Should you consider a VRAI lab-created diamond when shopping for an engagement ring? Are all VRAI diamonds lab-created? Is a VRAI diamond worth it? Are VRAI diamonds real? Before you buy, read this article first. Seriously. I promise you will learn very important information which they may not want you to notice.
You’ll also learn the reasons I feel more reassured about VRAI diamonds, despite my misgivings.
Finally, I’ll give you a strategy for getting a VRAI diamond, complete with a truly official GIA grading report — while likely saving hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Maybe you’ll decide that a VRAI diamond is for you, after all, for your engagement ring. The most important jewelry purchase of your life, likely.
But if you do choose a VRAI diamond, at least you’ll know the full secret which THEY may not want you to notice.
First, the good points about VRAI
You can always find good things to say about any jeweler. Or at least, most jewelers. Certainly that applies to VRAI. Here’s what we can say that’s good about VRAI.
VRAI sells lab-created diamonds
This is not the place to prove to you that lab-created diamonds are 100% authentic, 100% the same chemically, 100% the same physically, 100% the same with respect to light dynamics.
Lab-created diamonds are exactly like earth-created diamonds with only one exception: they were created in a lab, not in the earth.
That’s truly the only difference.
There are other differences: No earth was disturbed to get a lab-created diamond. No children were forced to work in diamond mines for lab-created diamonds. No wars were fought over lab-created diamond territory. (Granted, some earth-created diamonds may also get to claim some of these advantages. But … lab-create diamonds take all doubt away. They were made in a lab.
But otherwise, VRAI lab-created diamonds, like all lab-created diamonds, are 100% authentic, identical to earth-mined diamonds.
Why VRAI diamonds (like all lab-created diamonds) are less expensive
That said, lab-created diamonds are usually much less expensive than earth-mined diamonds. Why? Because most people still prefer earth-mined diamonds. For whatever reason (it may vary by the individual), people en masse tend to feel a little uncomfortable about buying lab created diamonds. They wonder if they’re authentic. They wonder if they are the same thing. There’s still a lot of education and publicity that the lab created diamond industry needs to do.
VRAI focuses only on selling lab-created diamonds. That’s one reason their prices are so low.
The other reason is that VRAI is vertically integrated with The Diamond Foundry, which creates all of their diamonds. They’re essentially the same company. VRAI is the retail arm.
But are VRAI lab-created diamonds a better deal than James Allen’s (for example) lab-created diamonds?
Spoiler alert: It depends on how much you trust their diamond certificates. VRAI diamonds come with diamond grading reports (a.k.a. diamond certificates) that are issues by The Diamond Foundry. Not by the GIA.
Lab-created diamonds from James Allen (and other reputable diamond sellers) have diamond grading reports / certificates issues by third-party diamond grading labs such as the GIA, the IGI, and the AGS.
Most people trust third-party grading labs far more than the diamond seller itself, to grade a diamond fairly and accurately. The reason why is obvious: A diamond seller has an obvious possible bias: Diamond grades affect a diamond’s price. A LOT. So, if you are a diamond grader, and you are grading diamonds sold by your employer, then you have a built-in possible bias (probable bias, I would say) to grade the diamonds easier than you would otherwise.
But with reputable third-party labs such as the GIA, the diamond graders have no idea which company is selling the diamond. All they know is the diamond is in front of them. They don’t know, for example, that James Allen will sell it. Or that Blue Nile will sell it.
So now you see why the answer to “Are VRAI diamonds a good deal?” depends on the question: “How much do you trust their diamond graders?”
There’s something going on. It’s not entirely clear. It could go either way. It could be good, or bad, or a little of both. But it’s exciting, that’s for sure.
I’ll talk more later, in this article, about how to evaluate your level of trust for VRAI diamond graders. I’ll tell you what VRAI themselves told me. And I’ll explain why I’m mostly reassured. And why I’m a lot more likely to consider VRAI diamonds in the future, than I was just yesterday.
First, some other good points about VRAI.
VRAI has some off-the-shelf extremely interesting designs
Have a look at VRAI’s basic round brilliant diamond engagement ring designs. The round brilliant cut of diamond is understandably the most popular cut for diamond engagement rings. For decades. Across the industry. And likely will continue. It’s the most brilliant cut. It’s the most classic. Of course there are other shapes. But I’m looking at the Round Brilliant offerings at VRAI first, because most of you will be buying a round brilliant diamond, in the end.
You’ll notice they have some creative designs. So, if you want something like that which is a little out of the ordinary (the ring design) but keeps a very classic look (the round brilliant cut of diamond), then VRAI has some EASY choices for you.
Easy in the sense that you don’t have to look very far. Compared to offerings at James Allen (my go-to place for engagement ring recommendations, for good reason), the off-the-shelf designs at VRAI might be more interesting to many people.
The beware factor: You could get so focused on (i.e. distracted by) the nifty ring setting designs that you forget to think about the quality of the diamond that will be the centerpiece.
And a BEWARE FACTOR: Higher-priced settings
The prices of the settings at VRAI are high, in my opinion, compared to other diamond merchants such as James Allen and Blue Nile. Let me show you why I think so. (I haven’t done a systematic study. I don’t have the resources for that. But I can make an argument here, and I think I’m right.)
Here’s a basic 4-prong platinum engagement ring setting at VRAI for $1,200.
Below, see a very similar basic 4-prong platinum setting at Blue Nile for $740
Finally, see below a basic platinum ring from James Allen for $682 (on sale, but still).
The conclusion? VRAI settings cost close to twice as much, when compared to the prices of settings at James Allen.
You might point out the round buttress on the VRAI setting above, which adds material to the setting. Doesn’t that justify the extra cost? No. Here’s why: That may be one reason it is more expensive. But I would argue that’s a worse design. It covers up much more of the diamond. It doesn’t add any real security to the diamond in my opinion. Four-prong settings such as the one at James Allen are perfectly secure, as long as they’re maintained and inspected from time to time. (The same would apply to the VRAI setting: maintenance and inspection are necessary for any diamond setting.)
Granted, you may be able to find some closer prices between the two merchants. And I haven’t done a full academic study, peer reviewed. 😉 But I know the prices of settings in general. And in general, the settings at VRAI tend to be quite a bit higher.
But will the price savings on diamonds at VRAI even out the costs? Or maybe even cause the total price (setting + diamond) to come in under what it would cost at James Allen, for example?
Even if VRAI is competitive with Blue Nile and James Allen on the total prices of engagement rings (settings + diamonds), is there a catch?
Hint: Yes, there is a catch, in my opinion. And I’ll spell it out, below.
Prices of VRAI diamonds APPEAR to be less, but there may be a huge catch
The prices of VRAI diamonds appear to be much less than other lab-created diamonds at James Allen. I’m comparing only to other lab-created diamonds.
Quick answer: VRAI essentially grades their own diamonds, and this is concerning to me personally, because there seems to be a possible built-in conflict of interest there.
On the other hand, James Allen (and many another diamond merchant) pays the GIA and other third-party diamond labs to grade their diamonds. That seems to me to be a much more trustworthy system.
First let’s look at two diamonds that are good examples at both VRAI and James Allen.
This first diamond below is from VRAI.
It is graded (but not by the GIA, as you might think, looking at the page) as “Excellent” cut, and J-Color and VS2 Clarity. It’s priced at $2,838. If that were a diamond with a GIA-issued certificate, that would be an excellent price.
But it’s not a diamond with a GIA-issued certificate. Instead, the certificate seems to me to be issued by VRAI itself, by a gemologist who was trained by the GIA.
You might think that’s the same thing, pretty much.
It’s not. A GIA-trained gemologist who is working directly for any diamond merchant as a grader has a huge conflict of interest. He’s basically grading his employer’s diamonds.
A GIA-issued certificate, on the other hand, is much more trustworthy. The GIA is a third-party referee. The gemologist doing the grading is accountable to the GIA, not to any diamond merchant.
The GIA and other diamond grading labs were created precisely because diamond sellers couldn’t be trusted to grade their own diamonds! It was a huge problem that was literally ruining the industry. They were fooling inexperienced customers en masse, in the bad old days. Telling them their diamonds were awesome when in fact they were often crappy diamonds.
I’m not saying that VRAI is lying. I’m only saying they might be giving the wrong impression by not making that clear. Looking at the VRAI site, it would be easy to make the mistake of thinking the diamonds are GIA graded.
But they are not (this one at least, and all the others that I’ve seen personally).
You might THINK it’s a GIA-graded diamond, based on how it’s presented. But it’s NOT. I know I’m repeating. But it’s important.
So, personally I would hesitate buy from VRAI for that reason.
If you trust that they are grading their diamonds accurately and without self-interest, then by all means, go for it. If that really is a grade as strict as the GIA would give, then it’s a much better price. But … you’re buying from a company that may be giving you (unintentionally?) the impression that these are GIA graded diamonds.
And if they could do THAT (even accidentally) in what they tell customers, my belief is that … well … I personally would hesitate to trust the grades on the certificate. That’s just my personal opinion.
Now let’s look at a second diamond. A comparable diamond at James Allen.
This diamond, below, is from James Allen. It has all the “same” grades, except its color is quite a bit better at D. But it’s way more expensive! It’s around $7,000, versus the VRAI offering of $2,838. That’s more of a difference than D vs. J color would cause.
(The reason I’m comparing two different I couldn’t find any J-Color lab-created round brilliant 2-carat diamonds at James Allen. In fact, most lab-created diamonds have much better color than J. Which is another reason I’m not super comfortable about shopping for lab-created diamonds at VRAI. Why do they have some J-colored lab-created diamonds?)
What gives, on the massive price difference?
I’ll tell you what I think gives. It’s that the one from James Allen has truly trustworthy grades. Very few people would doubt a GIA certificate.
But VRAI’s diamond doesn’t have grades vouched for by the GIA. It has a diamond grading report which was issues by The Diamond Foundry, which is basically the same company as VRAI. (VRAI is like the retail arm of The Diamond Foundry.)
Quite a few people would doubt any diamond grading report issued by the same company that is selling the diamond.
This is what a true GIA grading report / certificate looks like. YOU CAN TRUST IT.
This is how much it would cost VRAI to get GIA-certified grades on its diamonds. Why aren’t they paying the small fees?
Does all this mean you shouldn’t buy from VRAI?
Not at all. It does mean I personally would have reservations about buying from VRAI.
You may think, “What’s the big deal? Each diamond has a certificate. Each certificate has basically the same grades.”
The answer is: The two certificates were issues by two different labs. Worse, one of the labs is actually made the diamond they are grading. They may have the same grades on paper, but the two diamonds may look very different. Why? because the standards might differ (and because there may be a built-in bias to grade one’s own diamonds too easily).
Another answer is: the diamond which is NOT graded by the GIA (I mean the VRAI diamond of course) may look very different from a GIA graded diamond with the same scores.
What it boils down to is this: trust. GIA graded diamonds (or IGI-graded, or AGS-graded) are diamonds which have a third-party referee’s expert grade on them. You can feel confident even though you’re not an expert, that you’re getting what they describe.
Can you trust VRAI to be as strict on themselves as the GIA would be?
I don’t know. Maybe, given information in the next section.
If they really wanted to earn your trust, wouldn’t they pay the paltry $204 to get the official grade? You’d think so. But they save a lot of time and money by just grading them themselves. Logistically it’s much easier. The diamonds never have to be shipped off then shipped back. Maybe they just want to save the $204. And maybe their gemologists really are as strict on their own employers as the GIA would be.
This is what VRAI told me when I asked them these questions:
“To answer your first question, we are proud to offer a lifetime warranty for all diamonds created by Diamond Foundry.
We stand behind our products and warrant their graded characteristics through the following full legal guarantee and warranty. In the unlikely case that your diamond turns out to not meet or exceed a 4C grade stated in this Certificate, Diamond Foundry will either:
- Accept the return of the diamond and provide you with a refund of the full purchase price or
- Replace the diamond with a diamond that meets or exceeds each of the characteristics warranted.
For more detailed information on VRAI’s Diamond Warranty, click here.
Also, in regards to your question on sending a diamond to GIA, VRAI can certainly send your loose diamond to GIA for a report.
There is a $375 USD non-refundable fee associated with this process. Please keep in mind that we can only send a loose diamond to GIA, not a diamond that is already set.”
I’m more likely to consider a VRAI diamond after these reassurances. Here’s why.
You have some options:
- Depend on the guarantee. Get the diamond graded by the GIA after you receive it. If you find the GIA grades the diamond worse than The Diamond Foundry’s grading report, try to use the guarantee to get a refund or a different diamond. (Not the best strategy, as I’ll explain.)
- Or just get VRAI to send your selected diamond to the GIA for an official GIA grading report before it is ever mounted on a ring and shipped to you. Sure, it costs $375. But then you’ll know. And you may save so much on the price of the diamond, compared to James Allen and others, that you’ll come out ahead.
- Or, if you don’t really have the cash on hand to pay $375 up front for VRAI to get the GIA to grade the diamond, just trust VRAI. Then send the diamond back if you’re not happy with it. (That’s a guarantee they offer, anyway. And more than likely, you’ll love your diamond.) (Maybe you shouldn’t be buying an expensive diamond, if you don’t have $375 for a grading report, but heheh I know that love can be urgent. So that’s cool too of course.)
The guarantee from VRAI is reassuring. I didn’t confirm with VRAI the exact steps one would need to go through to use the guarantee. But it seems legitimate to me.
Personally, I would go the safer route: I would have VRAI send a diamond to the GIA for an official GIA grading report before it was ever shipped to me. VRAI diamonds seem mostly SO inexpensive compared even to James Allen, that it would be worth it to pay the $375 fee.
What if being on a budget is the whole reason you’re opting for VRAI in the first place? And you really don’t want to pay $375 for a GIA grading report?
In that case, trust VRAI’s grading report on their own diamond. I know, it’s questionable, compared to the GIA. But when you’re on a budget, you’re free, in a way, to take such a risk. If you screw it up and get a dull diamond, well … you did your best with the resources you had on hand. That’s real. To get a less expensive option and hope for the best.
BUT you’re not stuck if it looks really dull. You can use the VRAI 30-day refund policy as your safety valve. No need to prove anything. Just send it back according to their reasonable rules. So you’d just buy the diamond ring. Then examine it yourself when you get it. And if you’re not happy with it, return it.
Notice that in this strategy, you won’t have time to get the GIA to issue a grading report on it. And you don’t really have the money for that anyway. You’d likely never get it graded by the GIA because of the expense and time. But at least you could buy the diamond, and look at it yourself, and know that you’re happy with it.
(Or know that you’re unhappy with it, and send it back for an immediate refund within the 30-day refund question.)
(The money back guarantee from VRAI lasts 30 days, but getting the diamond dismounted from the setting by a local jeweler, then having it sent to the GIA, and getting it back, takes at least 3 weeks. You’d BARELY make it under the deadline if you made it all. AND you’d still have to pay a local jeweler for the work, and the GIA a fee, for a total comparable to $375.)
What if you do have the money to pay $375 for a GIA diamond grading report? Should you?
What if, like me, you really would prefer a GIA grading report before you buy a diamond, and have the money to do that? Then do that. You can’t be too sure! And the money you save buying from VRAI is usually going to more than make up for that $375. Your best bet is to pay the nonrefundable fee to VRAI right now, to have it graded by the GIA before it’s ever shipped to you.