Buying diamonds and fine jewellery in the Middle East

April 30, 2016

Buying fine jewellery can be one of the most confusing gift scenarios in the world, especially because traditionally, fine jewelers have succeeded for a long time by keeping the general public in the dark. The diamond trade especially is shrouded in mystery, with jewellers able to charge more because a lot of us don’t know our facets from our cuts.

But buying a diamond is as straightforward as buying anything else – do your research, shop around and you’ll get a high quality diamond that’s worth double or triple what you paid. And Good readers have it even easier than most people, because Dubai is not only one of the cheapest places to buy diamonds, it’s one of the top three diamond trading hubs in the world, along with Belgium and India.


As with much in the Middle East, however, diamond sellers love a haggle, so one big tip is instead of telling them your budget up front, get the specifications for the diamond you want firmly fixed in your head, research how much it generally costs, and then engage with sellers. Diamond sellers such as have clear, transparent pricing on their website, which lets you choose the rock you want in terms of size, colour, quality, setting, etc.

So what’s most important when looking for a diamond? Sarah Williams, Queen of Sparkle at Dubai Rocks, the only British-owned diamond seller in Dubai, shares the shine facts with us.

“Unlike a lot of items you can buy, a diamond’s specifications and quality are set things certified by an independent body,” says Williams, “So that means with enough information, you can get a big budget sparkler without breaking the bank.”

Williams advises getting familiar with the 5 C’s – these are the technical aspects of a diamond which are measured, analysed and certified by the diamond trade, and knowing the order of importance is paramount in order to get a good bargain.

The 5 C’s are, in order of importance:


Most diamonds at reputable jewelers will be certified by an independent organisation as to the qualities of the diamond, which is done during an independent examination.


There are a number of different global certification institutions, but the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) sets the standard within the industry. Dubai Rocks sticks with GIA certified diamonds. So make sure the diamond you’re getting has a certificate, and that the certificate matches what your eye is balling.


Diamonds start out as a stone that resembles a plain, grey pebble. They’re not very sexy, so they have to be faceted by an expert to show all that shiny goodness. Cuts range from Excellent to Fair and cut is by far the most important of the C’s when it comes to getting the most bang for your buck.

Let’s break it down: a 1 carat diamond with a Good cut will cost you more money but look less blingtastic than a 0.9 carat diamond with an Excellent cut.

Why? The better the cut, the more the diamond will sparkle and the better light will bounce off of it, which means your partner will literally be more dazzled.

Diamond cuts are like the foundation – get that right and the rest will follow.


This is the one everyone knows, and we all know that more carats = bigger, but here’s the size dilemma broken down: 1 carat = 200 milligrams in terms of weight. Jewellers refer to diamonds by ‘points’ and 1 carat = 100 points.


Price rises significantly for every additional 50 points or half a carat, even though the difference in weight is minimal.

Break it down: the price of a 1ct rock is approximately 30-40% more expensive than a 0.9 ct rock, even though the difference is barely noticeable to the naked eye.


This is a confusing one, as the gemstone we think of as diamonds are actually clear or ‘white’. The diamond colour scale starts at D, which is actually a colourless diamond, and is extremely rare.

The further along the alphabet the letter is, the more colour can be seen in it. That said, anything between D-I colour is still a beautiful white sparkler.


Every diamond has tiny imperfections in it (they’re called ‘inclusions’ in the diamond trade) that lower the value of the diamond – the less there are, the more the diamond costs.

Clarity is a funny one, because no one wants to look at a diamond and think they can see a tiny speck of dust. At the same time, most of those imperfections are unnoticeable to the naked eye – also, once the diamond is put into a ring setting, it’s often not visible in the slightest.

So while customers tend to put a big emphasis on clarity, Dubai Rocks does remind you that clarity has the least impact on a diamond’s sparkle, so losing some of the perfectionism can help save you money.


The other feature to consider is shape, which tends to be dictated by fashion and current trends in design and beauty.

Diamonds come in several different shapes, but there’s a clear favourite: eight out of 10 engagement around the world contain round diamonds.

Round shape diamonds offer a larger selection, as there are more of them out there. They can also appear larger, giving more for your money.

The Marquis shape also maximises size of carat and gives an appearance of larger shape

Ascher, Oval, Marquis and Emerald are longer stones vertically on the finger, so can help slim the finger if your beloved is a bit sausagey in the metacarpal department.


If the diamond gift you’re looking to purchase this Valentine’s Day is an engagement ring, keep in mind that Dubai Rocks’ most recent survey revealed that 54% of women would prefer to be surprised. That means doing some more research into what your beloved wants – that can be achieved by simply strolling through the mall, looking casually at some jewellery shop windows, observing the styles she points out. Obviously looking at the jewellery she already has, and of course, asking her friends and family, will really help.


It’s also important to know the trends in jewellery at the moment and as always, Tiffany, De Beers and Cartier are leading the charge.

Keep in mind that most of the engagement rings Dubai Rocks sells are classic solitaires, or classic designs with a few embellishments, such as the wave. (photo) Another popular design at the moment is to have side diamonds around the band, and surrounding the main rock, such as the Tiffany Soleste or the Cartier Destinée.

In terms of diamond shapes, Dubai Rocks has seen a 300% rise in requests in 2015 for cushion cut diamonds (think of a square with rounded off edges), photo which have been popularised in recent years by Tiffany.

If the Valentine’s Day gift you’re looking for is a necklace or earrings, the big trend toward the end of 2015 and a definite one to watch for in 2016 is geometric shapes. Think rectangular drop earrings with a small diamond at the bottom, instead of the classic hoop, and pendants with minimalist, geometric designs.

As online diamond shopping becomes more popular, there’s been a big rise in educated, saavy consumers who buy the diamond they want and then have it designed to their own specifications, either with Dubai Rocks or with a specific designer that’s gained celebrity recently.


It’s especially important to be wary of ‘super low prices’ from some of the sellers in Dubai, according to experts. There are several tricks employed by diamond sellers, including claiming to sell the same diamond for thousands of dollars less, when in reality, they are replacing it with an inferior diamond. Always ask to see the GIA certificate, and then look at the diamond with a jeweller’s loupe and match the laser-inscripted GIA number on the diamond with the number on the certificate, advises Williams.


Another top tip is that the jewellery setting must match the diamond. “Buying a high quality diamond and then compromising on the setting makes no sense,” says Williams. “There are a lot of jewelers in Dubai who are focused on high turnover sales – quantity over quality. And that’s great if your main driver is budget. But we are seeing a lot of customers come to us with broken settings or diamonds which have fallen out, because the quality isn’t there.

“With Dubai Rocks jewellery, customers are taking their jewellery back to Europe, Australia or the US and finding that it’s worth double what they paid. So make sure that you’re not just bargain hunting when buying a diamond in Dubai! Go quality hunting as well!”