Diamonds are forever? Bill McGinty investigates

Diamonds are forever? Bill McGinty investigates


by BILL MCGINTY / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @billwcnc

Posted on February 5, 2013 at 12:41 AM

Updated Sunday, Oct 27 at 10:01 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Kevin Dietrich was making the purchase of his life—a diamond engagement ring at a jewelry store in SouthPark for his girlfriend. Kevin says the ring was almost one caret and was “exactly the ring she wanted.”

The big question would get popped in the Big Apple.

“I got down on one knee and proposed in Central Park.  It was really nice” said Dietrich.

The wedding was on, for a month. In February, Kevin’s girlfriend got cold feet and gave Kevin his ring back, which immediately went into his dresser drawer and stayed there for 10 months, until Kevin needed the money he invested in this ring for school.

“I have to pay bills, tuition, and for my apartment, all this stuff,” he added.

Kevin took his diamond ring to two jewelry stores hoping they would buy him out of his break up, but he was stunned at what he says he was told by both of them.

“The diamond had no value and I wouldn’t likely get anything back” is what Kevin says he was told.

Kevin bought the ring knowing there was a “feather” in it, which is a type of imperfection. Realizing it was there, Kevin said “I was told it would not affect the value of the diamond.”

But when a feather reaches the top, it is widely considered a crack. Kevin immediately took the ring back to where he bought it, at Diamonds Direct in SouthPark.

He says they offered him $800 for the stone and wouldn’t buy back the mounting. The original cost of the ring was slightly over $2,000.

NBC Charlotte decided to take this ring for an independent look with certified gemologist Jennifer Macleod and we did not disclose where it was originally purchased. Jennifer studied the diamond and said “in my opinion, it’s a danger” because the diamond could break apart.

“It’s a feather and it has reached the surface” Macleod said.

So, if the diamond breaks, and based on what Jennifer told us that’s quite possible, it’ll be worthless, and to sell it Kevin would have to disclose all that and who’d buy it knowing all this?

The NBC Charlotte I-Team called the store to inquire about Kevin’s cracked ice.  They said they’d investigate the issue and call back, but their first call went to Kevin.

“I got a call yesterday and they told me they would give me a complete refund and I am very happy about the outcome,” Dietrich said.

When the manager of Diamonds Direct called NBC Charlotte back, they told us that “giving Kevin back a full refund was simply the right thing to do” and that even though this return exceeded the length of time allowed for “bring backs,” they “made an exception in this case and said our story had nothing to do with the decision.

Diamonds Direct also declined an on camera interview for this story when they were asked in January. Then on February, 4 the owner called NBC Charlotte disputing the facts of the story.

He said Kevin’s diamond is not cracked and he says he verified that by having five different gemologists look at it. He said the story is unfair to what he says is a successful and reputable business here in Charlotte.

Diamonds Direct in SouthPark has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

Shorty before our story aired, Dovy Klarberg, VP of Diamonds Direct issued this statement to WCNC:

We were unaware that you were working on a story or needed a response until the promos for your story were running.  We had gotten a call a couple weeks ago, but by the next morning when it reached me, I understood that the customer had been satisfied and mistakenly thought the matter was concluded.

•    Kevin Dietrich purchased a .63 carat princess cut, with SI clarity grade for $1100.   This is an excellent value for a diamond with these specs. All diamonds with SI clarity grades have some inclusions and the “feather” inclusion in this diamond was fully disclosed and not an issue at the time of purchase.  This is a natural inclusion that was in the stone since it was formed in the surface of the earth.  The price paid reflected the quality of this particular stone.  I will discuss that more below.

•    Since the diamond left our hands in Dec 2011, we are not sure where it has been or what might have happened to it.  Contrary to popular belief, diamonds can be damaged.   Also, typically, like most merchants, we are reluctant to take back diamonds after a year (about 13 months).  We were sympathetic to learn that Mr. Dietrich’s relationship had ended during that time.  Nonetheless, we agreed to offer an exception to our normal return policy and take this diamond and his engagement ring back and refund the customer 100 percent of his money, no questions asked.   This was done after 13 months because total customer satisfaction is our number one priority.  We never act in the interest of a “one time” sale – we are interested in long term relationships and it is not uncommon for us to make an exception to our policy to maintain positive customer relationships, even if it is not a good business decision for us.

•    Now that the diamond in question is back in our possession, we are even more convinced that what Mr. Dietrich paid was an excellent value.  Several gemologists have examined the stone and we stand firm with our contention that the diamond is not “cracked” (or about to “crack”) and that it is worth every bit of $1100.  

•    Realistically, we would likely sell a flawless diamond of comparable size and cut for $2,400 or a bit less.  Other jewelers would likely sell the diamond for more than $3,000.  Obviously, Mr. Dietrich purchased his diamond for $1,100, which is considerably less because of the inclusion.  It is not realistically possible that he would leave our store and believe anything about the diamond that was not everything truthful we could tell him.

•    One of the foundations on which our business is built is diamond education.  Since 1997, we have worked hard to teach consumers how to buy a diamond using objective standards.  Before we sell any diamond, we spend time showing customers what to look for, how diamonds are graded and what criteria make one diamond more valuable than another one.

We have found that when presented with the facts, they are then empowered to choose a diamond based on the criteria that are important to them.  For some customers, having a diamond with the highest grade of cut, color and clarity is paramount and they are not willing to compromise on those criteria and are willing to pay for a diamond that meets the highest standards.   For other customers, on a limited budget, a slight inclusion, a lower color grade or a smaller stone are perfectly reasonable and acceptable.  It doesn’t mean there is something “wrong” with the less expensive diamond, it is simply a choice the consumer makes based on his budget and personal tastes.
We have an extensive selection that can cater to customers at all ends of the spectrum while always providing them with the best value.

We have been operating in Charlotte since 1997 and our store is widely regarded, both in and out of the jewelry industry, as a company with the highest standards, ethical business practices and an impeccable reputation.   We have hundreds of thousands of satisfied customers in five US cities.  In 2012, we sold to over 15,000 customers in the Charlotte area alone.  We have an excellent BBB rating and are known for customer service that is not just average – but that is extraordinary.  You don’t get to this level of trust by taking shortcuts, compromising on quality or providing customers with anything less than excellent value.

We want to invite you to come to the store and meet with me.  I would like to show you the differences between diamonds and how they are priced and sold.  I think you will learn a lot.  Meanwhile, if you come to shop at DD, with or without telling me, you will learn that we tend to provide far more information, all of it accurate, than most of our competitors.

In summary, we believe that what is being presented on your airwaves is not fair. We went over and above to make this right with the customer, despite the fact that this diamond has not been in our possession for over a year.  Please do not hurt our business with a story that makes people think we have sold a defective diamond or misled a customer or done anything less than be admirable merchants.  It would be unfair to our employees and it may actually deter consumers from getting the sort of experience you would want them to have in purchasing a diamond.