How Do You Buy Jewelry Online? (2019 Guide)
Looking to buy jewelry online?
Of course you are... you're a smart shopper!
Buying online is simply the BEST way to get great prices on jewelry!
That said, in this Learning Jewelry guide you'll learn:
- Why you should be buying jewelry online right now
- The best way to get the best deals on jewelry (and save money)
- Some key red flags to be aware of when buying diamonds and gemstones online
- And much more!
Let's get started!
Why Buy Jewelry Online In The First Place?
To kick things off, I want to highlight a couple reasons why you should be buying jewelry online in the first place or at the very least 'consider' it.
Given that jewelry typically has higher price tag associated with it, buyers tend to want that touch and feel experience before fully committing.
And that behavior is entirely reasonable.
But... how much is that touch and feel experience truly worth to you?
Because it could actually be COSTING you a 20%, 30%, or even 40% premium on an online equivalent piece.
So let's take a look shall we?
To kick it off we have convenience. I think we can all agree that shopping online is convenient. You can easily look for your jewelry at your home, office, or coffee shop without having to go directly to the store.
What could be better than shopping for a diamond in your underwear?
Even if your seller is a thousand miles away, you can still choose what you want even though you may never visit the shop. Chat and email support most sellers have in place are almost always 24/7, so no waiting around for help if you need it.
After convenience has to be the lower costs associated with online buying.
But where do those lower costs come from?
The answer is drop shipping.
If you're not familiar, drop shipping involves the store listing images of a product on its website and only buying the inventory when a customer makes a purchase. This helps reduced unneeded warehouse space and the costs of carrying excess inventory.
The end result of this process is a cheaper diamond, which becomes an advantage to you the buyer. Brick and mortar stores don’t have the luxury of lowering prices to wholesale caps since they incur far more overhead costs, forcing them to set high markups.
Have you noticed how hard it is to window shop in a diamond jewelry store? If not, then you haven’t met the persuasive (and sometimes relentless) salespeople at such stores.
It's downright annoying to have someone on your back trying to sell you jewelry, yet you know exactly what you want (or don't want in some cases).
Luckily, online websites don’t have such people, only nice customer representatives willing to answer any question you have regarding jewelry. Also, the fact that there is no one judging your choices, you feel more confident in buying jewelry online.
Most local jewelry shops have a limited selection of product. Since space is tight, they can only store so much or else they'd need to further markup the price to cover the cost of additional storage.
For instance, diamond jewelers may not have financing to fill up a whole mall, and it might be risky to have all that expensive jewelry in one place anyway!
So, physical shops need to pay for more storage AND security to protect those valuable jewels!
Online sites, on the other hand, can “store” as many items as they wish. This is because they actually don’t need a physical store. Most online jewelers use a drop shipping business model, which connects customers directly to manufacturers.
How To Buy Jewelry Online?
So now that I've reviewed some of the highlights, let's take a look at buying online the "right" way.
Step 1: Find The Right Dealer
The first step to getting a great deal on a jewel is to look for a reliable online jeweler... duh!
So, how do you find one?
My recommendation is to go with a James Allen or a Blue Nile. There are others, but both of these companies are leading the charge for e-commerce jewelry shops.
They are heavily investing in optimizing their websites and shopping experiences to cater to an online buyer first.
This is important.
The big issue with transitioning buying jewelry to the internet is that most people want to "touch and feel" their new ring or earring before they buy it. This presents a problem for online retailers, a problem I like to call the "touch and feel" problem.
To tackle the "touch and feel" problem e-commerce shops like James Allen have an HD 360 degree camera to help showcase a diamond over the internet. Take a look below.
When looking for jewelry online, James Allen has made this tool a must for any competing shop.
Blue Nile has a similar version of this 360 degree camera, but only for their diamonds, whereas James Allen has it for ALL of their products.
I'm sure it was super expensive for JA to do this for all of their product, but it is an absolute must for getting people like yourself to commit to a big purchase over the internet.
Step 2: Consider Tax and Shipping Costs
Given the nature of online sales, you're going to need to pay for shipping to wherever it is that you are.
On top of that, you're going to have to also pay for sales tax on those purchases.
Since jewelry tends to be small and lightweight, the shipping costs should be negligible, it's the sales tax you need to watch out for.
Given the high price tags, state and city sales taxes can add up real fast. Instead, consider shipping to a state without sales tax like Delaware on the east cost, Oregon on the west coast, or Montana closer to the middle of the country.
What I would do is open up a remote mail box account in one of those states for $20 bucks, have your ring shipped to that mailbox, then forwarded to your home address. This could have you end up saving $100's on sales tax.
Step 3: Ask For Authentication or Certificates
Most valuable jewelry comes with authentication documents and certificates to prove the quality of the products. These are issued by independent and unbiased gemologists from secure laboratories.
Since you’ll be dealing with an online company, it's crucial to determine, if what you’re buying is actually genuine (i.e., the website says VS2 but is it?).
For instance, gemstone jewelry often comes with grading reports from notable companies like the American Gem Society (AGS) or Gemological Institute of America (GIA). Ask for these and ensure they are included with your purchase.
If you end up buying a new ring without one of these certificates you risk getting something fake. If whoever it is you're buying from doesn't offer these certificates, I would be very skeptical of them regardless of what I buy.
Think of it like getting a warranty for a car. If the salesperson selling you an expensive new ring isn't providing you with any warranty (aka a certificate of authenticity) then run very fast in the other direction. For all you know, you could be paying $1,000's for cubic zirconia!
Step 4: Ask For Real Photos/Videos
Believe it or not, most online jewelers often sell what they don’t have in stock! They do this to artificially inflate their inventory stock, listing products with stock photos instead of an actual photo.
These "stock" photos are not actual photos of the actual product but a similar product acting more as a placeholder.
If a customer were to inquire about a piece of jewelry, the company would only then contact their supplier to get pictures.
Also, make sure you confirm the dimensions of the product as cameras tend to make small items look bigger.
Some companies may even do a little bit of color correction to make the item look brighter. Again, online jewelers who are optimizing their buying experience for the online world, like James Allen have 360-degree videos for all of their products. To me, this is table stakes and the bare minimum I would expect if buying something online.
Step 5: Check For Warranty
Sometimes people receive what they didn’t order. Consider buying from a company that backs up their product with an assurance that it is of good quality.
That’s where a warranty comes in. Make sure you request warranty options and if there are any added costs. Many online jewelers have lifetime warranties covering for minor cleaning services and polishing. However, some will give a limited period of time in which you’ll have to pay extra costs for an extension.
Shops like James Allen and Blue Nile have generous lifetime warranties with prong tightening, re-polishing, rhodium plating and cleaning services. You should be aware however, these warranties come with restrictions and will go void if you violate any of them leaving you angry and frustrated.
For example, Blue Nile lists out all of their exclusions. See below.
Based on the above restrictions, if you were to take you Blue Nile ring to a local shop for anything, that would violate your warranty.
Now this is not to say Blue Nile is trying to scam you or pull one over on its customers, it simply can't be a profitable business if it offered 100% lifetime warranties no questions asked on expensive jewelry in all scenarios.
People would be abusing the crap out of a policy like that. The idea here is to just make sure who ever you do go with stands behind their product with a solid warranty.
Read Also: Is Blue Nile's Warranty Good or Bad?
Should You Buy Jewelry Online Vs In-Store?
So I've mentioned this a few times throughout on the benefit of online jewelry shopping, but here are the reasons broken down further.
Less Overhead Costs Than Online
As I mention over and over again, online is definitely cheaper.
Brick and mortar stores have unique costs online shops do not like premium rent space near local foot traffic, storage, shipping fees, local security, etc.
They also need to forecast customer demand by location and risk stocking out for popular styles. How often are you disappointed to hear "we're sold out at this location by the store 20 miles away has it"? You go from excited to frustrated and promptly walk to the next store or just forget about the purchase entirely.
For brick and mortar shops to make a profit, they’ll need to adjust their pricing to cover these costs.
Online stores, however, can strategically locate their warehousing in industrial areas with cheap rent and a focus all of their attention on a few customer representatives for online support.
No Lines For Service
Ever gone shopping during Christmas? Or Valentines Day? You could tell it’s a holiday by the number of people crowded in stores.
Sometimes a simple earring purchase could last for hours just because it is a holiday. Sounds frustrating. With online stores it is much easier to make purchases during holidays, without having to endure a crowded environment.
No Pushy Sales People
When you're in a physical store, there's no doubt you're going to feel rushed or obligated to interact with the sales people.
Most of the time they are motivated to sell based on their commission, so virtually everything out of their mouth is biased information.
Even if they're the honest type and are truly trying to help you it's impossible for you to know for sure because they are working on commission.
When buying online, you get almost always get unbiased objective advice while shopping.
Better Access To Deals & Coupons
Since they're always open and you have 24/7 access, you're always in the loop on when the latest deals for jewelry go live.
Going back to the "no pushy sales people" point, you can usually just as support or the chat agent on the website if there are any sales going on and they'll almost always give you a coupon. They don't care if you buy or not or cause they're on commission so they goal is just to make you happy as a customer.
You Can Avoid Sales Tax
As I mentioned earlier, if you go into a physical shop in the state you live in, you're going to have to pay sales tax most likely. Sales tax can be as high as 10% in some states (New York!). By shipping your purchase to a state without sales tax to a remote mailbox and then having the mail forwarded you can circumvent that fee and save!
Best Ways To Save Money When Buying Jewelry Online?
Convinced to buy online yet? Well, if you're sold, it's time to help you do it in a way that'll save you money, here are my best tips.
First, I want to talk about financing.
Most online jewelry stores offer interest free financing plans that’ll help you purchase your jewelry in bits, instead of using up your whole salary. For example, when I bought my wife's ring, I opted to go with Brilliant Earth.
Their program was 12 months interest free through Wells Fargo. It's kind of like opening up a new credit card.
As long as you have decent credit and credit history it's a pretty good deal. Once setup, I just had it on auto pay for 12 periods.
Some jewelry stores have a clearance sale where they sell items at a throw-away price to accommodate for new products in the coming financial year. Discounts could go as low as 90% off! Holidays and other special days could also have discounts, but not as high as that during clearance sales.
Ever heard of coupons? Yeah, you can get those virtually out of anything. When buying a product, visiting a website, signing up, reading a magazine, etc. Coupons are promotional codes that lower your total invoice after making purchases. Most companies use coupons as a way of promoting their products. You can hunt for coupons to get huge discounts on jewelry products.
Red Flags When Buying Jewelry Online
To close out my online buying guide for jewelry, I want to highlight some of the red flags you should be aware of when searching around the internet. I reserve the right to come back and update this section in the future!
For any valuable jewelry to enter the market, it must undergo some form of certification. This is usually done by a third-party, independent company like the American Gem Society (AGS) or Gemological Institute of America (GIA). Ask for these and ensure they are included with your purchase.
Whenever you purchase jewelry, make sure it has a certificate, end of story.
Again, stock images are a big no-no when buying. Sometimes it's hard to tell though! For example, below is a nice stock image photo of a round cut diamond in a white gold simple solitaire setting.
Sure it's a nice image, but it isn't the one you'd be getting!
I’m not saying that stock images are bad, but what’s the point of buying something you haven’t even seen?
It's a big red flag for the store if they don't have the products listed with actual photos.
If you're wondering if the image you're looking at is stock or not, do a simple reverse image search with Google. See below for example.
In buying online products, information is key. You should know everything about the product. At a bare minimum the online listing should include:
- The dimensions
- Year of manufacture
Any product that with little-descriptions may be a red flag.
Outrageously Low Pricing
Even with discounts and sales being offered in online stores, some companies will lure you into buying a product that is subpar.
For instance, jewelry with unnoticeable defects may be sold at prices much lower than the original. Sometimes the statement, "when the deal is too good to be true" is actually what's going on.
You should be vigilant whenever the deal seems too attractive.