Wondering if you should buy a diamond online instead of in-store?
Buying diamonds is a heavy process, full of many choices and options.
In this Learning Jewelry guide, we'll answer some of your biggest questions about ring shopping online like:
- Is it safe to buy an engagement ring online?
- Is buying diamonds online cheaper?
- How does on buy diamonds online?
Did you know that around 70% of people are buying engagement rings at physical stores when they could be saving a boatload of cash buying diamonds online.
Pros and Cons
There are positives and downsides with most companies, jewelry retailers are no exception. There are some things that make buying a diamond online better than buying in store and there are things that make buying diamonds in store better.
Here's a run down of some simple pros and cons covered in this article, in addition to what we covered in our guide on how to buy jewelry online.
- No salespeople, no pressure
- Cost 30%-40% less than buying in store
- No labor cost for customization
- Wider selection online
- Can't try on beforehand
- Usually have to pay shipping for repairs
In Store Diamonds
- See diamond certifications in-person
- In-person inspection
- Personal experience
- Return in store for money back guarantee
- In store traffic less convenient
- Most carry preset engagement rings, not loose diamonds
Is It Safe To Buy An Engagement Ring Online?
Remember the days when shopping online was taboo? No one put their credit card info online in fear of some hacker emptying their entire account. Thankfully, as time has progressed, e-commerce has taken extraordinary steps to ensure customer security.
Many things are done online today from government assistance to entry level job applications. Most physical retail stores have an online store as well. And within the last 20 years, there have been online diamond stores that operate solely online.
The two things that most people worry about shopping online is their bank information and getting ripped off for crappy quality. Here's a couple of quick things to keep in mind when it comes to security at online jewelry stores.
If you're worried about your cc info on a site, you might consider an alternative way of paying, like a third party payment system.
You should also make sure that the website url of the online vendor begins with https://. Make sure the url is presented like this when you checkout at the payment section of the online retailer you're buying from. The s at the end of https stands for security. There should also be a lock icon in your address bar.
Be aware that some browser may drop the https:// heading, like the following. You should click the lock to open up further information to make sure your connection is secure.
When it comes to making sure you buy a nice high quality diamond engagement ring from a reputable company, there's a few different things to look out for. We'll go into these things in-depth further down.
Is Buying Diamonds Online Cheaper?
Remember when I said that so much as 70% of people prefer to buy diamonds in-store rather than at an online jeweler?
That means that so much as 70% of engagement ring buyers are paying too much for their perfect engagement ring.
What's a mega jewelry retailer you've heard of? Zales? Kay? Let's go with Zales.
Zales is one of the biggest jewelry stores in the United States. They sell an array of fine jewelry, engagement rings, and wedding bands. They operate both online and storefront, but mainly storefront.
Zales doesn't carrying any solid diamond engagement ring over 2 carats in their store, and has to special order the stone.
I've taken a certified 1 carat round cut diamond engagement ring off of Zales.com. This solitaire ring has an I1 clarity and I color grade.
It's also described as certified, but without letting you know who it's certified by. After being transferred from one online chat person to another, I'm still trying to find out who this is certified by.
But wait, there's more.
So, the cost of this ring at Zales is about $5300 before tax and warranty.
I've actually pulled a diamond with the same grades from one of the leading online retailers, James Allen. On JamesAllen.com, you can actually choose your center diamond.
I've chosen one with the same grades as the Zales one above. This diamond is certified by the Gemological Institute of America, also known as the GIA.
Diamonds with GIA grading reports are the best diamonds money can buy, as far as diamond certification goes.
On a side note, I found out the Zales diamond ring is GSI certified.
There are some diamond certifications and grading reports that are better than others. You should buy GIA or AGS certified diamonds.
GSI diamonds cost less than GIA because they are not as strict when grading diamonds. They also give bulk deals, so many brick and mortar jewelry stores use them to save money.
I chose a simple 4 prong solitaire ring setting to accompany the loose diamond from James Allen. The price of this ring is $3670, before tax. James Allen gives a free lifetime warranty, so you don't have to purchase one like at Zales to cover resizing too.
That makes this almost-identical solitaire engagement ring over $1500 cheaper than Zales' ring.
If you wanted a lifetime warranty to cover routine maintenance, like rhodium plating white gold engagement rings, you'll have to pay an extra few hundred dollars to cover that when James Allen does it for free.
Yes, on average it's cheaper to buy a diamond online than in-store.
But why do online stores have lower prices?
Why can't this fantastic pricing be at a brick and mortar location?
What's the catch?
No catch, really.
Just two reasons:
- Business models
Of course, greed is a manner of opinion. But let's be honest, mega jewelry companies are greedy. They would rather sell you something than sell you nothing, even if the know they're giving out an awful product.
They don't educate you about concepts like 4Cs of diamond quality. They may brief over it, but they won't show you how to save money. Because they don't want you to save money.
However, you've got to be a little bit greedy to make money. We know the jewelry industry charges us more than manufacturing cost, like any company. After all, they need to make money right?
These brick and mortar stores could help us out a little though. But that's where online diamond retailers come in. The business model of most online jewelry stores is different than most physical stores.
Let me illustrate my point.
At a local store, they have to pay for a lot more than just their inventory. Consider the retail space, utilities, marketing supplies, events, etc. that a mega retailer like Jared does. That stuff adds up the bills real quick.
Online stores don't have a building, utilities, or even actual salespeople that earn a commission. This also contributes to being able to have lower diamond prices.
Then throw in hundreds of pieces of fine jewelry you have to have in-store for people to buy. Then, you want to keep what's most popular in stock, depleting the originality of finding a ring.
Because if you buy unique pieces, only people with that unique taste is going to want to that. That's why you'll see a ton of the same looking rings at mega diamond retailers.
With an online store, it's cheaper because they use wholesale online vendors, instead of physically keeping everything in as inventory. Online vendors post their diamonds through multiple online retailers.
So if you're looking at a particular loose diamond at James Allen, it's possible someone else is looking at the same one at Blue Nile. But don't worry, most online retailers have thousands of different loose diamonds to choose from, so there's plenty for everyone.
How to Buy a Diamond Online
Buying diamonds online is pretty universal, no matter which company you choose to buy from. All of the big names have the same base process, start with a diamond or start with a setting. I'd recommend you always start with a diamond, because some ring settings won't support certain diamond shapes.
Here are the ins and outs of buying a diamond online from our favorite online retailer, James Allen. The structure of their site is similar to most online diamond retailers.
Loose Diamond Filters
Unlike a brick and mortar jewelry store, they allow you to filter your loose diamond results based on selecting your diamond grades. You can set a range of cut quality, carat weight, color, and clarity grades.
Some retailers won't have the same filter parameters as others. A few won't sell any diamonds with I1 clarity, because they aren't eye-clean, or free of natural inclusions.
A diamond filtering system like this is key to saving you money. Take the carat weight filter. The carat weight of a diamond is effectively how much it weighs, yet most people think of it as a size. There standard sizes in carat weight for a round cut diamond that people have automatically applied to all diamonds.
However, the actual size of the diamond changes based on the shape, not the carat weight.
Most physical stores give you engagement rings in the popular sizes: 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, 1 and so forth. Instead of thinking about diamond carat weight in fractions, think decimals.
Carat weight is measured in points. 100 carat points is 1 carat. I grabbed a 1 carat diamond from James Allen with H color and VS2 clarity and a .93 carat diamond with the same grades.
There's no real visible difference in size, but there is in price. But if you go to a physical store that only offers engagement rings in standard carat weights, you can't use this money saving trick.
Zales' online design-a-ring feature only lets you choose from whole carat weights. They also only give you a choice of I1 clarity, SI1 clarity, and VS2 clarity. You can't choose any other option online. You have to get an I color grade, which is the lowest color grade on the near colorless range, right before faint yellow.
With the diamond filtering system like James Allen and other online diamond retailers have, you can toggle between the 9 clarity grades and 6+ color grades available, rather than choosing out of 3 clarity grades and 1 color grade.
With all sorts of different tricks to lower your price, a diamond filtering system is a must have.
Seeing Your Diamond Online
One of the biggest hurdles online diamond jewelers have had when competing with brick and mortar fine jewelers is the fact that people are afraid of not receiving what they see online.
But when online retailers like Blue Nile and James Allen displayed 360 viewing technology on their online stores, it was a game changer. Personally, I like James Allen's viewer better, because I find it to be very smooth and crystal clear.
This viewer allows you to see a loose diamond at 30x magnification in a 360 view that you control. Check it out below.
Why is it important to see the diamond this close? For saving money of course!
With a 360 viewer like James Allen's you can choose lower clarity grades while making sure a big inclusion isn't smack dab in the middle. Most diamonds have natural inclusions, and it costs more to ensure your diamond doesn't have any.
But for clarity grades that aren't eye-clean, if you can't see your diamond, you can't control where the inclusions are. Both of these diamonds are I1, but only one is eye-clean.
Imagine if you spend $5300 at Zales and your diamond solitaire ring came with the center stone on the left, when you could have spend $3670 and gotten the I1 diamond on the right, plus a free lifetime warranty!
Keep in mind that when you buy diamonds online, it does take a bit to sort through them. Some may have AGS, IGI, or GIA reports, different levels of diamond fluorescence, or better polish or symmetry.
The more time you spend, the more money you'll usually save. This is especially true for those searching for an eye clean diamond within the parameters of a clarity grade that's not known for eye clean diamonds.
Ring Settings Online
If you don't know about ring settings, an online diamond retailer is a perfect place to get to know a bunch of different styles and take your time choosing without a salesperson breathing down your neck.
Most online retailers have their ring settings sorted with filters for different ring styles. Like the diamond, you can rotate and toggle the entire ring to see what it looks like. The other thing I really like that you don't find as smooth on other sites is that you can actually change the diamond shape on the same page.
For instance, maybe you thought the yellow gold round cut diamond engagement ring was the one you wanted. But then you see that you can see what your ring looks like with an oval. Why not change the yellow gold to rose gold while you're at it?
Quick adjustments like this allow you to really get a good feel for what you like without any pressure.
Once you've chosen your loose diamond and ring setting, you're ready to checkout. Add an engraving for free, and enjoy the free lifetime warranty James Allen offers with the oval ring we've picked out. Now you're ready to check out finalize your online shopping.
Where to Buy a Diamond Online
Have I convinced you yet that buying a diamond in-store isn't as great as it seems? Or are you still on the fence?
If you're really curious about buying a diamond online vs in store, don't take my word for it, check out our favorite online diamond retailers below:
- Thousands of loose diamonds to choose from
- Crystal Clear 360-degree Viewing Technology
- Free Lifetime Warranty
- Trace Diamond Origin
- Gives back to the community
- Has physical locations and operates online
- Wide Selection of Ring Settings
- Only carries GIA and AGS certified diamonds
- Long standing reputation
Any of these online diamond retailers would be a great option to purchase a diamond from. If you're still nervous about buying solely online, there are a couple of diamond retailers that allow you to see in-store.
Bottom Line: Buying a Diamond Online vs In Store
When it comes to buying a diamond online vs in store, there are many factors that come into play. People want high-quality diamonds and they want them for a great price.
Many physical diamond retailers will say you can't have both.
Online diamond retailers tell us differently.
With some companies offering complete breakdowns of diamond prices and everyone letting you select your diamond grades.
When you buy a diamond in-store, people feel more secure. You can touch, feel, and observe the engagement ring. But if you don't know what to look for, you could be going in even more blind than shopping online, and that's without a 360 viewer.
Most jewelry retail employees aren't educated beyond the basics. The turnover rate in companies like Zales, Gordon Jewelers, Jared, and Kay is high, so they would lose a lot of money putting all their employees through GIA training. Their retail employees are only retained based on their ability to sell expensive items.
Read also: James Allen vs Jared: Who's the Best?
Smaller online retailers can afford to pay those with gemologist degrees. They aren't paid by commission, so you can be sure you're getting completely unbiased information.
Many of these retailers have been around for years, so there's no threat to losing any business, especially when diamonds online are up to 40% cheaper than in-store.
That being said, there are a few risks when shopping for diamonds online. Not every diamond retailer on the internet is legit.
All of the diamond retailers I've recommended have solid return policies and reputations. You should still check the return policies process just in case and make sure it suits your need.
Buying a diamond online will save you the most money for better quality.
You should always choose the best option for your situation and your wallet. Just know that buying a diamond online isn't near as scary as it sounds, and may even be a better deal for you!