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22 Things You Need To Know About Diamonds

But not why millennials aren't buying them.

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But they're also pretty difficult to get your hands on.

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1. They're expensive.

2. You need to check they're ethical. We all saw Blood Diamond. Don't be that guy who doesn't check.

3. THEY'RE REALLY VERY EXPENSIVE.

So we asked three jewellery experts for their tips on everything from buying diamonds on a budget to sourcing ethical stones:

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The Experts:

David Rhode, co-founder of Ingle & Rhode, a luxury jewellers that only sells ethical and fairtrade pieces.

Kirsty Patterson, founder of i+i Jewellery, an ethical contemporary jewellery store that makes stylish creations.

Eily O'Connell, founder of Eily O'Connell Jewellery, which specialises in highly unique, bespoke pieces.

Before we get started, let's talk about terms.

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You've probably heard about the four C's – the four most important things to consider when buying a diamond – but as a reminder, they are:

1. Cut; that is, how well the stone is manufactured and how sparkly it is.

2. Colour; this is measured by a scale that goes from D to Z. D is completely colourless, while Z is very discoloured (i.e. brown).

3. Clarity; this refers to any inclusions or blemishes in the diamond. A "flawless" diamond has no blemishes.

4. Carat weight; i.e., how big the diamond is.

1. Imperfect and non-traditional diamonds are just as beautiful as perfect diamonds.

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David Rhode: "Flawless" means that to 10 times magnification a gemologist can’t see any inclusions at all, which is honestly overkill – it’s not going to affect the way the diamond looks on the finger. We don’t recommend D coloured or flawless diamonds to our clients as they just don’t represent value.

Eily O'Connell: The four C's are just guides for traditional diamonds. People are buying more and more rough-cut diamonds, such as “peppered diamonds”, which are rings with diamonds that have black dots [pictured above]. It’s a matter of opinion. Champagne diamonds and cognac diamonds, which are also very on-trend right now, are brown variations of diamonds.

Kirsty Patterson: There are also Polki diamonds, which I sell a lot of – they’re uncut so they look very natural, and they don’t exactly sparkle in the traditional way, but to many people that’s part of their appeal.

2. The cut of the stone refers to how sparkly it is, but it can also refer to the shape.

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DR: There are two different meanings to the word “cut”. One refers to the shape, e.g. Princess cut, Pear cut, whereas the other refers to the cut grade – how well the stone’s been manufactured from the rough crystal. The different names of the cuts just refer to the shape, i.e. a Pear cut diamond literally looks like a pear, with a sharp pointed top and a fuller rounded bottom, and a Princess cut is square-shaped. People are inventing new diamond cuts all the time and patenting them.

EO: It depends on your preference which one you choose. I find Pear cut is a beautiful slimming finger shape.

KP: It’s very subjective. The Princess and the Brilliant cut are more popular because of how sparkly they are, but I love the Emerald cut because it has a more subtle effect. When you cut a diamond you also end up with shavings, which are often what you see on Etsy. I use a lot of diamond shavings when I can because my jewellery is very delicate, so it lends to it. Everything gets used.

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3. There are two kinds of coloured diamond; discoloured diamonds, which are cheaper, and rare "Fancy" diamonds.

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KP: Some coloured diamonds, like grey, brown, and yellow, are more affordable, but ones like blue and red and pink are very, very rare and as such are prohibitively expensive.

DR: You get pale yellow discoloured diamonds that are essentially just bad white diamonds. Then you get the Fancy coloured diamonds, which are graded on a different colour scale to the white diamonds. These stones are expensive and desirable, rather than the discoloured white diamonds, which should be a lot cheaper.

4. An "ethical" diamond should mean more than just "conflict-free".

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DR: One of the problems you’ll find in our industry is that people use words like "ethical" without really defining what they mean. If you don’t know the provenance of the diamond – which country and mine it’s from – you don’t know if it’s ethical or not. You hear the expression "greenwashing", which applies here. To say it’s ethical you have to know that people weren’t exploited in the production of it.

Conflict-free is just one of the ethical boxes you need to tick. Not coming from a war zone should be your entry-level requirement. You also want to know if the people who worked on it had proper health and safety, and were paid properly...etc.

We only deal with a couple of Canadian diamond brands and each of their stones is laser-inscribed with a unique tracking number, so you can trace the stones back to the source. It’s basically a birth certificate, so the stone is traceable all the way through the system from mine to finger.

KP: I tend to source all my diamonds from Canada, Yubileynaya, or Botswana, as they all meet very strict labour and environmental standards. Then you avoid Angola, Ivory Coast and Zimbabwe because there are huge human rights violations and they’re all funding the conflict.

5. Beware Kimberley Process certificates – they're not proof a diamond is ethically sourced.

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KP: At the base level [of ethical sourcing] you have the Kimberley Process certification system. This was brought in to prevent the sale of conflict diamonds. With the KP system, though, there are some flaws, in that it doesn’t take into consideration any human rights abuses or environmental effects.

DR: The Kimberley Process is the diamond industry’s attempt to self-regulate after all the negative publicity around conflict diamonds. The certificate is a piece of paper issued by a particular country saying that a certain package of rough diamonds was legitimately mined on their territory.

Unfortunately, once the stones are in the system and get cut and polished they’re no longer traceable back to source, and you can’t work out which Kimberley Process certificate that stone came on. So stones get smuggled into legitimate diamond mining areas. Kimberley Process certificates can also be bought – anecdotally, you can buy them for dollars in Africa. Then you have countries like Zimbabwe run by a military government who are perfectly entitled to issue Kimberley Certificates. It's essentially used as a smokescreen so the industry can say “yeah, we’ve cleaned everything up, these stones are sourced under the Kimberley Process, that’s all you need to know".

6. Check your diamond is ethical in-store – NOT after you've bought it.

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KP: A lot of diamonds come with a certificate that shows where they’re mined from, and I always advise asking to see that. After you’ve bought your diamond it’s almost impossible to find out if it’s ethical or not, so that’s something you should always do pre-purchasing.

DR: Ask what mine the diamond is from. That’s a five-second question. They can either answer it or they can’t. If they can’t answer it, they’ve got no business saying a diamond is conflict-free or ethical because they don’t know. If they can answer it, and say it’s from a particular mine, then you can ask how they know – they’ll either have a laser tracking number on it or paperwork that you can check independently.

Check the background of the store you're going to as well.

EO: It’s best to buy from a designer maker who can source ethical diamonds. Most large-scale manufacturers would not use ethical diamonds – to them a cheap ring is more important than its origin or fairness.

7. There's no specific amount you *should* spend on a diamond.

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KP: It’s impossible to put a figure on how much you should spend. It’s totally down to personal taste and budget. From experience, I think it’s a better use to choose a smaller stone and incorporate it into a bespoke design rather than paying a premium on a larger stone. But again, it’s entirely subjective.

DR: Spend enough so you can get something really nice, but also don’t spend so much that it constrains you in other aspects of your life. Don’t cancel a holiday in order to buy a diamond ring.

E: Spend whatever your budget allows!!

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8. Check you're getting a good deal by doing price comparisons and looking at the detail.

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DR: If someone’s charging something very different to what the other guys are charging, start looking at why that might be. You’ve also got to make sure you’re comparing apples with apples.

For instance, you might see two diamonds of the same size, both graded F colour. On the first one, all the information is displayed clearly, i.e. VS1 clarity, excellent cut, etc but on the second, they just give the colour grade and don’t talk to you about any of the other characteristics. That should immediately ring alarm bells. Then you push them and find out that the second diamond hasn't even been certified. It’s the same as buying a car or house or whatever – you have to make sure you really dive down into the detail of it.

9. Diamonds are a great investment – diamond jewellery isn't.

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DR: If you can buy directly from the source at trade level, then yes diamond is a good investment. But buying an engagement ring is the same as buying a good-quality car. It will lose some value the moment you drive it out the garage just because it’s no longer new, and if you were to sell it, you’d have to sell it as a second-hand car.

The market for second-hand engagement rings isn’t great because most people want a new engagement ring. Partly because they associate it with a failed engagement, and partly because most people want to feel like they’ve gone through the process of choosing something new.

10. If you see a super-cheap diamond ring, it's definitely too good to be true.

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EO: If it’s very cheap, it’s most likely not an ethical diamond, unless it’s absolutely teeny. After setting and material price, diamond jewellery going for £40 to £50 is just not feasible.

KP: Unfortunately with diamonds, the cost is always dictated by the quality.

DR: If it looks too good to be true, it is. You can get really nice street food for £5, but it’s not a gourmet meal. If someone tells you you’re going to get lobster and champagne for £5, you know something’s wrong with it. You can make really nice rings for not very much money, but you won’t be able to put a big diamond in it.

11. If you are on a budget though, there are lots of ways to cut costs.

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KP: You can make cluster rings, which is something I do quite often. Smaller diamonds are far less expensive than one big diamond, but you can set smaller diamonds together in a way that mimics a large diamond – it’s the same effect but a fraction of the price.

Round diamonds are also about 25% more expensive than other shapes, as it's the most sparkly cut. Going for a different shape will bring the price down.

You can also get cheaper diamonds by taking one with inclusions [tiny imperfections inside the diamond]. Diamonds with fewer inclusions are more expensive, but a lot of the time you can only see inclusions under a microscope. How much are you going to be looking at your jewellery under a microscope? A stone with a few inclusions can still look amazing.

EO: Smaller or “champagne” diamonds are much cheaper. Also, be sure to work with someone who will cater to your needs and create a ring to suit your budget.

DR: Diamonds are priced in brackets: Each time you hit a whole carat the price jumps up. Imagine two diamonds next to each other, with the exact same colour and clarity grades. One of them weighs just under a carat, the other weighs exactly or just over a carat. Those two diamonds will look identical to the naked eye, but the latter will be priced significantly higher than the other, just because of the prestige that comes with it being one whole carat, rather than 0.98 of a carat. Fly just below the radar and you’ll get a better price.

12. If you can't afford a diamond, it's OK to buy a fake.

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DR: Cubic zirconia or moissanite are the two most popular diamond substitutes, and some of them are pretty good to be honest. It’s about disclosure. If someone is totally honest with you about what they’re selling, so you can understand what it is you’re buying and whether you’re getting a fair price for it, there’s no problem.

KP: If you’re happy to get a fake diamond it’s better to get moissanite than cubic zirconia. Moissanite is very durable and looks great. But cubic zirconia gets dirty really easily and can get scratched. I would advise staying away from it just because it just doesn’t last. If it’s being sold cheaply that’s fine, but more and more designers are passing it off as a proper stone, which it just isn’t.

EO: Lab-created diamonds are made by advanced technological processes that duplicate how a natural diamond is formed, so they’re very good copies. They’re also socially and environmentally conscious.

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13. And if you don't care about your stone looking like a diamond, there are even more colourful alternatives.

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KP: If you’re trying to replicate the diamond look, I’d go for white sapphires. But if you’re not trying to replicate the look of a diamond, then you can just go for a coloured stone. Don’t be put off buying coloured stones just because they’re not diamonds! You can get such beautiful stones for a fraction of the cost.

EO: Sapphire is almost as hard as diamond. Then morganite is a beautiful peachy stone that’s also extremely hard. Soft stones like pearls are not suitable diamond replacements as they're prone to scratch easily.

DR: In terms of engagement rings you have the big four: diamond, ruby, sapphire, and emerald. Those are the four highest-priced gemstones. The next rung down from that you have stones like tanzanite and aquamarine, which are still pretty expensive but not in the same price group as the big four. Below that you have loads of stones that are cheaper still, like tourmaline, citrine, amethyst, and topaz – those stones won’t be very expensive even if they weigh 10 carats.

Colour is a major thing – you need to decide what colour looks good with your wardrobe and suits your skin tone.

14. There are pros and cons to buying from big jewellery chains.

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KP: Shopping at a big brand means you can try so much on before coming up with a decision, which I think is so important. They have so many varieties. And more and more the bigger brands are becoming more ethical with their practices. The cons with larger jewellery stores is that they often buy in bulk, so the quality might be lower than with a hand-selected piece that you’d get from an independent jeweller.

EO: With lower-end, big-scale manufacturers, their jewellery will most likely be factory bought from China and badly made. Just always ask where the jewellery comes from when you’re shopping there – check the quality. If it seems very cheap, it will fall apart in a few months and the cost you will have replacing claws and re-plating it will add up to the price of a bespoke piece.

Shopping on Bond Street also has its advantages.

DR: The advantage of going to Bond Street is that you’ll see a lot of stuff close together and you won’t feel like you’re wasting your time. Because they’re heavily branded, a Cartier ring looks different to a Tiffany ring. Whereas if you go to, say, Hatton Garden, you see the same stuff in every window. After the first 10 minutes there you’re wasting your time as you’ve seen everything there is to see. If you look at the big brands you’ll see different ideas as they differentiate themselves.

15. When you buy from a big-name jeweller, you're also paying a premium for the brand name.

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DR: You're paying over the odds for what they’re doing – they have high overheads, and very expensive locations in London, Moscow, Paris, New York, and they have to be expensive to pay for that. They’re also spending an absolute fortune every month on marketing, and they need to get that money back via what they’re selling. If you’ve spent a small fortune building your brand, you’re going to charge a premium on what you’re offering. It’s the same model you see in every field in fashion – you’re paying a premium for the name.

KP: You’re buying into the brand, which is both a pro and a con depending on where you stand with that kind of thing.

16. If you're buying vintage jewellery, you should shop around before buying to get a feel for the craftsmanship.

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EO: Make sure the piece is not too cracked. Also, make sure the claws and setting are all intact.

DR: Look at the quality of the craftsmanship: Do the stones look neatly set by someone who knew what they were doing? Does it look a little messy or rough round the edges? Once you’ve seen enough vintage pieces you’ll start to be able to judge the quality. If you’re buying second-hand or vintage jewellery, you should also look at the background of the dealer. Reputation is a big deal in that area.

KP: With vintage pieces the four C’s don’t apply – diamond cutting has massively progressed, and the cut of diamonds now is a lot sparklier. But pretty much all jewellery will be hallmarked, so you can check the gold carat.

17. Shop at smaller, independent jewellers for a more personal service and a more competitive price.

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EO: Smaller jewellers usually take great care in sourcing the highest-quality materials, and you get a far greater choice. Plus, a smaller-scale jeweller will work personally with you on your ring, and you can get something bespoke if you want. It’s not always much pricier either.

KP: Smaller jewellers don’t have the overheads large jewellers do, so you’ll get a much more competitive price too.

DR: We get to know our clients pretty well and develop relationships. If we’re making an engagement piece to order, we’ll be talking to them about their requirements, we’ll see them for their wedding rings, and maybe even later for eternity rings – that’s not something you necessarily get with a big jeweller.

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18. Diamonds are forever if you look after them – but it IS possible to crack or break one.

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KP: Diamonds are the most resistant mineral – they can only be melted at a temperature of 55 hundred degrees – so you can say they’re forever.

EO: But even though diamonds are the hardest stone, they can still crack and scratch!

DR: Diamonds are hard but they’re also brittle. So you couldn’t cut one easily with a knife, but you could smash it with a hammer without a problem. So avoid blunt force trauma. If you take up kickboxing, don’t wear your diamond ring. Don’t go rock-climbing with it on – it sounds so obvious, but you’d be amazed what people do.

19. When you're choosing the setting for your diamond, platinum will resist the most wear and tear.

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EO: For the material, you should go for a metal that’s 18 carats or above. Platinum is by far the weightiest and densest metal that will stand the test of time. I think it’s quite overlooked.

DR: Platinum is slightly more durable and has higher tensile strength, which is good when you’re dealing with dainty claw settings – it makes them more able to withstand normal wear and tear. White gold is cheaper, though. If you’d rather have more money to spend on your stone, go for white gold, but if you’ve got an ample budget, go for a platinum setting.

KP: In terms of the physical setting, you see a lot of prongs with diamonds because they’re very secure and don’t detract from the diamond itself. Then you have the bezel setting, which goes all the way around the diamond and looks very pretty. Then with tiny diamonds you see a lot of pave settings. Pave works really well if it’s done with white gold or platinum, as then you can’t really see them at all.

20. Get your diamonds insured, either by taking out a separate policy or including it on your pre-existing contents insurance.

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DR: Check you’ve got contents insurance on your house or flat. If you do, then you should call that insurer and add it as a named item on your policy – it may turn out it was already covered on your policy in the small print, but it’s worth calling to check.

21. Look after your diamond jewellery by keeping it away from chemicals and cleaning it regularly.

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KP: Hairspray, nail polish, bleach, chlorine... They’re all chemicals and do have the potential to cause long-term damage, so it’s worth removing your jewellery before you use or come into contact with any of these. Its also worth taking off your jewellery before you wash up or apply lotion, but that’s more to keep the diamond clean.

EO: If it is a big stone, don’t wear it daily as it will catch in things. Ensure all the claws are intact regularly so you don’t risk the stone falling out while you’re out and about. You can also clean the stone with warm soapy water and very soft toothbrush occasionally to keep the areas around the setting clean. Or send your jewellery to your jeweller for a better clean with an ultrasonic cleaner.

KP: Only do this with diamonds though. Don’t touch any other stones with any kind of soap! Some people also put their jewellery in gin or vodka to clean them – I don’t, because I don’t want them smelling of it. It’s always worth getting a lint-free cloth rather than a tissue to wipe your jewels with, to stop the tissue dust building up on the stone.

22. If your jewellery does break, don't worry! It should be fixable.

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DR: The first thing to do if your jewellery breaks is to check the terms of your insurance to see if it’s covered. The good news is that the only thing that is a real problem is if you crack your diamond, as that can’t be fixed easily. Anything you do to the metal can be fixed pretty cheaply and quickly.

EO: Cry, and then bring it back to your local jewellery store for repair. Unless it is the actual diamond, it can be repaired easily enough for a fee.

KP: A jeweller can advise you on whether it’s worth recutting the stone, if it’s chipped. With chips you can also design around it, i.e. have a prong covering it.

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