Fortuitous future father-in-law

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When searching for diamond rings, everyone seems to know someone in the business and each person’s contact is supposedly better than the last. Luckily for me, my future father-in-law, Mitchell, owns and operates The Diamond Store, a jewelry store in Los Gatos, California. (Check out his web site at www.diamonds4u.com or call his store at 1-800-640-4081). It’s a beautiful town and is within miles of the campuses of Google, eBay and many other Internet powerhouses. He was a great help in educating and guiding me through the process.

On my trip out to California where I asked for Tracey’s hand in marriage, the conversation quickly turned to teaching me the four C’s – Cut, Carat Weight, Color and Clarity. But he also explained to me the importance of certification.

The first C was the easiest. If you date any girl long enough she will make it very clear what cut she wants and Tracey wanted an oval diamond set sideways. Although jewelers would try to convince me they had a great diamond in other cuts, I knew better. I wanted to see tears of joy at our engagement, not ones of disappointment!

Mitchell also made very clear to me that I should only consider a GIA certified stone and explained that The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) is the industry standard and the most respected laboratory in the diamond industry. You don’t have to second guess the grading, and if you ever choose to resell your stone, it will hold its value better.

I quickly learned that carat weight is dictated by how much money you want to spend. You can sacrifice color and/or clarity and get a bigger stone or get a higher quality smaller stone. It’s a give and take. Mitchell repeatedly told me that I would be able to tell the quality of a stone by looking at it, but I was fearful that as a novice I would be sold a piece of glass and not know the difference.

I started the search by using Mitchell’s wholesale contacts – the people who supply the retailers. As an ex-investment banker, I started by making an Excel spreadsheet of all the oval diamonds I found in and just above my price range. I was comparing the four C’s, but also length, width, height, symmetry, polish, cost, cost per carat, etc. It started to get overwhelming, but I discussed them all with Mitchell and narrowed down the list. I decided to go see some of the diamonds for myself.

I headed into Manhattan’s Diamond District into small, obscure looking offices that on the inside were protected by bullet proof glass and metal detectors. I pretended that I knew what I was doing even though I couldn’t even pick up a diamond properly with the tweezers! I saw huge yellow diamonds, stones that had big black imperfections, beautiful stones that were just too small . . . until I finally found two stones that were beautiful.

One was absolutely brilliant, but I worried that it was just because the room I was in had huge floor-to-ceiling-windows, while the other diamond was in a room with little sunlight. The brilliant diamond was a little bit smaller, and its size was probably the only reason I didn’t jump on it right away. I decided to negotiate to the best of my ability, put both diamonds on hold and sleep on it.

The next day I learned firsthand what Tracey’s dad had said to me from the beginning – the diamond struck a chord with me. It was perfect, and it confirmed my initial gut instinct – the diamond looked brilliant because it was! I now had to hold onto the engagement ring and wait because my other surprise was still being made.

I also have to thank Lena from Alicia’s Jewelers in The Bay Terrace shopping center. She offered me advice and guidance, for which I can’t thank her enough. I would recommend their jewelry store to anyone looking for excellent quality, selection and service (211-19 26th Avenue, Bayside; 718-224-0075; www.aliciasjewelers.com).