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When shopping for a diamond or an engagement ring, you may wonder: Should I buy online or from a retail store? Overall, we’ve found that buying diamonds online is far better. Specifically, buying a diamond online is cheaper than buying in a store. Because of the way that wholesalers distribute and sell diamonds, the process is less expensive for online retailers.
By shopping online you’ll also have a larger selection of well-cut diamonds. We’ll dig deep on this topic in this article, but here are some key points.
Buying at a Physical Retailer
Online retailers have significantly lower overhead costs. That means lower prices for you, the consumer.
Physical retailers charge a premium to cover their storefront costs, payroll and inventory costs.
Buying online lets you go at your own pace and the ability to research on the fly with third party information.
Walking into a store, you face the pressure of a salesperson (usually commission motivated) giving you the hard sale.
Reputable online retailers all offer full cash refunds if you aren't satisfied.
It is rare that a physical retailer offers a money back refund.
Having trouble navigating the diamond buying minefield? We are happy to help. CONTACT US
Why Physical Retailers Can’t Compete With Online Retailers
We often receive emails from our readers who are hesitant to buy online, despite the fact that they know it will be cheaper. For that reason, I think it’s important to explain why we understand those concerns, but why we think those concerns are misguided. We’ve found that far more people get taken advantage of by going into a store than purchasing online. Diamond buying is confusing and, deep down, you may realize that you’ll never know as much as the professionals selling the diamonds.Many of our readers spend hours pouring over our numerous diamond reviews and diamond education articles. You can learn all the ins and outs of diamond buying. But when you walk into a store, you have to be 100% sure you aren’t forgetting any minor detail (a single quality may seriously impact the value of the diamond). After all, you’re facing off against someone who is more prepared and more incentivized to make sure you walk out of that store with a diamond on their terms.When you purchase online, you have the advantage of going at your own pace, cross-referencing (with a site like ours) and checking off all the boxes. We’re also able to help with somewhat unbiased opinions. While we usually get paid by the online vendors we recommend, we have no reason to recommend one diamond over the other unless it’s the better choice for you.The opposite is the case for a retailer. When you walk into a store, the less desirable the diamond, the more incentive the owner of the diamond has to sell it. Which item would a jeweler prefer to sell you? The highly desirable, well-valued one that he can sell to anyone? Or would they rather sell the less desirable diamond that is dead weight in their inventory box and on their cash flow sheet?There have been countless readers who I’ve started the diamond selection process with. Partway through, they send me a message along the lines of ‘we went to this store and found this diamond that was such a great deal, so we snatched it up.’ I then feel bad when I have to point out things they missed — things that turn it from a good deal to a terrible deal (improper certification inflating the quality, strong fluorescence, yellow fluorescence, even artificial treatment). Unfortunately, most stores make it very difficult to return a diamond ring.It’s possible to find a good deal at a store (and by a good deal, I mean that it’s not much more expensive than an online retailer), but you are far more likely to fall into a sales trap. I’m not saying that you should unequivocally stick with online purchasing, but in general, online shopping will give you the best price and allow you to shop at your own pace.Traditional RetailersRunning a physical jewelry store is incredibly difficult. Bear with me as I provide a little background. The typical apparel retailer runs a store on 40-50% gross margins. This gives them enough money to cover all the expenses a retailer incurs and, hopefully, leaves some leftover for profit. While this is a typical profit margin for the store, bear in mind that the wholesaler/manufacturer who sells them the product also has healthy profit margins.The truth is that the raw materials for clothing are only a fraction of the total cost of the product. That is certainly not the case when it comes to diamonds and diamond jewelry. The actual cost of the goods makes up a much larger percentage of the price than in most industries.Another issue is the cost of stocking a store. How much do you think it costs to fill up all the racks in a store? Tens of thousands of dollars? A couple hundred thousand dollars? A typical diamond jewelry store needs to have a couple of million dollars of inventory on-hand. The overwhelming majority of stores don’t have enough spare cash to pay for that inventory up front. They either borrow money from a bank, buy the diamonds on credit from the wholesaler or just take the product on consignment. In any of those cases, the price has to be higher to cover the additional cost.In addition to these costs, they still have the regular overhead that any retailer faces. Rent and maintenance of a storefront (given that they are selling luxury items, this is pretty significant) and the cost of having a fully-staffed store. Diamonds are not a simple item where people can start selling them after a few hours of training. So the staff costs are pretty high.
Overall, buying a diamond online will garner you a better price and better selection.
Is Buying Diamonds Online Safe?
Some people are nervous about buying diamonds online, but there are several reputable vendors that make online ring shopping a safe choice. For example,James AllenandBlue Nile have exceptional imagery that allows you to view every diamond up close before purchase.
These vendors also have excellent return policies. With both Blue Nile and James Allen, you have 30 days to return your ring free of charge (this applies to customers in the US and Canada for James Allen, and Australia, US, UK and Canada customers for Blue Nile). They send you a free shipping label, and all you have to do is pack it and ship it. This is a vital part of shopping at an online diamond store, as you’re making a very large purchase without being able to actually see it or feel it in person. Having a policy in place to ensure hassle-free returns allows you to shop with the peace of mind to know you’ll never be stuck with a diamond you don’t want. Wondering how the shipping works? Shipping from these vendors is secure. They include insurance on all of their packages and make sure the box won’t give away what’s inside. You can have your ring shipped to your home address, where a signature is required for drop-off, or have it sent to a FedEx location for safe pickup.
Online diamond stores can even allow you to get a beautiful $1k engagement ring, which is significantly cheaper than anything you’re likely to find at a physical retailer. When buying diamonds online, remember to stick with GIA diamonds. The GIA (Gemological Institute of America) is an organization that grades diamonds on certain qualities, such as Cut, Color, Clarity and Carat. The GIA is renowned as the most fair and consistent grading entity, so by ensuring any diamond you buy online has a GIA certificate, you’ll drastically reduce the chances of overpaying for a low-quality diamond.
Throughout our many years of experience in the industry, we’ve vetted a huge number of online and offline diamond vendors across the globe. We know which vendors you can trust and which ones to avoid. All of the vendors we mention offer an excellent diamond selection, competitive prices, good quality online imagery and great customer experience. However, there are a few key differences between these vendors that you should be aware of if you want to buy a diamond online. For example, Blue Nile and James Allen are generally better choices for most customers, while Brian Gavin specializes in exceptionally well-cut diamonds and Leibish in beautiful fancy colored diamonds. We’ve discussed these differences, as well as each diamond vendor’s unique advantages and disadvantages, below.
In 1999, Mark Vadon revolutionized the diamond-buying landscape by starting Blue Nile. There were other sites out there, but Blue Nile had a great business model. They were the ones that made buying online mainstream. They created a market with two major advantages.The major revolutionary concept they have is that they don’t own their diamond inventory. The biggest cost for a diamond store is inventory. And Blue Nile cut that out. With the advent of internet shopping, Blue Nile decided to make deals directly with the manufacturers and wholesalers of loose diamonds. They’re able to list their inventory of well-cut diamonds directly from those suppliers without actually purchasing the diamonds.This helps both Blue Nile and their suppliers (which in turns helps the consumer). Blue Nile gets to list thousands of conflict-free diamonds in “their” inventory without having to sink any money into it. The wholesalers, in turn, get to make sales with minimal effort and are paid right away.The second advantage is the low-cost overhead. Blue Nile doesn’t need to pay rent for a nice store. They don’t need to constantly update the furnishings. All they need to pay for is office space and warehouse space (for order fulfillment). This is far cheaper than a nice store. And what about employment costs? A typical store that sells $10 million a year has about 30 employees. That comes out to about $333,000 per employee. Blue Nile sells almost $500 million a year with only 300 employees. So each BN employee accounts for $1.65 million of sales.What does this all mean to you, the consumer? Fundamentally, Blue Nile can afford to sell the same loose diamonds to you with a much lower markup than a physical store can. Simple as that. Your typical store needs to make 30-50% margins on its products to have a healthy business. Blue Nile is able to sell you a diamond with only 15% margins. That is a significant saving for them — and ultimately: you. Make sure to read our comprehensive review of Blue Nile.
2. James Allen – High-Quality Imagery for Buying Diamonds Online
The next revolution that made buying online a better choice was started by James Allen. James Allen is the second largest online retailer. When they rebranded and relaunched in 2005 as James Allen, they introduced a great new feature: photos of each specific diamond.The biggest flaw in Blue Nile’s business model used to be that you couldn’t see the diamond. As we explain in our Clarity article, it doesn’t matter if a diamond is a VVS1 clarity or SI2 clarity. If the diamond is eye-clean, it’s eye-clean. (Although 90-95% of SI2 diamonds are not eye-clean).The photographs allow consumers to sift through all the SI2 diamonds out there, for example, and pick the one that is eye-clean. This new business model paired the fundamental advantages of Blue Nile (no inventory and low overhead) with the ability to use your own eyes to pick out your diamond.Since then, James Allen has continued to hone their technology. They currently have the best 360-degree video technology for viewing loose diamonds. Go check out our full review of James Allen to learn more.
Brian Gavin Diamonds is an industry leader in exceptionally well-cut diamonds and one of our top recommendations if you’re looking for a truly stunning diamond. If you have a relatively high budget and you’re looking for a diamond with a flawless cut, Brian Gavin is a great choice. Their selection is large, their customer service is outstanding and their diamonds are unbelievably brilliant. You can learn more about Brian Gavin Diamonds, their inventory, pricing and more in our full Brian Gavin review.
Leibish & Co. specialize in fancy color diamonds — pink, yellow, argyle, champagne and other colored diamonds, as well as high-quality gemstones. If you’re looking specifically for a fancy color diamond, this is where you’ll want to start. One huge advantage of Leibish & Co. is their product photography. Leibish own their diamonds outright and provide exceptionally high-quality photos of every stone, allowing you to easily see a stone’s color and clarity before purchasing. Like our other recommended vendors, Leibish have fantastic customer service. You can learn more about Leibish & Co.’s inventory, customer service, value for money and more in our full Leibish & Co. review.
For a full rundown of where to buy well-cut diamonds online, check out the best online diamond store guide. We summarized our reviews so it’s easier to figure out where to buy a ring. You can also contact us, and our diamond consultants will help you with more personalized advice.
9 Steps to Buying A Diamond Online With Confidence
When shopping for diamonds online, you should evaluate each stone based on its beauty and the 4 C’s (Cut, Color, Clarity, and Carat).Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you wade through the online options and end up with a truly stunning stone.
Choose a reliable vendor:This is the first step for a reason. If you don’t select a reputable vendor, it will be challenging to find a beautiful diamond at an excellent price. Throughout our years of experience, we’ve found Blue Nile and James Allen to offer the best selection and price for diamonds online. Search their websites for loose diamonds — all of which are conflict-free.
Verify the Certificate:A lab certificate is essential because it confirms that the diamond is what the seller states it is. But not all certificates are equal. Look for a GIA or AGS certified diamond. These are the two most reliable and consistent labs in the world.
Evaluate the Cut:As you look through a vendors’ selection of loose diamonds, choose only excellent or ideal cut diamonds. You also want to look beyond these gradings. For Round Cuts, ensure the depth percentage is below 62.5% and the table percentage is below 60%. Overall, watch to see if the diamond offers brilliance and sparkle.
Look for Eye-Clean:Zoom in on the imagery of the diamond you’re considering to assess Clarity. Check to see if there are any inclusions or blemishes. If you notice a blemish in the online photo or video, you’ll be able to see this in-person as well. Typically, VS1 and VS2 diamonds will give you an eye-clean diamond, but cost far less than VVS1 and VVS2 Diamonds.
Gauge Color:Most importantly, you want a diamond that looks white. Typically, diamonds in the G-I color range will appear colorless and cost far less than stones in the D-F range. Look at the diamond’s image closely to see if you notice any brown or yellow tinting.
Decide on Your Carat Weight:While the size appearance of a diamond is important to some, we feel that carat should be one of your final decisions. You want to select a beautifully cut diamond first, then ensure it appears white and carries no noticeable blemishes and inclusions. From there, spend the rest of your budget on Carat Weight.
Contact Our Experts For Assistance With Buying Engagement Rings Online
The amount of options you’re presented with when buying diamonds online can be overwhelming. We’re here to help you sift through these options, and help you find the perfect diamond ring for your budget and style preferences. Our aim is to help you come away with a purchase you’re happy with, and avoid the pitfalls that traditionally befall people shopping for diamonds and diamond jewelry. If you want help finding well-cut diamonds or evaluating diamonds, contact our experts.
James Allen James Allen is the leader in online diamond sales. Their imaging technology is the same as inspecting a diamond with a jeweler's loupe. They have the largest exclusive loose diamond inventory online and fantastic prices. They also have the nicest collection of lab created diamonds online. Save 10% off select lab grown diamonds and 25% off ring settings during limited time sale!
No questions asked returns within 30 days of shipment. James Allen will send you a paid shipping label to return the ring.
Free International Shipping
Free prong tightening, repolishing, rhodium plating and cleaning every 6 months
Provide insurance appraisals
One free resizing within 60 days of purchase
Free ring inscriptions
Best-in-class high quality imagery of all diamonds in stock
24/7 Customer Service
Blue Nile Blue Nile is the largest and most well known internet jewelry seller. They have a very large exclusive online inventory. Their high quality images are catching up to James Allens' and their prices are amazing. Blue Nile have generously offered our readers an exclusive one-time use coupon. (Click Here to save $100 off $1000 purchase)
Please enter your email address to receive your personal one-time use unique coupon code:
Here’s what we’ll cover in this article: How much does a 1 carat diamond ring cost?How large is a 1 carat diamond?Where should I buy a 1 carat
September 29, 2022
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