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This article is for anybody looking to buy a loose diamond (either by itself or with an engagement ring as a “build your own” set) online at one of the many online diamond vendors.
Sometimes I forget just how difficult it is for a consumer to juggle all the information when figuring out if something is a good price. My team and I have so much experience selecting diamonds (each of us selects hundreds every month), navigating the minefield becomes second nature for us.
For example, if you were to ask me for a 1 carat round diamond to put in a halo, it would take me about 15 seconds to find this gorgeous diamond on James Allen for you. Another 20 seconds, and I’d add this great alternative on Blue Nile. But searching on your own can be excruciating and filled with doubt. If you want a little peace of mind, feel free to contact us for some personal advice.
If you’ve been around our site before, you’ll see that we generally recommend buying from Blue Nile or James Allen. For an explanation of why that is, you can read our individual site reviews for James Allen and Blue Nile.
Choosing a beautiful diamond involves narrowing down your shape and selecting high-quality options for the 4Cs — without overpaying. You’ll then compare individual diamonds to see which one offers you the most brilliance and fire. Follow our step-by-step guide below to find a stunning diamond while staying within your budget.
We recommend reputable online diamond vendors. Based on our years of experience, James Allen and Blue Nile have proven to offer the best selection at the best prices. Because their overhead costs are low and they don’t keep an inventory in-house, you’ll find the best deal with these two vendors. Both James Allen and Blue Nile provide HD and 360° imagery so you can compare diamonds up-close before purchase.
Navigate these online stores while reading our guide below to buy the best diamonds on the market.
Starting page for finding diamonds at Blue Nile.
Starting page for finding diamonds at James Allen.
The shape of your diamond is the launching point of your ring’s design. No shape is better than the other—it’s up to your personal preference (or your partner’s). Round Brilliants are the most popular diamond shape for engagement rings and give off the most brilliance. Others prefer a more unique shape like a Cushion Cut or an Oval. If you’re unsure what your partner prefers, you can ask her family and friends.
Select a shape to narrow down your search and compare diamonds.
Is your fiance-to-be expecting a 1 or 2 carat diamond? Are you looking for a stone that’s noticeable but not over the top? Choose the carat weight range you’re open to considering, such as a 0.95 to a 1.08 Carat diamond. As carat weight increases, so does the price.
Carat weight impacts how large a diamond looks (as does its shape and cut quality). Learn about the average diamond size people buy to help you decide.
The aspect that most greatly impacts a diamond’s beauty is its cut quality. Cut grades aren’t standardized across all vendors, but in general, we recommend only Excellent and Ideal cut diamonds.
For example, on Blue Nile’s site for round diamonds, you should limit your selection to Ideal and Astor Ideal diamonds. On James Allen, choose Ideal and True Hearts cut.
My advice for cut grade is this: If you are looking for a round brilliant diamond, only search for “Ideal/Excellent” grade diamonds. If you are searching for a fancy shape, however, then it might pay to either include “Premium” or to disregard the cut grade altogether.
This is not to say that cut grade is not important – on the contrary, it’s of utmost importance. It’s simply saying that many vendors don’t correctly report fancy shape cut grades, so why filter out many results from your search which might be great choices.
The goal with diamond color is to choose a diamond that appears white. But you don’t need to pay for a D or E diamond to get a colorless stone. In general, diamonds in the G to I range appear white but cost far less.
It is important to remember that different shapes reflect color at different strengths, so your choice of optimal color, balancing the diamond’s appearance with the diamond’s price, will depend greatly on what diamond shape you’ve chosen.
For Clarity, you should look for a diamond that’s eye clean, meaning you can’t see any blemishes or inclusions with the naked eye. Depending on the shape, you can usually find an eye-clean diamond in the VS1–VS2 range. There’s no need to pay for a FL or IF diamond when you can get a lower graded diamond for much less.
With most vendors, you can see the diamond up close to review its clarity. For example, with James Allen’s “Virtual Loupe” you can evaluate a loose diamond before you buy it. Blue Nile has also begun to offer high quality photography. Look at the diamond closely to see if you notice any blemishes.
For an informative overview of the different clarity grades, take a look at this diamond clarity chart.
Once you’ve narrowed down your preferred specs for a diamond, compare similar stones to determine which one to buy. You’ll want to consider aspects like how brilliant the diamond is, if it’s eye-clean, and what the price is.
Other characteristics like fluorescence, polish, and symmetry affect a diamond’s value and appearance to some degree, although much less than the 4 C’s. For an in-depth discussion of these three factors, check out these individual articles: Fluorescence, Polish, and Symmetry.
Before making the big decision to buy a diamond, have an expert review your choice. We’ll give your diamond a close look to see if we recommend the purchase. Having an expert’s opinion ensures you get the best diamond for your budget. You’ll also have more confidence in what you’re buying.
With most online vendors, they offer hassle-free returns within 30 days. If you or your partner aren’t 100% satisfied with the ring, you can get your money back. Almost every reader that goes through our process for picking a diamond is extremely satisfied with their purchase.
If you have any questions throughout the engagement ring process, feel free to reach out to us for diamond advice.
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