The danger of buying Diamonds abroad

"Diamonds are forever"

That’s how Welsh singer Shirley Bassey always told it. And of course, if diamonds are sourced from a reputable high street jeweller they will certainly lustre on, sparkling round your little finger, stimulating and teasing you all the days of your life — just like the old Bond hit predicted. But all you big spenders take note! If you are heading abroad this summer be sure you don’t go chasing glitter and end up with flawed stones in your pockets. With holiday season now upon us, managing director of Matthew Stephens, the three level Diamond Destination store in Limerick, Matthew Ryan has warned of the huge risks involved in buying diamonds overseas.

White gold diamond engegement ring Matthew Stephens

In recent years, the store has witnessed a steady rise in the number of couples finding the sparkle quickly disappear out of their sunshine holiday on realising that they’ve been victims of fraud. “We are seeing it more and more every week that people are being conned while buying abroad. Most of the time they don’t realise it — they actually think and boast that they got a good deal, when in fact they were ripped off,” Mr Ryan explains. “It is human nature to seek out a bargain, but unfortunately you don’t always get what you have paid for and there is no comeback afterwards. “We have found ourselves breaking the bad news on increasingly frequent occasions to unsuspecting customers who have brought rings into our store to be valued on their return from places like Turkey, Dubai, New York, India, Thailand and Mexico. It is very upsetting for people. “The problems with these diamonds are numerous and varied but constantly recurring.” According to Matthew Stephens Jewellers in Limerick, over 25 per cent of the rings bought in places like Dubai and New York turn out to be ‘fracture-filled’ — a practice that makes a diamond more attractive to the naked eye by disguising its inclusions with a polymer resin.

Gold diamond engagement ring matthew Stephens

Over-time the filling seeps out leaving a very flawed diamond. While it is not an illegal process, jewellers who retail fracture-filled diamonds are obliged to disclose this information. The Limerick diamond specialists are of the view that Irish holidaymakers are not being made aware their diamond has been through this process or it’s not being fully explained to them. “Couples come in and tell me they saw the same ring in Ireland for €14,000, while they purchased from these dealers for €10,000. Nine times out of ten when I inspect these diamonds they are always a very poor grade, seriously over-valued, generally accompanied with a fake certificate and the diamond is fracture-filled. In many cases these spec diamonds are worth €5,000 max, and the customer has paid twice what they should have while believing they were ‘getting a great deal’,” Mr Ryan revealed. “Irish holidaymakers thinking of buying diamonds abroad are taking a huge risk. It is an absolute minefield. We are now noticing a trend where the surplus of diamonds with strong fluorescence or with high colour, clarity and terrible cuts are appearing on the market. Essentially Irish couples purchasing abroad are being sold worthless lifeless diamonds with no sparkle, which seem good on paper but when translated into the finished product are a very different story altogether.” It is usually only when the diamond is brought into a local jeweller for cleaning, the horrible truth is uncovered.

Goldsmiths around the country are now refusing to clean or polish these rings as once heat is applied it can very often deteriorate. The quality and craftsmanship is nowhere near what gullible holidaymakers were lead to believe by conniving fraudsters before parting with anywhere from €2,000 to €20,000. But the deceit doesn’t end there. It also runs deep through the paperwork and certification that comes with these inferior cut diamonds. Reputable dealers are finding that these rocks are generously over-graded. While the paper trail that sealed the deal on these scams to begin with will not point back to the fraudster who pinched your money. After-sales services are as important as moral scruples to many foreign jewellers in holiday destinations abroad. Many disappear overnight and in most cases these hustlers will never see their customers again. “It is imperative to know that you are dealing with a legitimate supplier. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

 “One of the biggest problems is that we, the jeweller, are very often the only ones who will ever find out about the problems that Irish consumers experience abroad, as they will often be too embarrassed to tell friends or family what happened. Nobody likes to admit that they were ripped off, especially after telling friends weeks earlier of the great deal they got. It is upsetting and deeply frustrating to have thrown away thousands of Euro, and most rather keep it to themselves. This is a real shame as customers should be warning others so that the same thing doesn’t happen to them.”

Matthew Stephens Jewellers on O’Connell Street in Limerick are now warning Irish holidaymakers of the pitfalls of buying diamonds abroad in the hope of breaking this cycle. “Always purchase at home,” Matthew advises. “I would encourage people to buy from reputable Irish jewellers whose reputation is built on quality. It is imperative to remember that diamonds are bought and sold in an international market so ‘like for like’ diamonds are the same price in Ireland as they are overseas. In many cases when ‘like for like’ quality is compared Irish retailers can often be slightly cheaper. “The biggest advantage to purchasing at home becomes apparent when there is a problem with the ring. If it needs to be sized, if a stone has come out after a knock or if it requires something as basic as a clean and polish, the jeweller is only a car journey away. Exceptional customer service is a prerequisite in almost all Irish jewellers,” he concludes.