Blue Nile (www.bluenile.com)
Launched in 1999, Blue Nile was one of the first online diamond retailers. They revolutionized the way people bought diamond engagement rings by offering low-cost stones and customizable rings.
Blue Nile specializes in engagement and wedding rings for women. While the brand sells its own designs ranging from diamonds, gold, silver, sapphire and pearls, customers have an option to customize their own jewelry as well. Blue Nile has received a few industry awards and has been featured in notable publications such as Time Magazine and Forbes.
Blue Nile’s mission is to deliver high quality pieces with detailed information and adequate customer service. They’re considered such a trustworthy brand that customers have even invited their jewelry experts to their wedding.
Blue Nile offers handcrafted engagement rings and only sells ethically sourced diamonds. On top of that, they offer over 150,000 loose high-quality diamonds. Every product is double-checked, and triple-checked for quality. If customers have any questions, Blue Nile has a team of experts 24/7 on call.
What We Like
1. Price/Pricing Options
Blue Nile offers up more reasonable prices (on average) than pretty much any other reputable online retailer, including James Allen. And customers can price match diamonds of a competing company through Blue Nile’s Diamond Price Match Guarantee.
Blue Nile is also a large and established brand, which some have reported as an advantage when it comes to credit options if you’d like to purchase your ring with a line of credit.
2. Product Quality and Selection of Alternative Gemstone Jewlery
Blue Nile offers more non-diamond and colored gemstone jewelry. As far as quality goes, they get fantastic reviews from those in the know, so we’re comfortable saying you won’t be receiving anything sub-par from them.
3. Customer Service
They have a 24-hour customer service staff available to answer your questions and handle issues you may run into. All purchases are also backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.
They offer a lifetime warranty on manufacturer defects and complimentary cleaning and inspection services on diamond rings. Blue Nile also offers a buyback option through Mondiamo if your return does not qualify for the lifetime warranty terms and conditions.
4. Other Pros
Engagement ring customization through the Build Your Own Ring feature on their website
Ethically sourced diamonds
1st sign-up bonus ($50 off your next purchase)
Blue Nile’s Diamond Upgrade Program
They offer 360-degree videos for all their Astor diamonds and most of their other diamonds.
They offer diamond education with an exhaustive supply of diamond related information available on their site.
There are installment plans and financial options for all.
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What We Don't Like
1. Routine Maintenance Fees
Blue Nile does have a less flexible policy when it comes to routine maintenance. They charge for things like re-polishing, prong tightening, and rhodium plating for white gold rings. If you do opt to pay for these services, you’ll also be paying for return shipping.
2. Extra Charge for Engraving
Engraving services aren’t complimentary either. That may seem petty because they don’t charge a ton extra for it (25-ish dollars). But when you’re dropping that kinda dough on a ring, you’d think they’d throw that kind of thing in for free.
Another thing that’s a small disadvantage for Blue Nile is the quality of their packaging. It’s nice, but in our opinion, could (and should) be a bit posher. After all, this is what you’re presenting when you ask for his or her hand in marriage.
4. Limited Selection for Men
There are few choices for men, but they can basically meet the needs of most people. If you are looking for more styles, Blue Nile may not be suitable for you.
Blue Nile is an easy and affordable option for buying a diamond engagement ring. There are still a few kinks in their system that they need to work out, but with countless options to choose from, you can be certain you’ll find something love.
James Allen (www.jamesallen.com)
Launched in 2006, online jewelry retailer James Allen is considered a disrupter in the diamond market that seeks to educate buyers on diamond buying and provide customizable engagement rings, rather than pre-made options only.
The diamonds on James Allen are very real and run the gamut of cut, color, carat, clarity, and shape to fit everyone’s budget. Though shy of just a decade in the business, its founders have 60 years combined experience and have manufactured diamonds for major retailers, including Tiffany & Co.
200,000+ certified conflict-free diamonds, all photographed in 360° HD
24/7 Diamond Experts, with the option for Real-Time Diamond Inspections
Free Shipping Worldwide
Hassle-Free Returns with 100% Money Back Guarantee
What We Like
1. Wide Selection of High Quality Jewelry
James Allen jewelry was gorgeous, their craftsmanship was impeccable and their diamond quality was spot on. But for several years James Allen was focusing on expanding their engagement ring line while their non-bridal options were limited.
They also have more to choose from in the settings category. If you want to build your own engagement ring, James Allen has more options in stock.
They are also pretty strict about their curating standards when it comes to their cut diamonds, so you know you’re getting something quality.
2. Competitive Pricing
James Allen has a great business model that allows them to offer diamonds at incredible prices. This means that you will get an incredible engagement ring for a fraction of the price compared to their competition.
In addition, one of James Allen’s crowning jewels is their price match guarantee. Now, this only applies to their certified loose diamonds but it can save you some money if you find a match.
Basically, you can price match any diamond on JamesAllen.com you just have to find a comparable diamond. This means it must have a certificate or grading report and show the published price offer. This price must be in effect when you request it from James Allen.
The prices must also be in the same currency as well. The only diamonds that do not qualify for this program are the fancy colored diamonds, and True Hearts are not eligible. Finally, pawnshops and other similar stores or auctions don’t qualify either.
However as long as everything matches and you can prove to James Allen the diamond of your dreams is the price you’re going for, they will honor it. They will only do this for 48 hours though so be sure you are ready to go once you shoot them the request.
3. Outstanding Consumer Experience
James Allen’s customer experience matches the quality of their product.
1. 24/7 Customer Support
2. Free Shipping
James Allen offers free shipping in the US and worldwide.
3. 30 Day Hassle-Free Returns
Another concern that people have is buying diamonds online is making such a purchase sight unseen. For that reason, James Allen offers a 100% refund for all purchases within 30 days. They will even pay for the return shipping (US customers only) so there is zero risk on your part.
4. Posh Packaging
James Allen’s packaging is pretty darn posh. While other companies' packaging ranged from good to subpar, James Allen blew away the competition in this category. When you peel open the Fedex box that the James Allen product is shipped in, a full sized thick board box slides out embossed with the name “James Allen” and the red butterfly James Allen logo. This outer box is made to fit perfectly inside the Fedex box.
When you slide off the lid off this box, you’re faced with a full-sized foam insert with a space cut out of the very center for the polished hardwood jewelry box.
Underneath the foam lies a drawer containing the accompanying documentation – in my case, an appraisal, a GIA certificate, and an envelope containing the invoice and other documentation. Also included is a polishing cloth and a Hearts & Arrows scope (for those who order their True Hearts diamonds).
The box is meant to be kept as a handsome and functional jewelry box for this ring and other jewelry you may have.
This kind of attention to detail shows the consumer that James Allen has a deep commitment to quality and desires the highest level of service in every facet of the experience.
And to top it all off, not only is James Allen’s packaging the classiest, it’s also by far the most secure.
5. Other Pros
Every single diamond listed on the James Allen site has a 360-degree video including SuperZoom. This means that you get to see the actual diamond before you buy.
They offer a wide range of ring styles and settings from solitaire styles to vintage setting.
The website is clear and easy-to-navigate, with the option of building your own ring.
There is a good range of diamond information for the non-diamond savvy to help you make your purchase.
James Allen offers free engraving services, while most of their competitors charge a separate fee for this.
What We Don't Like
1. Newer Company, Fewer Showrooms
James Allen is much newer to the business and has fewer brick-and-mortar showrooms. Fewer meaning two. Blue Nile has somewhere in the ballpark of five (as of the date this article was written).
2. Limited Selection of Gemstones
The fact that they specialize in diamond engagement rings is a good thing if that’s what you’re looking for. If you want sapphire or emerald or something different, James Allen’s selection is limited.
3. A Bit Pricier
While price comparisons are pretty hard to make when it comes to diamonds, we can get a more reliable idea of who has the best prices by looking at settings. Turns out, James Allen is a bit pricier than Blue Nile when we compare the same settings.
Brilliant Earth (www.brilliantearth.com)
Brilliant Earth is the global leader in ethically sourced fine jewelry. Brilliant Earth takes an ethical angle with its collections. If sustainability is important, then this is the place for you. They are committed to sourcing their diamonds, gemstones and metals ethically. In fact, Brilliant Earth is credited for creating a market for ethically sourced jewelry. They support a number of charities, are involved in support organizations for diamond mining and are pushing for more sustainable processes in the diamond industry.
Free shipping both ways
Free 30 day returns
Free lifetime warranty
Lifetime diamond upgrade
Flexible payment options
What We Like
1. Wide Collection of Mined Diamonds
Brilliant Earth has a good inventory with a wide collection of mined diamonds. They also have diamond alternatives such as synthetic diamonds and moissanite, which give the ethical or budget conscious shopper more options. In fact, they are one of the largest stores for lab-created diamonds.
They also offer an array of niche products such as vintage, antique and recycled jewelry and metals.
Brilliant Earth ensure that each of their diamonds come with a certificate of origin so you know exactly where your diamond comes from.
Their packaging is high quality, classy and unique. Brilliant Earth’s ring box is a handcrafted wooden item that stands out.
4. Customer Service
Brilliant Earth's customer service can be reached through live chat, email, or phone number. However, their hours are limited to 5am-9pm Pacific Time) during the week and weekends from 7am-7pm. You can also chat with a jewelry specialist between the hours of 6am-7pm on weekdays and 7pm-7pm on the weekend.
A great example of excellent customer service from Brilliant Earth is their temporary ring setting option. If you are wanting your fiance to pick out their own ring, but still want the effect of a proposal, Brilliant Earth will give you a temporary solitaire mounting made of 18K gold.
It costs $75 dollars but it allows you to still have the romance of the proposal while letting your fiance be involved in the process.
Their after sales service are pretty good. Brilliant Earth offers shipping both ways, so if you don’t like your ring, they pay for you to ship it back to them. Also when you purchase a ring from Brilliant Earth, you are offered free resizing for 30 days, lifetime guaranty and upgrade policies.
5. Other Pros
They have a wide range of unique and beautiful designs and settings which you cannot find elsewhere.
If you are a brick-and-mortar sort of person, you’re in luck because Brilliant Earth has 6 showrooms in the US where you can drop in and browse their collections.
Clear and easy-to-navigate website with many specific search filters.
What We Don't Like
1. Unfortunately, not all the diamonds listed on their site have images and videos. In many cases, they only show a sample photo or diagram.
2. They do not have a 24/7 chat option which means that you cannot have your questions answered at all hours.
3. The BE inventory is much smaller than some others, meaning that you don’t have all the diamond, colored diamond and gemstones options you may have elsewhere.
4. If budget is a priority, Brilliant Earth may not be the perfect match for you. It is somewhat more expensive than some other diamond retailers.
Whiteflash is one of the original online boutique diamond sellers and is has retained its reputation for extremely high quality in producing and selecting diamonds. They are also one of the very few online stores that are authorized to sell designer engagement ring settings from Tacori, Verragio, Simon G, Ritani and Danhov.
Diamonds at Whiteflash can be broken down into two main groups – their signature line, which are specially selected in accordance with strict criteria, and then a much larger group of diamonds in their ‘virtual inventory’, which are held by other organisations that they partner closely with.
One important thing about Whiteflash’s virtual selection is that they ensure that all diamonds come through the Whiteflash HQ in Houston to be checked and verified before being sent out to customers – they are never ‘dropshipped’ straight from the supplier to you, the customer.
What We Like
1. An Excellent In-House Inventory
The advantages of shopping from an in-house inventory cannot be underestimated. It means that the diamond, engagement ring, wedding ring or fine jewelry is owned and stored by Whiteflash, as opposed to being held by third-party diamond sellers. Some online retailers, like Blue Nile, have massive inventories of hundreds of thousands of diamonds but these come from around the world and it can be difficult to get images or videos of the exact diamond.
Whiteflash has one of the largest in-house inventories of ideal and super ideal diamonds online. The diamonds are in-stock, fully vetted and imaged including ASET, Idealscope, Hearts and Arrows, and 360 HD video. These diamonds are available exclusively at Whiteflash and are available for immediate delivery, providing greater predictability and assurance.
If you’re interested in a particular diamond, you can simply contact Whiteflash and one of their highly trained diamond consultants can pull the diamond for phone consultations, in store viewing, or additional comparative imaging, making the process fast, efficient and effective.
2. Diamonds for All Budgets
WhiteFlash offers three tiers of diamonds:
A CUT ABOVE, which is their signature line of super ideal cut diamonds. These diamonds have been cut to the most ideal angles and proportions. They have achieved the AGS Triple Zero rating, which means perfection in the three areas of light performance, polish, and symmetry. They also must surpass additional, even more strict parameters established by Whiteflash themselves. As a result, this is also the most expensive line, but you're pretty much guaranteed perfection. A CUT ABOVE diamonds are available in round or princess cut.
Expert Selection are diamonds that almost made it into A CUT ABOVE. Expert Selection diamonds still have the Triple Zero rating from AGS but fall short of Whiteflash's strict internal requirements for A CUT ABOVE. But the average person won't be able to tell the difference. This category offers a good balance of price and quality.
Premium Selection houses Whiteflash's exclusive collection of GIA Triple Ex diamonds. GIA is the largest diamond grading lab in the world and this is their highest cut grade offered. Whiteflash favors AGS-certified diamonds as they claim AGS performs deeper cut quality analysis. So only AGS Platinum Certificate diamonds make it into their A CUT ABOVE® and Expert Selections. But GIA Triple Ex diamonds are still among the highest quality diamonds, and you can find them at great value in Whiteflash's Premium Selection.
3. Social Responsibility
Not only does Whiteflash offer great quality and service, it also aims to make a positive impact on a globe scale. Whiteflash stands by its commitment to only sell ethically-sourced diamonds. Every stone is sourced in accordance with the Kimberley Process, a program developed to counteract the conflict diamond trade in South Africa.
In addition, Whiteflash is a member of the United Nations Global Compact and Diamond Development Initiative. Both support human rights and fair labor efforts. Whiteflash also supports the Gravity Light Initiative, which aims to improve the lives of families in the diamond mining areas of Africa.
4. Customer Service and Certified Staff
If you're worried about buying a ring because you're clueless about diamonds, have no fear. Whiteflash's entire staff is GIA trained (Gemological Institute of America), so they really know their stuff. They also have two GIA Graduate Gemologists on staff who you can speak with upon request.
Whiteflash also receives top marks for their excellent customer service. Their reps are available 24/7 over phone and live chat, so you can get help whenever you need. And another perk: you get complimentary beautiful, professional photos of your ring, so you can share them with friends and family.
5. Other Pros
Authorized distributor for Top Designer Brands
Members of the American Gem Society
BBB Pinnacle Award Winner
Website packed with information including HD Video
100% Lifetime Trade up on all in-house diamonds
One Year Care Plan included and Three Year Ultimate Care available
Free Shipping and Returns
What We Don't Like
1. In-House Diamonds Include Only Round And Princess Cuts
Although Whiteflash has an extensive super ideal diamond inventory, they only offer round and princess cuts in this selection. To be fair, this isn’t Whiteflash’s fault. Grading labs only provide cut grades for round and princess cut diamonds, while all other fancy cut diamonds are graded on the other 3Cs (clarity, color and carat). Seeing as round and princess cuts are the two most popular diamond shapes, accounting for most diamond sales online, this may not be an issue for you.
But if you’re after a fancy shaped diamond, then note that these diamonds are not held in-house by Whiteflash but come instead from other suppliers offering their diamonds via Whiteflash. What this means is that if you want to see images of the actual stone, you’ll have to wait for Whiteflash to bring the diamond in for assessment.
2. Returning Virtual Inventory
We mention below that Whiteflash offer a 30 day returns policy, but this only applies to their in-house diamonds. For their virtual inventory, you only have 10 days to return the stone in case of any issues. This can be an issue for some shoppers, especially if you’re planning to propose and aren’t sure if the ring will fit or not.
3. Lifetime Warranty Not Offered
Whiteflash have a very good one-year service program but the company doesn’t offer a lifetime warranty, as most other online retailers do. Some online retailers offer free maintenance of the ring for its lifetime, which includes free prong tightening, rhodium plating, cleaning and re-polishing. With Whiteflash, you don’t have this. Whiteflash does service everything they sell but after the first year there may be charges, unless you have purchased the extended warranty.
4. Showroom Available Only In Texas
This may not be relevant to you if you prefer shopping from your home, but let’s say you’re not an online shopping person and would rather see the diamond in person before you commit to a purchase. Whiteflash have a retail store but unfortunately, there’s just one in Texas.
The Whiteflash retail store is located in Sugar Land, Texas – about a 20 minute drive from the Galleria in Houston. The showroom features a diamond showing room and cases full of designer engagement and wedding rings. You will be helped by one of the experienced professional diamond and jewelry consultants including GIA Diamonds Graduates and Graduate Gemologists. If you’re in the area, you can book your own appointment conveniently through the Whiteflash website and go in store to explore your options.
In the future, there may be more showrooms in other parts of the country but for now, it’s just Texas.
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