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By Alice Lesch Kelly
| October 22, 2018
When Karl Amundson set out to purchase an engagement ring for his girlfriend, Shan Yao, of Natick, he first thought he’d buy online. He assumed online sites would offer the lowest prices and the best selection. He launched his search, but the more he looked, the less convinced he felt that he should make such an important purchase through the internet.
Rather than viewing pixelated images of diamonds and settings, he wanted to see them in person, hold them in his hand, and examine them closely. So, he and Yao headed to the Boston Diamond District. “I think we visited almost every jeweler in the Downtown Crossing area,” says Amundson, who lives in Cambridge.
They found what they were looking for at Joseph Gann Jewelers. Owner Josh Gann educated them about diamonds, showed them a large selection of stones and settings, and answered all their questions. “Then he stood back and let us choose. There was no pressure at all,” Amundson says. “The best way for us to arrive at a comfortable and happy choice was to view many options side by side in a well-stocked store.”
Amundson returned to Joseph Gann Jewelers several times—sometimes alone, sometimes with Yao. “I’m a scientist,” says Amundson. “I tend to be very thorough.” Eventually he chose the perfect engagement ring and presented it to Yao on September 8. “She loved it,” Amundson says. “And she said yes.”
If you’ve got an engagement ring or other fine jewelry purchase in your future, you may be tempted to buy online. But before you do, consider these four reasons to shop in person instead.
Reason 1: Online prices are less of a bargain than you think
Conventional wisdom holds that online retailers can offer a better deal than brick-and-mortar jewelers. Maybe that’s the case in areas with few jewelry stores, but not Boston.
“We know you can easily go to 20 stores in the area,” Gann says. “In a competitive market like downtown Boston, you’re not going to be overpaying. When people compare, they find our prices are quite good.”
Some online diamonds sell at bargain prices because no jewelry stores want them. “We have some stone dealers come to the store sometimes with diamonds that we know we can’t sell,” Gann says. “Even if they look good on paper, they may not look good enough in person. Those stones go online.”
Reason 2: There’s more to diamonds than 4Cs
To make diamond buying simpler, the industry devised the 4C grading system that ranks each diamond’s cut, color, clarity, and carat weight. A standardized grading system helps classify diamonds, but it doesn’t tell a stone’s whole story. Two diamonds with the exact same 4C characteristics can actually look quite different—but you don’t know that unless you see them in person.
Gann recalls a customer who recently came to the store to buy an engagement ring setting for a diamond he had purchased online. The online diamond had a color grade of “I”, but when Gann placed it next to other “I” diamonds he had, its yellowish/brownish tinge made it look more like a lower-quality K-grade diamond. The customer decided to return the online diamond.
“I was able to get him a better-looking diamond at a better value than he could find online,” Gann says. “Even with the grading system, subtle variations can make a big difference. And you don’t know that until you see it in person.”
Reason 3: In-person guidance can make a difficult decision easier
Many people who buy diamonds and engagement ring settings have little experience picking out jewelry. An expert jeweler brings knowledge to the process that can help you make the right choices, even when you’re not quite sure which kind of diamond or setting you want. This is especially helpful when you’re picking out a stone or setting for your intended partner.
“It’s hard to buy an engagement ring for someone else,” Gann says. “It’s kind of like getting someone else a tattoo.”
Experienced jewelers like Gann, who grew up in the business his grandfather started in 1933 and has worked at the store full-time since 1996, can give novice buyers the informed assistance they need. Even when customers bring in photos or Pinterest images, they may still not know exactly what they want. Or they may try on what they thought they liked and change their mind.
“We offer guidance, but we’re not pushy. That’s what people like about us—we’re very straightforward,” Gann says. “We know how important this purchase is.”
If customers don’t see a setting they like on display, Joseph Gann Jewelers offers in-house hand-made and custom engagement ring design services. Customers can also browse through Gann’s extensive stock of original vintage ring settings dating back as far as the 1920s.
Reason 4: It’s nice to have a relationship with a jeweler
Point blank: Jewelers have a special, specific expertise that you can’t find in a Google search. When you buy from Joseph Gann Jewelers, you can stop in regularly to ask questions about your past or future purchases, make special requests, and have jewelry cleaned and the setting checked to make sure the stone is secure. After all, diamonds look their sparkly best with regular care. And if your white gold setting starts to yellow, you can have it recoated.
“It’s beneficial for many reasons to have a relationship with a jeweler,” Gann says. “People come back because they trust us. They’ve been returning for three generations. They like dealing with us. And we love helping them.”
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