8 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Buy Engagement Rings From Chain Jewellery Stores

Buying an engagement ring will be one of the biggest purchases of your life, And it is tempting to look for the cheapest diamond and the biggest size.

But just because a retailer can sell you a big diamond at a low price does not mean that you will be getting a good deal. Ultimately, you get what you pay for, and jewellery stores aren’t leading on price out of the goodness of their heart — especially chain jewellers and ‘build your ring’ e-commerce stores.

This article will show you just how some of these companies make money, and why you should work with designers and jewellers that care about each piece.

Reason 1: Their Diamonds Are NOT That Sparkly

Many of these brands use diamonds that have large surface areas and not too much depth (this is called table-to-depth ratio). These brands optimise towards making the diamond look as big as possible without considering its sparkle.

These types of diamonds are called pancake diamonds (because they are so thin) and have a glassy appearance, instead of a sparkly one.

At Four Words, we balance table and depth (surface area to depth) so you get a sparkly diamond. We pick the best diamonds visible to the naked eye.

Our Shiny Four Words Rings
Our shiny Four Words Engagement Rings

Reason 2: Their Diamonds Are NOT Independently Verified

There are three main independent diamond grading labs in the world:

  • Gemological Institute of America (GIA)

  • American Gem Society (AGS)

  • International Gemological Institute (IGI)

However not all diamonds are independently graded, and some stores play on this by grading their own stones. It is no surprise that they give their stones higher grades than independent labs.

Difference in Diamond Grades
Two diamonds graded exactly the same look vastly different

We strongly recommend you ensure that your diamond is independently graded so you are aware of the quality of the diamond you are buying.

At Four Words, all our diamonds are graded either by IGI or GIA.

Reason 3: They Display Engagement Rings You DON'T Actually Get

This is particularly true of chain jewellery stores. What they have on display may not necessarily be the ring that you actually get. During this phase, some jewellers swap out the diamond for a lower-quality one. This is particularly true for smaller stones while your ring is getting resized, which might be harder to notice.

Reason 4: They Hide Imperfections Using Bright Lights

Bright lights are often shined on the diamonds to amplify their sparkle. And in doing so, they hide poorly cut stones and any inclusions that they might have. This is another sneaky tactic used by chain jewellers.

If you look at these stones under natural light, it is much easier to see that the stones are poorly cut, and are not so shiny. You will also be able to identify inclusions (structural imperfections that affect the clarity grading of diamonds).

But what you don’t see is the L.E.D. strip lights they have in their display cabinets. If you are a salesperson, you can see it.

Example of LED strip lights in display cabinets
Example of LED strip lights in display cabinets

Reason 5: They have poor ring craftsmanship

This is a common practice with big online stores – the ones where you design your own engagement ring (e.g. selecting the metal, picking the diamond and setting).

Their business model is based on small margins and large volumes. Corners are cut to get as many customer orders out as fast as possible.

These businesses cut costs by spending less time setting stones and polishing. The jewellers that work on your pieces tend to be lower-skilled. This results in the diamonds becoming loose and falling out.

And these businesses know that. They financially model that a certain number of rings will need to be fixed or repaired accordingly - not a great experience if your ring is one of the ones that need to get fixed - especially if you live in New Zealand and need to ship it back overseas.

At Four Words, our manufacturing team is based in New Zealand and we take care to make your piece perfect the first time. If anything needs to be fixed, we’ll do so right here in New Zealand.

Reason 6: Their use pre-made mounts with weak prongs

Jewellers that compete on price will take as many shortcuts as possible. And one way they can do this is to use pre-made mounts and buy stones in bulk that have varying carat sizes.

Pre-made mounts are bought at scale for fixed diamond carat sizes and ratios (length to width, and table to depth). The different stone sizes and proportions are then forced into the pre-made mounts.

Pre-made mounts are bought in bulk under a ‘one size fits most’ approach - they aren't individually made for each unique diamond. Because different diamonds have different proportions (length, width and depth), forcing stones into these mounts can often result in several issues:

  1. The stone not being a perfect fit. Your centre stone can become loose, or the mounts are misaligned

  2. Individual settings are not being checked thoroughly for structural or aesthetic defects

  3. Poor polish and clean. The casting isn’t specific to the stones and the ring will look a little cheap.

Example 1: Not a perfect fit

The arrow shows poor craftsmanship. The pavé diamonds with the hidden halo and band is poorly put together. The melee diamonds (the small diamonds) are too small for the ring. There are also huge gaps between each diamond. This makes the ring appear dull and tacky. In the example below, the prongs are more pronounced than the melee diamonds themselves.

Forcing incorrect stone sizes in pre-made mounts
Forcing incorrect stone sizes in pre-made mounts

Contrast this to how we craft our rings. Below is an image of a wedding band with melee diamonds. Notice how the diamonds sit flush on the ring and each small prong supports two diamonds on each side.

Well crafted ring from Four Words
Well crafted ring from Four Words

This makes the diamonds have more sparkle and ensures that they don’t fall out.

Example 2: Structural Defects

Here we can see two issues with this Oval diamond.

Structural Defects with an Oval
Example of poor quality ring due to premade mounts – with two issues, firstly, the diamond not sitting flush and secondly, prongs are not firm leaving a large gap.
  1. The hidden halo (white circle) should be sitting flush with the diamond. The melee stones also do not match.

  2. The prongs do not firmly hold the diamond – if you see within the red circles there are gaps between the prongs and the diamond. One strong thud, and the diamond could chip or fall out.

Secure and tight ring from Four Words
Secure and tight ring from Four Words

Below is an image of one of the rings we made that sits flush in its setting. Notice how the prongs are tightly holding the diamond around the girdle (the outmost edge of the diamond).

Example 3: Misalignment

Another problem with chain and large e-commerce stores is their attention to little details like symmetry. Below is an image of misaligned prongs in another Oval cut diamond.

Misaligned Oval Engagement Ring
Misaligned prongs on an oval cut diamond engagement ring

Reason 7: They Use Cheap Alloys Within The Ring Metal

All gold bands in jewellery use some form of alloy. An alloy is a combination of two or more metals. And when we talk about karats, they are a measure of gold to the other metal. 24 karats is 100% gold, and everything below that is a fraction of that.

So for example, a 14 karat gold band is 14 parts gold to 10 parts another metal. 24 karat gold is too soft to use as a ring.

When you work with a respected jeweller for a piece of jewellery that you will wear for a lifetime, they will often work with 14 or 18k gold, or platinum. They do so because these metals are hard enough for everyday wear but also malleable enough for jewellers to be able to achieve a precise finish. 14 or 18 karat gold, and platinum are also hypoallergenic.

But cheaper jewellery stores and e-commerce sites where you design your own ring use cheaper metals as the other part of the gold. To make things even more confusing, not all karat gold is the same.

The make up of these metals can vary a lot.

Generally, when you see ‘cheaper’ priced jewellery - the brand uses metals like nickel rather than silver or palladium which isn’t hypo-allergenic. Using metals like nickel can cause skin irritation, and reduce the ring’s durability, and quality.

At Four Words, we only use high-quality alloys at 14 or 18 karat gold with palladium or platinum.

Reason 8: They ‘Hollow’ Their Rings

Another tactic used to make rings a little bit cheaper is hollowing out the inside parts of the ring so less precious metal is used. This doesn’t have a visible difference when the ring is worn, but it makes the overall ring weaker and more prone to warping and breaking.

You can check for this yourself but looking for a ‘groove’ cut of the inside part of the band. You can make out these dug-out grooves in the damaged ring below.

Hollowed Out Rings
Hollowed out gold ring

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