Claire-Laurence Mestrallet, Associate Director and Head of the Jewellery Department at Adam’s auctioneers in Dublin has worked with the best in the business; Christies in New York and Geneva, Golay Fils & Stahl in Geneva selling diamonds, antique jewellery and bespoke pieces as well as London’s Bonhams Auction House in their Jewellery department. As a long time friend and one of my bridesmaid I wanted to share with you her expertise and all the secrets and tricks behind a girl’s best friend, diamonds…
What is the most frequent question you get asked about rings (engagement and wedding rings)?
I am often asked, what to prioritise in a diamond if you were to get your engagement ring. Although the best diamonds are D colour and flawless clarity, you’re not carrying a magnifying glass with you when wearing the ring. I would prioritize the size and get a good colour in the region of F/G/H..and VS clarity. I would also make sure the diamond has life and fire so that the proportions are good.
What is the basic information people should know about diamonds ?
Diamonds are quite straight forward and although being helped and advised by a trustworthy professional is important, someone looking for an engagement ring should know the basics of the four c’s. The four c’s are the 4 characteristics that value is based upon.
- Carat – A carat is the international metric unit of weight for a diamond. Large diamonds are much rarer than small ones, so the value of a diamond rises in proportion to its carat weight.
- Colour – Diamonds are graded on a colour scale from D to Z, D being colourless and Z having a light colour tint. All D to Z diamonds are considered white, although they contain varying degrees of colour.
- Clarity – What’s inside the diamond. The majority of diamonds have inclusions (impurities) that have grown within them in the ground and the less inclusions in the diamond, the higher the value. The clarity scale has 6 categories (FL, IF, VVS’s, VS’s, SI’s and I’s) divided into 11 grades and diamonds with less inclusions
have a higher value.
- Cut: The ability of a transparent diamond to play with white light is largely down to the cut of a stone. A well-cut diamond is very lively and bright. Round brilliant diamonds are more expensive than fancy-cut (other cuts) diamonds, as more rough is cut to produce the diamond.
In order to be sure that your diamond has the colour, clarity, carat weight etc…you must either buy your diamond with a laboratory report from a reputable diamond laboratory such as GIA or you rely on the person selling the diamond who must be a professional gemmologist to have graded the diamond adequately. In my opinion, seeking advice from a professional is always a better option than buying alone, especially on the internet!
In your opinion, what advice can you give before choosing a ring?
My first advice is: make sure you have done your research with the type of ring that will appeal to your fiancé-to-be and then work around that with the budget you have. It’s an experience to walk into Cartier, sip champagne, get the red box and pay a fortune for a ring which she will most likely love and you will feel reassured to have bought it for a lot of money by a very reputable brand. It’s another thing to get something bigger or of better quality at auction for a fraction of the price and if you don’t like the mount, buy it and have it remounted…it’s worth doing the design you want and won’t cost you as much as going to Cartier or any other big brand.
I sold a Cartier engagement ring, round diamond H colour, VS1 clarity from Cartier for €6,500 and the same ring with the same diamond at Cartier retails for €17,500 – it’s a no brainer…
If you do not have a big budget what are the alternatives or tips you can give to a newly engaged couple?
If you have a small budget, again, auction is a great option. Someone who cannot afford a budget of €10,000 + in a shop can buy the same ring for 60% less at auction. We might not all serve the champagne, but the expertise and the product is the same.
Another tip for a small budget, prioritize the size and colour and find a diamond that might be a little included but the inclusions can easily be hidden with the mount… and if the diamond is not certified and you trust the expert who has graded it, it will cost you less money.
Would you recommend going for second hand- vintage rings? What are the benefits ?
Second hand is the best option – but some second hand/antique shop can be very expensive as well. If you’re not buying a ring with a brand, you’re still buying the diamond at least 50% more than at auction. Retail whether new or second hand and auctions have a complete different market value that are not enough known to the public. The benefits are simply that you can get bigger and/or better quality (whichever of the four Cs is your priority) and spend less money.
What are the latest trends in engagement rings?
Different countries, different cultures, different trends…I am working in Ireland – A lot of people in the UK and in Ireland have switched from diamonds to sapphires, preferably of similar design than Kate Middleton’s engagement ring…
More generally, people are starting to look for other precious stones to use as engagement rings such as rubies, sapphires and emeralds but diamonds are still the number 1 in majority. Important tip: emeralds is the precious stone that is most fragile and . can easily break due to surface reaching inclusions…for an everyday ring like an engagement ring, I would avoid that option unless it’s of top quality and very well set. A lot of people have become more accustomed to period jewellery and will be looking for an art deco ring with a simple and classic design and love the idea that the ring has a story and some age. It’s all very variable…
Claire meets clients throughout Europe to value their pieces of jewellery and collections in view to sell them at auction or simply to assist on insurance valuations
For a free and confidential valuation you may contact Claire on: email@example.com
You can also follow Claire on Instagram and see regular posts on pieces coming up for auction on: clm_adams_auctioneers