Everybody knows that diamond is the hardest mineral substance on earth. So you might be wondering why we have a page about chipped diamonds. Well, the key word to focus upon here is mineral. Diamond is not the hardest thing on earth, it is simply the hardest mineral. The reality is that you can scratch the surface of a diamond with the pop-top from a can of soda.
Right about now, your mind is probably swimming with the possibilities, so we might as well finish it off. You can actually crack a diamond trying to scratch glass! Understand that I’m not saying the old myth that diamonds scratch glass isn’t true, because it is. I’m simply advising you not to rely upon that method to determine whether a diamond is real. Holding the diamond at the wrong angle, or applying too much pressure can cleave the diamond in two. Imagine the look on little Johnny’s face when that little science experiment fails!
Believe it or not, this is a photograph of a round brilliant cut diamond. It looks more like a square radiant cut here, because a good portion of the diamond was chipped away. This chip is pretty substantial. It extends from the upper table facet, down through the girdle and deep into the pavilion. This chip is the result of the ring striking against a kitchen counter during an exercise session. While it is often possible to remove minor chips by polishing or recutting, this diamond is a total loss.
The odds of chipping your diamond during every day wear are actually quite slim. However it is a possibility that you should be aware of, so that you can take proper precautions. You can reduce your chances of damaging your diamond by taking it off while:
Obviously there are many more activities where it’s probably best to take your ring off for safekeeping. And it goes without saying, that you should hire a housekeeper to avoid damaging your diamond while housekeeping! But seriously, use common sense when wearing your ring. It goes without saying that you want to wear your e-ring 24/7. However the reality is that jewelry is decorative by design.
I had my mother’s diamond reset by a local jeweler and they chipped the culet! You can imagine how upset I was. The diamond was beautiful, every jeweler who has seen it raved about how beautiful it sparkled. I’ve filed an insurance claim, but no amount of money can replace the sentimental value.
Believe it or not, the most dangerous time in a diamond’s life is during the cutting and setting processes. The amount of pressure applied to rough diamond crystal during the cutting process is incredible. Jewelers apply vast amounts of pressure to the girdle edge of a diamond while setting them. The jeweler clamps down upon the prongs with a special set of pliers, crimping them down along the girdle edge.
Diamond setters probably break more stones than customers do. For instance, the tip of this marquise diamond was chipped while a jeweler was tightening the prongs. Imagine stopping by your local jeweler for a routine inspection and cleaning, and they destroy your diamond in the process! Notice how the entire right tip is missing, almost to the edge of the diamonds table facet. Do you see how this diamond could be recut into a pear shape?
Sometimes these types of accidents are the result of an inherent problem within the internal structure of the diamond. Clarity characteristics such as extensive feathers, cavities, and knots are potential risks for jewelers. A very thin girdle edge or internal crack near the diamond surface can be a recipe for disaster.
Sometimes however, damaging a diamond is simply the result of inexperience or carelessness on the part of the jeweler.
It’s a tragic story. The owner of the ring had taken it to her jeweler for a routine cleaning and quarterly inspection. While inspecting the ring, the sales clerk noticed that the center stone was loose. As a result, the ring was left with the store so that the diamond could be tightened.
Unfortunately the ring owner’s eyesight is not-so-good. Therefore she didn’t notice the damage to her diamond before leaving the store. Not surprisingly, the sales clerk didn’t offer to show her the ring under magnification at the time of pick-up. The owner of this ring did not discover the chip in her diamond until 3 months later. That’s when she took the ring back into the store for the contractual quarterly inspection!
Naturally, the sales clerk showed her the chipped diamond under magnification at that time. But by then, the jewelry store was under new ownership. The in-store insurance policy denied her claim stating that it could not be proven that the jeweler was at fault. After all, it is possible that the damage to the diamond was the result of abuse or neglect. The new owner of the store suggested that the customer file an insurance claim. Upon doing so, she was referred to us for verification and replacement.
Upon inspection of the insured’s diamond, we determined that the diamond was secure in it’s seat. The diamond was not loose or rocking in the head which holds it in the setting. The prong is set firmly against the stone’s surface. The chip actually wraps up and extents around the surface of the prongs. Based on these facts, it is our opinion that the jeweler over-tightened the prong. In essence, the jeweler drove the prong into the diamond, causing it to fracture.
Fortunately for the insured, her homeowner’s insurance company authorized us to replace her diamond. Unfortunately the replacement cost of the diamond exceeded her policy limits. Our client ended up paying the $2,000.00 difference out of her pocket. But the reality is that she was lucky, because her insurance company could just have easily denied the claim. The ring was not specifically insured under her homeowner’s policy.
Most homeowners insurance policies provide a minimal amount of jewelry coverage, it is rarely adequate for replacement purposes. The first step to obtaining adequate insurance coverage is to have your jewelry appraised by a GIA Graduate Gemologist. Purchase additional jewelry coverage that will provide for full replacement in the event of theft, damage, or accidental loss.
It has been our experience that most in-store insurance policies are rarely worth the paper they are written on. In-store jewelry insurance policies seldom seem to actually pay for loss or damage. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that those in-store jewelry insurance policies are free. The reality is that you pay a hefty premium for them, especially if they fail to protect you. They tend to be a great marketing tool, but are of little legitimate value for the customer.
Always inspect your jewelry items when leaving them for repair, and when picking them back up! Insist on inspecting your jewelry in the presence of store personnel. Take nothing for granted.
Be aware that for liability reasons, most jewelry stores prefer to be vague about what you’re dropping off for repair. This is standard industry practice that is promoted by the insurance companies that insure jewelry stores. Most jewelers will not describe your 1.137 carat, VS-1 clarity, K-color, Brian Gavin Signature diamond in full detail. Instead they’re more likely to write:
“Ladies gold colored metal ring with round white stone.”
Such vague descriptions serve to protect the jewelry store from fraudulent accusations of stone-switching.
Despite such vague take-in practices, you can adequately protect your jewelry with a few simple steps. The first of which is learning to identify your diamond and verify its characteristics and condition. We carefully inspect every piece of jewelry that we take in for repair. Involving our customers by teaching them what to look for creates peace of mind for all of us.
The process is quite simple, draw a picture of the piece of jewelry on the repair envelope. Include a separate drawing, plot or map of your diamond indicating the clarity characteristics. Be sure to note all of the inclusions and any blemishes such as scratches, naturals, and chips.
Here is the plotting diagram from the AGS Diamond Quality Document for this 1.137 carat, K-color, VS-1 clarity, BGD Signature diamond. The primary inclusion is the diamond crystal located at the tip of the red arrow. All you have to do is draw a simple diagram like this when dropping your ring off at a jewelry store. Sketch a circle, make a little circle to represent the diamond crystal, point an arrow at it. Your drawing doesn’t have to be a work of art, it just has to provide a reasonable visual description of your diamond.
The next step is to record the approximate dimensions of your center stone by using a micrometer. It’s probably best to ask the store clerk to assist you in doing so. The Brian Gavin Signature diamond referenced above measures 6.68 – 6.70 x 4.14 millimeters. Now this particular diamond is inscribed with the BGD logo and “104082148022” so we’ll record that on the job envelope.
The last step is to initial your drawing and ask the store clerk to verify the details. They’re going to want to verify the condition and characteristics of your diamond. Be sure to have them place their initials next to your sketch of the inclusions within your diamond. Legally binding contracts have been written on napkins, so I consider this a bit of an upgrade.
Most jewelry stores will not specify the carat weight, color, or clarity of diamond on take-in for service. This is because it can be difficult to ascertain these details when a diamond is already set. However it would be terribly foolish of somebody to switch your diamond if you’ve taken the previous steps to document it properly. Nobody in their right mind is going to try to switch out a stone when the inclusion pattern is portrayed on the repair envelope. Likewise, it would be difficult to dispute the presence of a chip not previously noted on the repair envelope.
Note: A reputable jewelry store should not be offended by your effort to protect your investment. The process is no different than inspecting the condition of a rental car before taking delivery of it. You’re also going to walk through an apartment before you rent it. You’re going to pay for an inspection and do a walk through before you buy a house. The reality is that there are dishonest jewelers out there. Accidents do happen, and therefore you have the right to take reasonable precautions to protect yourself.
In the event that you believe your diamond (or other jewelry item) has been damaged while in the care of a jeweler:
Do NOT remove your property from the jewelry store, or you essentially release the store from liability!
If they refuse to cooperate, or you are not satisfied with their response, simply refuse to take delivery of the jewelry item. Remain calm and be polite, flying off the handle isn’t going to improve the situation. Calmly advise them that your insurance company will be in contact with them. Let your insurance claims agent settle the dispute for you. It is in their best interest to see that the jewelry store takes responsibility for its mistakes.
Do NOT threaten legal action, or make any kind of a scene. Doing so might actually cause you to incur civil liability for any monetary loss that the store incurs as a result of your actions. They could claim that you damaged their reputation or caused another customer to leave the store (loss of business).
In the event that your diamond is chipped, there are several options available to you. Deciding exactly what to do, depends upon the severity of the damage. Assuming that your diamond ring is properly insured, submit a claim and move forward. You might be able to have the diamond re-cut if the damage is minimal. However the proportions of re-cut diamonds are most often inferior to diamonds cut direct from the rough. You might also incur a substantial loss of carat weight, which means a significant loss of value. It’s usually best to just let the insurance company take the loss and move on.
Sometimes chips are minute and do not pose any real danger to the longevity of the diamond. In which case, you might choose to simply ignore it. Have the diamond reset in a setting that offers better protection to the crystal structure.
By the way, it’s entirely possible that you might have chipped your diamond yourself. It’s not always jeweler who chip diamonds, remember to take your ring off when doing active things. The diamond on your finger is really just a beautiful mineral crystal that has been cut to sparkle! You’ve got to take care of it if it’s going to last.
Needless to say, the value of a diamond declines dramatically when it is chipped. Regardless of the size or location of the chip, the value of the diamond takes a serious hit. I’m sure you realize that pun is totally intended.
When an insurance company pays to replace a diamond that has been chipped, the damaged diamond becomes their property. In an effort to reduce their losses, many insurance companies sell the “salvage” for pennies on the dollar. The salvage may be sold to diamond cutting companies who specialize in recutting chipped diamonds.
It is not uncommon to find insurance salvage for sale in retail jewelry stores. Salvage stones entering the market as bargains may be set so that the chip hides under a prong or bezel. Chipped diamonds can be re-cut to hide the damage, however the shape of the diamond might be slightly off. Take the marquise cut diamond from earlier, it could be re-cut into a pear shape. However if they simply round off the broken part, the facet structure will not be right. Neither will the length to width ratio, the diamond will be too long.
When purchasing a diamond, carefully view the diamond under 10x magnification (or higher) from all angles. Pay particular attention to the facets along the girdle edge of the stone. Discovering that a diamond is chipped, does not necessarily mean that it’s insurance salvage. However, it is reasonable to assume that the jeweler paid much less for it. After all, a new car costs more than one from the salvage yard.