Ok, let me continue where I left off. So, another online store is James Allen (http://www.jamesallen.com).
Overall, it looks simpler than Blue Nile, with the main color being orange / red. There are not many ring designs either, but what is better than Blue Nile was that they have 3D models of the rings, so you can see them in full details and from different angles, which is quite cool indeed. Moreover, the diamonds are cheaper, and they provide more information about the stones, as well as clearer pictures with zoom feature, so that you can do more thorough inspections remotely. That is really important, as you cannot see the real items, and have to fully rely on those information to make one of the biggest purchase of your lives so far.
However, the photos do not look very real either, still quite CGI. Moreover, there are not many designs, and the designs are not great, just normal. The diamonds look good, but not exceptional, and there price is still quite high.
Another thing is shipment. Blue Nile will ship the ring to us for free, but James Allen charges shipping fee, which amounts to around 100 USD. Moreover, there is a GST calculator on the website, which is really irritating to look at and try on. Anyway, still an option to consider. 😀
There is a forum called Pricescope (http://www.pricescope.com), where a lot of people were discussing about rings, diamonds and stuffs. Among the posts, the name White Flash (http://www.whiteflash.com) pops up quite often and prominently, as the store with exceptional customer service, reasonable price and abundant stocks to choose from.
They have a lot of diamonds at affordable prices, both in house and from vendors. Moreover, the diamonds come with a lot of information. As for settings, they have quite a respectable stock of designs, some of which are replicas of world famous designs by the almighty Tiffany & Co.
There is also a master jewelry designer called Mark Morrell (http://www.mwmjewelry.com), who is very skillful, very experienced and has a brilliant jewelry designer mind. In his portfolio are exceptionally beautiful diamond ring settings, such as Torch, Flame and Sunburst.
However, the not so good thing is that, he seems to work alone, a pure artist who’d rather spend time in the workshop creating beautiful rings than attending to phone calls and emails. Therefore, communication would be a big issue. Moreover, as he only does settings, you will have to source for a loose diamond somewhere, then send to him to fit into the settings. Once he finishes the setting, he will send the finished product back to the diamond seller to inspect and send back to you. Such a hassle and too many points of delays and errors.
Moreover, he takes quite long time to finish each setting (6 to 8 weeks). Plus the time to send back and forth, it will take at least 3 to 4 months to get the ring, which is too long.
Ok, back to ring shopping, the first task is browsing the catalog and searching for a diamond within your budget. You can start with a budget and a carat weight that you want to get. The rest of the requirements, such as grade or clarity, can be relaxed gradually if you cannot find any match, as long as they are not compromised too much. Also, keep in mind that there are in house diamonds and those that belong to vendor. For those that belong to vendors, you will have to request WF to bring the diamond in house to inspect in order for them to send you more images to study. If the diamond is good and you want to buy it, then everything is fine. But if it turns out not nice, then you will have to bear the transportation cost to send the diamond back to the vendor. That’s why you should look for in house diamonds first, as the status is updated, the information is ready and there is no transportation cost.
If you are worried about the grade, that it will look very yellowish, you can check around, look at other stones of similar specs at the local stores, and even post the profile to PriceScope to ask for opinion.
About the information to ask regarding the diamond, at least you should ask the following things:
1. Diamond quality report. There are different diamond evaluators, but for safety, you should stick to either GIA or AGS, as they are well known and well established in the field of diamond quality evaluation.
Try to find one with excellent polish and excellent symmetry, as that will impact the quality of the diamond, its brilliance, fire and even the color of the diamond. With an excellent cut, you can go down by a few notches in terms of grade and clarity without compromising on the visual quality of the diamond and the ring.
2. Magnified diamond photo:
This photo helps you inspect the symmetry of the diamond, the quality of the cut, the pattern as well as detecting any cloud or defect that was visible enough.
3. ASET scope photo
This photo allows you to inspect the diamond further in terms of symmetry, as well as light reflection pattern of the diamond.
Tip: Red is good. The redder the better 🙂
For more information: http://www.ideal-scope.com/1.using_ASET_scope.asp
3. IDEAL Scope photo:
This photo is especially used for inspecting symmetry and light leakage from the diamond. Again, the redder the better. White and pale pink spots don’t reflect light very well, meaning the more white and pale pink spots it has, the less shiny and brilliant it is.
For more info: http://www.ideal-scope.com/1.light_return_and_shadow.asp
4. SARIN report
This report rates the cut of the diamond. For AGS diamonds, AGS 0 is the best. It’s also called Ideal cut. Again, the cut makes the diamond great, and should be the first characteristic to look out for when inspecting a diamond.
The original story about SARIN report is very long, but to put it short, there is a standard of cutting diamonds called Ideal Cut. That standard consists of some measurements, ratios and calculations that cutters should adhere to, in order to bring out the most fire and brilliance from the diamond. Diamonds cut according to that standard is supposed to be able to reveal the most of their beauty and shine. So, the SARIN report is created by measuring the diamonds after cut, then compare against the Ideal Cut standard. Each measurement is then graded depending on how much it adheres to the standard. AGS 0 means no deviation from Ideal Cut standard 🙂 That means the diamond is able to showcase the highest level of beauty contained in itself.
Setting is another headache. Choosing material is easy: Platinum is the way to go. However, when it comes to styles and designs, all hell break loose. Having too many choices is as bad as having too few choices. You can either go for this cross prong setting, which is quite special and hard to find in Singapore:
Or you can play traditional and go for this elegant setting which resembles the legendary Tiffany Classic Knife Edge:
It is simple but not too simple. It is elegant, and timeless, and classical. It is Tiffany. Well, not really, but very near there anyway.
After you narrow down on a few settings, you can ask in PriceScope for more opinions, and you can ask for more photos to study further if you are still unsure.
Another headache is to do measurement. This is quite tricky indeed, as the local stores use another scale, and it is dangerous to convert as you do not know what they use, or whether they use something standard in the first place. You can follow the WF way, use a paper ring sizer, pull it tightly around your finger, then note down the figure, and use WF converter to convert from diameter to size.
In fact, this kind of measurement is really subjective, as you don’t know how tight is tight enough, and paper is very fragile so you cannot pull too hard. Therefore, you should do several measurement, during different time of the day, and note down the difference. Moreover, your finger size changes depending on the weather condition, so you should measure in the condition that you are in most of the time (air con / no air con). Worse still, the paper sizer is too thin and light, so you cannot feel the impact of the weight on the size. Therefore, you tend to either pull too hard, ignoring the impact of the weight on the size, and got a very tight ring, or you go for the other extreme, pull too loosely with the fear of tearing the sizer and giving too much buffer, and end up with a ring for your … toe 😛 Luckily, the online shops normally offer warranty with free resizing, so as long as the ring is not too tight it cannot not go into the finger when you propose to her, everything should be fine, or at least not too bad 🙂
Note: If there is a Tiffany & Co store near your place, then everything becomes much easier. Tiffany & Co also uses the US ring size system, so you can just drop by and try the size, preferably with the design you want as well, since different designs with different weights feel differently on the finger even if the size is the same. Then you can go online and continue shopping with no worry about the size 🙂
Done with the size, now just make payment and wait. Payment with wire transfer is fast, easy and hassle free. And Citibank is the best bank for the job thanks to its global outreach.
It normally takes one week to make the ring. You can specially order them to set the diamond as low as possible, if you are afraid of knocking the diamond off by accident, as well as other modifications to the ring to enhance its wearing comfort. They are normally quite flexible on that, and will happily oblige. That you cannot do in local stores, which are rigid and have little room for creativity. So, go ahead and shop online with confidence, and soon enough you will find yourself passing local stores with distaste and absolutely no care at all 😉
P.S. Recently there has been a fairly new name mentioned in PriceScope: Brian Gavin Diamond.
In fact, this new kid on the block has deep relationship with White Flash, as its chief cutter (Brian Gavin) used to be White Flash’s master diamond cutter and co-founder, and its chief of customer service (Lesley Harris) used to be White Flash’s customer service director.
Although it’s new, it has gathered a lot of good feedbacks and is becoming hotter and hotter.