If you thought your options for buying fine jewelry were limited to brick-and-mortar stores, web-based retailers, and direct from designers, think again. Diamond brokers are one of industry’s best-kept secrets, and we have a gem right here in the Mile High City.

Kaeleigh Testwuide of the Diamond Reserve recognized Denver’s need for a private diamond-buying experience early on. The New Hampshire native has been in the jewelry business since 2014, and has worked as a diamond broker for the last four years. At her Cherry Creek North office, she help clients select stones and negotiate pricing, all while keeping the process accessible, enjoyable, and completely personalized.

We sat down with Testwuide to talk about what exactly she does as a diamond broker, how she works, and why she dislikes lab-grown stones.

Kaeleigh Testwuide, diamond broker and owner of the Diamond Reserve

5280: So, what exactly is a diamond broker?

Kaeleigh Testwuide: A diamond broker, also commonly referred to as a private jeweler, is a diamond and gemstone expert who works one-on-one with their clients to educate them on diamonds and gemstones, and then helps them to determine the size and quality that fits their needs and budget. The diamond broker then works with diamond cutters and wholesalers to find their client a lineup of options to view and select from, as well as negotiates pricing. As a diamond brokerage office, the Diamond Reserve also buys diamonds in bulk at the best pricing, in the finest quality, for our clients to view and choose from.

How did you become interested in working as a diamond broker?

When I first began working for the Diamond Reserve it was just a marketing company. The leads it generated were then handed off to a diamond broker directly. I was hired to manage the brand and worked out of the broker’s office. This particular diamond broker mainly sold EGL-certified diamonds, which is considered to be the most dishonest grading laboratory for diamonds, having the dealer in mind versus the consumer (Editor’s Note: The European Gemological Laboratory is a for-profit organization and is known for inflating their quality claims). I saw the need in Denver for a diamond broker and private jeweler that only sold GIA-certified diamonds (Editor’s Note: The Gemological Institute of America is considered the gold standard lab per the consumer and is respected by the entire industry), and whose first and foremost priority was to educate consumers on diamonds, as well as help them select the best diamond for their needs and design fine diamond jewelry of the highest quality.

How does a broker differ from a jewelry designer or retailer?

A diamond broker or private jeweler is different from a jewelry designer or retailer in several ways. When meeting with a diamond broker, you will need to book an appointment and meet one-on-one in a private office, making your experience more personalized. A diamond broker focuses on education, whereas most retailers and designers have a focus on moving goods. Retailers and designers will have cases full of jewelry, while a diamond broker will have their inventory in diamonds and focus on a lower overhead, allowing them to work on a smaller margin and give their clients top pricing.

As a woman in a male-dominated industry, how difficult has it been for you to break into the business?

It wasn’t hard for me to break into this industry, and I feel there are a few reasons why. I was determined to create an honest space in diamonds for the consumer; once I created that place, people saw a difference and we began to move a lot of diamonds almost immediately. I also was fortunate to create a relationship with a diamond dealer who believed in me. Once we built that trust over time, it became easier for me to have more diamonds available for my clients based on their wants and needs. Trust is everything in the diamond industry.

Do you feel clients approach you differently?

I believe my clients love seeing a woman behind the diamond desk—there’s no doubt it’s refreshing. I do feel they are more comfortable with me. I’m not pushy; I’m a guide, and I pay close attention to all of the details when it comes to the design of each piece of jewelry. Sometimes gentlemen come in thinking they know everything about diamonds from what they heard at retailers or have read on the internet, but I still educate them, even if they don’t want me to, before we look at any stones. Every single client is thrilled we took the time to educate them; they feel more confident when viewing diamonds and are amazed what other places didn’t tell them.

Loose diamonds, The Diamond Reserve

A lot of fine jewelers talk about the 4Cs of buying a diamond: Color, Cut, Clarity, and Carat Weight. What additional information do you provide?

There’s so much more to buying a diamond than the 4Cs. Most retailers, designers, and even diamond brokers never go past the 4Cs, the idea being the less the consumer knows the more money they can make. At the Diamond Reserve, we also hone in on grading laboratories, values of different shapes, cut, measurements, the location of inclusions, and fluorescence. So many consumers check the boxes of the 4Cs and think they are getting a good deal, but the value of a diamond is far beyond those standards. We believe it’s our duty to provide every client with the knowledge they deserve. Buying a diamond or any piece of jewelry is a big deal – that’s why we created this buying experience, to honor just that!

Does the Diamond Reserve sell other stones besides diamonds?

Yes, the Diamond Reserve also specializes in fine gemstones such as sapphires and emeralds. The process is very similar. We have close relationships with gemstone dealers, so when a client comes in for their first appointment, we find out what exactly they are looking for and their budget. We then hunt for gemstones from different dealers and create a curated lineup for our client to view and select from. Sometimes finding the perfect gemstone can take several appointments, and we believe it is our job not to push a sale on anyone. We are here to leverage our relationships in the industry and to guide our clients in selecting the gemstone that speaks to them.

What about designing a piece of jewelry? Can clients have any piece of jewelry designed through TDR?

The Diamond Reserve specializes in all custom jewelry design. What’s great about working with a diamond broker or private jeweler such as the Diamond Reserve is that our clients get educated in selecting the perfect diamond for them and their budget, and then we guide them in the design process. All our jewelry is handmade to the finest quality without the markup of the designer name or the retailer. If you can dream it, we can guide you in the design and bring it to life.

Let’s talk about something more controversial: What about lab-grown stones? I feel like millennials are being told that lab-made diamonds are more “green” or “ethical” than real diamonds.

When it comes to lab-grown diamonds, there is a lot of unreliable information out there for consumers. Most lab-grown diamonds are not manufactured in the U.S. They are manufactured in Asia, where electricity is cheaper (so they have a carbon footprint). Companies that sell lab-grown diamonds and manufacture them claim that they are “eco-friendly” and/or “sourced with integrity,” but the origin of lab-grown diamonds is almost never disclosed.

And how do they compare in price to natural diamonds?

Lab-grown diamonds are currently being sold between 20-30 percent per carat less than natural diamonds; as technology for growing them improves, the production cost will decline, driving the price lower and lower. We believe this scenario will only drive the price of natural diamonds up. Lab-grown diamonds are not rare, they do not hold value, and there is not a resale market for them. Although some people claim natural diamonds are not rare, we believe they indeed are—especially in the quality that should go into an engagement ring. Only one in every thousand diamonds is above one carat in size!

So, obviously, TDR doesn’t sell lab-grown diamonds?

We do not sell lab-grown diamonds and do not condone those who do. The natural diamond industry is 7 million plus people strong worldwide, and supports very poor regions of the world. The diamond industry is the only means some of these people have to bring food to their families’ table. When you sell or purchase a lab-grown diamond, you are supporting big companies that are manufacturing in factories and in turn taking from the hands and mouths of the poorest people on earth. We believe consumers should form their own opinions about this massive, world-traded market after doing their own research and talking to jewelry industry experts.

This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.