Last week I wrote about my visit to Sutton’s and Robertson’s, and how having never visited a pawn broker before, I had some misconceptions as to what to expect.
Well, this week, since it’s coming up to Christmas, and since I proposed to Anna at Christmas, I thought what better time than to write about engagement rings.
Much like the watches from last week, you can find some real gems (geddit) on the pre-owned market, and engagement rings are no different. So, rather than just show you some pretty photos of massive diamonds (don’t worry, they’re coming), I thought I’d give you some tips on what to look out for when choosing a diamond.
There are four main things to look out for when buying any diamond, be it old or new. Frankly, in the grand scheme of things, all diamonds are old (at least, the natural ones). Ten or even a hundred years is nothing to the time these stones spent underground. The four things? They’re commonly known as the Four ‘C’s.
First up: cut. This is the quality that the stone has been shaped. Now diamonds come in all shapes and sizes, and all have their ideal proportions. A diamond that has been cut well will sparkle, as light bounces and reflects off its many facets. A diamond that hasn’t may appear dull, or with have dark areas.
For me, the quality of cut can be subjective – some people like the character that minor flaws in the facets can create. Ultimately, if you like it (and you think she’ll like it!) then it’s right.
To assess it, move the stone about under bright lighting. See how it sparkles (known as the ‘fire’ or ‘life’ of the diamond). Look at it from all angles. Ideally, if they’ll let you (and the weather permits), take the stone outside and do the same in direct sunlight.
Along with the quality of the cut, there’s also the actual shape of the stone. They can come in all shapes, from hearts to rectangles and everything in between.
Natural things have imperfections. They have flaws. Diamonds are no different. The highest quality diamonds are those that are totally clear (known as “Flawless”). Stones are then graded on a sliding scale based on the size of the imperfections.
Diamonds that have minor flaws (usually little bits of carbon – otherwise known as inclusions) that are only visible under magnification might be graded VS1 or “Very Slightly Included”.
This then goes all the way down to I3 or “Included”, where you’ll be able to see black marks and imperfections with the naked eye.
Like the quality of cut, some people choose to see these imperfections as idiosyncrasies – part of the unique fingerprint of their diamond.
Carats in precious metals refers to the purity of the metal. In diamonds, it refers to the weight. One carat is 0.2 grammes. Whilst bigger is better (or at least rarer), it’s not the be-all-and-end-all, and you may decide to choose a smaller stone that’s of better quality.
The final C. Now, most diamonds are colourless, or variations of it. The less colour in the stone, the more valuable it is. Lower quality stones are yellower.
There are exceptions to this, however. Very, very rare, strongly coloured natural stones exist. These colours are known as “fancy colours”. Of this tiny subset, browns are most common, followed by yellows. They also come in blues, blacks, greens, greys and reds.
It is possible to synthetically colour diamonds – so beware, just like diamonds can be grown or even faked, their colour can be too.
The Fifth of the Four C’s
There is a final C from my perspective, and that is ‘Certificate’. Some diamonds come with a certificate of authenticity and grading. Yes, these too can be faked, but a diamond with a genuine certification is a good guarantee of its quality.
So let’s look at some of the beautiful pieces on offer at Sutton’s and Robertson’s.
First up, for £14,000, you can get this stunning 1.89ct brilliant cut.
Too rich for your blood? Maybe this vintage brilliant cut is more up your street? It’s a hefty 2.5 carats, too. It perfectly illustrates that size isn’t everything – here’s a stone significantly larger than the one before it, but it’s yellower and less clear than its smaller cousin. It’s still beautiful, though, and can be yours for £9,250.
Finally, at the lower end of the budget, this princess cut was one of my favourite stones. There was just something about the cut that really made it sparkle. Plus, the size was slightly less gaudy. It could be yours for £2,150.
Why Buy Pre-Owned?
Firstly, value – you’ll automatically get a 20% discount over the retail value because VAT doesn’t apply to pre-owned items.
Secondly, however, is the rarity. Anyone can walk into a high street jewellers and buy something from the shop. Many do. A great many. So there’s every chance that if you get your loved one a ring from here, you may, before long, see someone else wearing that same ring.
So why not buy a vintage ring? You can pretty much guarantee you’ll never see another person wearing one, and what better way to say ‘I love you’ than with a truly unique piece of history.
This two-part series is sponsored by Sutton’s and Robertson’s – but all words, views and witticisms are my own.