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San Francisco Diamond Buying Guide

By Mike Fried,

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 from Blue Nile for only $4,634. When you shop in person, you pay a premium. Make sure the premium is worth that experience.

To help you with the diamond buying process we lean on our expertise and experience. The author of this article, our CEO, Mike Fried has over 20 years of experience in the diamond industry. Mike started from the bottom, sorting and evaluating hundreds of thousands of diamonds to learn every facet (pun intended) of diamond quality and value. Mike followed that up by spending years buying and selling diamonds on the wholesale market as well as selling tens of millions of dollars worth of diamonds to diamond retailers.

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.

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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 a GIA diamond certification. These certificates come from the most reliable lab entity in the world. They help verify that the diamond you’re buying is what it claims to be in terms of cut quality, clarity, color, carat weight and other quality factors.

We recommend the GIA over other grading entities because their process is designed to be as unbiased and objective as possible. For example, the GIA grades diamonds in anonymous, transparent cases to avoid any identification of their ownership, and uses a standardized process to objectively and accurately grade color, clarity and finish.

While many jewelers in San Francisco have GIA 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 clarity, VS2, or SI1 diamond that’s eye clean (without paying the higher prices of VVS or FL clarity 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.

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.

James Allen James Allen is the leader in online diamond sales. Their imaging technology is the same as inspecting a diamond with a jeweler's loupe. They have the largest exclusive loose diamond inventory online and fantastic prices. They also have the nicest collection of lab-created diamonds online.
What we love about them:
  • No questions asked returns within 30 days of shipment. James Allen will send you a paid shipping label to return the ring.
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Free International Shipping
  • Free prong tightening, repolishing, rhodium plating and cleaning every 6 months
  • Provide insurance appraisals
  • One free resizing within 60 days of purchase
  • Free ring inscriptions
  • Best-in-class high quality imagery of all diamonds in stock
  • 24/7 Customer Service
  • Best-in-class packaging
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Blue Nile Blue Nile is the largest and most well-known internet jewelry seller. They have a very large exclusive online inventory. Their high-quality images are catching up to James Allens' and their prices are amazing. 
What we love about them:
  • No questions asked returns within 30 days of shipment. Blue Nile will send you a paid shipping label to return the ring.
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Free Shipping
  • Free prong tightening, repolishing, rhodium plating and cleaning every 6 months
  • Provide insurance appraisal
  • One free resizing within the first year of purchase
  • High quality images of about half of their diamonds
  • 24/7 Customer Service
  • 100% credit towards future upgrades (must be at least double in value)
  • Best in class fulfillment
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About the author

Mike Fried Mike Fried Mike Fried has over 25 years experience in the diamond industry working with Leo Schachter Diamonds, Moshe Namdar Diamonds, and joining The Diamond Pro in 2007. He is recognized as an industry expert and has been quoted in publications such as Us, People, Page Six, The Next Web and more.

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