Buying an engagement ring can be an overwhelming and daunting task. Over the last 23 years we have often been asked many questions regarding: custom design in Winnipeg, rhodium plating, jewellery appraisals to name a few.
As a family business we feel it is important to shed light on these topics and offer our expertise. After all, what you are inquiring has such symbolism and will become a family heirloom.
Allan, Anita and Lisa Malbranck
FAQs on buying an engagement ring in Winnipeg or online
Q: What is CUSTOM DESIGN?
A: Since the advent of CAD (computer assisted design) in the late 1990s, many Winnipeg jewellers who did special orders began claims to be custom designers. The question should really be: Is it Custom Design, or is it Special Order? The majority of jewellery stores claiming to do custom design are simply interchanging component parts, processed by mass manufacturers from China, or Stuller, which is based in the USA. In my opinion these software programs are not architectural in scope, but an easy means for a retailer to sell special orders. The retail salesperson using the production CAD program has minimal training, and follows the preset software limitations, usually setting average quality stones.
If a craftsperson perseveres for excellence and is willing to invest thousands of hours of training fused with technologies such as induction casting, laser welding, platinum casting techniques, they someday may become a Master Class Craftsperson. This is the type of expertise we at the Diamond Gallery employ to craft the ring after we have undertaken the custom design work with our client. I feel that one can’t be a jack-of-all-trades. My opinion is that in order to be at the top of your field it is important to choose a specialty. For instance I have chosen to specialize in gemmology and in working with clients in custom design. If one surrounds themselves with the best craftsmen utilizing state-of-the-art technologies, and collaborates with specialists such as model makers, casting and polishing specialists, diamond setters, hand engravers (and the list goes on) they are able to maximize the integrity of the creation for their clientele. It is also beneficial to a client if the custom design professional is also a bench jeweller or goldsmith by trade, to know whether model making or architectural CAD will produce the highest quality design. Usually, traditional yet refined model making is the direction I prefer as most pieces created by a master model maker are superior to architectural CAD, let alone production CAD.
Q: How do I appraise and insure my ring?
A: A jewellery appraisal is considered the single most important part of a jewellery purchase because it may or may not verify the integrity of the jeweller’s claims of quality. Further, it may or may not determine if the consumer will receive the same quality should an insurance claim arise. Because of these issues I feel that the entire ring should be appraised after the purchase decision is made, but before it is paid for. As a result, the Certified Appraisal Professional (CAP) certification has been developed by the Canadian Jewellers Association to provide the consumer with a standardized, ethical, and professional means to accurately evaluate their jewellery. It is the only appraisal recommended by the Canadian Jewellers Association. There are only 2 jewellers in Winnipeg certified, Allan Malbranck of the Diamond Gallery is the first of only 9 in Western Canada to take the studies and complete this accreditation in 1999.
Some believed that if a person was trained as a gemmologist, he or she is also qualified as a Certified Appraisal Professional (CAP). Gemmology involves only the identification of gems and is based on scientifically analyzed, factual information. Most gemmologists do not use modern scientific optical testing required for enhanced gems. Since there is no governing body to ensure ethics and integrity of gemmologists, a significant number of reports are inaccurate, mostly due to inflated claims of quality and/or values.
Appraising jewellery is far more complex as it requires the gemmologist to make a valid assessment of the current global and local marketplaces. A Certified Appraisal Professional is obliged to have an understanding of pricing in various markets including: retail jewellery stores, luxury jewellers, wholesalers to the public, manufacturers to the public, home shopping channels, and the internet. A median replacement value or fair market value for antique jewellery is formulated. Certified appraising also requires an ongoing knowledge of political and social changes in the world as it applies to sources of supply. We believe that professional appraising requires approximately two decades of dedicated research to gain credible competence.
Q: What is rhodium plating?
A: If a white gold ring was made prior to 1979, it was blended with platinum to give it a white finish. Once gold prices escalated, the jewellery industry eliminated the platinum component leaving white gold with a yellow hue. Over 95% of white gold crafted today is now plated with a rhodium finish, an environmentally toxic process. Essentially, the rhodium is only to make the ring more saleable. In 1-3 years you may find that the rhodium wears off, and your ring will start to look like an old chrome bumper. The cost for after market plating can be anywhere from free-$80.00, depending on the quality of the process used. If a ring is plated, any scratches on the ring cannot be removed without removing the plating.
A few Canadian jewellers have pioneered a premium alloy 18 karat white gold. Diamond Gallery was amongst these pioneers and in 2002 we launched was has been called the whitest of white golds without the costly process of re-plating. This premium alloy offers many benefits including a while you wait Lifetime Polishing Service to remove scratches. We do this aftersales service for our clients free of charge while they wait. Ask the jeweller if they can polish your ring for you while you wait as part of their aftersales service.
Q: How do I choose a white metal?
A: I would like to outline the differences and the raw price per ounce between the various white metals available in jewellery to best describe them.
A good choice for fashion jewellery, sterling silver meets a price point between costume jewellery and fine jewellery. It has a low level of allergic reaction, is a soft metal and will wear out over long-term use (especially in rings). Sterling silver tarnishes easily and is often plated with an anti-tarnish surface, which eventually wears off. To be considered of quality, the metal must be marked 925 (92.5% pure) to be labelled sterling silver. Most sterling jewellery is manufactured overseas.
The raw cost of silver per ounce is $20 Canadian (September 2014)
Alloys such as zinc or nickel give it a whiter appearance. These alloys can occasionally cause allergic reactions. It is important to remember that white gold is made from gold, which is yellow in colour. 95% of white gold in the marketplace is plated with rhodium to give it a bright white look. This rhodium plating is toxic to the environment and typically wears off in about 1-3 years. Plated rings cannot be polished, as the plating will be removed during the process. The cost of re-plating can be from free to $80, depending on the thickness of the finish and whether it is done to factory standards or in after market repair shops. Life expectancy of a ring made out of white gold can be from 10 to 40 years depending on it’s thickness and how it is worn. The difference between 10 karat and 18 karat is not in colour, but in durability. 10 karat is more economical, but in the end it can be brittle in white gold and is more prone to cracking. On the other hand, 18 karat gold is resilient to stress, a more pure alloy, and very strong in thicker rings. Overall, gold is a better value when compared to sterling silver. Approximately 85% of market quality white gold jewellery sold in North America is manufactured in China.
The raw cost per ounce for pure 24 karat gold is approximately $1,381.00 Canadian. (September 2014)
10 KARAT – 41% pure
14 KARAT – 58% pure
18 KARAT – 75% pure
There are a few jewellers in Canada specialize in premium alloy 18 karat white gold, sometimes referred to as 19 karat. This provides the recipient with the whitest 18 karat colouring possible and does not require plating. At our gallery we are pleased to offer this luxury quality, which comes with our lifetime refinishing service. Your Diamond Gallery white gold ring is cleaned and professionally polished (much like having your car professionally polished) free of charge, while you wait, as often as you would like. This complimentary Guest service is worth $200.00 – $500.00 if utilized regularly over the next ten years.
Movie star or royalty seeking a white metal will choose the luxury of platinum. Most internationally recognized designers exhibit their creations in platinum. This hypoallergenic metal is the most durable and is usually 95% pure. Well made platinum jewellery crafted in the 1920’s is still worn and admired to this day! No other metal retains such a high lustre when polished by skilled professionals. It is an excellent investment when you consider that the entire world’s historical production of platinum would fit into a large living room. Due to its rarity, future demands are expected to always retain its value. Most platinum sold in North America is manufactured in China.
The raw cost per ounce of platinum is approximately $1,523.00 Canadian. (September 2014) 95% pure. (Palladium $930.00/oz).
It is important to understand that there are different types of platinum jewellery. ‘Palladium’ is often blended with inexpensive alloys. This market quality has a greyer hue, is softer, scratches easier, often is plated, wears out prematurely, and is difficult to repair. At the Diamond Gallery, our Canadian crafted platinum designs are created exclusively with pure premium alloys (5% of mixture is $2,500.00 per ounce). The benefits to our Guests are: a brighter and lustrous finish, stronger durability, and is the whitest of all the precious metals. One of the major benefits of purchasing luxury class platinum at the Diamond Gallery is the lifetime refinishing service. Your Diamond Gallery platinum is cleaned and professionally polished (much like having your car professionally polished) free of charge, while you wait, as often as you would like. This free Guest service is worth $500.00 – $1,000.00 if utilized regularly over the next ten years.
TUNGSTEN, TITANIUM, STEEL, COBALT
These metals are new options to consider for wedding bands. Originally designed for technology, the application as a trendy wedding band is limited in its benefits. Lower cost is the primary driver in popularity, as they sell usually in the $95-$300 price range.
A product of the steel family, these metals cannot be sized. Some manufacturers will trade them in for another size, however, these suppliers have only been in business for a short period of time and their long-term sustainability may be in question. This option does scuff less, however the accumulation of scratches cannot be removed. The most important concern in these materials is that they are near impossible to cut off in an emergency situation. Nearly all tungsten, titanium, cobalt and steel metal rings are manufactured in China.
Q: How do I know that the diamond I’m buying is conflict free and isn’t from someone’s old engagement ring?
A: Ask a jeweller if they buy used jewellery. This includes jewellers claiming to be wholesalers as well as online jewellery websites. Selling used jewellery has a place in the market but should be disclosed as being estate jewellery. If a jeweller buys used jewellery, how do you know that the diamonds they are selling are used? Additionally, if a jeweller buys used jewellery, they cannot track the provenance of the diamond. To be assured the diamond you are considering acquiring is conflict free be sure the jeweller discloses the source of their diamonds. Additionally, if you are acquiring a Canadian diamond verify that the jeweller is a member of the Canadian Diamond Code of Conduct. This is a voluntary code to authenticate Canadian Diamonds, and any jeweller who prides themselves on provenance of their gems should be on this listing.
Q: How do I know a jeweller is an expert in their field?
A: Years of experience are good, but having professional training in one’s field is important. The jewellery industry is no exception.
Unfortunately there are no regulations or standards required to own or work in a jewellery store. Acquiring any form of education in the field of jewellery is purely voluntary. If you are looking for expertise in diamonds and coloured gemstones look for a gemmologist (link to our appraisal section). If advanced expertise on market values and appraisals is what you’re looking for ask a jeweller if they are an Accredited Appraiser. (link) Looking for detail in top quality craftsmanship? Ask the jeweller what kind of training and techniques are used in the crafting your piece, then compare. You will see that the training (if any at all) varies substantially from store to store. This includes jewellers claiming to be wholesalers in Winnipeg as well as online jewellery websites.
All in all, if a jeweller has undertaken any higher education in their filed they should have their diploma displayed in their store. Here are a few credentials to consider looking for: GIA Gemmologist, HRD Gemmologist, FGA Gemologist, Accredited Appraiser Program (or CAP), JETS program.
Q: Is most jewellery made in Canada?
A: Most of what we buy today is made overseas, and jewellery is no exception. I would estimate that 95% of all jewellery purchased in North America is mass-produced and in Asia. That being said, there are still a number of craftsmen in Canada creating beautiful jewellery, and typically jewellery made in Canada surpases in quality from what is made in China and India. Ask the jeweller to specify the country of origin of their jewellery.
Q: Do you use recycled gold in your rings?
A: I am keen on ensuring we as a jewellery store are taking all measures to ensure we have the least impact possible on the environment. In crafting our rings we proudly work with 95% recycled gold and platinum in all of our Diamond Gallery designs. This ensures we are always crafting pieces in 99.99 refined to purity metals to ensure a superior product for the recipient.
Q: What other questions should I ask a jeweller when looking for a ring?
Here is a list of what I suggest to potential clients if they are shopping around for a jeweller:
- Do you buy used jewellery (ensuring you are not buying an undisclosed used diamond)?
- How long have you been in business?
- What type of training do you have?
- Are you the owner of the store?
- What kind of warrantee comes along with my purchase? How often should I have my ring inspected and does that affect the warrantee?
- Are your diamonds conflict-free?
- Can you assure me a perfectly matched wedding band to go with my engagement ring?