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Diamond Buying Guide

F.Hinds's Diamond Buying History

F.Hinds have been jewellers for over 160 years, with George Henry Hinds opening the Harrow Road store in London Paddington in 1856. George's son William started buying diamonds directly from manufacturers around the turn of the 20th Century and similarly, William's son Frank used to buy loose diamonds both before WWII and afterwards: this was so they could offer the best value for money by removing the middlemen. Andrew Hinds (our current diamond buyer and Frank's grandson), continues to utilise this value-for-money buying technique today, which is why you will find all F.Hinds diamond prices to be very competitive.

Frank passed the diamond buying on to eldest son Eric in the late 1940s until his younger brother Roy took over in 1954. Whilst Eric went on to manage the property side of the business, Roy explored the diamond world and first went to the main diamond market in Antwerp in January 1959. He visited twice more that year and in fact, we are not aware of any other UK retailer visiting the Antwerp diamond market as early as this. Roy continued to visit three times a year with an estimated 60+ visits over the next two decades, until his youngest son Andrew took over in the 1990s.

Frank Hinds (1891 - 1963)

Making the Diamond Rings

Up until the 1960s, loose diamonds sourced from all over the world were set into rings by a single craftsman in Birmingham. However in the early fifties, rings were put together in the F.Hinds workshops and when the Birmingham goldsmith retired, we took on his work and were making most of the diamond rings in-house. Back then, engagement ring designs were classic and changed very little over the years so this was relatively straightforward.

Designs in those days were simple and traditional. When customer tastes became more adventurous we realised that, while we were experts in the high quality manufacturing of diamond solitaire rings, we were not specialists in manufacturing rings with multiple stones or those with a smaller diamond content; both styles which seemed to change more frequently.

Jewellery manufacturing expertise was spreading around the world meaning thousands of new styles were being produced every year, with design influences coming from many countries and cultures. As a result, fashions were changing much more rapidly including engagement ring designs and wedding jewellery which had historically remained very traditional. F.Hinds therefore started to source varied ring designs from across the globe to bring a choice to customers shopping on the UK high streets.


The FH Signature Collection


Throughout the decades, F.Hinds continued to ensure that the classic range of certificated diamond solitaire engagement rings were put together by hand in the UK, again by a single craftsman working at the bench in the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter.

Our large, certificated diamond solitaires form the FH Signature Collection: a stunning range of our most premuim diamond engagement rings. A senior goldsmith in the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter (the largest centre of jewellery manufacturing excellence in the UK), still makes the FH Signature Collection rings exclusively for F.Hinds and excitingly, his son is starting to learn the trade at his shoulder.

Click to read more about the FH Signature Collection.

Click to view the FH Signature Collection engagement rings.


Our Exclusive Diamond Service

Andrew Hinds is personally responsible for sourcing all of our loose stones and diamond jewellery by visiting mines, craftsmen and diamond exchanges on several continents - read below to find out more about Andrew Hinds, FGA. Andrew individually selects all our diamond jewellery designs and the diamonds they contain are matched by expert craftsmen and women to maximise their beauty and unique qualities.

Andrew also hand selects each and every loose diamond that becomes one of the FH Signature Collection engagement rings. He rejects over 95% of the diamonds he inspects as they don't make the 'F.Hinds grade'; he is constantly searching for the optimum combination not just of colour, clarity and cut, but also value for money.


Andrew says, "Diamonds are offered to me in parcels containing anything from one stone to several hundred and our suppliers treat them as a 'batch'. However, I am keenly aware that every individual diamond I buy will become a treasured ring or other piece of jewellery which may well be the most personal and precious thing they ever own. I therefore want to be proud of every single diamond that I buy and I take great care to ensure that this is the case."

Andrew's 4 C's

Colour

The vast majority of the diamonds that Andrew selects are in the colourless or near colourless bands:

Colour D-E: these are expensive, premium coloured diamonds that Andrew is occasionally able to obtain as one-offs but these rarely offer the best value for money.

Colour F-J (especially G-I): this is the F.Hinds core range. Andrew prefers to stock higher-than-average colour diamonds as he believes it is harder to find a lower colour diamond that looks stunning than it is to choose a lower clarity diamond with an unobtrusive, tiny inclusion which doesn't diminish its brilliance and beauty.

Colour K-M and N-Z: the colour in these diamonds becomes more obvious to most people. Some may be happy with it - or even prefer it - but Andrew will only buy a lower colour diamond if it is very well cut (which reduces the effect of the colour) and if he is paying the right price for it so that he can pass on this value for money.

In all cases, Andrew looks to buy stones which "face-up" well i.e. you see no colour at all, or as little as possible when looking at the stone from the top. This mirrors looking at it exactly as if it was set in a piece of jewellery. Did you know that stones are colour graded by laboratories from the back? This is the only way to produce a consistent grading scale so it is understanable why they do this, but two stones which look the same colour from the back can look very different when face up! Andrew will always prefer those stones which look brilliant face-up, regardless of the colour grade they have been given by the lab.

Clarity

FL (Flawless) & IF (Internally Flawless);
VVS1-2 & VS1-2 (Very Very & Very Small Inclusions);
Si1-Si2 (Slight Inclusions) - F.Hinds premium diamonds;
I1-I3 (Inclusions) - F.Hinds core range

Two diamonds with very different 'types' of inclusions can be given exactly the same clarity grade. For example, the nature of the inclusions in one stone may have very little effect on its brilliance or appearance, whereas the other stone may be greatly diminished in appearance by its inclusions - this diamond is likely to end up being sold on the internet where the customer isn't able to see the stone before they buy it, but 'on paper' it is what they're after.

So how can they differ so much? A single black inclusion close to the centre of a stone is likely to be obvious to the naked eye, even for someone who is not an expert, whereas a few small white or colourless inclusions nearer the edge of the stone may have much less effect and disappear into the scintillation (sparkle) of the stone.

Carat Weight

If you are not set on a "magic" number such as 1 carat, look out for those diamonds weighing just below as they are sometimes as much as a 20% cheaper. A diamond which is less than 5% under the '1 carat' magic mark will look almost identical, but for 20% less money! This is one reason why two of our most popular certificated diamond solitaire sizes are 0.60ct and 0.70ct as these are great intermediate sizes - they look wonderful on the finger and are competitively priced.

The other thing to watch out for when buying a stone at a 'magic weight' is how well cut it is (see below). Because of the value placed on these stones, the diamond cutter will do everything they can to end up with a stone just over the magic weight. This might mean cutting the diamond to maximise its weight rather than cutting it to the correct proportions to maximise brilliance, so be careful when buying such a stone.

Cut

This is the most easily overlooked 'C'. In literal terms it doesn't mean the shape of the stone, but its proportions i.e. how well cut it is. The 'Cut' is more complicated to explain which is why it is more common for the other three C's to be quoted on the certificate. But this can be argued as the most important of all! A well-cut stone will dazzle even if it's of an intermediate colour and clarity, whereas a poorly cut stone will look dull and lifeless even if it is of the highest colour and clarity.

In simple terms, Andrew believes that the cut is undervalued in the general marketplace. By selecting the best cut stones within each colour and clarity grade, he ensures we offer the very best value for money. As with all our diamond jewellery and especially for the FH Signature Collection range, rest assured that Andrew has selected only the best cut diamonds to produce a collection of dazzling diamonds that "punch above their weight" in terms of appearance and value. A commonly graded colour G, clarity I1 diamond from our range will no doubt look superior compared to a higher graded diamond from another retailer.

The other area to discuss here is, of course, the shape of the stone. While round brilliant cuts are the classic and by far the most popular shape, square, princess cut diamonds are the next best alternative, with special cuts becoming increasingly popular as people look for more unique and bespoke engagement rings. Because of our wide range of suppliers across the world, Andrew is able to source an exotic range of diamond cuts for those looking for something a bit different. Andrew is a specialist in these fancy shapes which means F.Hinds can offer the best value for money with these designs. Click below to view:


F.Hinds Diamonds - Hand Picked by Experts Since 1856

Buying the higher graded stones is much easier but Andrew finds it less rewarding. He works very hard to get the best value for money when sourcing the higher grade diamonds but the more exciting area is the middle-graded diamonds. So long as he doesn't forget the fourth C: "Cut" - which many do, then he has a good idea of what he's getting when he sees a certificate for a diamond.

Middle-graded diamonds are much more affordable and look absolutely stunning when made into a piece of jewellery. Andrew believes that diamonds are made to be worn and admired, not just admired from the certificate grade they have been given by a diamond grader. Andrew inspects the diamonds with a 10x magnifying loupe, but it is in fact more important to look at them with the naked eye as this is how they will be seen once on the finger.

Andrew says, "It is very exciting to see the diamonds I have selected when they return from the laboratory with their certificates and have been hand-crafted into rings and other jewellery. As I take each diamond ring out of the packet and look at the grading it has been given, it is amazing to see just how often a diamond that has been given a grade lower than another, can look just as good and sometimes even better!

The main reason for this is the careful selection I make in terms of the nature of any inclusions there might be in the stone. Two diamonds with the same grade 'on paper' can look completely different, which is why I have to sort through many thousands of diamonds every year to find ones that meet my standards."


It is Andrew's job to select only the finest diamonds within each grade, so when you find a design that fits your budget you can rest assured that this will include the very best diamond(s) we can obtain for you at this price. But what does this mean in practice?

Clarity I1 (Inclusions 1) diamonds are a good example - some of these diamonds present a very high clarity across most of the stone, but perhaps have a single, clearly visible back mark or a larger white inclusion which diminishes the stone's brilliance. Other diamonds within the same I1 grade may have a small scattering of tiny white or colourless inclusions invisible to the untrained eye - Andrew will always favour this over a visible black mark as these stones look far more attractive in jewellery, but both will have the same grade on their certificate.

Andrew estimate's that he buys just 5% of the diamonds he sees: he always aims to buy the best diamonds within a grade so that they are as good as the lower quality diamonds from the grade above.


AnchorCert Certificates

AnchorCert Lab certification isn't just about the 4 C's grading that the diamond is given. It includes independent confirmation that the stone is a natural diamond not a synthetic or an imitation and that it has not been treated to improve its appearance as these treated stones are less valuable than their 100% natural equivalents. Not all retailers are even aware of whether their diamonds have been treated, so it is an important thing to look out for as a consumer.

An AnchorCert certificate also shows that your diamond has a guaranteed weight. For example when on holiday, it is easy to be tempted by jewellery shops as you are in a relaxed mood, but in some popular holiday destinations, diamonds sold as '1 carat' may have an approximate diamond weight of 1 carat, meaning that the stone you buy could be as small as 0.95ct - this is typical in the US and the Caribbean. A 0.99ct stone can be as much as 20% cheaper than a diamond which is the magic '1 carat', so it is best to buy a stone with a certificate which shows a guaranteed minimum diamond weight.

Click to read more about AnchorCert certification.

Meet Andrew Hinds, FGA

Andrew Hinds is a sixth generation jeweller and co-owner (with other family members) of F.Hinds the Jewellers. Specialising in fine diamond jewellery and engagement ring design, Andrew's individual approach to premium jewellery sets him head and shoulders above the competition.

Even though he was born into a family of jewellers stretching back into the 19th Century, Andrew began his journey at his father's shoulder. Andrew's father Roy bought diamonds for F.Hinds for almost 50 years, and was probably the first UK jeweller to make buying trips to the diamond market in Antwerp, Belgium, to source diamonds directly to pass on savings to customers.

After leaving school, Andrew studied gemstone cutting in Idar Oberstein, Germany. He then gained a Business Degree. After graduation, he worked for a manufacturing jeweller in the Hatton Garden area, working in every department from design and model making, to setting, polishing, casting, stone sorting and repairs, gaining an excellent overview of the processes involved as well as practical experience and understanding of what is possible.

Andrew took the internationally renowned two-year Gemmological Association diploma and was awarded their fellowship in 1990. This included studying practical gemmology at the Sir John Cass School of Arts - a college with an international reputation for jewellery design and Silversmithing. He added the Gem-A Diamond grading diploma a few years later.



Andrew travels to the world's main diamond buying centres to source loose diamonds for F.Hinds customers, having bought in London, Antwerp, New York and Mumbai. He has visited manufacturing facilities across the UK and as far afield as China, India, Turkey and Italy; and even a silver mine in Bolivia and gemstone mines in Pakistan.

In 2005 Andrew was invited to become a freeman of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, the ancient livery company in the City of London which has been responsible for standards in the jewellery trade since the 13th Century through its London Assay Office. Indeed, the word 'hallmark' is derived from the fact that the world's first purity marks on gold were struck in Goldsmiths' Hall.

In 2013 Andrew joined the British Hallmarking Council, which is responsible for the oversight of the four UK Assay Offices in London, Birmingham, Sheffield and Edinburgh.

In 2010 Andrew was made a director of the National Association of Goldsmiths (NAG), the UK industry's trade association of which F.Hinds has been a member for many decades. Following in his uncle Eric Hinds's footsteps who was President a few years earlier, Andrew was elected Chairman in 2014 which continues a family tradition of giving time back to the trade which has been their livelihood for so many generations.

As one of the two Chairmen, Andrew was an instrumental figure in bringing together the NAG and the manufacturers association, the British Jewellers Association (BJA), together boasting well over a century of history. The unification of these bodies is now known as the new National Association of Jewellers (NAJ), which represents over 1,800 members who's businesses operate in jewellery across the UK. The NAJ ensures that consumers are protected through the standards it imposes on its members.

The NAJ's mission: “As the UK’s leading Jewellery Association, our mission is to increase confidence in the UK consumer’s purchase of jewellery; through the integrity, professionalism, governance, representation, education, training and creativity of our members”.

Click to read more about F.Hinds's NAJ membership.
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