Buying a diamond in Singapore? How much do you know about buying diamonds? Choosing diamond jewellery – made with either natural or lab-grown diamonds – is both an art and a science, says Singapore diamond wholesaler, designer, manufacturer and all-round jewellery guru AARTI SONAWALA. With decades of experience in the family business, and hailing from four generations of diamond merchants, she should know!
Where do you source your diamonds from?
All our diamonds are ethically sourced. As a proud member of the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC), we apply its Code of Practices to our entire supply chain – following responsible and ethical social and environmental practices in all our business activities.
Apart from being a diamond expert, do you design and make diamond jewellery too?
Yes, I am both a diamond wholesaler and a jewellery manufacturer, so I can bring the jewel straight from the mine to your finger.
It’s a family business, and I work closely with our Hong Kong office. The process is simple: We bring the diamonds straight from the mines to our own cutting and polishing factories before using them to make your jewellery, once again in our own factory.
From the time you sit down with me to receiving your jewellery, it usually takes from four to six weeks. I draw a simple sketch, which is then translated into a CAD (computer-aided design) by our team in the factory. Once you’ve approved the CAD and agreed to the price quote, we order the piece!
Choosing a diamond – the four Cs
Let’s talk about the four Cs – clarity, carat, cut and colour. Do they matter?
Each C is a characteristic of the diamond, but one C can be more important than another depending on what you are buying. For an engagement ring, cut and carat (size) are more important. Cut refers to the proportions and technical specs that determine how brilliant a diamond is. But for a tennis bracelet, colour would be more important.
Why is cut the most important characteristic overall?
The better the cut, the more fire and brilliance you will see. A diamond’s cut is determined by its:
- proportions (length, width and depth)
- angles (crown and pavilion)
- table percentage
- polish and symmetry
How these different characteristics balance out determines how light will travel through, and refract, to give that signature sparkle we expect from a diamond. Yet, this is what most jewellers neglect to tell you!
Why is carat so important for a diamond engagement ring?
Size is the first thing you see – and it definitely does matter. Of course, we primarily measure diamonds by their carat weight, not their physical length, width, diameter and so on. A diamond carat is the weight equivalent of 0.2g. So, a one-carat diamond weighs 0.2g, and a five-carat diamond weighs one full gram.
What about clarity?
Diamond clarity refers to the blemishes and “inclusions” a diamond has. The fewer imperfections, the better the grade of clarity. While clarity can affect a diamond’s value, imperfections typically can’t be seen by the naked eye.
The most common mistake people make is purchasing a diamond with a clarity grade that’s too high to appreciate. For example, they choose a VVS1 diamond that’s “eye-clean” when they could purchase an eye-clean VS1 diamond for far less.
How does colour affect a diamond’s value?
The whiter the diamond, the better – unless it’s a fancy colour like pink or yellow. Colour grade should always be determined by a grading professional.
Is a GIA certificate necessary?
A GIA certificate is essential when buying a diamond of one carat or more, whether it’s a natural diamond or a lab-grown diamond. It helps to identify both the stone and its Cs; and if you ever want to sell your diamond, you will need it as proof.
Do trends in diamond jewellery design change?
Yes! Just like clothing fashion, jewellery has its own trends. For an engagement ring or a milestone birthday gift, it’s more usual to buy something classic. But if you’re buying jewellery to make a personal statement, you might be more likely to follow a trend.
We’re seeing a trend shift towards personalised jewellery such as eye-catching earrings and chunky bracelets. There is also renewed interest in signet rings, coloured stone jewellery and tennis bracelets.
Most people know very little about either natural or lab-grown diamonds. Are you prepared to educate us?
Of course! The first thing I do is educate my client as thoroughly as I can on buying a diamond, both natural and lab-grown diamonds. In addition, I regularly give talks about diamonds at different clubs throughout Singapore; my last one was at The American Club.
What is your favourite part of the job?
Seeing the delight on my clients’ faces when they open their new jewellery box!
Which are your own favourite pieces of jewellery?
My half-white and half-yellow gold solitaire engagement ring, which I designed. Also, the first piece of jewellery I made for myself: a geometric-shaped pendant.
Any thoughts on lab-grown diamonds?
In recent years, lab diamonds have drawn a lot of hype, both positive and negative. I believe that when shopping for diamonds in Singapore or anywhere else, you should at the very least consider the question of whether to opt for lab-created or natural.
Lab diamonds are different from natural diamonds in that they are artificially created – instead of being naturally produced in the earth, they are man-made in a laboratory. Fundamentally, this is the only difference.
Lab diamonds look and feel just like natural diamonds. They’re available in all shapes and sizes, and if you had a lab diamond and natural diamond in front of you, it would be virtually impossible to tell the difference. They have almost identical chemical structures, too. Natural diamonds often contain a very small amount of nitrogen, while synthetic diamonds do not.
The best way to tell the difference is to check the diamonds’ certification. Jewellers must declare whether a diamond is naturally or synthetically created, so a reputable store will always be able to provide this information. Pay attention to this information, as it will have a significant impact on the price and resale value of your diamond.
There is no question that lab-created diamonds are enticing and they are definitely much more affordable!
Aarti Sonawala is a Singapore diamond grader and gemmologist certified by the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) and a graduate of the GIA in Los Angeles, California. Trained in all aspects of jewellery manufacturing and marketing, she launched her first wholesale jewellery business in her home town of Antwerp, Belgium. She says: “I have worked in the diamond jewellery business since I was 21, and it’s all I know about!”
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