How to dodge engagement ring scams

To prevent buying a fake engagement ring , Steyn identified and debunked six of the most common DIY diamond tests. Picture: Independent Newspapers

To prevent buying a fake engagement ring , Steyn identified and debunked six of the most common DIY diamond tests. Picture: Independent Newspapers

Published Mar 19, 2024


By: Meg Steyn

IT’S ALWAYS heartbreaking when a client comes to us, and we have to inform them that a diamond is not what they thought it was.

With the rise of synthetic diamonds and the vast price difference between them and natural diamonds, it has become easier to find those shopping for engagement rings being misled. Even diamond machines costing hundreds of thousands of rand misidentify diamonds, which is part of the problem.

To prevent potential engagement ring scams and diamond shoppers, I identified and debunked six of the most common DIY diamond tests their customers have told them. Our goal is to empower shoppers with the right information, ensuring they make informed decisions when they’re shopping for the perfect engagement ring.

The dot test: A common DIY authenticity test involves drawing a small dot on a piece of paper, placing the diamond upside down on the dot, and attempting to see the dot through the diamond. If you can see a clear dot, the theory suggests it might be fake, as a real diamond’s refractive properties should scatter the light, making the dot invisible. However, this test is not foolproof, especially with high-quality fakes or certain diamond cuts. It should be used as a preliminary test, not a definitive one.

Scratch test with glass: Some believe that if a diamond can scratch glass, it must be real. While diamonds are indeed one of the hardest natural substances, this method can damage the stone and is not foolproof. Some synthetic materials can also scratch glass.

Water test for density: It’s hard to believe, but we’ve had several customers mention this one. The water test involves dropping a diamond into a glass of water to see if it sinks. Diamonds have a high density, so they will sink, but so will many other materials, making this test unreliable for verifying a diamond’s authenticity.

Looking through the diamond to read text: Similar to the dot test, another myth suggests that if you can read text through a diamond, it’s fake. The theory is based on the diamond’s refractive properties. However, the ability to read text through a diamond can depend on the cut, size, and quality of the diamond, making this an unreliable test.

The sparkle test: There’s a misconception that the more a diamond sparkles, the more authentic it is. While diamonds are known for their brilliant sparkle, many factors influence this, including the cut and setting. Some synthetic diamonds are also designed to have a high degree of sparkle.

Certificates can’t be faked: Some consumers believe that the presence of a diamond certificate is a guarantee of its authenticity. While certificates from reputable laboratories significantly reduce the risk of fraud, it’s crucial to verify the certificate’s authenticity, as counterfeit certificates exist.

The only way to know for sure you know what you are buying, is to check the authenticity of a diamond certificate. Diamond certification is key as it provides an unbiased assessment of the diamond’s characteristics, including its cut, colour, clarity, and carat weight. To ensure a certificate’s legitimacy, verify its origin from a reputable gemological institute like the GIA or EGL. Consumers should also be wary of sellers who refuse to provide certification or suggest independent verification as unnecessary. If in doubt, have the diamond appraised by an independent certified gemologist.

* Steyn is a diamond expert at GoldTrust.