Usually this question pops up when customers come in to get their jewelry and rings cleaned.
It’s always a huge fear of customers.
They think “If I give a jeweler my jewelry to clean, they’ll switch out my diamond for a piece of junk!
People have this roundabout way of asking “How much time does it take a jeweler to…
Switch out a diamond?”
You want the short and sweet answer? Or do you want the complicated one?
Well, I’ll give you both…
2 minutes (give or take a minute) is what it takes to swap out your stone and put in a lower quality diamond that’s full of carbon spots and inclusions!!!
Keep in mind this all depends on your actual setting and your diamond of course.
But believe me…
Even though it could take 2 minutes… it really isn’t that easy.
There are a lot more things to take into consideration.
Things that are not that fast.
First off, if the jeweler is going to want to “steal” your diamond (or switch it out), then they are going to have to have a good reason to do so. They are going to want to steal it based upon the quality of your stone (clarity and color).
You see, if your diamond is a normal diamond, SI clarity or I clarity, then there’s no big reason or desire to take it. Jewelers have tons of these quality stones. SI and I clarity are the two bottom clarity ratings there is on the diamond clarity grading chart. It would be silly to swap out an I clarity diamond. What would you put in its spot? Another I clarity diamond?
I would assume that if a jeweler is going to take the risk and switch out a diamond, then they would want it because your diamond is a top of the line stone (like Flawless, VVS or VS clarity). Swapping out a VVS clarity for an SI2 clarity makes more sense doesn’t it?
This leads me back to my initial point. If the jeweler is going to make a conscious decision to swap out your diamond, then they will have to know your diamond’s quality first. And there’s only one way to know that…
Cleaning the diamond.
They will have to clean it thoroughly first, then microscope or loupe it and identify the clarity and color of your diamond (and most benchmen don’t know how to really grade diamonds anyway… That’s what the jeweler does).
You can’t loupe it before the stone is clean to get an accurate rating.
The dirt and grime and dust on your stone would give false clarity readings and make your diamond look low quality even if it wasn’t. That’s why it’s important for diamond graders to always clean the stones first. Only then, once it’s clean and the jeweler identifies the real clarity and color of your diamond, and only then could they make that all important decision to steal a stone or not.
Trust me, if it’s worth stealing, it better be one heck of a diamond.
And even if your diamond turns out to be a top notch stone and the jeweler does want it… There are still a lot of huge obstacles to overcome…
Because if a jeweler is going to put in a lower quality diamond in your ring, then they are going to have to be sneaky about it.
Sneaky because customers have a very cute habit of not being interested in their diamond when they hand it over to the jeweler… (it’s dirty and nasty looking beforehand), but then when they get it back all shiny and new they look at it really long and hard.
They scrutinize their stone naturally because people just don’t trust jewelers. They always think jewelers are trying to rip them off. So customers hand over their rings without even glancing at them, then want to pick them apart once they get them back.
It’s crazy, but true.
And knowing that a customer’s first instinct will be to look at their diamond with eagle eyes when they get that “swapped” diamond, CZ or gem back, then that stone would have to very identical to their original stone.
Don’t you think?
Close enough that a customer wouldn’t quickly notice it. Close enough that you’d be okay with the switch and walk out the door.
Do you realize how difficult this task would be to accomplish?
I mean, you look at your diamond ring every single day of your life. You know what it looks like. You would notice if it was different or changed (other than being cleaned or polished).
It’s nearly an impossible feat in such a short amount of time.
Is it possible?
The jeweler would have to have hundreds (if not thousands) of extra loose diamonds of all shapes and sizes and of course lower clarities in the shop.
They would have to gauge the MM width of your diamond and sort through all their diamonds looking for a match in size and appearance. It would have to be almost exact in order to “fool” you and to actually fit in the head you already have. Otherwise you’d spot the difference. I’m telling you right here and right now that it’s not going to happen. Not in just a couple of minutes.
So if you’re nervous and scared of letting a jeweler take your rings and polishing them up because you think they’re going to steal them, then get over it. I understand your fears, but there’s really no need to worry.
Leaving your diamond?
Now, if the jeweler doesn’t do the cleaning while you wait, say they take a half-hour or an hour, or even an afternoon, day, or week to do it, then you could have some reason for alarm…
Time to switch a diamond…
Delay does give an unscrupulous jeweler the time it takes to switch out a stone.
So what exactly happens when they switch out a stone?
(Customers have this done all the time with upgrades or replacing chipped diamonds.)
How to switch a diamond?
To swap out a diamond or exchange one diamond for another, jewelers have to gently pry apart the prongs holding in the stone, pop out the diamond from the head (hoping not to break or damage the prongs in the process), set in a new diamond of the same MM size (or extremely close), reclose the prongs on the diamond so it’s safe and secure again, then polish everything up so it looks brand new again. Fun, eh?
This all takes time. Jewelers can normally do all of this in about a half-hour or so. It really all depends on the prongs, the diamond, the ring, and the talent of the jeweler. If a jeweler encounters weak prongs, or prongs that break off, then they have to repair them or rebuild them so they’re durable again (you would notice that). It’s a lot of time and effort and work to swap out a stone.
99.9999% of all jewelers would not even bother.
All in all, if it’s a quick cleaning you want, but you’re concerned about your jeweler, then you only have a couple of choices:
1) Let them clean it.
Just scope your diamond afterwards to verify the quality and that it’s your diamond you get back.
P.S. You have to know what quality of diamond you have first. Hopefully you bought a certified diamond, or even better, a certified diamond that’s laser inscribed. That will make it much easier to identify your stone’s quality… just make sure you bring the certificate with you.
2) While you watch:
See if the jeweler will allow you to watch them while they clean your diamond. Some will, some won’t, you just have to ask first.
Not allowing you to watch doesn’t mean they are shady, their insurance policies may not allow customers in the shop.
3) Clean it yourself:
You knew this was coming… :)
If you trust no jewelers then the best way for you to protect your diamond and your paranoia is to clean it yourself. It’s silly, but then you wouldn’t have to worry about your diamond being switched now would you?
Learn more in my article: Prevent diamond switching.
Diamond switching is not as common as you would think.
Most jewelers strive to gain trust and respect, not throw it away to make a buck or two. It’s just not worth it.
Find a jeweler who has a long standing good reputation in your city or town and deal with them. They’ll do everything they can to make you feel comfortable and give you peace of mind.
Your diamond will get returned back to you, clean, safe, and secure.