Changes in colour
Colours were also organized in a very obvious manner in India, but that system bore no resemblance to the GIA scale that I had been taught. In India, the colour scale was divided into three sections: white, yellow, (also known as light colour [LC]), or light brown (LB). The colour’s intensity could be identified by how many ‘Ts’ were added ahead of LB and LC, which were stones at the lower end of the scale. So ‘TLC’ would mean ‘top light colour,’ while ‘TTLB’ stood for ‘top top light brown.’ Of course, the next logical question would be, what is ‘TTLB’? Well, no one knows, since one manufacturer’s ‘TTLB’ was not the same as another’s. In addition, there were always manufacturers who looked to identify their stones as something special, hence descriptions like ‘NW’ for ‘next to white,’ which defied the logic of GIA’s colour scale. Suffice to say, there is a general consensus of what these colours look like, but normally this grading nomenclature is reserved for diamonds bought and sold in parcels.
While this traditional grading system has been phased out for diamonds larger than .30 carats and in the better clarity range, it remains in use for smaller-sized diamonds and for larger stones in lower colours and clarities. Of course, if these stones were graded according to GIA standards, the resulting certificate would make them less than appealing. By adopting the GIA grading system, cutters and wholesalers in India have been better able to sell their goods internationally based only on the stone’s certificate.
A keen eye is also required when dealing with smaller diamonds. For example, a parcel of diamonds weighing less than 10 points requires that each stone be examined to determine if there are any grading variations. I have made expensive mistakes when buying a parcel of one- to two-point diamonds, and subsequently realizing the grades of the one-pointers were much lower than the rest of the stones. Worse yet is discovering there are no one-point stones in the parcel, and instead, there is an abundance of 1.25-point diamonds that no one wants.
These may seem like unlikely scenarios, but I assure you they’re not. Although dealers and manufacturers know how to organize and present their inventory to a buyer, the client is usually at an advantage, since they tend to have a wish list in mind and are in a position to make a better deal for themselves. Further, since the dealer is working with a grading system that downgrades a particular inclusion or stone colour, it is possible the resulting cost may be lower than normal and beneficial to the buyer. I have taken advantage of many of these gaps to gain access to a wide range of goods that have sold very well in Canada. Of course, these gaps are constantly being narrowed, as gemstone and diamond manufacturers closely examine what inventory is being bought and sold.
One such gap exists in the grading of princess-cut diamonds in India. With rounds, stones with inclusions localized to the outside of the table are priced higher than those with flaws in the centre. This method of grading works well amongst traders and dealers, and is an effective way of accurately sorting round diamonds. However, there is an inherent problem with this system when it comes to princess cuts, as diamonds with feathers along the outside edge are prone to breaking when set, making centre inclusions the preference. In this particular scenario, it is a gap that works in the buyer’s favour.
Although coloured stones have neither a formal grading system nor general price structure, gaps in how gemstones are assorted can make for some good buying opportunities. Most gemstone manufacturers group together blue sapphires with visible colour banding at the lower end of their pricing scale. However, in many cases, stones with an excellent face-up view are still priced lower than those with a slightly hazy appearance, but with no visible colour banding. This is due to the fact the better-looking stones have a strong colour band that is visible from the bottom but cannot be seen from the top. Stones like this can be mounted with an excellent face-up appearance and overall presentation at a fraction of the cost of a stone that looks equally good, though without the banding.
One key fact I always keep in mind whenever I buy overseas is that the real profit is made at the point of purchase. It is here a buyer must bring together a wide range of resources and experiences to make an effective and successful purchasing decision. Details and factors that are unknown or overlooked by the seller might serve as an excellent opportunity for buying a true diamond in the rough.
Hemdeep Patel is head of marketing and product development of Toronto-based HKD Diamond Laboratories Canada, an advanced gemstone and diamond laboratory with locations in Bangkok, Thailand, and Mumbai, India. He also leads Creative CADworks, a 3-D CAD jewellery design and production firm. Holding a B.Sc. in physics and astronomy, Patel is a third-generation member of the jewellery industry, a graduate gemmologist, and GIA alumnus. Patel can be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.