts (29 percent)
- Budget — 10 experts (24 percent)
- Jeweler choice — 9 experts (22 percent)
- Seeing diamond in person — 9 experts (22 percent)
It’s worth noting that Gian’s experts are a mix of jewelers, certified gemologists, and people who otherwise have years of hands-on experience with diamonds.
People who sell diamonds obviously emphasize different things than people who study them, so the overlap is telling. Gian helpfully includes the full written responses along with the name and title of his experts, so you can get all the context of their picks.
How the survey was done
“Google is my best friend here,” Gian says. He scoured jewelry and business directories to vet respondents from around the world.
“My target respondents are people who have had proper gemological education (e.g. GIA Graduate Gemologist), have worked at least two years in the industry (my belief is that experience can outweigh having academic qualifications), or run a diamond business themselves. I had to reject several responses from some sources, as they didn’t meet my required criteria.”
Gian says he conducted the survey over email, and spent more than 80 hours backgrounding the experts, answering their questions, and compiling the results. The question he asked…
If you were shopping for a diamond for yourself, what are the three most important factors that would affect your choice and why?
e.g. seeing diamond in person, color, online store, friend’s recommendation, grading reports, carat size, cut, vendor’s policy, setting design, budget etc… or any other factors (there’s no right or wrong opinions here).
He even used a computer program to randomize the order of examples above in each email. That’s all on top of a full-time job with a web design company.
What you need to know about diamonds
Gian agrees with the overall results.
His mantra: “There’s no point in going into debt to finance a diamond purchase.”
“I personally think cut is an unyielding priority when it comes to buying diamonds. After all, who wouldn’t want to buy a diamond that’s full of life and sparkle?” he says. After that, his top considerations are budget and carat weight, “because I am a very practical person.”
“That doesn’t mean that the other factors like having a reliable grading report aren’t important,” he says. Differences in size are easier to notice than differences in color or clarity.
When a lot of people talk about diamonds, they focus on those 4 Cs — cut, carat weight, color, and clarity. All 4 Cs made the top 10 responses (clarity just barely) but that’s just scratching the surface, Gian says. It can cost you thousands of dollars: Gian himself saved roughly $2,800 versus what a sales rep originally tried to sell him — and that was after a “40 percent discount.”
It’s not necessarily because diamond sellers are greedy. Even people who sell diamonds often don’t know what they’re talking about. Gian has learned that by feigning ignorance and asking lots of questions.
“There is an apparent lack of education on the sales floor,” Gian says. “I don’t think that the majority of consumers — jewelers as well — truly understand the 4 Cs to a level that enables them to make educated purchases. I would probably call it the ‘focus without depth’ syndrome.”
He suggests researching online so you can learn without sales pressure. While there’s a lot of in-depth articles on the site, he does have a simplified step-by-step guide.
Why he does it
He says his website is a labor of love, not revenge: “My goal isn’t to get back at companies, but rather to educate consumers that what they hear may or may not be true.” But he does hope it will spur businesses to train their salespeople better.
Gian’s site also reviews several diamond companies, and they’re not all positive. He says nobody has ever asked him to take anything down — and he wouldn’t, anyway.
“If a company saw a review that they didn’t like, I believe they should take the review as a constructive means to improve any shortcomings,” he says.
For the most part, he and the diamond industry get along — his site is affiliated with 17 different diamond sites, which he says keeps him unbiased. His site has a disclaimer that reads, “Simply put, we will not risk our online reputation by recommending junk to you.”
So why is Paul Gian so crazy about diamonds? He says the science is exciting, and he sent us academic papers, including ones about symmetry grading boundaries for round brilliant cut diamonds and accordance in round brilliant cut diamonds.
“For most people, reading technical papers like these will probably bore them and induce sleep. I personally find them intriguing,” Gian says. “Did you know also that the basis of today’s ideal cut diamond was actually derived from mathematical calculations by a man called Marcel Tolkowsky back in the 1920s?”