Jewelers Share Holiday Trends For hundreds of years, the diamond has been the stone of choice for engagement rings, an eternal symbol of love for its durability, says Steve Dalzell, owner of Dalzell Jewelers in Crystal Lake.
This holiday season, the diamond’s brilliance — and colors like blue and pink — are also expected to shine as coveted gifts, Dalzell and area jewelers agree.
Choosing to travel internationally to buy diamonds, Dalzell says he goes right to the source to bring the most rare diamonds to his store.
“The world’s supply of diamonds is traded in Belgium,” says Dalzell, who actually has an office there and is a certified gemologist through American Gem Society and a graduate gemologist from the Gemological Institute of America. “I don’t have to just look at [diamonds] imported to this country, which is what most stores do ... we go direct, which allows me to pick the best stones.”
Highly coveted for their unique attributes, “Diamonds are among the rarest commodity in the world,” says Michael Miller, owner of M.J. Miller and Co. in Barrington.
“Certainly there is no harder or more durable substance in the world.”
The Four Cs So, how is a diamond recognized for its rarity?
Laura Loyd, owner of Laura Loyd Jewelers in Algonquin, says she educates her customers on “the four Cs – color, cut, clarity and carat weight.”
Also a gemologist, Loyd says she worked for a diamond importer for 10 years in Chicago and graded diamonds that came straight from the cutting factory.
While the grading criteria are important to understand the diamond’s value and unique qualities, the four Cs are not the end-all to a diamond purchase, she says.
“Don’t get too hung up on the four Cs,” she says. “Those are just numbers.”
While diamonds can be purchased online and are often accompanied by some type of diamond report of the four Cs, Loyd cautions against those options because they lack a visual connection for the buyer.
“I would never buy a diamond online because you can’t see how it sparkles,” she says.
And the sparkle factor, she says, is a result of the facets cut into the stones.
“That’s what gives a diamond its brilliance,” Loyd says. “No two diamonds are alike. They are like snowflakes.”
Trending Colors & Cuts When choosing the perfect diamond, holiday shoppers may want to take a look at popping colors, like fancy pink, fancy blue and fancy yellow, Miller says.
While diamonds themselves are very rare, with just a small percentage of diamonds mined even making it to jewelry quality, naturally colored diamonds are even more rare.
The natural colored diamonds are on the high end of the scale, due to their extreme rarity.
“Pinks and blues are hands down the most unique in our store,” Dalzell says. “We had one fancy yellow that was 30 carats. Red is so rare you rarely see those, and the natural color blue diamonds can start at $100,000 for a carat.”
Less costly alternatives are available, and their price tags are actually lower than white diamonds, Dalzell points out.
“There are irradiated diamonds out there,” he says, noting that radiation is used to infuse color into white diamonds. “Those are very inexpensive, but the colors aren’t the same compared to a natural one.”
Since the diamonds are treated and altered, the cost comes down, he says.
“They are no longer natural stones.”
Loyd says celebrity choices affect consumer trends, but the phenomenon of color diamonds has long been an object of fascination.
In a diamond’s formation stage, trace elements affect the color, she explains.
“Gas gets trapped in the diamond crystal, and that’s what makes it fancy blue, and nitrogen gas gets trapped for a yellow diamond,” she says. “The more saturated the color, the more rare it is, and that’s what makes it even more expensive.”
As for red, even experts don’t even know where the color originates, she says.
“Black and white diamonds, cognac diamonds and yellow diamonds are very big this year,” she says. “In the ‘Sex and The City’ movie, Bigg proposed to Carrie with a black diamond, and all that kind of puts the trend at the forefront.”
Years ago, she adds, actor Ben Affleck proposed to actress Jennifer Lopez with a pink diamond, and long before that, color diamonds, like the blue Hope Diamond, “have been around forever,” she says.
Also setting one stone apart from every other is its unique cut.
This winter, the round cut is most popular, Dalzell says, noting diamond stud earrings are still popular. Miller says diamonds larger than two carats are in very high demand, but Dalzell emphasizes diamonds are not only for the wealthy.
“A limited budget is no problem,” he says. “We have engagement rings from hundreds of dollars and others that go to sky’s the limit.”
Learning The Language Regardless of budget, those who wish to study up online before they approach a jeweler may benefit from the Gemology Institute of America website, Loyd says, recommending it as “the most credited in the world.” She says the ratings attached to a particular diamond are based on the GIA, and that a diamond’s inclusions are one of the considerations used to grade diamonds.
“An inclusion is some natural characteristic,” Loyd says. “There are different categories for clarity. If it’s heavily included, it’s lower in the scale ... . The majority of diamonds will have inclusions, and the minimal inclusions are very rare.”
Gemologists grade inclusions by viewing them under high magnification. The inclusions they find are not visible to the naked eye in many instances, she says, and inclusions can include carbon specks caused by atmospheric pressure, or light inclusions, which look like feathers.
To feel comfortable with the terminology, reading up online is OK as long as it goes hand in hand with trusted guidance, Loyd, Miller and Dalzell agree.
“Do a little research, but keep in mind there is a lot of misinformation out there,” Loyd says. “Look at the diamond in person. Choose someone you can trust.”
Dalzell agrees online data does not ensure a diamond’s quality.
“It’s important to go into a store to see the difference in diamond quality instead of just reading about it,” he says. “Go into a store and talk to someone who is knowledgeable.”