The Diamond Pro

Looking for $3500 Budget Princess Cut. Also EGL vs. GIA Questions.

The following is a real email conversation between The Diamond Pro and a reader just like you who contacted us. Personal information is always removed. Learn from these posts, or contact us yourself to get free personalized help.

Thanks for the great resource you have hear. The information you provide is truly a great value. Its funny how society expects men to purchase diamond engagement rings, yet there is no real resource for true information, and everyone you talk to (family, friends, etc.) seem to have their own opinions.

Anyways, I have a quick question about the certificate agencies. You mention the GIA is the best all-around, and that AGS averages ~.5 diamond improvements over GIA and that EGL offers ~2.5 improvements over GIA, in either color or clarity or both. I understand that EGL USA is a much more reliable entity over EGL Europe. Would you say the ~2.5 improvements is universal to both, or would EGL USA have a lower improvement rate?

Thanks for your help and your great site!

Hey Alex.  Thanks for the kind words about the site.  EGL Europe is a total fraud.  The 2.5 grades I mention on the site is referring to EGL NY and LA.
Why don’t you tell me your budget and what you hope to get, and I’ll help you find the best stone.

Thanks for the great response time, and your offer for help. I’m looking for a ~1ct princess solitare. Total budget for the ring all together is ~$3500, although I have a little wiggle room if it means better overall quality/value.

I’ve been looking at a diamond via the Novori website. Princess cut, EGL LA. 1.01 ct. EGL lists the following: Color G, Clarity VS2, Dimensions 5.4×5.39×4 (1:1 L/W), Table 73, Depth 73.4%, Girdle Slightly Thick, Polish Excellent, Symmetry Very Good, No Fluorescence. Diamond price is $3074. I inquired of the diamond and since then they took it off of their site, otherwise I would give you a link.

After reading your site, I think I understand that polish/symmetry are easily downgraded to improve other features at the same price point.

My expectations for ~$3k are, generally speaking, 1.0 to 1.05 ct, accurate H color (adjusted, GIA=H or EGL=G, etc), VS2 clarity, and a pretty “square” L/W. I would be flexible on the VS2 clarity so long as the inclusions aren’t black. Like I said in my original email, I’m basing all of this on what I can educate myself on as a first time shopper, so please feel free to correct my expectations or adjust them for the best possible deal.

I am also happy to use other sites such as blue nile or JA, especially if you earn a referral credit or such for helping someone like me. I appreciate your help and thoughts on this. After reading your site, I would also be open to paying you the broker/commission if you were certain the end price would be the best deal, and there was some guarantee on the diamond (similar to the websites).

Here’s my take on what you discussed:

As (think) I mentioned on my site, there’s no shortcuts when buying diamonds.  Diamond dealers know diamonds, so they know when they buy a stone, they’re buying the stone and not a piece of paper.  If an EGL H VS2 is cheaper than an equivalent GIA stone, it’s because the stone is simply worth less.  (Smart) Diamond dealers don’t price diamonds rigidly based on color, clarity and size.  They look at the diamond and offer the correct price for each individual stone.

My point in regurgitating that is to drive home the point that there are no shortcuts when buying diamonds.  You might respond, “well, if that’s the case, then what’s the difference?  So I’ll pay less and get the EGL, it’s the same price as the same stone certified by GIA that has a lower color and clarity.” But that’s not correct.  Simply put, GIA certified diamonds sell better than EGLs.  If a diamond manufacturer takes a stone and certifies it EGL, there’s a always a reason.  Maybe it got an unlucky grade from GIA, or maybe they feel with the way this particular diamond has its inclusions, they feel it will get a really big upgrade in clarity.  There’s always a reason, and the reason is always to the dealers benefit and not yours.

So it’s definitely better to buy GIA.  This way you know what you’re buying is exactly what you’re buying.  That’s the key.

I really appreciate your willingness to help me out with the affiliate commission. I do have affiliate agreements with BN and JA. I always recommend JA for two reasons.  1) they have actual magnified photos of most of their inventory.  This allows you to go down in clarity — with confidence.  2) I have inside information that their profit margin is notably smaller than BN’s.

Regarding my brokering services, it’s usually not worth it for me or the client if the budget is in your range.  You might end up saving a small amount of money, but for that small difference, I’d rather you have the full online retail experience of excellent service, long evaluation periods, fancy jewelry box, etc.

That being said, I’ll pick a few stones I think would be great for you from JA’s inventory.  I’m going to assume you want a white gold ring and not plat.  So lets assume your ring will cost around 400, leaving 3100 for the rock.

https://www.jamesallen.com/diamonds/I-SI2-Premium-Cut-Princess-Diamond-1251749.asp (SI2, but pic looks totally clean)
https://www.jamesallen.com/diamonds/I-SI1-Ideal-Cut-Princess-Diamond-1240771.asp
https://www.jamesallen.com/diamonds/H-SI1-Premium-Cut-Princess-Diamond-1087319.asp (the pics a little out of focus, but if the SI1 was eye-visible, I’m pretty sure it still would be visible even in the blurry shot)
https://www.jamesallen.com/diamonds/H-VS2-Ideal-Cut-Princess-Diamond-1256341.asp (No pic or cert, but it’s H VS2, so odds it’s eye visible are REALLY low.  Also, it’s a tiny bit smaller than the others, but for an HVS2, it’s a bargain because it’s a 96 pointer.  The cheapest full 1 ct H VS2 on JA is 3650).

Take a look at those and let me know what you think.  I can tell you the ones with the pics are definitely eye clean (just for clarity’s sake – when I say “eye clean” I mean looking at the diamond face-up – I can’t predict how it’ll look from the side).  The one without, by virtue of it being a VS2, is almost certainly eye clean as well.  As far as color goes, I color on a solitaire in white gold will certainly look white.

Thanks for your effort searching through their selection for me. I also appreciate your straighforward approach and advice!

I’ve looked at the stone’s you’ve recommended, and I hope you dont mind if I ask a few questions on these at I look at them through the virtual loupe. I apologize for the length of my email in advance. 🙂

First, I do like the 1.10 carat I-SI2 you pointed out (https://www.jamesallen.com/diamonds/I-SI2-Premium-Cut-Princess-Diamond-1251749.asp). I guess I’m confused as to how this would receive an SI2 while others would have a better grade with such obvious inclusions(I’m comparing to: https://www.jamesallen.com/diamonds/E-SI1-Ideal-Cut-Princess-Diamond-1227288.asp). Is this more an oversight on the GIA’s end, or a matter of inclusions elsewhere on the rock that aren’t as noticeable at 10x?

Second, I’m trying to figure out color a little better when using the virtual loupe. Again comparing the 1.10 I-SI2 (above) to the 1.06 H-SI1 you linked (https://www.jamesallen.com/diamonds/H-SI1-Premium-Cut-Princess-Diamond-1087319.asp), the I grade seems a little more yellow around the corners. Is this what represents the color grade difference? As I understand it, this color may be less but shouldn’t be noticeable given the solitare setting.

Third, when comparing the “cut”, I understand that other than shape there really isnt a good way to rate cut, but JA attempts to list ideal versus premium versus good. Is this based on how much “black area” there is, thus light not being reflected correctly? Would a more black area, or what appears to be a bigger “black cross” in the center of the diamond be considered a weakness of the diamond? Or is this simply the side efect of how the jeweler photographed it? Of the diamonds you sent, the 1.01 I-SI1 (https://www.jamesallen.com/diamonds/I-SI1-Ideal-Cut-Princess-Diamond-1240771.asp) looks like it has the most sparkle – is this due to the cut, or just the way the jeweler photographed it?

Lastly, the .96 H-VS2 (https://www.jamesallen.com/diamonds/H-VS2-Ideal-Cut-Princess-Diamond-1256341.asp) is probably a front runner in my mind based on it’s stats. In your experience, has JA ever purposely not posted a picture or delayed the picture posting because the picture showed weaknesses of the diamond?

So I guess it all comes down to this: If it was all up to you, what would be your “first round draft pick”? Which one of these offers the best combination of value, quality, eye appeal, etc? I think you’ve shown me 4 excellent candidates, each with their own apparent pros. The I-SI1 seems to have great “fire”. The I-SI2 has the best size. The H-SI1 has the best color rating, but is out of focus, and the H-VS2 has the best stats but no picture. I’ll rely on your expert guideance.

Thanks again for all of your help and candid advice. I anticipate making an order over the next day or two. Your service is invaluable to a first time buyer, and using a site that rewards/compensates you for the advice you give is the simplest way we consumers and users of your site can thank you for this.

One more stone to look at: https://www.jamesallen.com/diamonds/J-VVS1-Ideal-Cut-Princess-Diamond-1251750.asp

I’ll try to hit your questions one by one:

1) SI2 GIA issue: GIA gemologists aren’t diamond dealers, they’re technicians.  A diamond dealer looks at a diamond, and based on his knowledge of the current market, is able to estimate what the proper value of the stone is.  A gemologist simply records the physical characteristics of the diamond.  So it’s not uncommon for an SI2 to look nicer than an SI1.  If the SI2 is all on the girdle, and the SI1 is black and smack dab in the middle of the table, the SI2 is a better stone.   So the SI2 is there somewhere in the 1.10 ct stone.  It’s just either so spread out that it’s become impossible to see in that photo, or it’s located under a corner where you couldn’t see it from a face-up perspective, or it’s an inclusion that’s translucent.

2) Viewing color on the VL: You can ignore color differences on the virtual loupe.  You can’t really see color from that face up perspective.  I’ve seen F colors that look yellow on the VL, and I’ve seen G colors that look greenish.  JA doesn’t own their inventory.  What makes them different from Blue Nile is that they only work with vendors within walking distance of their offices in the diamond district in Manhattan.  This allows them more control over their listings.  They train each vendor how to take the photos, and they loan them the equipment.  The problem is that some of the vendors really invest time and effort into the pics, and some don’t.  But anyway, ignore the color.  You can’t judge color face up.  Especially not in a picture.

3) Cut quality on the VL:  Also, it’s a factor of the photo quality.  Even if the photo quality was consistent, you still wouldn’t be able to judge cut quality from a static photo.  A video might be better, but I still cant see it showing of the stone correctly.
4) JA’s cut grades:  I’m not sure what their parameters are for their different cut grades.  To be honest, I pretty much ignore them.  In rounds, I have seen plenty of stones that were graded “excellent” in cut by the GIA (btw, GIA only gives cut grades to rounds, unfortunately) but had only a “premium” JA grade.  I’ve seen the same thing with AGS 000 stones only receiving Premium and not Ideal from JA, even though an AGS 000 is pretty much how the industry defines the word “ideal.”  I’ve seen the inverse happen, too. I’ve seen JA “ideal” stones that have VG cut grade from GIA, or less than 000 from AGS.  Their cut grades in Princess cuts are even more suspect.  There’s no universal agreement about Princess cut parameters in the industry.  Different cutters have their different opinions.  The basic rule of thumb is to be as close to 70/70 (depth/table percentage) as possible.  Up to 75% depth will look great in terms of light return.  Going lower to 70% depth will usually mean a larger stone (since the diamonds weight is distributed more in length and width versus the depth.  That’s why it’s important that you review the L and W of each of the diamonds I suggested.  It’s more important than the weight.  Your eye can’t see weight, it can only see dimensions.  So don’t be tempted by the 1.10 just because it’s 1.10.  Check the dimensions.

Cut is also less important for Princess Cuts because PCs weren’t created for light return (as opposed to rounds). They were created because they are the highest yield diamond cut – meaning, when you take a piece of rough and polish it into a PC, the yield is usually 80-90%.  As opposed to rounds where the yield is closer to 40%.
5) JA not posting photos:  It’s all up to the vendor and how efficient they are.  Not related to JA themselves at all.

6) My Pick: I like the 1.01 I SI1.  I know in my articles I said not to pay attention too much to Polish and Symmetry. That’s true.  I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between Ex or VG Polish or symmetry even with my experience (just to remind you of my gemologist vs. diamond dealer discussion above – a gemologist couldn’t tell the difference, but since it makes no difference to the VALUE of the diamond, diamond dealers don’t care about it).  BUT, in order to get an Ex/Ex on a princess cut, you have to try REALLY hard.  They’re very uncommon.  If you find one, you know it’s from a manufacturer who specializes in fine makes.  You don’t get an Ex/Ex on a PC by happenstance.  So the fact that they invested the time to get the Ex/Ex tells me that they care about make, which means they’re going to invest more resources to the cut proportions as well.  Someone who tries to get Ex/Ex cares more about quality than yield, is what I’m trying to say.

Thank you again for your great response! You’ve provided a wealth of additional information.

Your explanation of why the 1.01 I color makes a lot of sense, especially the excellentexcellent not being by chance.

I belive that might be the diamond I go for. If you don’t mind giving me your thoughts on one more diamond.

https://www.jamesallen.com/engagement-rings/pave/ring/item_412-1936_design.asp?module=diamond&item=1251721

Its a better color which I like in case I ever want to re-set it with side diamonds. Its SI2 but looks mostly eye clean to me, except a strip across the top right corner. Is it worth the extra $300 dollars though? My goal was a total cost of $3500 but I could justify up to $4000 to include a diamond like this if it was worth it. What’s your take?

Thanks again. I’m guessing this will be my last email with questions and that i’ll make a choice today or tmrw and place the order.

I don’t like the SI2 on this one.  It’s big and on the corner which means it could break off (seen it happen before) – ESPECIALLY if you’re thinking of resetting it.  That’s when it’s most likely to chip.

Okay… Last comparison, I promise. 🙂

I pretty much decided to place the order now for the I SI1. Taking one last quick look, there is an H-VVS2 for $240 more (https://www.jamesallen.com/engagement-rings/pave/ring/item_412-1936_design.asp?module=diamond&item=1055968). How does this one look to your experienced eye? Is the $240 worth the additional features this diamond offers?

You know, that’s a really really tough call.  They both look great.  Even though it’s counter intuitive, I still think I would go with the I SI1 because of what I said before about the Ex/Ex.  While H VVS2 is a significant upgrade over I SI1, I don’t think you’d be able to actually SEE any difference.  The H VVS2 definitely has a prettier certificate, but you’re buying the diamond, not a cert.  I’m hesitant, though, because I can’t /guarantee/ the I SI1 will look nicer.  It’s just a hunch.

Here’s a different perspective:
The rap price for 1 ct I SI1 is 4000/ct.  The rap price for 1ct H VVS2 is 5600/ct.  So your two prices are about -21% rap for the I SI1, and -40% rap for the H VVS2.  So there are two ways to look at this: 1) the H VVS2 is a ridiculously good deal.  Relative to each stones rap price, the H VVS2 is a much better price.  or 2) The I SI1 is a premium make, and therefore it’s priced as such.

I tend to lean towards perspective #1.  While the I SI1 might be a premium make, I’m not sure it’s worth the massive difference in price.

I’m sorry, but I think I just made your decision harder, not easier!

A (a day later): You’ve chosen wisely!  Yes, I get reports of sales ridiculously fast. They don’t give private info, but I do get to see what was sold, and so unless someone else landed on JA from my site and bought the very same H VVS2, I’m guessing it was you!

Stay in touch and let me know how it is when it arrives.  And, I’m always looking for additions to my “Success Stories” section — so please keep that in mind if you would be so kind!

Wow! JA is really on top of their game. I guess I kinda just pulled the trigger rather than debate. I’m the kinda guy who is always looking for the best overall value, so the rap comparison is what pushed me one way. After all, if its not a great diamond in person, I could switch it out thanks to their great policies. Thanks again for all your help. I’ll be sure to spread good words about you as friends become engaged over the coming years. I’ll let you know how it looks in person once it arrives – I’ll even try to write something up for your success stories.

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