Engagement Rings: 3 Brands, 3 Shopping Experiences
You're in a long-term relationship. What's next? You talk about your life-long future with your significant other. Naturally, this conversation evolves to address topics about marriage and starting a family together... right? Getting married, having your dream wedding, and wearing a beautiful engagement ring is every girl's ideal life accomplishments and fantasies.
About a year into our relationship, my fiancé and I decided to talk about starting a new chapter in our lives. We knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. I was so excited to move on to the next chapter in my life and one day asked him, "Do you want to go look at engagement rings with me?!"
We ended up going to 3 different high-end jewelry boutiques (Cartier, Harry Winston, Tiffany & Co.) in Beverly Hills and came out of each boutique with good and bad shopping experiences.
370 N. Rodeo Dr. Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Cartier has been producing exceptional creations in 1847 by a French jeweler, Louis-François Cartier and handed over his business to his three sons in 1899. The Cartier family was able to gain ownership of the business until 1964. Cartier jewelry has been worn by royal families of different countries - Prince of Wales, King Carlos I of Portugal, King Edward VII of England, Napoleon III's niece, Princess Mathilde, and Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge - to name a few. As a result, Cartier has been known as the "King of Jewelers" or "Jewelers of Kings". The infamous Blue Hope Diamond weighing in at 45.52 carats which was bought by Cartier in 1909, was sold to an American socialite, Evalyn Walsh McLean in 1910. There are currently over 300 Cartier boutiques worldwide showcasing its exquisite jewels to the public.
DIAMONDS: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
All Cartier central diamonds are GIA (Gemological Institute of America) certified which guarantees the diamonds' excellence according to the 4 C's (Cut, Clarity, Color, Carat). In addition to meeting GIA standards, Cartier ensures that all of its diamonds meet additional rigorous standards set in place by Cartier's experts. Unlike many other Maisons, Cartier individually inspects each diamond prior to selection in order to ensure incomparable brilliance and excellence. With Cartier's unparalleled expertise, only beautiful and exceptional diamonds are accepted into the Maison.
CARAT: Cartier offers solitaires in a wide range of carats depending on the settings.
CUT: Cartier holds the cut of the diamond to be selected exclusively. GIA rates the cut on a scale of 5 grades ranging from "excellent" to "poor". Cartier selectively carries cuts only from "very good" to "excellent".
CLARITY: All of Cartier's centerpiece diamonds have an exclusive range of clarity. Clarity of a diamond is determined by the number of inclusions and is graded on a scale from "internally flawless (FL)" to "included (I)". In order to ensure exceptional quality and clarity, Cartier only offers diamonds where not even the slightest inclusion is visible to the naked eye. Therefore, Cartier diamonds have clarity ranging from "internally flawless (FL)" to "very slightly included (VS)".
COLOR: The closer the diamond is to colorless, the more exceptional the diamond will be. According to the GIA scale, there are 23 grades of color and ranges from "colorless (D)" to "light yellow or brown (Z)". Cartier diamonds are selected exclusively to have ratings of "colorless (D)" to "near colorless (H)".
Cartier boutiques are lit with semi-dim lighting. However, spotlights are used in jewel glass cases to accentuate the brilliance and sparkle of the diamonds. The semi-dim lighting helps to showcase the beauty of Cartier's jewels, almost as if to show that the jewels sparkle on its own.
Shopping for an engagement ring is a memorable experience and a great experience starts with amazing customer service. I have been to two of Cartier's boutiques - Beverly Hills, California and Las Vegas, Nevada. Cartier, which is known to be a high-end jeweler, had mediocre customer service, to say the least. The Cartier boutique in Vegas had amazing service. My fiancé and I were offered drinks and the sales associate patiently helped me with my search for the perfect engagement ring. However, upon walking into the boutique in Beverly Hills, we were not greeted or asked if we needed help. 5 minutes have passed and we were still not greeted or offered to look at some of the rings. Thus, I decided to head out feeling unwelcomed and unsatisfied. With that experience, I did not bother to buy my engagement ring from Cartier. On the plus side, I didn't feel as if I was constantly being watched or harassed by the sales associates.
310 N Rodeo Dr. Beverly Hills, CA 90210
The brand Harry Winston, which was founded in New York, has provided timeless elegance and exclusivity since 1932. Throughout history, Harry Winston has been known as the "King of Diamonds" or "Jeweler to the Stars". In 1949, Mr. Winston acquired the complete jewelry collection including the Blue Hope Diamond of American socialite, Evalyn Walsh McLean. The Blue Hope Diamond was once owned by Marie Antoinette and Louis XIV. Over the past 85 years, Harry Winston has owned a large collection of rare and one-of-a-kind diamonds and jewels. In 2014, Harry Winston acquired a rare 13.22 carat flawless fancy-vivd blue diamond from Geneva, Switzerland. Harry Winston currently has 41 salons operating all around the world, from Switzerland, Macau, to Italy, Tokyo, and Hawaii.
DIAMONDS: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
Similar to Cartier, all of Harry Winston diamonds are GIA (Gemological Institute of America) certified. in order to ensure each diamond meets Harry Winston's highest standards of perfection, quality, and brilliance, Harry Winston's specialists inspects the rings at every step of the process, beginning with the initial design to the moment before it is placed into the salon's case. Like Cartier, Harry Winston has its own set of rigorous standards that are set in place to ensure that each diamond and jewel are of pristine elegance and glamour.
CARAT: Harry Winston offers solitaires in a wide range of carats depending on the settings. Note that the smallest carat that they carry for a solitaire is 0.5 carat. Additionally, Harry Winston only carries solitaires with carat weights that are noticeably different in size. For example, Harry Winston will have solitaires with carat weights in the 0.7 range. However, you will not see carat weights in the 0.8 or 0.9 ranges. Harry Winston believes that the dramatic differences in carat weight will result in dramatic differences in diamond size.
CUT: Similar to Cartier, Harry Winston selects certain cuts exclusively. Harry Winston believes that a diamond's brilliance trumps over carat weight and that weight must be sacrificed for the diamond's beauty. As a result, each diamond at Harry Winston is cut and polished to maximize its dispersion of sparkle.
CLARITY: Almost all diamonds have slight internal and surface characteristics with most of them too small to be seen by the unaided eye. Like Cartier, Harry Winston only carries diamonds with no inclusions that are visible to the naked eye. Therefore, Harry Winston houses only diamonds that are "internally flawless (FL)" to "very slightly included (VS)".
COLOR: Although diamonds are transparent, almost all diamonds display some slight hint of color. Diamonds that are deemed colorless are the most rarest and most valuable diamonds. Because Harry Winston is known to only display and house the most extraordinary jewels, Harry Winston selects diamonds exclusively with "colorless" ratings (D, E, or F).
FLUORESCENCE: Harry Winston is one of few luxury jewelers that emphasizes a diamond's fluorescence. Fluorescence refers to the property diamonds have of glowing when exposed to ultraviolet light. When diamonds are observed under natural light, some may have a milky appearance even with good clarity. In order to ensure maximum sparkle, dispersion, and brilliance, Harry Winston only accepts diamonds with zero to faint fluorescence.
Harry Winston salons are lit with very dim lighting. As you walk into their salon, their diamonds and jewels become the center of attention. Glass cases are lit with spotlights that are fairly semi-dim as well. The dim lighting helps to further emphasize the dispersion of the diamonds' sparkle, almost as if lighting is secondary to the diamonds' beauty.
Engagement ring shopping should be fun, pleasant, and enjoyable. After going into the Cartier boutique, I was afraid that Cartier's pretentious vibe of being a luxury brand would translate into Harry Winston's. I was wrong. Harry Winston's customer service was impeccable. Upon entering into their salon in Beverly Hills, sales associates greeted me with welcoming arms. Unlike many luxury brands, Harry Winston welcomes everyone with different backgrounds. Whether you are financially incapable or enter their salon with a t-shirt, gym shorts, and a hole in the shoe, Harry Winston makes no distinctions and treats everyone with sincerity and kindness. To be honest, I bought my ring from Harry Winston mainly because of their incredible service. I felt special, wanted, and felt like I was in good hands. The associates at Harry Winston were extremely patient and were very knowledgeable in their field of gems. Surprisingly, I did not feel as if I was being constantly watched or followed nor did they pressure me to buy one of their beautiful creations.
TIFFANY & CO
210 N Rodeo Dr. Beverly Hills, CA 90210
New York became the proving ground for Tiffany & Co. in 1837. What initially was a "stationary and fancy goods" emporium, Tiffany & Co. eventually evolved to become a locus for luxury items, notably for their diamond and sterling silver jewelry. In 1886, Tiffany & Co. introduced the engagement ring we know of today. Previously, diamond rings were set in bezels. However, Mr. Tiffany designed the ring to highlight brilliant-cut diamonds by lifting the stone off the band into the light. This ring has been coined the 'Tiffany Setting' and continues to be sought after by many individuals. Past clients of Tiffany & Co. include Elizabeth Taylor and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Tiffany & Co. currently has 313 stores located worldwide from Japan to the United Arab Emirates to multiple locations in Europe.
DIAMONDS: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
Unlike Harry Winston and Cartier, all of Tiffany & Co. diamonds are not GIA (Gemological Institute of America) certified. Instead, Tiffany & Co. implemented their own certification and diamond grading process in their Tiffany Gemological Laboratory in New York. According to Tiffany & Co. they believe that they have imparted high rigorous standards as compared to the GIA.
CARAT: Tiffany & Co. offers solitaires in a wide range of carats depending on the settings. The smallest carat size that Tiffany & Co. offers for a solitaire is 0.25 carat.
CUT: Like Harry Winston and Cartier, Tiffany & Co. selects certain cuts exclusively. Tiffany & Co. only accepts diamonds from manufacturers that have received an "excellent" cut grade. They believe that carat weight should be sacrificed for the cut of the diamond in order to maximize its brilliance.
CLARITY: Tiffany & Co. offers an exclusive range of clarity with their engagement ring diamonds. Like Cartier, Tiffany & Co. houses engagement ring diamonds with "internally flawless (FL)" to "very slightly included (VS)" clarity.
COLOR: As with many high-end jewelry boutiques, each boutique strive to carry diamonds that are colorless or appear colorless. Tiffany & Co. is no exception. Similar to Cartier and Harry Winston, Tiffany & Co. selects diamonds exclusively with "colorless (D)" to "near colorless (I)" rating. Please note that these gradings are done via Tiffany's own certification process and not through the GIA.
FLUORESCENCE: Like Harry Winston, Tiffany & Co. emphasizes fluorescence on a diamond. To ensure maximum scintillation, dispersion, and brilliance, Tiffany & Co. will not accept stones that appear to have a strong or excessive fluorescence causing the diamond to have a milky appearance under incandescent light.
As soon as you walk into a Tiffany & Co. store, bright lights are used everywhere. Think Kay Jewelers or Zales. The bright lights seem to take away the sparkle of the diamond because the contrast of bright light with the dispersion of sparkle and shine is simply nonexistent.
When I did my preliminary online research on engagement rings, I thought I wanted a Tiffany & Co. engagement diamond ring. As I made my first trip to a Tiffany & Co. boutique in Beverly Hills, I was surprisingly not impressed. When I walked into the store, I was greeted by the employees. As I made my way over to the engagement rings section and expressed interest in it, a sales associate immediately helped me. It was almost as if the associate was watching and following me the whole time, waiting to make her sales pitch on me. While trying on different rings, I immediately felt pressured and rushed by the associate to make a purchase. Unsatisfied with the service, I kindly declined moving forward with looking at additional rings from Tiffany & Co. Coming out of the store, I didn't feel special like I did at Harry Winston.