After being with my girlfriend (and now wife) for close to 2 years, I decided that I still love her to bits. At that point, I was sure that she is the one I am going to spend the rest of my life with. So, at around June 04, I hatched a plan to propose to her on her on her birthday, which was 1 Aug 04. What proposal would be complete without a proposal ring? Thus began my hunt for the perfect proposal ring.
In the beginning, I did what every Singaporean is expected to do, which was to take a walk down jewellery lane.
My first encounter was Soo Kee Jewellery. My wife (then girlfriend) and I were just shopping in a neighbourhood mall when an ever persistent salesgirl ushered us into the shop. I knew absolutely nothing about diamonds then, so I listened intently as she went on and on about the Brilliant Rose. I then asked her about the Fuego, but she was rather insistent that the Brilliant Rose was better. Something about the 66-facets that made all the difference. I looked, and I looked, but I could not really detect any perceivable aesthetic difference between the two. My wife thought that the heavier (in carat weight) Brilliant Rose appeared more 'defined', but somewhat smaller than the Feugo we were comparing. It was only much later that I learned that the Brilliant Rose is cut deeper than the Tolkowsky ideal cut proportion. So, my wife (who has perfect eyesight) was absolutely right.
After that encounter, I carried on my hunt alone because I wanted to give her a surprise. I went to Lee Hwa on quite a few occasions to look at their Destinee Diamonds. They were very beautiful, but I did not think that much financial analysis was required to figure out that their prices were way off the mark. Diamonds were supposed to be expensive, but not that exhorbitant.
A friend of mine suggested that I head down to Larry's Jewellery to take a look at their Lazare Diamonds. One evening, after my wife headed off to a wedding dinner, I rushed down to Larry's at Ngee Ann City. However, they were closed when I arrived. It was only 8:10 pm, and they were closed! So, I could only see the Lazare from the shop window. However, I thought a well cut Hearts & Arrows diamond like the Destinee looked much better than a Lazare. Plus, since they preferred to close early, they can keep their diamonds.
Disappointed, I walked down to Tiffany & Co., which was just a couple of shops away. A Tiffany Diamond looked much better than a Lazare, at least to me. I was very impressed. Unfortunately, I was rather taken aback by the price tag. Hence I convinced myself that I did not like the little blue box that much after all.
I have always been a web citizen. On encountering problems, I will look to the web for solutions. Uncle Google pointed me out to many sites, but I found Diamond Talk and Pricescope most useful. They are internet forums and diamond information sites. Of the 2, I participated mainly at Pricescope because I found that there were more industry experts there. I was amazed. There were internet vendors, jewellery designers, diamond researchers, diamond cutters, independent appraisers and even a manager of a local fine jewellery store in there. They were very helpful indeed.
These forums are funded by internet vendors who advertise at their site, so you can expect some bias. However, there is minimal censorship and a high participation rate from all walks of life ensures a balanced view. I learned a great deal from reading the tutorials and interacting with the people there, even though it was cyberspace. My website is a collection of the knowledge I have gained from those wonderful people.
Also, there is a very comprehensive tutorial at the website of Good Old Gold (where I bought my diamond from). Much of the material from this site are taken from there, with their permission.
After arming myself with new-found information, I went around looking at a couple more shops. I heard about the Hearts On Fire diamonds from the forums, so I went to Tian Po for a look. Again, they were very beautiful, but way too dear.
Then, I decided that my best bet was to buy online. As you cannot see the diamonds physically, online vendors rely on other means to prove that the diamonds they sell are performing. They provide you with all the measurements necessary, including Lightscope/Idealscope images. Admittedly, it was a leap of faith, but it paid off.
I was done with walking about town. It was time to hunt in cyberspace. I was looking for a diamond between D-F colour because I wanted to set it in a rather open setting where the pavilion would be visible. Acting on some unfounded advice from friends, I limited my choice to VVS quality diamonds. With my current knowledge, I know that I should have accepted VS quality diamonds as well, since you really cannot see the inclusions with your naked eyes. That would have widened my choices a bit more. I also decided that the correct carat weight to match my girlfriend's tiny finger (Asian Sz 9 or US Sz 4.5) should be between 0.6ct to 0.7ct.
I looked around all the vendors who advertised at Pricescope and DiamondTalk. I also participated at the forums, asking for help. The forum participants were very helpful. They suggested some diamonds, and also highlighted the flaws of certain diamonds I was looking at.
I also checked that the vendors I was considering were listed with the Jewelers Vigilance Committee. This gave me some comfort because if the JVC received too many complains on the vendor, they would be struck off. Even Tiffany & Co. was listed with the JVC.
Finally, I narrowed my choices to 2 diamonds. The first was a 0.62ct, D Colour VVS2 from Good Old Gold, and the second was a 0.563ct, E Colour, VVS1 from Diamond Ideals. If you click on the links, you will see the wealth of information these vendors provide.
I was pleasantly surprised with the level of service these internet vendors provide. Megan from Diamond Ideals was very quick with her replies and provided me with many photographs of the diamonds within a couple of hours after each request (during her working hours). All the information and images you need (and more) about the diamonds on sale at Good Old Gold can be found at their website, but I had Jonathan eyeball the diamond for me anyway. Since the diamonds were all vvs quality, the inclusions were not visible. However, Jonathan was able to explain in great detail, how he chose the diamonds for his stock. He was just a wealth of knowledge when it comes to diamonds, and just so willing to share.
After taking a few days to think about it, I decided to go with the 0.62ct D VVS2 because of several reasons:
After confirming the order, I proceeded to TT the money on Monday. After that, I tracked the FedEx package anxiously until it arrived on Friday morning.
To tell you the truth, I was rather disappointed with the diamond at first. I was too used to the look of diamonds in jewellery stores, with their numerous halogen spotlights. The more sources of light would create more fire and scintillation.
Although my diamond appeared very brilliant and white, there did not appear to be much fire. It was only later that I realised that the diamond will look different under different lighting conditions. Under sunlight, it just appears very white. Under yellow tungsten light, the fire just danced away. When I exposed the diamond to my halogen torchlight, it looked like it was ready to explode.
I brought my diamond to an independent appraiser for authentication. The appraiser verified that the diamond was genuine, and as per the GIA Report. He was also very impressed with the cut of the diamond, although I did not ask him to appraise the cut nor the value of the diamond. He just went ahead to check that it was a Hearts & Arrows diamond, and also commented that the diamond was very well cut.
He also asked me for the price I paid, and responded that it was very cheap for a diamond this quality.
The appraiser told me to find a good jeweller to set the diamond because he would hate to see a diamond this quality get damaged. He specifically instructed me to inform the jeweller to be careful when setting the diamond.
I asked him if he knew of any good jewellers and he recommended one in the same building.
The jeweller who made my proposal ring was very skilled and honest. He enjoyed a good reputation with the local 'tai-tais' (rich housewives) and had a sizeable customer base.
He told me that he did not really want a customer like myself because he thought that young people made too many unrealistic demands and wanted everything to be cheap. He complained that it was very difficult for him to work if I did not trust him with the diamond.
I had to explain to him that I was willing to pay if he could deliver the quality I wanted. I understood fully, the intricacies of custom making a ring, and some discrepancies were bound to occur. I also had to explain to him that it was in his interest that I did not leave the diamond with him when he made the ring as he had to assume the liability if he should lose the diamond. I was willing to leave the diamond with him for a day or two for him to set the diamond and polish the ring.
After the whole process, we became friends and chatted for quite a bit. He knew a fair bit about the jewellery making process. Unfortunately, his knowledge of premium diamonds was limited. He did not believe that people should spend money on premium diamonds because he thought that the extra performance was not worth the premium. He actually thought that I overpaid for my diamond and told me that he could sell me one of similar quality at a lower price, but I seriously doubt so.
The ring making process took longer than I expected because the first attempt was a failure, and the jeweller had to remake the ring. The second attempt was better, but still required some minor alterations. (I had to work very hard to persuade him to perform the alterations.)
After all the work, I finally received the ring at the first week of August.
My original plan was to propose on my wife's birthday (1 Aug 04). However, because custom making the ring took longer than expected, I had to postpone my proposal plans.
I planned to pop the question at Seletar Reservoir, during the sunset. I actually invited her to the reservoir on her birthday, but fortunately for me, it rained. When the first drizzles came a-pouring, I suggested (very quickly and cunningly) that we should see the sunset next week. She was mildly disapponted, but I was thanking my lucky stars.
On 8 Aug 04, we proceeded to Seletar Reservoir as planned. I hid the ring in a matchbox and put it with my camera. When the sun was about to set, I set up the camera and prepared to take pictures.
There were many people around on that day, and they were quite a nuisance. I had to wait for a quiet moment before I could set the camera's timer on. She thought I just wanted to take a picture of both of us, so she was hurrying me over. Of course I 'obeyed'. When I was at her side, I knelt down, presented the ring, and popped the question.
She was very shocked and turned all red. She told me later on that she was so stunned that she did not know how to react, so she just said 'yes'!
In the end, I am a happy man. I am very lucky to have found her.