The Diamond Pro

Q&A: Wants Best Price for 3/4ct D/E/F Color VVS1/VVS2 Clarity Round Brilliant Super Ideal Hearts & Arrows

The following is a real email conversation between The Diamond Pro and a reader just like you who contacted us.
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Hi Ira, Congratulations on your large family! I’m one of 5 and so many siblings when growing up was a real blessing! We’re all slowly getting married ourselves now. The only problem with such a large family is that I’ll have to memorize an abundance of new birthdays for nephews and nieces!

I have a quick query about diamonds you may be able to help with. I have been doing several weeks of research to select a perfect diamond for the woman I hope to spend the rest of my life with.

My brother in law recommended a US jeweler he used to buy his crystal and, given the criteria I value (clarity & cut above size) they suggested: 0.74ct E/VVS2 H&A AGS000 for $5200 Yet on James Allen I find: 0.72 Carat E-VVS2 Hearts & Arrows Ideal Cut Round Diamond AGS certified Ideal 0 $3960. Could there be diamond-specific reasons for the apparent difference in price? Or would they all be related to fat markups?

Some jewelers I’ve spoken to say that 2 diamonds of the same specifications could appear very different, which seems to defeat the purpose of a grading system!

With all very best wishes, M

Hi M.  Thanks for the kind words about my family!

Before I answer you fully, could you tell me more about the US Jeweler you were referring to?  Are they a wholesaler?  Are they a typical bricks and mortar jewelry store?

Hi Ira,

Thanks very much for your lightning fast reply!

They are a typical bricks and mortar jeweler who has worked with my brother in law’s family for the longest time. I know they regularly do trips to Antwerp to select diamonds themselves, but I suppose that’s true of several. They have one branch as far as I’m aware. I don’t know if they wholesale but they only have a modest web presence.

I hope this helps.

I’m getting my kids off to school now (7:10am in Israel), so I can’t get into depth.  Just take a look at my article “Truth about Blue Nile & James Allen” for the answer to your question.  I’ll check your selection later to see if I can find something better for you for the money.

Thank-you very much. I’ll read it carefully.

Greetings from yesterday in California.

Hi M.  Now I’ve got a few minutes.

As far as two stones with the same specs looking very different, it’s not really true in the qualities you’re looking at.  A VVS2 is literally microscopic, so there’s no visual difference between a “good” VVS2 and a “bad” VVS2.  That’s not the case, however, with SIs.  Some SIs will be clean to the naked eye, some won’t.

But for what you’re looking for, it’s pretty much shopping for a commodity.

The only advice I would have is you can go down significantly from where you are and still buy a diamond that you wouldn’t be able to distinguish with your naked eye from the stone you mentioned.

For example: – This stone will look exactly like the stone you suggested, only it’s significantly cheaper. – This stone is slightly more expensive, but its significantly larger.  You would never notice a drop off in quality.  it’s a GIA Triple Excellent. So while JA didn’t mark it “H&A”, it most likely still is.

Have a look at those two and let me know what you think.

Hi Ira,

Thanks very much for your quick reply and apologies for the delay of mine. Things have been a little hectic around Thanksgiving here!

Thank-you for the diamond suggestions.

I doubt very much that Z. (my better half) will be all that surprised when I propose but she has commented when friends got engaged that her ideal stone is a little smaller than the ones they had. Hence I thought a ~0.75ct one may be perfect.

I am a protein crystallographer by profession so spend a lot of time looking at protein crystals under high magnification. By X-ray exposure, imperfect crystals never deliver the goods so I was hoping for a diamond as close to flawless as possible (not that I’d ever put it in an X-ray beam!). With a 0.75ct stone, there may be a little room in the budget for enhanced clarity. I also like the symbolic aspect of giving as close to a perfect stone as possible.

Hence I was looking at the VVS2 one. I appreciate that by eye they are indistinguishable but I’d certainly put it under a microscope. What I’m wondering is how variable these gradings are. Would the same AGS gemologist ever grade a diamond VVS2 one day and VS1 the next? And is one gemologist’s VVS2 another’s VVS1?

I asked the jeweler here in the states about whether the price discrepancy could be made to vanish. They said they inspect and hand select all diamonds by eye and so on and that AGS cut gradings are not what they were. And they said the 0.74ct VVS2 was a great price at $5200, short of getting a branded diamond. I note the certificate date is several years ago. Is this something to worry about?

I’m sorry about this bombardment but I’m really grateful for your help.

All best wishes from California.

I see you are definitely not your typical diamond consumer!

Diamond grading is definitely a subjective art.  It is certain plausible (even likely) that one grader will mark a stone a VVS2 one day and a VS1 another.  When people are fresh in the morning, they see things differently than at the end of the day.  AGS and GIA both try to minimize these issues by having several graders look at a stone before a final grade is published.  But even so, I’ve personally seen many stones go back for re-checking to GIA and AGS and return with different grades.

There’s only one reason the store is charging so much more:  they have to make more money on every diamond because they own their inventory.  They can’t afford rent and interest payments on their inventory without making a very significant margin.  James Allen, on the other hand, doesn’t own their diamonds.  The diamonds on their site are owned by vendors within walking distance to their NY office.  Because of this, they can afford to markup their diamonds by only 15% or so.  The classic jewelry store markup on diamonds is called a “keystone” and it’s usually between 50% to 200%.  See my article entitled “Truth about James Allen & Blue Nile” to get some background.

AGS standards have always been slightly behind GIAs.  At Leo Schachter (the world’s 2nd or 3rd largest diamond manufacturer), we found that we could get upgrades by sending GIA certified stones to AGS some of the times (we would only do this if we had a borderline stone that we thought had a good chance).  This phenomenon, however, was limited to color (G/H/I colors specifically) and not clarity.

There is absolutely nothing to distinguish their E VVS2 from an E VVS2 on James Allen.

You could even get a totally flawless diamond for less then their VVS2.

You can view the GIA details here:

That’s a GIA triple excellent – the GIA equivalent of AGS000.

Thanks very much for this Ira. I did notice the Internally Flawless ones!

I did suspect a little bit of fear was being used to justify a high price. Indeed, when I started this, an uncertified SI1 of 0.9ct was being offered there for $5500 and this jeweler said most of their customers go for the Hearts on Fire stone.

I mentioned one diamond in a past email:

Could you look at it? Without the loupe I see a feather on the kite at 12 o’clock and I see I prick on the kite a 5 o’clock and 2 on the table at 6 and 9. Could this be dust? The table ones do worry me.

Regarding the certificates – on James Allen most have been certified in the last few months. Should it set alarm bells ringing if it’s older than this?

On a separate matter perhaps I could ask your opinion on a setting.

Do you think a 0.75 odd ct stone is too small for a 6 prong solitaire like:

I like it simple and elegant and I like 6-fold symmetry but it may look a little silly if the stone is too small. The specifications state 0.5 – 5.99ct (I wish!) but I’m not sure the setting will look a little crowded at the lower end.

With all best wishes & thanks again for all your help.

Hi M. Here’s a link to a blown up shot of that stone:

What you see on the kite at 12 o’clock is dust.  The stone wouldn’t be a VS2 if that was an inclusion.  The little dots elsewhere are also almost certainly dust.  A VVS2 would be very difficult to spot under this amount of magnification, so I’m tempted to think that all of these spots are dust.  But it’s not impossible that one of them is an inclusion.

An older cert isn’t really a problem.  If everything else is in order don’t worry about it.

I don’t like giving advice about matters of which I’m not in a position to do so.  My professional experience is limited to loose diamonds – not jewelry.  Having said that, my opinion is that the stone would look great in that setting.  I really don’t think the prongs would over-power the stone.  But that’s just my opinion – it’s not based in any real experience.

Let me know what you decide to go with!

Thanks Ira.

I’ll certainly do that.


Hi Ira,

It’s done! I’ve selected a diamond and I’ve just emailed James Allen to hold it for me! I’m so excited I’m shaking!

I’ve actually gone a shade down in weight to 0.63ct but up to vvs1. Z has often mentioned that some diamonds (like my sister’s) are too large so I think 5.55mm across would be just perfect.

You know – I think it’s just what I and Z will want.

Thanks a lot for all your help – your website really has been the most spectacular resource. I’ve passed it on to several people already.

That’s a beauty!  I’m sure you both will love it.

Don’t forget to use the coupon code TAD0611 to get 10% off the setting.

Thanks for the referrals to other people.  It is much appreciated.  If you’re a facebook user, become a fan of our website’s Page.  I’m pretty sure I’m going to start monthly giveaways sometime in the near future, so it might be worth your while!

Please please stay in touch and let me know how the ring looks when it arrives.

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