Posted by: rasmussen
September 17th, 2011

An interview with Joel “Eagle Eye” Hassler on Diamonds from Antwerp, Belgium

Q)  So Joel, why do you go all the way to Antwerp, Belgium to buy diamonds?  Can’t you get them here in the US? 

A) Of course we can buy diamonds domestically and we often do.  However, Antwerp has been the diamond capital of the world since the 1500’s and any serious diamond buyer will have Antwerp on their radar!  When I am in Antwerp, I have access to diamond sorting offices that house millions of dollar’s worth of diamonds.   I look through hundreds, if not thousands of diamonds, cherry picking the very best.

Here’s how it works:  The diamonds I examine are presorted into lots.   A lot is a parcel of diamonds that is grouped together by approximate size and quality.   For example, a parcel of one carat diamonds may have 100 diamonds in it, these diamonds ranging from 1.00-1.15ct, SI1-SI2 and colors ranging from G-I.  The price per carat is the same for whichever diamond I choose from the package, so of course, I will be choosing the very best of the best.  I accomplish this relying on gemological knowledge and expertise that has taken me years to acquire. There are no shortcuts to this process and it’s extremely time consumptive, but it’s worth the extra work.     


Q) So you literally look through hundreds of diamonds to choose…one??


A) Absolutely!!  I consider it a challenge!  I truly love diamonds and being a sleuth on the hunt for the very best is a point of pride!  My reward by the way, is having people come up to me while wearing our diamonds and telling me how much prettier it is than others they see.  A Rasmussen diamond is distinctive, remarkable and captivating.  I make sure of that. 


Q) Do most stores do it this way?


A) No.  In fact, very few have this option. To facilitate buying in Antwerp, we maintain membership in the Independent Jewelers Organization (IJO). As an organization consisting of 800 of the country’s elite jewelers, we are allowed access into the cutting offices that usually deal only with extremely large manufacturers. This gives us a great advantage in selection and pricing of our diamonds.


Q) How do you know what to look for when you go through these parcels of diamonds?


A) I am a Graduate Gemologist and a Certified Gemologist Appraiser, one of only a very few in the country. My gemological training, coupled with more than a decade in the family business gives me the knowledge that I need to choose the very finest diamonds.  Unfortunately, most jewelers are not gemologists. Many tend to rely on laboratory reports or certificates to tell them what the best is.  And don’t get me started on lab reports! It is my opinion that lab reports have become, for the most part, worthless. Certificates are meaningless if they are not accurate and based on what I’ve seen, there’s a lot of room for improvement.


The internet has created a huge demand for diamond reports, as internet buyers want some sort of assurance that what they are buying is being accurately represented. Sellers are happy to oblige by providing a lab report with a purchase. The problem lies in the fact that many internet sellers and the laboratories they use are less concerned with grading accuracy and more concerned with the seller getting the grade they want!


I believe that there are sellers who are demanding “easing” of quality grades to enable them to offer what appears to be a deal. In other words, some diamonds are sold with reports that a qualified gemologist would consider inaccurate.


Q)Isn’t this illegal?


A) No, it is not illegal but it is unscrupulous.  Unfortunately, a lab report, like an appraisal is on “opinion” and like Las Vegas, the house has the advantage! Lab reports can be totally wrong but in our unregulated industry, there is no one to put a stop to it. It’s hugely important that you trust the one you buy from!  By the way, Bill and I NEVER and I mean NEVER buy a diamond based only on what the certificate says . It would be like looking at a restaurant menu in order to determine whether the food will be delicious! Reading a menu…or a lab report, doesn’t tell you anything!


Q) So if lab reports are so inconsistent, how can the public compare diamonds and prices?


A) That is a great question! I’m not sure that you can. I think that ultimately, people have to buy diamonds from people who they trust. It may sound a bit self-serving but it’s true.  Rasmussen’s has been in Racine since 1900. For 5 generations, we’ve stood behind everything that we sell and we proudly continue the tradition. We choose to sell fine diamonds that you will be proud to give and to wear. When you buy from our store, you become a member of our Rasmussen Diamonds family. Do you think that I would want a member of our family to wear anything but the very best? Not when my name is on it!


Q)When is your next trip to Antwerp?


A) Glad you asked! I leave on October 1st and we’re taking pre-sales.


Q) What’s a pre-sale?


A) We discuss the type of diamond you’d like, plan a budget for your purchase and collect a deposit. Then when I go to Antwerp, I will search through hundreds of carats of diamonds and find the very best for you. I am so confident that you will be delighted when you see your diamond, I will refund your entire deposit if you aren’t! (By the way, this has NEVER happened!)


Q) What kinds of diamonds are available in Antwerp?


A) The same kinds of diamonds that are available here, only lots more of them ! Any size, any shape, fancy colors, unusual cuts, matched pairs..the choices are phenomenal. I already have several diamond engagement rings in the works and I am confident that in the coming months, some lucky ladies are going to be very happy when their man gets on his knee and opens a Rasmussen Diamond box!


Q) So if I’d like a diamond, what do I do?


A) That’s easy! Stop by the store or call us. You can ask for me or you can talk to any one of my incredible staff members. Let us find your dream diamond!

Q) Last question, Joel. Where did the nickname, “Eagle Eye” come from?


A) It’s a nickname that my staff has given me. An eagle sees things from a distance that most of us would miss, even if up close.


When I look for your diamond in Antwerp, that’s what it’s like for me. Even without a loupe being held to my eye, I can see things in a parcel of diamonds that most jewelers miss with their loupe! I can spot diamond with the best finish and polish. I can often see a well-cut diamond, even while it’s crowded up against others in a parcel. When I use my loupe, my “eagle eye” ferrets out the best of the best.

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