What’s Real, What’s Fake? Jeweler Gina White Gives Tips for Spotting the Perfect Engagement Ring

Image: Maciej Toporowicz, NYC

Black folks indulging in luxury is becoming more commonplace and normalized which is beautiful to see. Whether picking out an engagement ring or flexing on your haters with a custom encrusted bezel, we love a good diamond in our culture. For centuries, diamonds have signified status, wealth, appreciation, and commitment but how do you pick the exact one that will match your flex in 2021? Gina White has the answer. 

Gina White is the first Black female jeweler certified to analyze, source, and purchase diamonds in their rough state straight from Africa. With a 4000 sq. ft manufacturing office in the Diamond District of Johannesburg, White is out to build economic stability for Black entrepreneurs through facilitating an infrastructure that helps to expand entrepreneurs’ mindset into marketing their businesses in Africa as well. 

Through her masterclass, she breaks down how to make the most of your experience in a jewelry store and not feel intimidated by the process of selecting luxury pieces. She sat down to chat with EBONY about how to spot the perfect diamond whether you’re purchasing for yourself or a loved one.

EBONY: How did a #baddie like yourself first become immersed in this side of the jewelry business?

Gina White: I’ve been into this for about two to three years. Primarily, I was into the ”rough trade” process where I would buy and sell rough cut diamonds. However, I got into the jewelry design side of the business after making a bad purchase in the wholesale market. It forced me into the area and I soon after fell in love with it. 

Jewelry design is fun as you are creating and executing a vision; however, the most difficult part is processing the rough cuts. I will say that it’s an interesting business. Once people realized that I was here to stay, doors started opening and resources became more available. Now I have a team of 7 or 8, all in Johannesburg, along with a manufacturing team who help me take the diamond from its rough state to its polished its glory. 

Because it is engagement season, many are on the hunt for the perfect ring that says “I love you.” If someone wants a completely unique design, what are some tips for designing or buying the perfect setting?

Buying a ring is like buying a home so first and foremost, research is key.  Many people don’t know what they are buying because of the lack of literacy in this field. People will spend $200,000 on an engagement ring and will not know what they are buying. Even if they spend millions of dollars on jewelry, they may be misinformed.

Additionally, always abide by the 4 C’s—cut, color, carat, clarity—but never sacrifice the cut. The cut of the diamond is most important. When you look at your GIA report, make sure that the cut is excellent. In America, the color is the second most important quality in a diamond. In this country, it’s very rare that you find stones over VS2 or SI1. Everyone thinks they are getting VVS stones but that’s not necessarily true, and that’s okay. You just need to know what you are getting.

Lastly, consider setting your stones in platinum. A lot of people think that white gold is the way to go but it’s not as strong as platinum as it’s a man-made metal. White gold requires more maintenance and re-plating as opposed to platinum. It’s a superior, solid, strong choice that I hope starts to trend more widely.

What type of cut are people typically in the market for right now? Do people favor antique pieces over custom pieces at the moment? 

Jewelry is personal and all about preference. Fine jewelry is also more than an accessory; it’s a commodity. In our community, we tend to buy jewelry that looks really nice without having the knowledge of the specific value of the investment of the piece. Therefore, in the United States, what is most popular are radiant cuts, cushion cuts, and emerald cuts. It’s important to note that round and pear shapes are the two shapes in the industry that prices are based on. In other countries, gemstones and round brilliants are most popular because they hold the most value. America is about five to six years behind in regard to these trends so maybe we’ll catch up soon.

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Also, many celebrities have been going for the antique, vintage look lately. I love to see that. It’s very classic and is my favorite to design after.

What’s the average price people are spending on engagement rings nowadays?

It definitely depends on where you plan on buying the ring. Online jewelers offer discounts as opposed to buying straight from a jewelry store, which has a higher overhead and retail market. 

If you are on a budget, I would try an online site as there are many reputable locations. That way, you can get your bang for your buck. A lot of folks like going in-store due to name recognition; however, you can get something really nice for $5000 online. 

For all the lovers out there, starting in August, Gina will have the option to create custom engagement rings on her site www.ginawhite.com.

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