Diamonds are beautiful, but do they have to be so expensive? Maybe not, now that the Internet is competing with jewelry stores, according to Philadelphia television station WCAU.
But how confident can you feel spending your diamond dollars online?
To find out, the station went shopping for dirt-cheap diamonds at one of several Web sites offering what appeared to be great diamond deals.
The team chose diamond stud earrings, listed at a half-carat total weight, and a platinum promise ring with a 10-point diamond -- one-tenth of a carat.
They were told the studs and the ring would cost $399 each.
Two days later, the diamonds arrived with certified appraisals and documents showing the unique details of our stones, such as inclusions or flaws.
Team members took the diamonds to three local gemologists who are master appraisers to see if they got what they paid for.
"I can't see that earring being anywhere near that weight or that value," said David Rotenberg, a certified gemologist appraiser.
The earrings were supposed to be a half-carat, or 50 points. Rotenberg estimated the studs at 34 to 36 points. Michael Jordan, a graduate gemologist with the Gemological Institute of America, was a little more generous, estimating 44 points.
Appraiser Sam Bruner was in the middle in his estimation.
"Based on the measurements, that's about a 20-pointer and (the other) one also about 18 to 20 points -- in other words, about 40 points total," Bruner said.
The station paid $399. Did it get a deal?
"These earrings should sell for anywhere between $700 and $450," Jordan said.
"Well, you're gonna get what you pay for. You paid for about half of what you would pay for a good pair of earrings," Bruner said.
"Sounds to me like you paid $50 too much," Rotenberg said.
What about our ring? The Web site said the .10-carat diamond is G to H rated, which is the near-colorless range. The clarity is VS2, which means very small flaws.
What did our experts think?
"The ring is probably a fair purchase at $400 to $450," Rotenberg said.
"$300 to $400 retail," Jordan said.
Two out of three experts think the diamond experience was pretty good. Jordan said buying online works for a lot of people.
"Most people who are buying over the Internet have done their homework. They are comfortable, they are a little computer savvy, they know what color is, they know what cut is, and all you need to do is start comparing sizes and qualities with other like sizes and qualities," Johnson said.
The bottom line is that there are deals to be had online. Here are some guidelines for savvy shoppers:
- If you decide to go shopping online, check the site's reputation. It should be a member of Jewelers of America or the American Gem Society.
- Shop on a site that offers reports from accredited labels like the International Gemological Institute or the Gemological Institute of America.
- Make sure the site has a toll-free phone number so you can talk to a real person if there's an issue.
- Make sure any resizing and shipping is free.
- Look for an online jeweler with a 30-day return policy -- no questions asked.