It’s that time of year when lots of people are thinking about getting engaged or looking for a special gift for their special someone. And a lot of those thoughts, will require buying a diamond ring. Costco is one place that not everyone would think of checking out in their pursuit of their diamond ring, but you really should consider it if you’re looking for high quality at a great value. So, that’s my extra “C” in diamond buying: Cut, Carat, Clarity, Color, and Costco!
If you’re thinking about buying a diamond ring, you need to get very familiar with the standard 4 Cs of diamonds: cut, carat, clarity, and color. It’s quite a bit of information to take in, but the more information you know before buying, the more satisfied you will be with your final purchase. There are tons of places on the Internet where you can get more information than you will probably ever want about the 4 Cs of diamond buying, so I’ll try to just do a little brief introduction here (since I’m not anywhere near an expert).
The 4 Cs of Diamonds
Cut – The cut, not to be confused with the shape, is all about the facets in the stone. A good or proper cut is what gives a diamond its brilliance, fire (technically, this is known as dispersion), and beauty. It all has to do with how the light if reflected and refracted when passing through and bouncing back from the stone. Elements of diamond beauty can be described as brilliance (all light returning to the eye), dispersion or ‘fire’ (seen as white light is broken into spectral colors), contrast patterns (contrasting light and dark areas created by the viewer’s reflection) and scintillation or ‘sparkle’ (seen as the diamond, the light source or the observer move). These qualities combine to create the life of the diamond and the way it reacts to lighting and environment. The most popular diamond today is the Round Brilliant. The important thing to know is that, if the cut is not optimized, the appearance of the diamond can be severely affected. All of the diamonds at Costco are cut with a full 58 facets, except for some fancy cuts which may vary.
Carat – The weight or size of the diamond is measured in carats, abbreviated as ct.. A carat equals 1/5 of a gram and is sub-divided into points; one carat equals 100 points. So a diamond weight of 1/2 a carat is equal to 25 points, likewise a 1.15 carat diamond is equal to 1 carat and 15 points. Just because diamonds have the same weight does not mean that they will necessarily look the same size: depending on the cut a diamond may look bigger or smaller. If a diamond is cut too deep or too shallow it may look small for its carat weight or have less brilliance. Diamond prices rise quite a bit based on the carat weight: a 2-carat diamond of a given quality is always worth more than two 1-carat diamonds of the same quality. To give you a little bit of help in determining how to judge carat weight and size, The Institute of Gemology (IGI) recommends the following vertical spreads for round brilliant diamonds.
At Costco, they list the minimum amount of diamond weight in each piece, though your diamond may actually be slightly larger, but never smaller, because they need to have multiple stones available in their inventory. For instance, if you look online and decide to buy a ring that is listed as 1 carat, the actual stone you get on order fulfillment may be 1.05 carats (just picking a number at random). When you receive your diamond you will also receive the appropriate IGI appraisal and/or GIA (Gemological Institute of America) certification. Jewelry items containing a 1.00 carat diamond or larger include an IGI appraisal. Jewelry items containing a 1.25 carat diamond or larger include a GIA Diamond Grading Report, in addition to the IGI appraisal. One-of-a-kind diamond items will include both an IGI appraisal and GIA Diamond Grading Report regardless of carat weight.
Clarity – Clarity has to do with the external and internal characteristics of the stone; these can affect how the stone can be cut and therefore its brilliance. There are two types of physical characteristics that affect the clarity: inclusions, which are faults enclosed within the stone itself; and, blemishes, which are faults or marks on the outside of the stone. Stones are graded using 10x magnification and the fewer inclusions or blemishes, the better the grade of diamond and thus the more it is worth. The clarity gradings are: IF, VVS1 – VVS2, VS1 – VS2, SI1-SI2, and lastly I1, I2, and I3. IF or Internally Flawless means there are no inclusions and only insignificant blemishes are visible under 10x magnification. VVS1 – VVS2 or Very Very Slightly Included means that there are minute inclusions that are very difficult to locate even at 10x magnification. VS1 – VS2 or Very Slight Inclusions means that there are some minute inclusions that are difficult to somewhat easy to find under 10x magnification. S1 – S2 or Slightly Included means that there are noticeable inclusions that are easy to spot under 10x magnification. I1, I2, and I3 or Included means that there are inclusions that are easy to spot by a grader at 10x magnification and can be easily seen with the unaided eye. Costco guarantees that all of their diamonds are of a VS2 (very slightly included) clarity or better.
Color – Diamonds can range from completely colorless to yellow or brown tint. The most expensive diamonds fall in the colorless range graded D,E and F on a scale that descends to Z. If a diamonds has more color than Z, or in other shades such as orange, pink, blue, they are classified as “Fancy Colored Diamonds” and have a separate IGI grading scale. To determine the color, all diamonds are compared to an internationally accepted master set of stones, the colors of which range from D, or colorless, to Z, with a visible yellow or brown tint (but not enough to be considered in the Fancy Colored Diamond category). Colorless diamonds have a grade of D, E, or F; Near Colorless diamonds have a grade of G, H, I, J; Slightly Tinted diamonds are graded as K, L, M; Very Light Yellow diamonds are N, O, P, Q, R; and, Light Yellow diamonds are S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z. Since there are many factors that can affect the color grade such as lighting, mounting choice and even the clothes one wears, IGI uses the most neutral environment possible to ensure accurate and consistent results. The bottom of Costco’s color scale is actually I to ensure that their diamonds have a very near to colorless appearance and do not have a chance of having a slight tint. They feel that the I grade offers the best quality to value, and therefore price for their customers.
Shape – Even though, it isn’t in the 4 Cs of buying a diamond, the shape is definitely something you probably want to think about before making your purchase. There are nine shapes for diamonds, and all of them have their own beauty and can have varying amounts of sparkle. Really, I think the shape is pretty much down to personal opinion.
I suggest that you learn all you can about buying a diamond, before you begin shopping, and luckily there are plenty of online resources to help you out. I would suggest reading the information provided by the International Gemological Institute regarding the 4 Cs, shape, as well as the importance of an IGI certification. They also have a useful section on how to care for your diamonds or other jewelry once you’ve made a purchase. Costco.com also offers some useful diamond buying information. They have a helpful F.A.Q. about Costco diamonds (PDF) and jewelry. Costco.com also offers a diamond education PDF that covers the 4Cs of diamonds, though the quality is a bit dodgy.
So, why should you buy your diamond ring at Costco?
Costco is very committed to quality in their diamond jewelry, just like in all things they sell. This goes to the level of them having their own lab and team of graduate gemologists at their diamond distribution center. This helps them to verify that all of the stones that they receive meet their requirement of being at least a VS2 clarity and I color grade. They also inspect the stones to make sure that they do not chips. Costco will also not accept synthetic diamonds, or natural diamonds that have had their imperfections microscopically filled or laser treated. They will also not accept diamonds that are pressure or heat enhanced to artificially bring out the color. So, all of that amounts to Costco really looking out for its customers because they want to make sure that when you buy a diamond from them you are getting the quality that you expect.
Costco’s gemologists inspect every single diamond, no matter what carat size. They do this to make sure that all diamonds meet their standards, as well as to authenticate all supplier reports. All diamonds that pass the team’s inspection receive a Costco report that contains a photo and appraisal. The gemologist team actually rejects about 7 per cent of the diamonds they receive from suppliers.
Also, Costco does not buy conflict diamonds and checks to make sure that their diamonds are obtained through legal channels set out by the United Nations Kimberley Process. This process requires manufacturers to comply with a procedure that closely tracks, ships and received each diamond, with documentation for each set to monitor the stones’ origins.
While the selection at Costco might not be enormous, or as wide ranging as other retail jewelry stores, you can be sure that they actually are the quality that you think you are buying. You can’t change the settings or the size of the diamond either when purchasing through Costco, which might be a problem for some people. The selection available at the warehouses varies by location, and is also smaller than what you can find at Costco.com. Currently, they have a very wide selection of diamond solitaires online, as well as a pretty good selection for engagement rings.
There are many different kinds of diamond and gem stone rings, earrings, bracelets, and necklaces available at Costco.com. The type of ring you can purchase just depends on what you want to spend and what your personal tastes are as far as jewelry goes. For the classic solitaire you can choose from the nine different shapes (see the image earlier in the article). You can also choose from different metals for settings: platinum, white gold, and yellow gold. Since solitaires are all about the stone, really, it is nice to have such a wide variety of options as far as shapes, clarity, color, and setting go. Costco even has a very easy to use way to select your unique diamond solitaire that will allow you to choose the diamond shapes you prefer, as well as ranges for price, clarity, color, and carat that suit your needs and budget. I highly recommend this for anyone looking for a diamond solitaire.
If you’re looking for something even more spectacular, you can order a one-of-a-kind diamond through Costco too. If you are interested in going this route, you can either shop the selection online or call the help line at 877.864.8695 or email them at email@example.com. You can check out some of the current one-of-a-kind rings on offer at Costco.com right now. They are all fairly spectacular and have some spectacular prices to match in a lot of cases; prices range from $4,000.00 all the way up to $194,000.00.
The other good thing, possibly the best thing, about buying a diamond through Costco is that they still have the same excellent return policy. If you buy a diamond at Costco as a gift and the person doesn’t like it, for whatever reason, you can return it to Costco for a full cash refund.
I really want to do a price comparison between Costco.com and other online jewelry retailers. However, this post is already getting kind of long (okay, very very long), so I’m going to do a follow up post on Thursday where I carry out a comparison between Costco.com, BlueNile.com, and Tiffany.com (those three for sure).