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The Web Could Be a Diamond Shopper's Best Friend

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RALEIGH — This is a big season for buying jewelry, and you have some new options this year when it comes to buying something as expensive as a diamond.

BlueNile.comis the newest of a growing number of online diamond sellers. The Seattle, Wash. company claims buying precious stones online is becoming acceptable.

"The same people who three years ago started buying books online and CDs and then booked travel arrangements wound up buying some clothing and some furnishings online. Now, they are very comfortable with buying very high-end products online," said co-founder Mark Vadon.

A book title is the same no matter where you buy it, but diamonds are as different as snowflakes. Most diamonds are bought from retail jewelers where you can see what you are buying.

"Who says that when you get a package in the mail and the stone that goes with it that the piece of paper describes the stone? How do you really know? You don't know," said Frank Ragsdale, a certified gemologist.

BlueNile offers certification from theAmerican Gem Societyamong others. Ragsdale is on the Society's board.

"I know how they work. What they're saying here is not true. We do not, the American Gem Society does not certify anything and never has," said Ragsdale.

Jewelers pride themselves on customer service and knowledge of their product. They say you will not find that online.

"It requires a huge amount of expertise to know and understand what these pieces are. The average consumer relying on the information presented on a piece of paper basically has no idea what they're doing," said Ragsdale.

If you're buying something as unique and expensive as a diamond online, be very careful. Some diamonds might not be your best friend.

Ragsdale says most jewelers will not appraise diamonds bought online. Diamond grading, appraisal and certification are subjective processes and may vary from individual to individual.


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