The Diamond Pro

San Francisco Diamond Buying Guide

By Michael Fried
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San Francisco is one of my favorite cities. When I was working as a salesman for Leo Schachter (one of the largest diamond manufacturers in the world), I truly enjoyed coming into the Bay Area every month or so. I was happy to come back for a few days to do some secret shopping on behalf of our readers.

Buying a Diamond Online Vs. Buying a Diamond at a Local Retailer in San Francisco

If you’re looking for the most beautiful diamond for your budget, we highly recommend buying online. When you shop online, you get a bigger selection. You also get a better price because online vendors don’t have the same overhead and purchasing expenses that bricks and mortar stores do.

To put it in perspective, even after negotiating, the prices in San Francisco were 30-40% more than what we found online. For example, if we found a 1 carat diamond ring for $6,200 in the store, we could find a similar ring online for only $4,658. When you shop in-person, you pay a premium. Make sure the premium is worth that experience.

Where to Buy a Diamond in San Francisco

Downtown San Francisco

If you’re familiar with San Francisco, it will come at no surprise that shopping Downtown will give you some fantastic options. Like any luxury fashion, there are plenty of high-end jewelers dotting the landscape there. Most of the major players are located up and down Post Street. We managed to visit several major brands here (Tiffany & Co and Harry Winston) as well as some local independent jewelers.

Brannan Street

This spot provided an eye-opening experience for me. When I used to regularly visit San Francisco for work, Brannan was a bit of a seedy area. This time around was an entirely new experience. Where there used to be a sketchy building (888), there is now a very modern office space for Airbnb. Sadly, the diamond centers on the street did not evolve with the rest of the neighborhood. I had high hopes for the jewelry centers only to be let down by the shabby interior.

5 Tips for Buying a Diamond

There are a few key components to look at when you’re shopping for a diamond. Here are the five top tips to keep in mind.

1. Look at the Certification: Every diamond you consider should have either a GIA or AGS diamond certification. These certificates come from the two most reliable lab entities in the world. They help verify the diamond that you’re buying. While many jewelers in San Francisco have GIA and AGS diamonds, not all did. Make sure to ask your salesperson. If they try to sell you a diamond with a different certificate, it’s best to move on.

2. Evaluate the Cut: The Cut quality of a diamond is the aspect that most greatly impacts its beauty. When a diamond is well cut, it provides excellent brilliance and fire.

While shopping, narrow your search down to only Excellent or Ideal cut diamonds. From there, look for a round diamond with a depth percentage below 62.5% and the table below 60%. For recommendations on other diamond shapes, check out our diamond shapes guide.

3. Assess Clarity: The best way to assess a diamond’s clarity is by checking to see if its eye clean. When a diamond is eye clean, you cannot see blemishes or inclusions with the naked eye.

Pull the diamond away from the bright store lights to get a good look at the stone under normal lighting. Typically, you can find a VS1 or VS2 diamond that’s eye clean (without paying the higher prices of VVS or FL diamonds).

4. Avoid Medium and Strong Diamond Fluorescence: Sometimes fluorescence is used to alter the appearance of a diamond. For colorless diamonds, you want to avoid a stone with medium or strong fluorescence. It can cloud the stone’s brilliance and fire.

5. Take your time: As with any important purchase, you should take your time when shopping for a diamond. Try to resist the pressure that a commissioned salesperson might put on you. To end up with the most beautiful diamond for your budget, do your research and make comparisons. You can even send us the GIA cert number and we’ll give you our honest feedback on the diamond.

Recommended Jewelers in San Francisco

Shreve & Co

We had a fantastic time visiting Shreve Co. The service was absolutely fantastic there. They had a somewhat limited selection of diamonds and jewelry styles, but the quality was top notch. Just be aware, this is a luxury jeweler and that shows on the price tag.

Padis Jewelry Designer Galleria

This was a rare shining light in the San Francisco Gift Center and Jewelry Mart. We saw GIA certified diamonds (they also had AGS and Forevermark), and the prices were reasonable. You can save if you purchase online, but the premium here for buying at a physical retailer was fair. If you do not want to purchase from an online jeweler, this is an option.

Derco Fine Jewelers

This was another decent option on Brannan Street. While they did have quite a few EGL certificates, the majority of their diamonds were GIA certified. The salesperson actually steered us towards the GIA certified diamonds.

Options for Buying a Diamond Online

When you look for a diamond online, make sure to select a top-tier diamond vendor. With a reliable vendor, you’ll get excellent customer service along with beautiful diamonds at great prices.

Blue Nile (Click Here to Read Our Review)

At Blue Nile, you get the benefit of the largest online inventory in the world. They offer stunning diamonds and settings at highly competitive prices. Search their selection to design a ring you love. Rings are usually delivered to you within one week.

James Allen (Click Here to Read Our Review)

At James Allen, they offer an extensive collection of beautiful diamonds and settings. They provide high-quality imagery on every stone, so you can examine it closely before purchase. They’re also known for their customer service and excellent return policy.

About the author
Mike learned the diamond business from the ground-up at Leo Schachter Diamonds - one of the world's top diamond manufacturers. He has been recognized as a diamond industry expert by Time, PeopleMoney, The Daily Mirror, NerdWallet, The Times Herald, Yahoo Finance Australia, The Art of Charm, The Washington Diplomat, The Next Web, and more. See more
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