Rapaport Magazine

Are customers downsizing diamonds?

Retail Rap

By Phyllis Schiller

Lazare Kaplan

The 4Cs are not the only things that make a piece of diamond jewelry a sales winner. In an ongoing series, Rapaport Magazine explores the “3Ws” — what’s selling, what’s not and why — by going straight to the people who really know — jewelry retailers. Each month, we ask a sampling of retailers to comment on the important issues that are facing the industry today. Here is what they had to say when asked: “Are clients choosing smaller-size diamonds with higher quality or sacrificing quality to buy bigger? Are they buying platinum mountings?”


“Diamonds are the no-fun category of a jeweler’s life in that we have young people expecting and asking for higher qualities than they could ever afford and they are having to settle for either smaller sizes or lesser qualities. And yes, advancements in cutting techniques and grading techniques have worked well in many respects, but it’s forced diamonds to be a commodity and as merchants, our diamond wholesalers can’t get us the materials that we might be looking for. So, in order to stay relevant, what choice do we have but to sell down? I’ve never in my career been in a position where I’m forced, in order to survive, to sell down. My experiences have always been to up-sell.

“Being a guild, independent jeweler, our average size is between a 1 carat and a 1.25 carat. I try to showcase stones between 75 points and 90 points in size but they aren’t what my client base is looking for. In terms of color, to get them to go to a J, it has to be a Triple Zero or Excellent, Excellent. You have to prove to them that it’s brilliant and explain to them that an I or J stone is that color because it has trace amounts of nitrogen in the stone and therefore under natural sunlight it has a beautiful blue flash. You learn to romance what you’ve got. At the end of the day, it’s still going to be the jeweler and the jeweler’s house and his reputation that is going to take care of it. In terms of mountings, we find that we still sell a lot of platinum.”


“Quality and value, rather than the size, is what sells. Most of our sales are Hearts on Fire diamonds, which are going to be a clean SI. Sometimes people will ask for a 1-carat and then realize if they want the quality we’ve discussed, it’s going to cost quite a bit of money. Then, they will go for the half-carat or three-quarter carat with some side stones in a white gold mounting.

“People are aware of all the different pricing changes that have happened in the industry overall, from gold to diamonds, and so they’re really wanting more of a value than a certain size or color or clarity. As long as it looks good and is in their range, they seem to be happy knowing that they’re getting a certified stone — especially if they’re getting the Hearts on Fire — and still be able to have all of that in their price range. Our average price for an engagement ring is about $5,000, but we are in a rural, farm area.” 


“Once upon a time, going back five or ten years, G to H, SI was the big seller that people were asking for. But now, we’re in the G to H and maybe I, SI category. But I find that people who would have looked at a carat-and-larger are now looking for a carat-and-smaller. If we talk about someone who’s looking for 2 carats to 3 carats or larger, lower qualities are being quoted to combat the costs.

“In mountings, it’s still white, but it’s switched over to white gold. I still quote platinum pieces but they seldom get out the door. The average price depends on the age group. For a first-time engaged, it’s probably $5,000 to $6,000. For mature people, it might go up to $7,000 or $8,000. If it’s priced above that, they start to cringe a little bit.”


“We’re a smaller-size store — I’m not selling 20 or 30 stones a month like some of the big chains or bigger stores. The average size is between 1 carat and 1.75, but quality has stayed the same. Predominantly, we are a G-H-I, SI1, SI2 store and that has stayed the same for years. Because of the price of diamonds, we’ve seen people stepping down to a 1.50 carat in size but maintaining quality. We have not gone to I1s and J to K colors; the average color is H.

“The majority of mountings are white gold. Most people prefer to spend a little more on the diamond rather than the metal. The average price for diamond and ring is between $6,000 to $7,000, but a little on the higher end. We don’t seem to sell any three-quarter carats or 90-pointers or 1-carat stones. I’m still seeing people wanting at least a 1.25 carat.”


“I think in our case, our customers look to us for guidance and oftentimes, as far as the budget goes, they’re not going for bigger, less quality. There aren’t that many changes between a carat and 20 points and a carat and 50 points — we do more of those in G, SI1, ideal cut or the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) Excellent cut grade. Those are the things that we do the best with.

“In mountings, it’s white metals definitely, platinum and white gold. It’s probably more white gold than platinum because of the difference in price.”


“My customers are a little older — I don’t see a lot of early twenties, just-out-of-college customers; most are late twenties, early thirties or second marriages. And they come in with a number. And then it’s my job to figure out or help them identify what they really want. Do they want a larger diamond or a finer diamond and where are they willing to sacrifice to get to the number they want to spend? It’s the price point: it could be $5,000 or it could be $12,000, it could be $25,000. I’m currently working on a sale where the woman has seen what she can get in their budget in the size she wants and now she’s going to come back to see what she can get within the budget for the stone she wants.

“For me, there is a line below which they won’t go. They won’t go below real J color and they won’t go below real SI2. Most of my customers tend to be purchasing carat-plus stones. In mountings, it’s white gold and palladium. I’m more comfortable selling palladium because I’ve seen more manufacturers who are comfortable with it.

“The average price point typically is between $6,000 and $10,000. It’s really hard to buy a carat stone for less that $6,000. But I just came back from IJO (Independent Jewelers Organization) and I’m working on implementing some new marketing. We’re not going to sell $5,000 or $6,000 diamonds; we’re going to sell $149-a-month diamonds, or $179-a-month diamonds and try to go that route.”

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - April 2012. To subscribe click here.

Comment Comment Email Email Print Print Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Share Share
Comments: (0)  Add comment Add Comment
Arrange Comments Last to First