Limerick specialists detail the risks of buying diamonds abroad

It is only human nature to seek out a bargain. However ‘fractured filled’ and over-valued diamonds are becoming increasingly common. Matthew Ryan, managing director of Matthew Stephens, the O’Connell Street-based jewellery firm and instore accredited jeweller, Aoife O’Connell, explain the problem.

It is only human nature to seek out a bargain. However ‘fractured filled’ and over-valued diamonds are becoming increasingly common. Matthew Ryan, managing director of Matthew Stephens, the O’Connell Street-based jewellery firm and instore accredited jeweller, Aoife O’Connell, explain the problem.

Over the past year we 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 we 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. It most certainly is not an illegal procedure and a number of jewellers often carry a selection of these diamonds and 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 fracture-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 and 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 in case 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. 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. But once the ring is put under a torch, often at 1,000 degrees, you can imagine what would happen to a fracture-filled diamond.

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.

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”.

Our 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 we personally know that most sell excellent quality diamonds at great prices coupled with an exceptional after sales service.

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.