The Diamond Pro

The Best Places to Design Your Own Engagement Ring

By Michael Fried
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James Allen has begun their Black Friday sale early this year offering a whopping 25% OFF your setting!

Bottom Line Recommendation

As we’ve explained in this article, we think you’re far better served by buying an engagement ring online than from a brick-and-mortar retail store. Not only will you get a lower price — you’ll also find it easier to choose a high quality diamond without being subject to a sales pitch.

While designing a custom engagement ring used to be a special service, today it’s offered by just about every diamond vendor. Once you know the type of diamond and setting you want, you can easily design a custom ring online and have it made to your precise specifications.

For most engagement rings, we recommend James Allen and Blue Nile. These two vendors have the largest inventories and best prices in the industry, meaning you’ll be able to choose from a variety of competitively priced loose diamonds and settings. 

If you have a higher budget and want a super ideal cut or fancy color diamond, we recommend Brian Gavin Diamonds and Leibish & Co. We’ve covered all of these recommendations in more detail below, along with more information on the process of designing a custom ring.

Proposing with an engagement ring you designed yourself is a wonderful way to make it clear how special your fiancé-to-be is to you. 

Contrary to what many people think, having an engagement ring custom made with your choice of loose diamond (or gemstone) and setting is not a difficult process. In fact, most trusted online diamond vendors have web-based engagement ring builders that you can use for free. 

Below, we’ve explained how the process of designing and ordering a custom engagement ring works, from start to finish. We’ve also listed and compared the best places to design and order custom engagement rings and other bridal jewelry online. 

To show you how easy it is to design an engagement ring, we’ve even made our own rings with an example budget of $3,500 using each vendor. 

Online vs. Offline Engagement Ring Vendors

Before we get into the process of designing and ordering an engagement ring, it’s important to point something out regarding the benefits of shopping online versus offline. 

When it comes to engagement rings, you will always get a better deal by shopping online than by buying an engagement ring from a brick-and-mortar jewelry store. 

There are numerous reasons for this, as we’ve covered in this article. The biggest one is simply the difference in cost between doing business offline versus online. Online vendors can operate at a lower cost than brick-and-mortar stores, allowing them to offer better diamond pricing. 

Because of this, we don’t recommend visiting a local jewelry store or jewelry chain to have your ring designed and made. Not only will you pay more than you need to — you’ll likely get a lower quality diamond than you could find online for a better price. 

With this out of the way, let’s take a look at the best places to design and order an engagement ring online. 

James Allen

Founded in 2006, James Allen are one of the biggest online diamond vendors and a leader in the diamond industry. They’re also one of our favorite vendors — we’ve strongly recommended them as one of the best places to buy a diamond for years and years. 

As we’ve explained in our full James Allen review, James Allen offer several advantages over other diamond vendors. 

First, their inventory is huge. James Allen stock more than 200,000 certified conflict-free loose diamonds at any time, including fancy color diamonds. Second, their photography is excellent, with 360° HD photos allowing you to carefully inspect any diamond before purchasing.

Third, their pricing is some of the best in the industry. James Allen’s prices are almost always the best for loose diamonds, and they even offer a price match guarantee to ensure you never pay more than you need to. 

Finally, their customer service is great. They offer fast, free shipping worldwide, provide a hassle free return process and a 100% money back guarantee. Their diamond jewelry even comes with a lifetime warranty. 

They also have a fantastic online engagement ring builder that lets you pair any loose diamond in their inventory with a matching setting. Here’s how it works: 

First, hover over the “diamonds” option in the top menu bar and choose how you’d like to start designing your own engagement ring. We’re going to build an example ring with a total budget of $3,500. For this example, we’ve chosen to start by choosing a loose diamond.

Out of our $3,500 budget, we’re going to spend approximately $2,500 on the center stone. This gives us a budget of around $1,000 for the setting. Using the tactics listed in our guide to buying a diamond, we selected this loose diamond:

This diamond is a J color, SI1 excellent round brilliant cut. By choosing a diamond slightly below the 1 carat range, we’re able to spend more of our budget on an attractive setting that really lets the diamond sparkle and shine.

Most of the diamonds sold by James Allen come with a GIA certificate, although some are only certified by other labs. You can request the GIA certificate for any loose diamond by clicking on the GIA button under the 360° image of the diamond. 

After you’ve chosen a diamond, the James Allen engagement ring builder lets you choose from a variety of settings. Like their range of loose diamonds, all of these settings are viewable in HD, 360° photos, letting you view a setting from every angle before you make a decision. 

With $950 left to spend, we chose this beautiful 14k white gold petite pavé setting in 14k white gold. The total price for the diamond and setting came to $3,480. Although we opted not to, you can choose to add an inscription to the ring if you’d like to enter something special. 

James Allen showed a preview of the ring using a recently-made ring with an identical setting and similar center stone:

All in all, the process of designing a ring with James Allen is quick and simple. The finished ring is beautiful and the price significantly lower than what you’d pay for an equivalent ring from any brick-and-mortar jewelry store. 

If you’re interested in designing an engagement ring from James Allen, you can get started by choosing a loose diamond or a loose gemstone from their selection. You can also learn more about the experience of purchasing a ring from James Allen in our James Allen review.

Blue Nile

Founded in 1999, Blue Nile is another large online diamond vendor. Like James Allen, Blue Nile have a vast selection of loose diamonds, ranging from small, affordable diamonds to a variety of truly stunning flawless, high carat weight stones.

An important difference between Blue Nile and James Allen is that while James Allen sell loose sapphires, rubies and other gemstones as well as diamonds, Blue Nile only offer diamonds for their custom engagement rings. 

As such, if you want to design and order a gemstone engagement ring, James Allen is a better choice. 

We’ve gone into more detail on Blue Nile’s business model in our full Blue Nile review. For the most part, Blue Nile is an excellent place to buy an engagement ring. Their prices are some of the most competitive in the industry, their selection is huge and their service is outstanding.

They also have excellent images and high quality video of many of their diamonds, allowing you to see exactly what you’re getting before you place an order.

Like James Allen, Blue Nile offer free returns and a lifetime warranty. Delivery is fast, safe and efficient. Blue Nile operate in Ireland in addition to North America, making them a great option for people based in Europe. 

Blue Nile’s engagement ring builder is extremely easy to use. To get started, click on either of the options under the “Build Your Own Ring” menu option:

Like last time, we’ve given ourselves a $3,500 budget to design an engagement ring. We chose this 0.83 carat J color, SI1 clarity round cut diamond — a stone that’s similar in size and quality to the diamond we chose last time.

As you can see in the picture above, Blue Nile offer GIA certificates for the vast majority of their loose diamonds. 

We chose to set the diamond in this petite micropavé diamond ring in 14k white gold, which was priced at $795. The finished ring had a total carat weight of 0.92 ct, making it slightly lighter than the ring we made at James Allen, and a final price of $3,284.

Overall, the engagement ring we designed using Blue Nile’s online engagement ring builder was very impressive and offered excellent value for money. 

If you’re interested in designing an engagement ring from Blue Nile, you can start by choosing a diamond or an engagement ring setting. You can also learn more about the experience of using Blue Nile to order an engagement ring in our Blue Nile review

Leibish & Co. 

Leibish & Co. specialize in engagement rings that feature fancy color diamonds, such as pink diamonds, yellow diamonds, blue diamonds and champagne diamonds.

While James Allen and Blue Nile are our top recommendations for designing white, colorless diamond engagement rings, Leibish & Co. are the best option for any engagement rings that feature fancy color diamonds.

Like James Allen and Blue Nile, Leibish & Co. offer fantastic customer service. They provide free, fast shipping on all of their orders, as well as a lifetime warranty, free returns and a 100% money back guarantee. 

You can learn more about the experience of ordering an engagement ring from Leibish & Co. in our full Leibish & Co. review

Designing your own engagement ring with Leibish & Co. is simple. To start, select any diamond or gemstone from their inventory. Then, click the “Add to Setting” button on the diamond’s page to move on to the next step.

For our sample ring, we chose this gorgeous 0.50 carat SI2 fancy dark pink brown champagne diamond, which was priced at $2,100. 

Leibish & Co. provide GIA or IGI certificates for the majority of their diamonds. You can look at a diamond’s certificate by clicking the “view report” button above the diamond’s information. After viewing this diamond’s information, we chose to add it to this 14k white gold solitaire setting

In total, the engagement ring cost $3,038. Unlike James Allen and Blue Nile, Leibish & Co. don’t provide a preview of how the finished ring will look. However, they do offer a 30 day money back guarantee if you’re not satisfied with ring after you receive it. 

Brian Gavin Diamonds

Brian Gavin Diamonds is a specialized diamond vendor run by Brian Gavin, one of the world’s most renowned experts when it comes to diamond cut. 

If you’re looking for an exceptionally well cut diamond, Brian Gavin Diamonds is where you’ll want to shop. As we mentioned in our review, Brian Gavin specializes in super-ideal stones, such as their “Brian Gavin Signature” Hearts & Arrows cut round diamonds. 

Brian Gavin Diamonds provide a lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects, as well as a full refund if you return your ring within 15 days. They deliver worldwide using insured FedEx, making them a good choice if you’re located outside the United States. 

Like the other vendors we’ve listed above, Brian Gavin have an online ring builder that allows you to design your own engagement ring. For our example ring, we chose this gorgeous 0.83 carat J color, VS2 Hearts and Arrows round cut diamond for $2,861

Since we spent slightly more on this diamond than we did with the other vendors, we opted for a timeless 14k white gold four prong solitaire setting. The ring cost a total of $3,671, meaning we went ever so slightly over our $3,500 initial budget. 

Like James Allen and Blue Nile, Brian Gavin Diamonds provide a preview image using a similar diamond and identical setting to your choice. Overall, the ring we designed looked stunning and offered great value for money, especially when the quality of the diamond is considered. 

Advice For Designing Your Own Engagement Ring

Designing an engagement ring for your fiancé-to-be involves making several decisions. You’ll need to:

  • Choose the center stone, whether diamond or gemstone
  • Check that it’s the right cut, clarity, color and carat weight
  • Pair it with a setting that complements and enhances the stone
  • Make sure you don’t exceed your budget (at least, not by too much)

While this sounds complicated, the reality is that designing an engagement ring is surprisingly easy once you know what to look for. Below, we’ve shared some expert tips and advice to help you design the highest quality ring for your budget.

Know the Diamond Shape You Want

Diamonds and other engagement ring center stones come in a variety of different shapes, from the safe and common round brilliant cut to options such as the princess cut, pear and numerous others. 

If you already know that your fiancé-to-be likes a certain shape, you can filter your search using vendors like James Allen or Blue Nile to only feature this cut. If not, you can either ask her for a recommendation or choose a shape that you think matches her tastes. 

In general, the round brilliant cut is the safest option, making it a good choice if you’re not sure which shape is most likely to impress your fiancé-to-be. Our diamond shapes guide covers the 12 most common shapes, making it a great resource if you’re not sure where to begin. 

Choose Your Carat Weight Range 

The carat weight of the diamond you choose will have a huge impact on its appearance. It will also have a huge impact on its price. Diamond prices increase exponentially with carat weight, meaning even a small difference can result in a significant increase or saving. 

Because of this, it’s important to clearly define the carat weight you’re looking for before you start comparing diamonds. 

As well as helping you avoid overspending, understanding the approximate carat weight you want also lets you set good search filters on James Allen. For example, you can adjust your search filters to specifically show only round cut diamonds within the 0.8 to 0.9 carat range. 

Our guide to carat weight goes into more detail on how you should approach carat weight, as well as several tips for choosing a diamond of the right size.

Filter Diamonds Based on Cut, Clarity and Color

Cut, clarity and color — the other three of the “four Cs” — play an equally large role in the way a diamond looks as its carat weight. To avoid buying a diamond that isn’t aesthetically appealing, it’s important to filter the diamonds you’re looking at based on these factors. 

Vendors like James Allen, Blue Nile and Leibish & Co. make this simple by providing a range of search filters for cut, clarity, color and other factors that you can use to limit your search only to diamonds that meet your criteria. 

Our guides to diamond cut, clarity and color go into more detail on the ideal cut, clarity and color grades to choose for the best combination of quality and value for money. 

Learn About Engagement Ring Settings

After you’ve selected a diamond, you’ll need to choose the right setting. The setting you choose has a huge impact on how your finished engagement ring will look, making it important that you choose a ring that matches and complements your choice of diamond. 

Beyond the look of your diamond or gemstone, it’s also important to pick a setting that’s a good match for your fiancé-to-be’s lifestyle. Some settings are more durable than others, while others allow more light to enter into the diamond, improving its brilliance. 

Selecting a setting can be a daunting process. There are countless different settings available, each of which has its own impact on the look of a ring. We’ve covered all of the most common settings in our guide, along with the pros and cons of each option.

Know Your Fiancé-To-Be’s Ring Size

After you’ve finished designing an engagement ring, you’ll need to enter your fiancé-to-be’s ring size before you can order it. Ordering a ring that fits from the beginning lets you avoid having to resize the ring after you’ve proposed — something that isn’t possible with all settings.

There are several ways to do this. First, you can request a complimentary plastic ring sizer from James Allen or Blue Nile. You can use this to measure your fiancé-to-be’s ring finger, or use it to check the size of an existing ring. 

If you’d prefer not to order a plastic sizer, both of these vendors also provide online ring sizers that you can use to work out your fiancé-to-be’s exact ring size before you place an order. 

In the event that the ring doesn’t fit perfectly, all of the vendors we’ve recommended above offer free ring resizing. Note that some settings, such as eternity bands, can’t be resized due to their design. We’ve covered this in more detail in our guide to ring resizing.

Conclusion

Designing your own engagement ring is a great way to show your fiancé-to-be how much they mean to you. It also gives you much more control over your choice of center stone and setting, as you’ll be free to pick these out by yourself instead of simply choosing a pre-made ring. 

Like we mentioned above, the best places to design an engagement ring are James Allen and Blue Nile. For fancy color and exceptionally well cut diamonds, Leibish & Co. and Brian Gavin Diamonds are also excellent choices. 

These vendors all allow you to design your own engagement ring at no extra cost. They also offer significantly better value for money than brick-and-mortar jewelry stores, allowing you to buy a higher quality diamond without overpaying.

If you need help choosing a diamond or setting, feel free to contact us. Our experts can help you review diamonds and choose the highest quality stone and setting for your budget. 

About the author
Mike learned the diamond business from the ground-up at Leo Schachter Diamonds - one of the world's top diamond manufacturers. He has been recognized as a diamond industry expert by Time, PeopleMoney, The Daily Mirror, NerdWallet, The Times Herald, Yahoo Finance Australia, The Art of Charm, The Washington Diplomat, The Next Web, and more. See more
Top Recommended Vendors
James Allen James Allen is the leader in online diamond sales. Their imaging technology is at the point where it's almost the same as inspecting a diamond with a jeweler's loupe. Their customer experience is best in class, and they have recently upgraded their non-engagement jewelry inventory as well. They have the largest exclusive loose diamond inventory online and fantastic prices. For a limited time, take advantage of their huge 25% OFF holiday sale!!
What we love about them:
  • No questions asked returns within 30 days of shipment. James Allen will send you a paid shipping label to return the ring.
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • 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
  • Best-in-class packaging

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. (Pick Up a Blue Nile Coupon Here for $50 off)
What we love about them:
  • No questions asked returns within 30 days of shipment. Blue Nile will send you a paid shipping label to return the ring.
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Free Shipping
  • Free prong tightening, repolishing, rhodium plating and cleaning every 6 months
  • Provide insurance appraisal
  • One free resizing within the first year of purchase
  • High quality images of about half of their diamonds
  • 24/7 Customer Service
  • 100% credit towards future upgrades (must be at least double in value)
  • Best in class fulfillment

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