Looking for the perfect place to buy gemstones online?
You're in the right place!
In this Learning Jewelry guide I'll answer common questions like:
- What Should You Look For When Buying Gemstones Online?
- Are Gemstones Good For An Engagement Ring?
- How Do You Know You're Getting A Good Deal?
- What Are The Red Flags To Watch Out For When Buying?
Best Places to Buy Gemstones Online
If you need the list quick, here are my top picks for finding quality loose gemstones from reputable online dealers. Keep reading for more information about each of these shops.
1. Brilliant Earth
Brilliant Earth is our number one pick for loose colored gemstones because of how many different options they have for customers to choose from.
While many online retailers may carry loose precious gemstones (diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds), Brilliant Earth carries all of these and more.
Brilliant Earth is a company focused on responsible sourcing on all gemstones, not just diamonds like many other companies. They will tell you what country your loose gemstone has been sourced from, or will otherwise indicate if it's lab created.
While they may offer fully traceable blockchain natural diamonds, they don't have blockchain colored gemstones.
The loose gemstone inventory is frequently changing because of how popular colored gemstones are right now. Sometimes they will carry a bunch of one stone and then a week later, there will only be one. Some gemstones may only be available as lab created gemstones.
One of my favorite unique collections that Brilliant Earth carries is their Moyo Gemstones. This small collection of loose gemstones come from female jewelry artisans. The proceeds for these natural gemstones serve to improve the conditions for women in the mining industry. They are responsibly sourced from women miners in Tanzania.
Brilliant Earth has 360˚ degree videos available for their gemstones, like this gorgeous rhodolite garnet from the Moyo Collection below. They also carry custom cuts of these shapes as well.
The Moyo gems come and go as well. Last week when I looked, there was one. Now there a 8 of them. They have been known to carry different varieties of garnets, tourmalines, spinel, and zircon. The ring settings might be limited for loose colored gemstones because of their larger carat sizes or if you've chosen a non traditional cut
Brilliant Earth offers customers the option to purchase their Extended Service plan, a three year maintenance warranty based on a sliding cost scale of your purchase. You can't add it if you're shopping online though. You'll have to call after making your purchase to have them add it on there.
You also have the option to renew at the end of your three years. If you don't like your gemstone engagement ring from Brilliant Earth, they have 30 day returns.
2. James Allen
James Allen also sells loose gemstones, but sticks to precious stones like rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and of course, colorless and colored diamonds. You won't find any any semi-precious gemstones here, at least not in loose form.
They may carry preset gemstone jewelry. It's my hope that they'll at least get loose moissanites in the future as they are really popular gemstones right now.
James Allen has the largest selection of loose colored precious gemstones to choose from. They offer both blue and pink sapphires like other online retailers, but they also carry less unique colors like green and yellow sapphires. All of them can be seen in a controllable crystal clear 360˚ video.
The sapphire above comes with an in-house certification by a GIA graduate gemologist that works at James Allen. This is not an official GIA grading report or an appraisal. However, James Allen is reliable and a heated sapphire isn't usually faked. But if we're talking natural diamonds, you want a GIA or AGS grading report.
Unlike other online stores, James Allen has a large selection of ring settings for their loose gemstones, depending on shape of course. You can't see what the loose gems look like in the setting, but you'll just have to imagine what it might look like in place of the diamond center they show.
In addition to over 200 ring settings to choose from, James Allen has also added a neat feature on their site, similar to Jared and Kay's ring builder on their websites. James Allen calls it the Ring Studio. It allows you to choose select ring settings and further modify them like below. Our other online retailers don't have a feature like this.
James Allen is also one of the few online retailers that give a you a free lifetime warranty that you don't have to lift a finger for. It'll cover all of your wear and tear needs for life. But if you decide you don't like your gemstone ring from James Allen, you've got 30 day free returns as well.
3. Leibish & Co.
Leibish and Co. is an online retailer that specializes in high quality fancy colored diamonds and colored gemstones. Most people come to buy the colored diamonds, but there are plenty of unique colored stones to choose from.
They carry a mix of precious and semi-precious gemstones.
Currently they carry rubies, emeralds, sapphires in the whole rainbow, aquamarines, tanzanite, tourmalines in various colors, alexandrite, spinel, and topaz.
They also carry cabochons in addition to faceted stones, like the alexandrite below.
Many of Leibish's colored stones are GIA certified and untreated.
They will tell you which treatments a stone may have if known. But since many of their stones are vivid and untreated, you'll notice that they have the highest pricing of loose colored gemstones on our list today.
However, they are exceptional quality. The ring settings are expensive as well. There are very few loose gemstone inventories that rival them.
Like Brilliant Earth, you can purchase just the loose gemstone from Leibish and Co. if you want. This is an excellent option for customers because choosing a ring setting can be a little confusing to envision based on the way they show their ring settings.
You have to use a lot of imagination, unless you're serious enough to have them create a mockup of your design.
For example, here's a ring setting I chose for my favorite colored gemstone, a tanzanite. This is an elongated cushion cut stone, so it won't fit quite the same as the square cushion you see there.
They do free shipping, but it may take a while. Leibish isn't great for last minute designs. The one I chose above says it will be ready to ship in 22 days. You can request a free professional appraisal to come with it as well.
They don't have any routine maintenance warranties for their ring settings, only your typical manufacturer warranty that covers design flaws.
4. Brian Gavin
Brian Gavin is a lesser known online diamond retailer to newer customers. If you're a diamond or gemstone connoisseur, you might have heard of them. Brian Gavin's name usually floats around with other companies like Whiteflash and Abe Mor.
Instead of being a chain online jewelry store, Brian Gavin is a gem cutter and jeweler.
Like Whiteflash, they specialize in hearts and arrows diamonds, but also carry a large selection of beautifully cut colored gemstones. Many of these gemstones are more affordable, with many options under $1000. You can view gemstones through a revolving 360˚ view.
Their selection is comparable to Leibish and Co., with a wide variety of faceted colored gemstones and cabochons too. However, Brian Gavin also carries less expensive birthstones like amethyst, topaz, tsavorite, aquamarine, morganite, and peridot. You can find chatoyant blue sapphire as well, commonly referred to as star sapphire.
Also like Leibish, they don't give you a great visual when trying to select a ring setting to accompany your loose stone. It's honestly even more difficult, but at least they have a lot of affordable options.
I really like how many of their loose gemstones are affordable.
Often times you'll run into retailers who are selling less expensive stones like a blue topaz for way more just because it's harder to find them loose. Not everyone has the ability to go to gem shows and jewelry shows. Brian Gavin eases the search for those who would like more choices from their home.
One thing to watch out for with Brian Gavin is that some items can't be returned. Any bezel settings can't be returned. They also have a disclaimer stating they can't be held liable for scratching softer stones while setting. One has to wonder whether that's if your bring your own colored stone or one of theirs. Either way, it's a little strange.
I wouldn't fret too much about that though, because Brian Gavin is a 5th generation diamond cutter, so the likelihood of damage is slim to none. But I thought I'd point that out.
Brian Gavin only offers a manufacturer's warranty on their jewelry which covers design defects. Routine maintenance will need to be done out of pocket.
Loose Gemstones FAQ
Here's a list of some of the most popular questions asked about loose gemstones.
Is It Cheaper To Buy Loose Gemstones Online?
When it comes to diamonds, you're most likely going to find cheaper ones online rather than in store. But with gemstones, it could be different.
A local jeweler that sources loose stones will probably have prices similar to the cheaper high quality colored stones online. However, if you're looking for a variety of loose stones to choose from locally, you might come up short.
If you're shopping at a brick and mortar chain retailer like Jared or Kay, you're more than likely going to be paying way more than you need to for gemstones that aren't great quality.
Unfortunately, many of their "high quality" colored gemstones are part of brands like the Neil Lane gemstone engagement ring collection or the LeVian collection. You're paying more for the brand than the name.
Online, there's a mess of different prices. Most of the time, they're going to be lower than what you'd find at Kay, with the except of lab created gemstones. Kay has many lab created sapphires, rubies, and emeralds set in sterling silver under $100. You'll also find prices like that on eBay, Amazon, and even Etsy at times.
Are Loose Gemstones More Expensive?
This is a loaded question. Some colored gemstones like amethyst are abundant around the world and are cheap enough to be available as a natural stone all the time. Amethyst is very affordable and it's not usually lab created or fake.
If there aren't many places for a stone to be mined, it drives up the value more. The age old supply and demand concept.
Some colored gemstones have a mid-value and the value increases if there's no gemstone treatment. For example, a high quality treated blue sapphire will be less than an untreated blue sapphire with great color throughout.
Another factor that might make a colored gemstone more expensive than a diamond is the place it comes from. Certain types of colored stones are considered more valuable based on the area they come from, like the rubies from Burma, or Columbian emeralds.
If the quality of the stone is both high and the carat size is large, that will drive the price up even more.
Check out this video below of some colored gemstones that are more rare and expensive than natural diamonds:
Where To Buy Specific Gemstones
If you already know which precious or colored gemstone you are looking to buy, see our detailed guides below for specific recommendations to make the best choice:
Red Flags When Buying Loose Gemstones?
Here a few things to keep in mind and watch out for when buying loose gemstones:
You might think that all colored gemstones are beautiful and better than diamonds, but you might be surprised to know that most of them don't stay that way when worn daily.
All minerals are measured on the Moh Scale. The Mineral Scale of Hardness basically equates to how scratchable your stone is. A lot of people think that hardness pertains to the overall resistance to breakage of the stone. It's a common misconception. Any gemstone can break if hit hard enough in the right spot.
The Moh Scale goes from 1-10 and every mineral has a hardness rating, including all gemstones. Diamonds are the highest at a 10, moissanite at a 9.5, and sapphires (corundum) at a 9. Gemstones that have a hardness of 8 and above are generally okay for everyday wear. Emeralds rate a 7, and are advise against everyday wearing.
However, some do for years and it's fine. It's all about how you take care of it as well.
Scratchability doesn't just mean scratches from damage. The surface of the stone gets scratched from dirt and dust in the air. The softer the stone is, the more scratched it is. Normally sapphires have a high hardness level. But a white sapphire will reveal subtle scratches and make them obvious because it's a clear stone. It'll look cloudy.
If you have a softer stone for the center of your engagement ring, you might have to accept the reality that it might have to be replaced as the years go along. The most common gemstones people have to replace are opals, morganites, white sapphires, and topaz.
You should always ask about treatments before buying a natural colored gemstone. If it's lab created, you don't have to worry about treatments. But with a natural stone, some treatments will decrease the value or the stone and some may even only be temporary.
If you're on a quest for an untreated gemstone, you should know that most people in jewelry retailer stores won't be able to tell the treatments. They'll read off what the company policy is about treatments.
To make sure your stone is untreated as its advertise, I'd recommend buying a GIA certified gemstone that has no evidence of treatments written on the grading report.
Because colored gemstones don't have a standard grading system, you shouldn't buy loose stones from marketplace sellers online unless you really know what you're doing. Gemstone quality color grading can be different among different places.
A lot of shadier sellers will use market names to make the name of common gemstones sound prettier.
And when I say marketplace sellers, I mean more like people in Facebook Group, via WhatsApp, eBay, etc. If you're going to a local gemstone market in another country, that's different. However, those places can also dupe tourists.
You should always buy from a reputable retailer with a good and easy return process, just in case you don't like it. Always cover yourself, or you could end up with a faceted piece of glass like this:
How to Get the Best Deal When Buying Gemstones Online?
I've touched on a number of different ways and benefits that will help you when buying gemstones online.
Here's a quick recap:
- Choose a protective setting if you live an active lifestyle
- Make sure to check your ring for loose stones
- Buy from a reputable dealer
- Know the treatments of your stone
- Buy certified colored stones
- Choose stones with a higher hardness rating on the Moh scale for everyday wear
- Choose a retailer with a warranty that covers routine maintenance like retipping prongs or rhodium plating.
- Choose a retailer with a good return policy and easy process
As mentioned above, my top pick for buying quality loose gemstones is Brilliant Earth due to their incredibly wide selection coupled with great service and warranty options.