It is only human nature to seek out a bargain however it has come to the attention of a Limerick based Jeweller that ‘fractured filled’ and over-valued diamonds are becoming “increasingly common” according to Matthew Ryan ,Managing Director of Matthew Stephens, the O'Connell Street-based jewellery firm and instore accredited Jeweller Aoife O'Connell.
According to Aoife “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. Others have purchased from travelling traders or one man operators who set up in a hotel for a few days then leave town. They are telling me that they saw the same ring in Limerick for €10,000, while they purchased from these dealers for €3,000. Nine times out of ten when I inspect these diamonds they are always a very poor grade, seriously over-valued, generally accompanied with a fake certificate and/or the diamond is actually ‘fractured filled’.
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. According to Aoife “It most certainly is not an illegal procedure and a number of jewellers often carry a selection of these diamonds & disclose it to the customer when a diamond has been fracture filled. However, the consensus is that Irish customers are saying they were not made aware that their diamond was fractured filled or the process was not explained fully to them.
Another worrying trend which we are noticing is that there are a number of certificated diamonds where the diamond report overstates the clarity and the colour by more than one grade. Other tricks include offloading diamonds with “Strong Fluorescence” or with high Colour & clarity but with terrible cut grades to naive Irish shoppers, meaning that they will be sold worthless “lifeless” diamonds with no sparkle, but seem good on paper.
In addition there are a number of diamonds being offered on diamond websites at extremely low prices which are accompanied by fake or incorrect diamond certificates. With colour photocopying so advanced, these once unique certificates are now very easy to fake. These diamonds are generously over-graded and Ireland is being used by some dealers, particularly Israeli dealers in Antwerp, to ‘dump’ these stones. We are finding that the Turkish and Indian dealers are offering the worst quality of diamonds out there. They promise great quality but in turn they set the ring with a very flawed diamond.
The truth of the matter is that customers do not realise this until they bring the ring into a local Limerick jeweller for cleaning. On inspection, experienced goldsmiths are afraid to put heat near these rings incase it falls apart, which can often happen. Generally these rings are very poorly made and are lightweight to reduce cost. They are mass produced, and the amalgam would be very weak in itself. The quality and craftsmanship of these is nowhere near what you would find here in Ireland or the UK. The stone loosens quite easily, and when it does pop out, they are also very difficult to repair," Matthew adds.
Another thing to watch out for when buying a ring abroad is whether the jeweller will resize it to meet your finger size. Normally an easy process, this involves heating the ring to around 1,000 degrees, and then resizing it, but often foreign stores will not adjust the size but instead send the customer off and tell them that they can have it done in their home country- simply because they are afraid to touch it themselves.
"People abroad buy the ring, and the jeweller will assure the customer they can have it resized at home. Once the ring is put under a torch, often at 1,000 degrees, you can imagine what would happen to a fracture-filled diamond," Matthew says, adding that his company have had to turn down resizing requests from customers in the past.
Although the price of a fracture filled diamonds are naturally much less than a conventional diamond ring, the retailer may still be out to trick you - and unlike Irish retailers, they are not expecting any comeback. Put simply, if the price of a ring is too good to be true, then it probably is. When Irish customers realise they’ve been sold an inferior diamond and try to contact the foreign store or dealer they often cannot get through to them and there is the usual “we do not understand” even though their English was perfectly proficient when taking the credit card at the time of sale. I had a customer in recently who spent nearly €900 to return a fracture filled diamond to New York only to be ignored when they returned to the store.
One of the biggest problems is that we the Jeweller are often the only ones who will ever find out about these problems that Irish customers experience abroad, as the customers will often be too embarrassed to tell friends or family what happened. “Lets face it- nobody likes to admit that the actually were ripped off, especially after telling the same friends weeks earlier what a great deal they got”. Its embarrassing and frustrating to have thrown away thrown away thousands of Euro, and most would rather keep it to themselves. This is a shame as customers should be warning others so that the same thing doesn’t happen them. But instead they opt to keep it quiet and it happens others and the cycle continues.
We are very lucky in Limerick to have such fine and reputable high street jewellers who sell beautiful diamonds and i commend them for offering excellent quality diamonds that sparkle whiter and with much more intensity than most of the diamonds that I have seen that were purchased abroad.
You have got to remember that diamonds are bought and sold in an international market so diamonds are no more expensive in Ireland than overseas” Aoife notes. “At the end of the day, when a customer has a problem with their ring, internet traders are inaccessible and can easily disappear overnight. As the old saying goes “If it sounds to be good to be true – it probably is” and my advice is that no matter which jeweller people decide to buy their diamonds I would encourage them to buy from any of the fine jewellers in Limerick as I personally know that most sell excellent quality diamonds at great prices coupled with an exceptional after sales service.
As Matthew concludes: "Shop in Ireland where you know you can get in the car, and come back, and get the shop to sort it. If there are any problems, jewellers here will look after you. They don't want bad word of mouth. The problem with tourist destinations is they do not need to rely on the local population for business. They will never see the majority of their customers that they have sold terrible quality to again.
copyright 2011 Matthew Stephens Jewellers, www.matthewstephens.ie