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eBay has commonly been heralded as the place to go when you’re looking to save some money on a used item. While there might be some merit to this if you’re looking for a bike or an antique clock, this is definitely not the case with diamonds.
By and large, you’ll run into two types of sellers, and neither of which can be expected to provide a stone at a decent value.
The only way to find value in a ring on eBay is by manually sifting through hundreds of details for both the diamond and the setting (which they don’t give you adequate tools to filter your search). Compound that with the fact that you’ll be sacrificing trade-in options, warranties, and peace of mind for a one-in-a-million chance of saving a few percent on a stone. It’s just not worth it.
We will break down the types of sellers on eBay below, but here’s a spoiler: at the end of the day there is very little value to be found. Let’s say you are looking for a one-carat loose diamond to put in a halo setting (we recommend putting an H color in there). I put basic filters into eBay (they don’t have anything better than the most basic filters) and there were only six diamonds in the range we were looking for (see image above).
Compare that to this search on James Allen . As I wrote this review, there were 1,453 diamonds within the same parameters.
But who cares how many there are so long as you can find the right one for you, right? Well not a single one of the sellers on eBay had an actual photograph of the diamond. There was no way to tell if the diamond was eye-clean or not so there was no way to confidently pick any of them.
You would think that at least the price would be OK, right? Nope. Far from it, in fact. The image below shows the cheapest of those six diamonds I found in my eBay search. And here is a comparable diamond on James Allen for almost 15% cheaper.
Just for comparisons sake, I took a look on Blue Nile as well. I found this fantastic alternative for even cheaper, coming in more than 20% cheaper.
It doesn’t take much these days to set up an eBay store and make it appear legit, so unlike established online retailers like Blue Nile and James Allen, reputation is less sacred. In the diamond business, this lack of accountability usually translates to one thing: them aiming for a fast buck.
With so many smaller shops under one roof, eBay might seem like a great place to save time and maximize your options. In reality, though, you’re still buying from one of many smaller competing stores, which means that finding a “steal” is next to impossible and the service you receive is going to be limited, at best.
In comparison, large retailers like BN and JA have a lot more going for them. You can expect extensive, knowledgeable customer service at any and every step of the process. The trade-in options and warranties they offer are additional benefits that eBay sellers generally do not.
In a cutthroat environment like eBay, sellers are inclined to use every trick the industry offers to make a sale. Certificates are definitely one of the easiest places to accomplish that. A lot of the sellers we looked at were peddling poorly cut diamonds without certs. Those that did have certs relied heavily on the questionable ones. When we did find GIA certificates, many of them were color-treated, i.e. they did not provide a color grade.
Beyond the issues of uncertainty with certificates, another drawback is the limited one-stop shopping experience. While eBay as a website offers almost countless diamonds and settings, there is no collaboration between the stores. This means that if you do manage to find a diamond you like, you’re going to be limited to choosing from the 20-50 settings that that specific jeweler offers.
This process doesn’t hold a candle to James Allen’s Inspiration Gallery. On eBay, the designs you see are not for inspiration—they are the actual products being sold, take it or leave it. It is far more likely that you’ll be forced to settle on either the diamond choice or the exact ring you want. Given the fact that you are barely saving any money (if at all), this seems to be a huge sacrifice to make.
The other side of eBay are consumers reselling their personal diamonds. You typically won’t find them using the same underhanded tactics that sellers do, but there’s still plenty to watch out for.
Most individuals selling their diamonds on eBay are people who walked into a physical store and purchased their diamond. That in itself is not a problem, but many of them fail to realize that a fair portion of what they paid for was the premium for the “blue box” experience. We discuss the pros and cons of that experience in our article, “Should I Buy A Diamond Online?”.
As an example, let’s imagine a person bought the diamond we talk about here, and is now looking to sell it. Even if they drop the price 35% (which is almost unheard of, considering that for just a little less money they could sell it back to a jeweler and avoid the hassles of selling online and shipping), after factoring in eBay’s fee, the price would come to $2,600. That’s still more than this ring and diamond we found at James Allen, brand new (and you have the option of selecting the right setting for you).
These individual resellers are obviously unable to replicate the experience that they paid a premium for, their expectation of passing the price of that added value on to a potential buyer almost guarantees that you won’t get the best bang for your buck.
When you also consider that you’re getting no customer support and that any warranties they might have received are likely non-transferable (or expired), it’s just not worth it. Once you are buying online, you may as well go with a reputable retailer that offers all the added value.
For the sake of argument there are the occasional resellers who understand the residual value of their ring and are willing to sell it for a reasonable price. This is the type of situation that people expect when they go to eBay, but it’s time to burst that bubble: in our six years of handling hundreds of thousands of emails, this has happened ONCE. People in this type of situation are typically desperate and therefore will typically sell their diamonds directly back to a jeweler for quick cash, as we explain here. eBay is not a natural place for them to go, so expecting to find deals like this leaves you susceptible to ending up with a bad deal.
Looking purely at the numbers, eBay is incapable of offering a significant price advantage. Online retailers typically function at a 15-20% markup, and that includes all of the expenses attached to providing the consumer with the end product. eBay itself charges sellers between 9 and 10%, but only takes care of site functionality (and many of those eBay sellers have their own websites, further adding costs) and payment processing. The rest of the expenses are left for the seller to pick up, cutting into their margins and inevitably leaving their consumers to compensate for it.
Even if they were able to offer a price advantage (which is incredibly rare), the savings will be negligible and the shopping experience on eBay is far from straightforward. Since it is essentially a large flea market, there is very little consistency (or accountability) in the way the diamonds are listed, making it especially hard to find just what you’re looking for, and even harder to trust it when you do.
Reputable sites like James Allen and Blue Nile have built their businesses around helping you find the exact ring you’re looking for. In comparison, the functionality of the eBay’s website and their selection of jewelry actually make the process lengthier, more confusing, and ultimately more expensive.
Take James Allen, for example. You can select a diamond (or we can help you find one) that fits your exact criteria (using their filters) and helps you get your best bang for your buck. For examples sake, you end up with this diamond. Now, all you do is click on “put this diamond in a ring” and you can now pick the exact setting you want from their inventory of thousands of settings. You can even filter and sort them any way you want.
This isn’t possible on Ebay. Not only are your diamond search parameters limited, but you are then forced to buy that diamond from one small eBay seller and hope that they can set the diamond in the exact ring you want. There is no way for you to use filters to find the diamond you want and then use filters to find the ring you want.
It is far more likely that you’ll be forced to settle on either the diamond choice or the exact ring you want. Given the fact that you are barely saving any money (if at all), this seems to be a huge sacrifice to make.
The overall point here is that if you’re buying a diamond on eBay, not a single part of the process is made easier for you, nor do they contribute to your confidence in the product you’re buying. Overall, the chances that you actually save money are close to zero and if you find that rare unicorn, you aren’t saving more than a few percent. If you’re buying an engagement ring, you want to make to be sure that you’re getting exactly what you want for the best possible value—eBay is not the place to go for that.
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