Tags: Editorial

Buyer Beware

Never was the phrase ‘caveat emptor’ — let the buyer beware —
more apt than when buying a diamond abroad, warns jeweller
Aoife O’ Connell

It is human nature to seek out a bargain but unfortunately you don’t always get what you think you have paid for, and according to jeweller Aoife O’ Connell there are a number of sharp practices Irish customers are falling for when buying diamonds abroad. These include —

  • Buying ‘fracture-filled’ diamonds
  • Paying over the odds for diamonds they thought were a bargain
  • Buying diamonds with strong fluorescence or with high colour and clarity but with poor cut grades
  • Buying diamonds accompanied by false or inaccurate diamond certificates.
  • Buying flawed or diamond rings so badly set that they cannot be re-sized for fear if their falling apart when worked on.
Aoife explains what fracture filling entails and why, if you’re buying such a stone, you should expect to pay significantly less than what an un-doctored, high quality stone would cost.
“Fracture-filling is the process of filling in the inclusions in a diamond with a polymer resin which makes the diamond appear more attractive to the naked eye. Over time, the filling seeps out and you are left with a very flawed diamond.” While it is not an illegal practice (and in fact some jewellers legitimately carry a selection of fracture-filled diamonds) jewellers who retail them are obliged to disclose this information to the customer. “However,’ says Aoife “the consensus is that Irish customers buying fracture-filled diamonds abroad are either not being made aware that their diamond has been through this process, or it’s not been explained fully to them.”
She also explains how a customer can be duped into buying a diamond with a false certificate:
“With colour photocopying so advanced, these once unique certificates are now very easy to fake.”

When a bargain is not a bargain

“Over the past year I have met a number of customers who have bought their diamonds overseas, either in person or over the internet who think they are getting exceptional quality diamonds at bargain prices,” observes Aoife, adding “Others have purchased from travelling traders or one-man operators who set up in a hotel for a few days then leave town. Customers tell me they saw the same ring they bought for €3,000 on sale in Limerick for €10,000. But nine times out of ten when I inspect these diamonds they are a very poor grade, seriously over-valued, generally accompanied with a fake certificate and/or the diamond is actually fractured-filled.”

Worrying trends

Aoife’s colleagues at Matthew Stephens in Limerick are also noticing the
“offloading of diamonds with strong fluorescence or with high colour and clarity but with terrible cut grades to unsuspecting shoppers, who do not realise that they have actually bought worthless, lifeless diamonds with no sparkle.” There is also an increase in “the number of certificated diamonds with an attendant report that overstates the clarity and colour by more than a grade.”

Will they re size?

If you’re buying a ring abroad (as distinct from the diamond) a good rule of thumb is to see if the jeweller will resize it to meet your finger size.
“Normally an easy process, it involves heating the ring to around 1,000 degrees, and then resizing it, but often foreign stores will find an excuse not to adjust the size but to suggest instead that the customer has it done in their home country — simply because they are afraid to touch it themselves,” says Matthew Ryan, MD at Matthew Sephens jewellers. "Once a torch is applied, you can imagine what would happen to a fracture-filled diamond," Matthew says, adding that his company have had to turn down re-sizing requests from customers on inspection of their rings… for fear of what might happen them.

Too good to be true

And the moral of the tale? Put simply, if the price of a ring is too good to be true, then it probably is. And you may not have any course of redress if you have bought abroad or on the web, warns Matthew who feels frustrated that the issues regarding buying diamonds or rings abroad are not being given enough of an airing. One of the biggest problems regarding the highlighting of the dangers of purchasing abroad is the customer’s reluctance to expose it.
"We — the jewellers — are often the only ones who will ever see these problems as the customers will often be too embarrassed to tell friends or family what happened. Nobody likes to admit they were ripped off, especially after telling the same friends weeks earlier what a great deal they got. But keeping it quiet means the same thing can happen to others …”
So, to be sure you’re getting a diamond worth what you’re paying for it, the message is clear — shop from a recognised jeweller, preferably someone you know, who lives by his reputation and will be there in the unlikely event of your encountering a problem, to sort it out.

And if you don’t know a jeweller? Look for the RJI (Retail Jewellers of Ireland) symbol….

Aoife O’ Connell is an accredited jeweller at Matthew Stephens — the O'Connell Street-based jewellery firm in Limerick.

Call: 0044 1376 532 000
for stockists

Call: 049 436 2680
for stockists or visit

Call: 0044 (1)253 345311
for stockists

Jump to: [Top]