Shopping comes down to science at dimend SCAASI
Isaac Gottesman wants his customers to look at diamonds in a whole new light—preferably one that isn’t illuminating a jewelry case. Through dimend SCAASI, the bridal jewelry retail store he founded in downtown Chicago in 1997, Gottesman gives soon-to-be brides and grooms an unusually in-depth look at the cut quality of the diamonds he sells. Using the Angular Spectrum Evaluation Tool (ASET)—a scope created by the American Gem Society that assesses a diamond’s interaction with light—the retailer gives his clients a lesson in sparkle-ology 101. “People see a diamond sparkling under a really bright LED light and it has a certificate with a grade of ‘excellent’ and they think it’s a good diamond,” says Gottesman. “But the cut grade of ‘excellent’ is a very wide range and a lot of those ‘excellent’ diamonds are actually not very good. What they’re seeing in the case is light reflected, not refracted.” So when the diamond walks out of the door, so does most of its shine.
Describe how you present diamonds to your customers.
We start by showing them—in bright light—what everyone else shows them. We show them a stone and a certificate. Then we go through a test where we have a box with two diamonds inside. One is cut perfectly and the other one is slightly bigger but cut terribly. In bright light they always say the not-so-great one looks bigger. Then we smudge and dirty them up a little and put them in a different light. They always change their mind and think the perfectly cut one is bigger. Once people understand how diamonds are cut, and you put them under the scope, they become very clear on what they want.
As a retailer, how did you get focused on the cut of diamonds?
Color and clarity do not make much difference. Cut is true beauty. But the question has always been, “How do you assess it?” The ASET test works. Only one out of every 100 stones I inspect I end up buying. I am trying to educate the layperson, and the more the public knows about [cut], the more the diamond industry is going to continue to change. Right now cutters are still having it their way. They cut stones and use tools that allow them to expand and change the angles and proportions to make them look bigger—and add weight—but they’re sacrificing quality. They go to the edge of the range where they still get a GIA “excellent,” but they’re nowhere near perfect. And hardly any are good enough to pass the ASET test. Imagine you go in to see two new cars in a showroom. They’re both immaculate. But one has a bad engine. We show people an X-ray vision into the engine.
What cuts do you find have the best light refraction, and what shapes do you stock?
I’ve stopped carrying some shapes because they’re so hard to analyze. Most shapes were invented because cutters wanted more yield. Round-cut diamonds are easier to analyze because they’re symmetrical. Princess cuts do poorly. Many radiants are really atrocious. Cushions are usually terrible, [as are] marquee and pear shapes. No stone that we sell here leaves without an appraisal that has an ASET image of the stone.
How do male clients respond to all this gemology?
Guys love it. It gives guys something to grasp onto, finally. What guy wakes up and says, “Hmm, I want to go buy a diamond today”? When you tie a guy to a scientific process, the guy gets connected to it in a very real way. It’s about selling true beauty analyzed by science.
How do women respond to the scientific sell?
They love it. A couple came in the other day and the first thing the woman said to me was “I don’t want to see anything below a G color.” Three hours later, she walked out with a J color because it was perfectly cut and she totally connected with that. Women see that the more perfectly cut diamond performs better, and they’re sold. There’s just no comparison when you see that sparkle.