Although they do occur, most scams are overpublicized by the media to sell
newspapers or magazines. Scams persist because it is hard for consumers to educate
themselves before they buy. Below are the common "scams" and mistakes...and how
to avoid them.
===== Blue-White Diamond =====
A jeweler tells you, "This is a blue-white diamond."
This is a very old term that is now carefully controlled by the FTC because of misuse and
scams in the past. The dealer will probably tell you that it is a better diamond, but
actually it is just the opposite. Blue-white refers to the fluorescence that results in
natural light, which contains ultraviolet wavelengths. Strong blue fluorescence actually
makes a colorless diamond look a little oily or milky in sunlight and decreases its value.
However, for stones with a faint yellow color, a moderate amount of fluorescence can make
it look whiter because it cancels some of the yellow.
Solution: Avoid any jeweler who still uses this term and walk out, since
he may have old habits established by scam artists of the past.
===== Carat Total Weight (ctw) =====
The tag only states the CTW
Many jewelry tags only list the "carat total weight" of diamonds in a ring and
do not list the center stone separately. You can't compare prices with another ring if you
don't know the weight and quality of the main diamond. This is crucial because one large
diamond is worth much more than several smaller ones that total the same weight. For
instance, if you have one G/VS2 diamond weighing 1.00 carat, it might be worth about
$5,500. But 10 smaller G/VS2 diamonds totalling 1.00 carats might only be worth about
$1,800. Big difference! And normally, smaller diamonds at such stores are much lower
quality than this example, so the actual ring would be worth still less.
Solution: Ask for the weight and quality of the center stone by itself,
in writing. Leave the store if the jeweler can't or won't do this. They are purposefully
not giving you enough information to make an intelligent buying decision, and you will not
find a good deal here.
===== The 50% Off Sale =====
Huge Sales at Jewelry Stores
If you see a sale price in the newspaper, don't fall for it. You will probably pay much
more than the regular price at an honest dealer. We know of a major store in Florida that
marked gold chains up from $100 cost to $500 regular price, then marked them half-price
during a sale. That means the customer paid $250, thinking it was a great price. This same
thing happens with diamonds on sale. Liquidation and "going out of business"
sales are usually no different. We heard of one store in New York City that has been going
out of business for 15 years.
Solution: Don't fall for sales of any kind. If a dealer can afford to
mark it down, then they marked it up too high at the start.
===== Bait-and-Switch =====
The advertised diamond is sold when you get there
This is an old trick still used by many stores. Although outlawed by the FTC, it still
happens because it is hard to monitor 25,000 stores in the U.S. Bait-and-Switch is when a
store advertises a diamond at a great price, but when you arrive to buy it, it's already
sold. The jeweler usually offers to show you something much more expensive: he or she
baits you with the fake item, then switches you to something at a high profit.
Solution: If the advertised item is not in stock, don't settle for
anything else. If the store can't locate another diamond just like it and offer you the
same price, then leave.
===== Light Makes White =====
Bright lights make every diamond look better
Of course, every jeweler wants to show his or her diamonds in the best light, but there
are some lighting tricks you should avoid. Some bulbs have a strong blue component, which
makes yellow stones look whiter. Special bulbs are often used with strong ultraviolet
wavelengths, which make most diamonds fluoresce blue. This also has a whitening effect for
stones in the lower color ranges.
Solution: In any case, ask if the diamond has fluorescence, and ask to
see it without the bright lights in another part of the store before you agree to buy. And
always ask for a certificate from an independent lab to verify the grade if you are
looking for a fine color. The labs always mention any fluorescence. If the store agrees,
continue. If they don't agree, walk out.
===== Grade Bumping =====
When a jeweler exaggerates the grade even a little
The FTC says that a jeweler must be accurate within one grade of color and one grade of
clarity on a diamond. So many jewelers bump the color and clarity just one grade.
Unfortunately, this can mean a great deal of money if you are talking about a
fine-quality, 1-carat diamond. For instance, you might find a stone that the jeweler
quotes as a 1.00 carat F color / VS1 clarity for $6,500. However, if you sent it to a
reputable gem lab like GIA, it would come back as a G color / VS2 clarity, which is only
worth about $5,500. This means you lose (and they profit) about $1,000.
Solution: If you are looking for a fine-quality diamond, insist on a
recent certificate from a respected gemological lab, such as GIA, AGS, or EGL. And only
compare prices of other stones with like certificates.
===== The Fraction Scam =====
The tag says 3/4 carat
The FTC allows jewelers to round off diamond weights. So a diamond labeled as 3/4 carat in
weight might actually weigh anywhere between .69 and .81 carat. This could mean a
significant amount of money, since diamond prices leap at certain popular sizes. In this
example, you might be buying a .69 carat round G/VS2 worth about $2,100... but paying for
what you thought was a 0.75 carat worth $3,000. You lose $900.
Solution: If the store will not give you the exact weight of the center
diamond, leave the store. No chance for any deals here.
===== The Lowball =====
The appraiser says your diamond is worthless
After you buy your diamond and take it to an appraiser for an insurance valuation, the
appraiser tells you the stone is not what you thought. He might say it's worthless or not
the quality you were promised. In either case, he tells you where to buy one, or tells you
to buy it from him. Beware. He may well be lowballing or downgrading a fine stone to
persuade you to buy from him (or from some store that gives him a kickback).
Solution: Always use a truly independent appraiser who is not connected
with any seller of diamonds. Make sure the appraiser is well known in the community, has
been in business for at least 5 years and has no outstanding complaints with the Better
Business Bureau. If you follow all the precautions and guidelines in this site, you will
not run into this problem.
===== Laser Drilling =====
Dealers drill holes to burn out black carbon spots
About 1 in 3 diamonds in this country is laser drilled, according to Fred Cuellar, a
leading diamond expert. Dealers use lasers to drill a tiny hole into the depths of a
diamond to burn and evaporate large black inclusions to make them disappear. The trouble
with this little trick is that laser drilling can make the diamond a little more fragile
to breaking with a good knock. Most dealers trade laser-drilled stones for much less.
Solution: Ask your jeweler if the stone has been laser drilled. We
suggest always insisting on a certificate, since a certificate from any respected
gemological lab will clearly note that a stone has been laser drilled. Some labs will not
even accept diamonds for grading if they have been drilled.
===== The Old Switcheroo =====
You pay for one stone, get another
When you leave your new diamond purchase at the store to be set in your chosen ring, the
jeweler might switch it and set a cheaper stone. You don't find out until you take it to
an appraiser later. The original jeweler will claim that you must have switched it
yourself, or accuse the appraiser. You have no recourse here.
Solution: The only cure for this scam is prevention. Follow the
precautions in this site and this should not happen. In short, tell the jeweler to put the
weight, color, clarity and measurements in writing on your receipt to give you proof in
the event of a switch.
===== Diamond District Scam =====
Avoid the diamond districts in New York
You may have heard that the major diamond trading center in the U.S. is located on 47th
Street in New York. No jeweler buys on the street level. All the actual trading at
wholesale prices takes place in high-security buildings hidden from the public. The
vendors on the street level are more skilled at taking your money than anyone we have seen
anywhere else. They are so slick that you won't know you are being taken for a ride until
it is too late.
Solution: It's simple. Never buy from anyone in the Diamond District in
New York...unless you go with a jeweler who will take you up to the real dealers in the
trading centers. The dealers on the street are no deal. You will most likely get ripped
off, by the very best, if you shop on the street level.
===== In-house Appraisals =====
Dealers supply a retail appraisal with a diamond
You would not hire a fox to guard the hen house, no matter how nice he might seem. In the
same way, don't accept an in-house appraisal from a jeweler. Certainly you can find good
prices at honest stores, but any retailer will appraise each diamond in the showcase for
more than its selling price to make you feel good about their prices.
Solution: Seek an appraisal by an independent, unbiased, certified
gemologist/appraiser who does not sell diamonds and is not connected to anyone who sells
===== Hiding the Flaws =====
Every jeweler hides flaws under the prongs if he can
Although you will probably choose to do the same after you have examined and purchased
your diamond, you should be aware that all jewelers will place any flaws under a prong in
the ring if possible. In many cases, this can make an I1 clarity appear like a SI1 or
better if you look at it in a ring setting. Rings are not your friend when it comes to
taking an honest look at a diamond. But if you choose a clarity with some visible
inclusions, we do suggest "pronging" the flaws if they are not structural in
nature. (Structural flaws like feathers and cleavages can be damaged by the high pressure
exerted by a prong that holds the diamond snug in the ring.)
Solution: Always look at a stone loose, out of any kind of ring or
setting if you want to examine it properly. The stone can turn in the ring some day and
you could be very surprised to suddenly see a huge "new" black spot that was
actually there all along.
===== Altering Certificates =====
The grade of the diamond is altered on the certificate
This can happen, although it is difficult to do because all reputable gem labs laminate
their certificates to prevent alterations.
Solution: You can usually tell an altered certificate by examining the
lamination. If the paper underneath looks torn at the corners, or if the front of the
certificate is not laminated, it is not valid and should not be used. Leave such a store
on the spot.
===== Bogus Lab Certificates =====
Certificates from non-existent "sound-alike" labs
Don't be fooled by official-looking certificates from local "certified
gemologist" gem labs. They are probably owned by the store and exaggerate the grades
to make the prices look good. Don't accept certificates from labs with familiar-sounding
names like "Gemological Institutions of America" (instead of Gemological
Institute of America), or American Gemological Services (instead of American Gemological
Society). If it is not from the true GIA, AGS, or EGL gem labs as described on other pages
of our site, don't believe it. These respected institutions have spent millions of dollars
toward advanced equipment and staff training to produce the most reliable and consistent
(though not totally infallible) grading reports.
Solution: Ask any dealer who shows certificates from other labs if he or
she has authentic certificates from the big labs. If not, leave the store. Smaller labs
can do good work, but you have no way to know if they are qualified, legitimate, and
===== Deposit Scheme =====
They suggest you leave a deposit and take it for an appraisal
If you leave a deposit on a diamond, you should be very careful that the deposit is
refundable. In many cases, this is just a way to steal your money, which later turns out
to be non-refundable. You will only receive a credit toward another diamond.
Solution: Never leave a deposit on a diamond unless you have it in
writing that the deposit is completely refundable if the appraisal is not favorable. And
always insist that the store write down the exact measurements (WxWxD), shape, weight,
color, and clarity of the diamond on your agreement form.
===== Inflated List Prices =====
Artificially inflated "list" prices on the tags
Many stores will try to lure you into thinking their prices are great by listing inflated
retail prices on the tags. They might call these "list" prices or "compare
at" prices. This practice is very common, so watch out for it. Don't believe a
jeweler when he tells you about prices at other stores.
Solution: The honest jeweler will tell the truth about the savings he
offers, but the dishonest will inflate the prices. How can you tell the difference? Ignore
such comparison information and learn how to judge for yourself about the prices. Or call
us for the truth from an unbiased expert.
===== Diamond, CZ, or Moissanite? =====
Diamond lookalikes can fool you
This does not happen too much in the U.S., but when you go overseas or to the Caribbean
isles, there are no laws protecting the consumer. Some diamond lookalikes can fool you.
You might come home from Mexico with a $2 cubic zirconia that cost you $2,000. In our
opinion, you will not get any deals in Cozumel or Jamaica or anywhere else, and you are
quite likely to pay too much or not receive a diamond at all. Diamonds are a world market
and trade at essentially the same price everywhere. There is no such thing as a better
place to buy diamonds.
Solution: Never buy a diamond on a trip. You have no recourse if
something goes wrong.
===== Fracture Filling =====
New treatments to make flaws invisible
There is a new process patented a few years ago that melts a kind of crystal into
surface-breaking fractures in a diamond. This technique went unnoticed for a short time,
but now is better understood and more easily detected by most of the better dealers. The
treatment is considered fragile because it can be damaged under the heat of a torch when
the diamond is set into a ring. We feel it is unethical for fracture-filled diamonds to be
sold without full disclosure of this fact to the consumer. Fracture-filled diamonds should
trade for much less than diamonds without this treatment, but in reality they often sell
for as much or more because they look like a higher, more expensive clarity grade. Any gem
lab certificate will note this treatment, and some labs will not give a certificate for
Solution: Ask for a written statement from your jeweler regarding any
color or clarity enhancements used. We recommend a certificate from one of the three most
respected labs...GIA, AGS, or EGL.
===== Chemical Color Coatings =====
A little paint goes a long way
This very deceptive practice involves a little point of blue or purple paint on the lowest
tip of the diamond, called the culet. This is small enough that you might not detect it,
but the location spreads the color throughout the stone. This counters the yellow tint in
lower color grades, making a diamond look like a more expensive, colorless grade. Very
Solution: If you are suspicious about this possibility (the diamond looks
better than any other diamond with this color grade), the only way to guard against this
little trick is to have the diamond washed before your eyes in an ultrasonic cleaner. If
they will not do this for you, it might not be the best place to buy a diamond.