“Hi my name is Carol Clarke and I would like to welcome you to my blog
in which I write about jewellery matters and try to reply
to any questions I am asked on a daily basis”

Real advice on buying a diamond

Diamond Engagement Ring Valuation

I am forever being asked “where is the best place to buy a diamond ring?” from many couples that have just purchased a diamond engagement ring abroad.  Well of course I would have to say that I think my shop is the best place to buy a diamond ring for obvious reasons! but, that aside and not trying to sound biased this is what I think.  Many people who buy jewellery never ask the very important question of “how long is my ring guaranteed for?”.  This question does not seem to enter their heads until something goes wrong like the main diamond falling out, the stones getting loose or the ring cracking etc.  Only then do they think about this question when they are faced with the problem of trying to get the piece fixed.  Jewellery like any other product by law has to have a guarantee against manufacturing faults.  Now, the length of time varies from country to country and from product to product.  However, I would expect that most jewellery would be guaranteed for at least one year against manufacturing faults as usually if something is made or set badly the problem will become prevalent in the first year or so.  Many problems with jewellery are not easy to fix without making the item again from scratch and this can be very costly if the person fixing the item does not have the pattern or mould for the item.


Also it is a worldwide fact that you lose your guarantee with the person you purchased the item from if you leave the item in to anyone else to be repaired while still under warranty. For this reason alone I would have to say I recommend that you purchase especially an engagement ring in the country where you live.  I have seen numerous couples very upset after the ring that they have purchased abroad has broken or the diamonds have fallen out of the setting after a couple of weeks.  Many of the couples have purchased their rings in places such as Dubai, New York, South Africa or Vietnam – places that are very far away and very expensive to return to.  Many of these couples have to spend a lot of money having their ring totally remade or the diamonds replaced again as sometimes they cannot afford to return to the country of purchase and have to wait for two weeks waiting for a new ring to be remade, they cannot send the ring back by post or courier as they could not get insurance to cover the ring, they had lost faith in the place where they purchased the ring in the first place and did not trust them to fix the ring again.  So, the ring that they thought they had saved money on actually cost them a lot more than if they had purchased it in their own country.  It is like anything else that is purchased abroad it is hard to get it fixed in one’s own country as a lot of jewellers do not want to fix it as they did not make it or pick the stones or set the item and they do not want to take the responsibility for the item in case it all goes wrong.  If somebody purchased something in their own country then it is very easy to get it resolved and if someone cannot get it resolved then they can go on the Joe Duffy show and it will be resolved very quickly!.
Now, if you still wish to purchase your piece of jewellery or diamond ring abroad then there are some facts that you should be aware of that might influence your decision.  Nowadays many people go outside of Europe to buy their engagement ring and it seems fashionable to go to places like New York, Dubai, South Africa, Australia or Hong Kong as they are much cheaper there.  Yes, I would agree they are much cheaper there but, that is for a few reasons and the first reason being taxes and duties.  When you purchase a ring from outside of Europe and you are on holidays then (in most countries) you do not have to pay the local taxes and duties which can range from three to forty percent depending from where you purchase the ring.  So, straight away you are saving a lot of money.  However, once you bring this item or ring into Ireland you are obliged to pay twenty three percent VAT and two to five per cent customs duty depending on where you are coming from. Most people as far as I am aware do not stop at the customs office so, I do not ask them!.  Instead they just smuggle the ring into the country and when they go to get it insured they are told that they need an Irish valuation for the ring.  So the couples come and see me or one of my competitors and we provide them with a replacement cost to purchase the ring in Ireland which includes twenty three percent VAT and two to five percent customs charge which they have not paid to revenue so of course the feel good factor kicks in. They may say something like “we only paid five thousand euro for it and you have valued it for eight thousand five hundred euro”.  Then they submit this to the insurance company and pay an expensive premium on the eight thousand five hundred euro instead of the five thousand euro so the insurance company wins too.  However, what happens when the ring is damaged, lost or stolen and they go to make a claim for the eight thousand five hundred euro? First they will have to speak to an insurance assessor who is employed by the insurance company to save money for the insurance company and that is exactly what he or she will do. You will be asked where did you purchase the ring, do you have an Irish valuation for the ring (you will say yes and produce your well prepared Irish valuation) & did you pay the twenty three percent VAT and two to five percent customs on the ring as you brought it into Ireland? (this is where most people get a shock and reality sets in when they realise that they smuggled the ring in to the country and they have to say that they did not pay these charges).  Legally your insurance policy is null and void if you smuggled the ring into Ireland however, as both the insurance company and you are both in the wrong then the insurance company will usually turn a blind eye to this fact (as they do not want the inconvenience of a court case) and the assessors wish to save money for the insurance companies so they will usually agree to pay what you actually paid for the ring less a small amount and you will not be able to do anything about it.  You may be paying a premium of ten thousand euro on a ring and have all kinds of conditions attached to that premium for many years but only receive four thousand five hundred euro if your ring is lost or stolen.  I blame the insurance companies for this scandal. It is up to the insurance company to ask this question the moment they receive a proposal form.  If fact this question should be on all proposal forms and made clear to everyone from the start instead of when one needs to make a claim.  Many years ago one such couple in the UK took royal and Sun Alliance to court over the same issue as Royal and Sun Alliance would not pay the couple any money on a claim.   They said their claim was null and void because they had smuggled the ring into the country and they did not cover smuggled goods and that this was clearly stated in the terms and conditions.  This set a precedent for all such claims after this and this is what the assessors use in order to save the insurance companies thousands in claims.  On the other hand if you pay all the correct taxes and duties and you have had your ring valued correctly that you should not have any problems if you do make a claim.

Diamond Expert Advice in Dublin

The next problem that I see a lot of is that most jewellery that is made outside of Ireland and England is not hallmarked so, it is sometimes impossible to tell exactly what it is and this can create a problem if the ring has to be repaired or if you wish to place another ring beside it.  In Ireland and the UK all jewellery that is sold has to be legally checked for consistency and quality of the metal and it is the government that say and confirm what the metal is and not the jeweller.  So, if you purchase something in Ireland or the UK that has been hallmarked you can be one hundred percent sure what you are purchasing.  If it is one point under what it is supposed to be then it is smashed up by the Assay officer.  The law is extremely strict regarding metal in Ireland.  On the other hand many items purchased abroad have no marks at all on them and many items that are stamped eighteen carat or platinum when tested are not even gold or platinum.  As most countries do not have this law there is nobody checking anything so anyone can do anything that they like and nobody knows. So many couples come to me with rings that are stamped eighteen carat or platinum but, when I test them they are either nine carat gold, silver or even base metal.  Nobody can tell with their eye what a piece of metal is so it has to be tested.  If you purchased what you thought was an eighteen carat gold ring and wish to match it with the same carat wedding ring then you will have a problem if it turns out that the wedding ring is only base metal (cheap mixture of soft alloys).  Also if you wanted to make your fading white gold ring look great again you may not be able to get it rhodium plated again if it turns out to be base metal or a plated ring.  If there are any problems with the claws or settings you may not be able to get the ring fixed if it is a strange mix of metals or a base metal. You may end up having to get a whole new ring made again which can cost a lot of money.  I have seen many couples buying what they thought was an eighteen carat gold engagement ring and an eighteen carat wedding ring.  The engagement ring was eighteen carat gold but the wedding ring was silver and both were stamped eighteen carat gold!.  This eighteen carat stamp is put on the ring by the person who makes the ring and is not a hallmark which is put on by the government.  You can if you like bring your item of jewellery to the Irish Assay Office in Dublin castle and have the metal fully checked and if it reaches the Irish standards then you can have it legally hallmarked.  However, if it fails this Irish standard one will have to write a letter to the Assay Office promising you will not sell it to anyone at the substandard quality or else the item will not be returned to you.  If you are a jewellery manufacturer the ring would be broken up before it is given back to you.  So, you can be sure that if something bears an Irish hallmark then it is one hundred percent what it is supposed to be.  If you still wish to purchase your ring abroad and a gemmologist cannot accompany you then I would strongly suggest you pay by credit card in case it all goes wrong.  This is the only way that you may be able to get your money back if the retailer will not help you.


I am also always asked “which diamond certificate is the best to get”.  Well as I have spent years training with GIA (Gemmological Institute of America) I would have to say a GIA is the best.  I say this as I have looked at hundreds of certificates and have found GIA to be the most consistent and accurate in all its grading.  However, a word of warning there are many forgeries of GIA certificates especially from Antwerp so just because you receive a GIA certificate it does not necessarily mean it is genuine and unless you know exactly what to look out for you will not know if it is genuine or not so,  another good reason to purchase at home.  I have a lot of files of forged GIA, EGL and HRD certificates from all over the world but mostly from Antwerp.  There are some jewellers who trade in stolen diamonds and use forged certificates in order to sell these diamonds.  I believe that there are a number of these people in Antwerp so, I would say be cautious if buying in Antwerp.  Many of these diamonds have forged laser inscriptions on them too.  So, just because a jeweller spends a lot of time showing you the number or the certificate it does not mean that it is genuine.  In Antwerp some people are very good at forging these numbers and so again you have to know it is false.  This is not easy if you do not look at diamonds every day or know what to look for.


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