The city of shopping, sunshine and, of course, Angels! The appeal of the Los Angeles jewelry district is entwined with the city’s glamorous reputation. However, like many jewelry districts across the world, buyers must be aware of the harsh realities of choosing to shop in these famous spots. In the bustle and excitement of the jewelry district, the strict rules of diamond buying can fall by the wayside, leaving buyers exposed to sub-par diamonds for inflated prices.
This guide will take you through the do’s and don’ts of the Los Angeles jewelry districts so you can make balanced and informed decisions when choosing your diamonds.
The district is comprised of early twentieth century buildings, though the surge of jewelry stores came later. In the 1960’s, when the investment value of gold seemed more certain than the dollar, jewelry sellers set up shop in the historic quarters. With nods to European architecture and art-deco decadence, the L.A jewelry district became a classy place for jewelry shoppers to get lost in a world of sparkle.
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At its peak, the Los Angeles jewelry district was home to over 5,000 companies offering various services and goods within the jewelry and diamond industry. However, changes in buying habits has seen the area shrink to around 1,500 retailers and wholesalers.
Starting with the positives. Like all jewelry districts, you are likely to see a huge variety of settings, styles, diamonds and gemstones that surpass any traditional bricks and mortar selection. This approach to buying is really about experience and bragging rights – there is an atmosphere in the Los Angeles diamond district that many people enjoy, though others may find it pushy and a little shady. There is a lot to see and do around the diamond district so many will make this a pilgrimage and include the travel and experience as part of their engagement story.
Going to a diamond company which has an established reputation for high quality diamonds and service is the best way in ensuring that your budget needs, size requirements and cut desires are met perfectly without you feeling pressured into buying something that is not for you. I would recommend reading my reviews on James Allen, Blue Nile and Whiteflash as they all have knowledgeable staff and large selections of diamonds.
Though huge collections of jewelry in one place offers a great variety for buyers, it also means sifting through a lot of duds to find the diamond of your dreams. This means that buyers must be scrutinous of the diamonds and jewelry on offer and cannot rely on salespeople to give balanced advice. Education is key and sellers will spot uninformed buyers a mile away.
Pushy sales tactics, overinflated quality grades and diamonds with serious performance issues are just a few of the pitfalls of buying in large jewelry districts, and Los Angeles is no exception.
These are some of the questions I am most commonly asked about shopping at Los Angeles jewelry. Following these guidelines will give you an idea of whether or not this is the shopping experience for you.
Can I get a good deal shopping at the LA jewelry district?
Contrary to what you may have heard, shopping at a big district does not automatically mean a good deal – in fact, quite the opposite. Notoriously pushy, these areas are shark tanks for unsuspecting and unprepared buyers. If they can sell at a big profit, they will. Furthermore, sellers at the districts are still subject to the considerable overheads that are unavoidable for any physical store. These overheads mean you are certain to find a better deal online.
If you are well versed in the art of buying diamonds and go armed with knowledge, you may well be able to find a good deal – but it is not a guarantee.
My advice: Shopping online from reputable vendors is the only way to guarantee the lowest prices.
The salesperson has shown me a better diamond, should I go for it?
This one may seem straight forward, however ‘a better diamond’ is usually translated as ‘a pricier diamond’. It is essential that you set a budget and stick to it. A good salesperson will help you work to find a beautiful diamond that respects your budget. Don’t be afraid to be firm – insist that you will only be shown jewelry that is financially suitable for you.
My advice: Visit the district with a firm idea of what you want to look at and what you want to spend.
They have offered me a one-time only deal and I don’t want to miss out. Should I buy now?
The ‘one time only deal’ is just one of the many tactics you may here being used in the LA jewelry districts (or indeed, at any bricks and mortar store). These offers create urgency to encourage you to buy on the spot.
My advice: Don’t be rushed into the process with shaky promises or one time only deals. Step away, take your time and learn to spot these sales tactics.
The shop doesn’t sell GIA or AGS diamonds but they have a great alternative. Certification is what matters, right?
There are plenty of stores in the LA jewelry district that sell GIA and AGS certified diamonds and these are the stores you should be visiting. Certification is important, but there is more to that sentence; certification from an internationally respected laboratory with accurate and consistent grades is important. If someone tries to offer you anything other than an AGS or GIA certified diamond, take it as a red flag and walk away.
My advice: Only buy GIA and AGS certified diamonds.
My suggestion is that you will find a better-quality diamond for a better price if you shop from a reputable online vendor, however if the LA jewelry district has captured your heart, I urge you to take note of the following tips to avoid disappointment and overspending.
Set a budget and stick to it. An advantage of online shopping is giving yourself the time to take a breath and play around with the four c’s to find the sweet spot between quality and budget. In face to face interactions with salespeople, this time for consideration is lost.
Pay attention to the cut. The cut will have the biggest impact on the beauty and price of a diamond and sadly it is so often over looked by first time diamond buyers. Familiarise yourself with all aspects of cut quality and don’t be afraid to challenge sellers on the finer details of diamond quality.
Learn to use a loupe. Using a jewelers loupe effectively takes practice. Sit down and take the time to really study the clarity of the diamond. You will find the high-res imaging on Whiteflash and James Allen makes it much easier to spot flaws and fully assess a diamond.
Lose the lighting. Remember that the lighting in jewelry stores is chosen to be very flattering to diamonds, even those with performance issues. Ask to view the diamond by a window in natural light to get a better idea of its sparkle.
Take your time. Make a conscious effort to slow down and really think before making a decision. Don’t get caught up in the excitement – you may regret it later.