As someone who’s shopping for rings, I thought I would chime in as well. (I am the man, looking to buy a nice ring for my fiancée.)
We both love the Novo, so this is the only style of ring I’ve been looking at. I’ve also only been considering cushion-cut stones. Some of my comments may not apply to more common cuts like rounds or princess. For simple styles (like the classic solitare), I would almost certainly say that Tiffany’s is not worth it and you should buy elsewhere.
I believe the worst quality Tiffany’s carries is H color and VS2 clarity, and the setting is only in platinum. If you do not care about all of these things (e.g., you’re looking for an SI2, I-color in white gold), then certainly you are going to be overpaying at Tiffany’s. Let’s suppose you do in fact want this a high a rating and do a fair comparison at that point. There are a few things to keep in mind.
1) Color: GIA ratings round color favorably. Tiffany’s rounds color unfavorably (this is assuming that the salespeople were honest with me). It’s very unlikely that you’ll find a stone that is exactly say an F color. Instead, it probably falls somewhere between F and G. At Tiffany’s, this would be rated G (again, assuming that the salespeople were honest). At any other jewelry store, this would be an F. So to compare stone prices you really have to compare with a 1-color difference. This should mitigate some of the overpricedness.
2) Cut: Aside from rounds, there is unfortunately no (objective) third-party rating of the quality of the cut, which makes it very difficult to compare the “quality” of the stone. In the end, I’m looking for something that is as brilliant (sparkly) as possible, which seems very hard to guess just looking at ratings and numbers on a certificate. I have been happy with all the Novo’s I’ve seen, but i have not been happy with many of the cushions I’ve seen from other vendors. To be fair, I never compared two different products side by side in the same lighting. Moreover, the stones I looked at from other vendors were all unset. It’s possible that both lighting and being set make the Tiffany’s stone look sparklier. That being said, I feel confident in the quality of all Tiffany’s stone whereas with other vendors it requires a lot more effort to pick out something nice.
3) Carats: I absolutely hate it that carats are the standard for measuring the size of a stone. Carat is weight. You can’t see weight. Really what you should care about is the area as seen from the top of the stone. I don’t mean just the table here, btw, or numbers like table%. I mean considering things like diameter. If all stones were cut with exactly the same proportions, then sure, weight would be a good proxy for area. But they are not all cut exactly the same way, particularly not for less common cuts like cushion. The Novo stones seem to be lighter than stones from other vendors with the same diameter. For example, a 0.83c novo I looked at was about 5.65mm x 5.7mm. When I checked on Bluenile, this was about the median size of their 1carat stones. To be fair, some of Bluenile’s stones at 1carat were quite a bit bigger as well, but in general, my takeaway is that Tiffany’s doesn’t cut to maximize carat weight, so their stones are “bigger” than similar weight stones elsewhere. Going up about 10-15% in weight seems the fair point of comparison.
4) Shape: The novo cushion is very close to square (probably only about 1% out of square, with roughtly a 1.01 length to width ratio). Personally, I do not like elongated shapes, so getting a square cushion is important to me. It seems that the most common cushions are at least 10% out of square, so most jewelers do not carry a good selection of stones. Naturally, if you shop around, this point can go away. I’m just saying that it’s easy to get at tiff’s.
5) Craftsmanship: The quality of the setting is better than for the few knockoffs I’ve seen as well as for similar (but different) styles from cheaper stores. The most obvious difference is in the mounting: at Tiffany’s, the mounting is sized for the stone being used, but at cheaper places, it is usually generic, which means it may look too bulky or too small depending on the size of the stone. Moreover, there may be a gap between the bottom of the stone and the band, which doesn’t occur on the novo. As a whole, the Novo’s side stones seem to be set very nicely, whereas in custom jewelry, I fear they will be slightly uneven.
6) Look of the setting: I really like the look of the Novo setting, including from the side. I’ve seen other styles that look similarly nice from the top but kinda yucky from the sides. I’ve yet to see a copy that pleases me, including the seemingly popular replica from excel diamonds. To be fair, I am very good at noticing details, whereas the little differences probably don’t bother most people out there.
So I guess I’ll weigh in on how fair tiffany’s prices are. I think once you factor in what I have above (particularly (1) and (3), as those are the more objective things), the Novo is not that ridiculously overpriced for small stones. When you get to larger sizes (say exceeding 1 carat), the price grows astronomically, and I would say the Novo price is overpriced.
Another thing that stinks is that Tiffany’s inventory doesn’t match the “starting from prices” you see on their website. If you think you’re going to go in and buy a novo for that price, you’re probably sorely mistaken. Those prices assume they have an H color VS2 of the size in question, which they probably don’t.
I am still deciding whether to get the Tiffany’s ring or some copy elsewhere. Unfortunately, what I really want from Tiffany’s is the setting, because that part of it i think is actually reasonably priced (at least extrapolating from their prices across stones of different sizes). Unfortunately, the craftsmanship part about the setting being made for the stone means you can’t buy just the setting. I guess what’s going to happen is if we settle on a 1carat (or just under) size as being the right size, I’m likely going to get the Tiffany’s. If we settle on something larger, we’ll get a copy and I’ll just pray that it doesn’t offend me as far as some of the details are concerned.
Oh, and there’s one more feature that makes Tiffany’s nice, assuming you have the money. At tiffany’s, you can walk right in off the street and buy something that looks wonderful. Their default size (6) also happens to be my fiancée’s ring size. Of course, when you’re shopping around, another few days shouldn’t matter.
@KellyV, do you have any other pictures showing more detail and perhaps a side view? And can you refer your jeweler? I’m looking for someone whom I know can do a good copy. From that small picture of yours, the top view looks nice at least.