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San Diego and I go way back when it comes to diamonds. When I started out as a salesperson for a diamond manufacturer, San Diego was the very first city I visited. I was on a first-name basis with everyone who worked the front desk at the Hilton Gaslamp as I was there every month.
San Diego is a beautiful city with many great jewelry retailers. In this guide, we’ll talk about the different areas of San Diego and specific stores that we feel have the most to offer.
Based on our many years of experience in the industry, we feel strongly that you should buy a diamond online instead of at a jewelry store. Why? A reputable online vendor offers a phenomenal selection at excellent prices.
Because of the way diamond wholesalers distribute and sell, online retailers have a more efficient, less expensive process. What does that mean for you as a buyer? You’ll come away with a stunning diamond at a fraction of the cost. To put it in perspective, even after negotiating, the retailers we visited in San Diego were 30-40% more expensive than what we could find online.
You still need to be selective when you shop for diamonds online. That’s why we urge readers to choose a reliable vendor, like Blue Nile or James Allen. We’ve vetted countless vendors, and those two top our list for many reasons.
Still, we know that not everyone wants to buy diamonds online. That’s why we go secret shopping: to provide thorough reviews and feedback about local diamond retailers.
As you shop for a diamond in San Diego, keep in mind that you’re paying a premium. You want to make sure that the place you choose is worth that premium.
While there aren’t many jewelers scattered around downtown, there is the wholesale diamond building on 6th Ave. I would be very wary of shopping in the building downtown. Be extra careful about buying a diamond that has a GIA certificate (the certification we normally recommend), because I’m not sure the sellers can be trusted.
Most of the “dealers” have plenty of diamonds with EGL or other certificates—lab certs we don’t recommend. Being perfectly honest, the building has a seedy feel to it. It just doesn’t seem like the place I’d want to buy a diamond. Read our guide to learn more about diamond certification.
While shopping in the seaside La Jolla area, we were most impressed with Westfield UTC. Not only is the shopping center pleasant to walk around, but we also found the stores to have a luxurious modern vibe. More surprisingly, we were impressed with the diamonds we saw there.
Our goal is to help our readers find the most beautiful diamond at the best price.
Here are our top tips for buying in a store:
1. Verify the Certification: All diamonds should come with a certificate. The main question is: what lab entity issued the certification? We recommend only considering diamonds with an AGS or GIA certificate. These two lab entities are the most consistent and reliable in the industry.
Choosing a certificate from a different entity — no matter how good the diamond’s grading — can result in a diamond that’s lesser quality than what the report states. If a seller is urging you to buy a diamond with a certificate other than one from the GIA or AGS, politely decline and shop elsewhere.
2. Look at the Diamond’s Cut: Any diamond you consider should be graded as an excellent or ideal cut on the certificate. Beyond the grading, you also want to consider how much fire and brilliance the diamond gives off. For a round cut diamond, the depth percentage should be below 62.5% and the table percentage should be below 60%. Make sure to read our guide on diamond depth and table. For recommendations on shapes other than a round diamond, check out our diamond shapes guide.
3. Assess the Clarity: Yes, you can read the Clarity grade on the certificate, which is important. But you also need to look at the diamond closely yourself. Move the diamond away from the bright lights in the jewelry store. Look at the diamond. See if you notice any blemishes, inclusions, or imperfections. If the diamond is eye-clean, it’s a stone to consider. If you notice blemishes, you’ll want to keep shopping.
In general, diamonds with a VS1 Clarity or VS2 Clarity grade will be eye-clean. While you could opt for a higher Clarity grade, like VVS1 or VVS2, you’ll be paying more for the same goal: an eye-clean stone.
4. Gauge the Color: The goal with a diamond is to choose one that appears white to the naked eye. In most cases, a diamond in the G-I range will give you a colorless stone. Diamonds in the D-F range will also appear colorless but will cost far more.
As you assess Color, keep in mind the type of setting you’re choosing. If you’re going with yellow gold or rose gold, you may be able to choose an I, J, or even K Color diamond. If you’re going with a white gold or platinum setting, we suggest staying in the G-I range. Above all, you want the diamond to look white in relation to the setting you choose.
5. Don’t Rush the Process: With a purchase as large as a diamond ring, you don’t want to feel pressured or make a rash decision. You want to end up with the most stunning stone in the most beautiful setting.
If a salesperson is trying to get you to make a decision quickly, remember that you don’t have to make a decision in a day. Take time to compare diamonds, ring settings, and prices. Look online to see what you can find. Feeling confident in your decision is extremely important, especially since this will be a piece of jewelry that is worn for many years.
If you want help in comparing stones and evaluating diamonds, reach out to our experts. We’ll give you personalized advice for your budget and situation.
If you are intent on buying your ring downtown, I recommend visiting Quality Diamonds. Be sure to insist on GIA-certified diamonds. Ask for Koby. He’s one of the most knowledgeable diamond people I know.
This was a lovely independent jeweler that we went to at the Westfield UTC. It had a positive vibe. The diamonds we were shown were all GIA-certified and were well cut and eye-clean. The prices were a bit high for our liking but they were reasonable.
This was a pleasant surprise for us. Our previous experience at a Ben Bridge store was less than stellar. At the Westfield UTC, we had a vastly improved experience. Not only did we have a great experience with the salesperson, but every diamond we looked at was also GIA-certified and well cut. Ben Bridge is still overpriced, but we will be adjusting our review based on this experience.
Whether you buy a diamond online or in a store, make sure you choose a high-quality vendor. By shopping with a trustworthy dealer, you can focus on selecting the best diamond for your budget. Throughout our time in the industry, we’ve vetted dozens of diamond vendors. The best places to buy an engagement ring are all online.
With Blue Nile comes a phenomenal selection. They have the largest online inventory of diamonds and jewelry. They also provide free shipping and a lifetime warranty. Most importantly, though, Blue Nile diamonds and settings are stunning, and competitively priced.
James Allen offers a fantastic collection of diamonds and settings. The imagery on their site is the best in the industry — giving you the opportunity to examine each diamond closely before purchase. James Allen is also known for their excellent customer service, free shipping, and lifetime warranty.
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