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Despite the fact that New York is the largest market for diamonds, there’s no place more befitting to write a guide than in Los Angeles.
The city of glamour has an abundance of places to buy an engagement ring — and the customers are as varied as the choices. It’s also great to have the opportunity to visit LA while it’s snowing in my hometown.
We strongly recommend buying a diamond online instead of at a jewelry store. Why? Because you get a wider selection and much better prices. For example, even after negotiating, the diamond rings in LA were 30-40% more expensive than the comparable rings we found online.
There are several online vendors to choose from. The most reliable vendors are Blue Nile and James Allen, because they offer excellent customer service, superb diamond selection, and competitive pricing.
We understand that some people don’t want to buy a diamond online. They want the experience of buying in person. To give our readers expert insight, we go secret shopping in places like LA.
It’s the place that puts everyone else’s glamour to shame.
There are two things you can be sure of when shopping on Rodeo Drive: the diamonds have the highest quality standards and the prices will be through the roof. At least if you’re spending that much, you can be sure you’re getting something fantastic.
To be honest, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed shopping on Rodeo Drive. When I visited last year, we had a terrible experience at Van Cleef & Arpels. You can read the review here. This time around we had fantastic experiences at every store we went to. Not a single snobby salesperson. Everyone was extremely friendly and helpful.
This area gives off a very sketchy vibe to me. I’m not exactly sure who is compelled to buy a diamond here.
It’s true that you can get a pretty decent deal, but there are also loads of diamonds with certificates that inflate the quality claims and plenty of diamonds with “issues” that severely devalue the diamond.
You’re far more likely to end up falling into one of these traps than you are to get a nice diamond and save a small percent. The downtown diamond district doesn’t seem like the right value bet in my opinion.
Like any place in America, the large chain retailers dot the mall landscape in Los Angeles. You can find any of these places pretty easily. We went to a few malls — most notably the Westfield in Culver City. The quality is generally not up to snuff and there is very little value offered there.
As you shop for a diamond, it’s important to know what to look for. Based on our years of experience in the industry, we put together top tips for finding a stunning diamond at an excellent price.
1. Evaluate the Cut: What feature most greatly impacts the beauty of a diamond? How well it is cut. That’s why we recommend only considering excellent and ideal cut diamonds. But beyond its grading, you need to make sure the diamond has plenty of brilliance (sparkle). For round cut diamonds, the depth percentage is best below 62.5% and the table percentage should be below 60%. Read more about choosing the ideal depth and table for your diamond.
If you’re shopping for a different shape, review our diamond shapes guide for recommendations.
2. Verify the Certification: Every diamond you consider should come with either an AGS or GIA certificate. The GIA and AGS are the most reliable lab entities in the industry. A certificate from one of these labs ensures you’re getting what you pay for. If someone is encouraging you to buy a diamond with a certificate from a different lab entity, it’s best to shop elsewhere.
3. Opt for Eye-Clean: Any diamond you consider should be eye-clean. What does that mean? No blemishes or inclusions should be noticeable to the naked eye. Evaluate a diamond by moving it away from the bright lights in the jewelry store. Can you see any imperfections? If you can, the diamond is not eye-clean.
The eye-clean component is more important than the Clarity grading on the lab report. But you’ll also want to look at the report to see what the grading is. Typically, VS1 and VS2 diamonds will be eye-clean. While you could pay more for a VVS1 or VVS2 diamond, you’ll get the same eye-clean beauty with a much higher price tag.
4. Study the Color: You want to end up with a diamond that appears white in relation to its setting. Look at the diamond to see if it contains any yellow or brown tinting. Most often, diamonds in the G-I range will appear colorless, but cost far less than a diamond in the D-F range.
5. Slow Down: Shopping for a diamond should be exciting — but also wisely done. Feeling pressure from a salesperson or rushing a decision could cause you to end up with a diamond that’s less than ideal. Take your time shopping. Compare what you see in the store to diamonds online. Ask for the help of an expert to ensure you’re making a smart choice.
It should be no surprise that Harry Winston is on this list. They are luxury and elegance personified. Of course, the prices are incredibly high. But if you are set on purchasing from a top luxury name, Harry Winston is the way to go.
If you’re buying a diamond at a mall, we’d recommend going with Ben Bridge. The last couple of times we’ve secret shopped them, we’ve been impressed with their quality. You can still get a better deal shopping online, but they were pretty impressive.
We were certainly not fans of downtown LA, but Icing on Ring stood out as the best option there. They had a phenomenal inventory of setting options and an interesting diamond selection. Be sure to limit yourself to GIA-certified diamonds and feel free to contact us for an opinion on a specific diamond.
Through our experience, we’ve found that buying a diamond online gives you the best selection and the best prices. Here we offer details on top-tier online vendors.
Blue Nile is the world’s largest online diamond retailer. They offer high-quality diamonds and settings at competitive prices. The Blue Nile website provides a seamless shopping experience where you can tailor your jewelry to your style.
With Blue Nile, you’ll receive exceptional customer service and a satisfaction guarantee. They’re also fast: diamond rings usually arrive at your door within a week.
James Allen offers an extensive collection of diamonds and settings at competitive prices. The James Allen website features the best diamond imagery in the industry. You can view every diamond up-close before purchase. You’ll also benefit from top-notch customer service and a lifetime warranty.
No matter where you shop — whether in LA or online — your ring should be stunning. Follow the steps to buying a diamond to choose a stone that offers plenty of brilliance. You can also use our 2 carat ring buying guide or contact our experts for help.
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