Wondering who's better, Blue Nile or Clean Origin?
Perfect, you're in the right place!
In this expert Learning Jewelry guide, you'll learn:
- Who Has The Best Shopping Experience?
- Which Company Has The Better Warranty?
- Where Can You Get The Best Value For The Price?
- What Are Customer Reviews Saying?
When we talk about shopping experience, we're talking about what a jewelry store— online or physical—offers their customers. From selection, to grading reports, to showroom options, the shopping experience is what a store brings to the table.
If you've ever looked into buying diamonds online, chances are you've heard of Blue Nile. I'd honestly be surprised if you didn't. Along with James Allen, they are one of the top online retailers for diamonds and fine jewelry.
They've got something for everyone. They carry over 390,000 loose diamonds online, but not all of them are able to be view through their 360˚ viewer. It's important to check out your diamond in a 360˚viewer, especially if you're looking for an eye-clean diamond in SI clarity. If you are able to, you could save thousands this way.
The viewer at Blue Nile is better than most, just not quite the best. I like how simple it is and how you can control it by dragging the diamond. I'm not crazy about the angle the diamond is set in, because I prefer to look at a diamond flat. It's also a little further away than I'd like. I definitely prefer this viewer over most online retailers.
In addition to natural diamonds, they offer lab grown diamond jewelry too. They don't offer any loose lab grown diamonds.
You can filter all the diamonds with the 360˚ view in your filters, which is definitely helpful. They also carry over 250 ring setting styles for every kind of a budget.
Every diamond at Blue Nile is certified by the GIA, the Gemological Institute of America.
The reason why this is important is because you should only ever buy GIA or AGS certified natural diamonds. The GIA is the world's foremost authority in diamonds and hold the most value.
If you decide that your engagement ring or wedding band from Blue Nile doesn't fit your tastes, they offer a 30-day return.
Read also: Top 6 places to buy engagement rings from
Clean Origin has the same mechanics as Blue Nile, where you can choose from loose diamonds and empty ring settings. As for the product, they offer customers a different kind of diamond.
They sell lab grown diamonds exclusively.
Clean Origin doesn't sell any natural diamonds and all of their diamonds are ethically sourced. Lab diamonds are real diamonds that have been created in a lab instead of grown naturally in the earth. They have the same optical, chemical, and physical properties as natural diamonds.
Their diamond inventory is going to be much smaller than Blue Nile's, but that's because they're a specialty retailer. I really like that they also carry lab diamond jewelry, not just loose stones.
They have over 16,000 loose lab created diamonds to choose from of varying diamond grades. The more specific you go with the grades, the narrower they become. Round diamonds tend to make up majority of the selection, with 10,000 of them being that shape.
They have a large amount of ring styles as well, with over 600 to choose from. That's more ring settings than any of our other recommended online stores.
Clean Origin has two different types of viewers, and you don't know which one you'll get. One is the V30 viewer, and that's the one you want. It has all sorts of little neat features, even if they aren't necessary. But it's much better than the Diamond Scan.
The Diamond Scan shows you the diamond from table to culet, but it spins so fast, it's hard to see anything. The controllability is also pretty glitchy. The lighting reflections are pretty awful for choosing an SI clarity lab diamond. There also isn't a way to separate the different types of viewers.
Clean Origin is one of the few places that have GIA graded lab grown diamonds. James Allen, Ritani, and Brilliant Earth also carry them. The GIA was pretty hands off with lab diamonds, so IGI certifications have been deemed acceptable for them instead. We recommend GIA, IGI, and GCAL for lab diamonds.
Aside for selling lab diamonds only, the other feature that sets them apart is their generous return policy. They have a 100 day money back guarantee.
Read also: Clean Origin Full Review
One of the biggest things that can make or break a company in the diamond industry-regardless of pricing is bad customer service. People are more likely to buy from a place with helpful and attentive associates, even if means paying a little bit more.
Blue Nile serves the masses, so they want to make sure they have a bunch of different ways to get ahold of them at your convenience. They're available 24/7 via live chat, phone, email, SMS, and even WhatsApp. I've yet to see another online diamond retailer that offers this many different avenues.
Most people who buy from Blue Nile online are surprised to know that they also operate in 10 states with around 13 showrooms countrywide. Most online retailers might have a couple physical locations.
They offer their customers their own brand of ideal cut diamonds called the Astor Collection. These diamonds are not only GIA certified, but also comes with a GemEx certificate. A GemEx cert analyzes the light performance of diamonds.
Excellent cut and ideal cut diamonds usually hit the highest on these certificates. They are not a substitution for a GIA or AGS grading report. Personally, I think these are overpriced and not worth it.
If you need to book an appointment either in-person at a location or virtually online, you can book either at their website. Their diamond experts are GIA certified.
Read also: Where to buy GIA certified diamonds online?
Some added features that are given to their customers include a diamond buyback partnership, lifetime-trade up program, and all diamonds come with an appraisal. The appraisal is a great convenience for those looking to get their engagement ring or wedding bands ensured.
Like most natural diamond sellers, their upgrade policy allows you to choose a new engagement ring as long as it's double the price of the original. They also do price matching, but Clean Origin would not be a comparable retailer.
I like the idea of being to sell your old jewelry and putting that cash toward a Blue Nile product. Their partnership with Circa will turn that cash into a Blue Nile gift card at 110% value. That's perfect for people who bought from a mega retailer and found out they were overcharged. Non-certified diamonds aren't resellable for large amounts of money, so this is the next best thing.
Blue Nile's reputation as the first online diamond retailer in the diamond industry has a big part to do with its popularity. Many people are nervous about buying from online diamond companies, but the more reviews and people you see buy from them, the more comfortable they become.
Read also: Blue Nile Full Review
The customer service team runs slightly different than Blue Nile. They don't run for 24 hours and their weekend hours are a little odd in my opinion.
They're still available via email, phone, and live chat. They are open Mon-Fri from 8am EST to midnight. On the weekends, Saturday from 10am-7pm and Sunday from 10am-midnight.
It's just weird to me because most jewelers are open full hours on Saturday and close earlier Sunday night. But they do give customers the ability to schedule an appointment with their diamond expert. They aren't bad hours, they're just not as convenient as Blue Nile.
The main issue with Clean Origin is that they're just not widely known and Blue Nile's many customer reviews overshadow the few you can find online about Clean Origin.
The best source for customer reviews about Clean Origin is probably going to be their Trustpilot page, with around 170 reviews. Majority of them are positive, though the most recent ones aren't too positive.
It seems that a couple people had problems with their ring settings and another customer didn't like that you can't return a second ring if you've already returned the first.
Warranties are important when you're buying an engagement ring or wedding band since you plan to wear them often and for years at a time.
Blue Nile is often battling James Allen for top spot in some of our guides, but the one thing that keeps them coming below is that they don't have a lifetime warranty for wear and tear.
White gold jewelry doesn't keep its silvery appearance and needs to be rhodium plated. Your metal will become yellowish, usually toward the bottom of the ring shank. Yellow gold, rose gold, and platinum don't need rhodium.
Sometimes rhodium fades faster on certain people. Oils in your skin can make it fade faster as well as dirt and chemicals. Overall it's recommended to get rhodium done once a year. The price can range from $40 to $120. That can seriously add up over the years of a marriage, even with the best diamond. The metal is natural and not impervious to wear.
Most lifetime service warranties cover this plus other common repairs. Blue Nile doesn't. They have the lifetime manufacturer's warranty. This is a fancy way of saying that we'll only fix your ring if it was designed badly. Usually this is for people who have the same diamonds falling out. Manufacturer's warranties usually only cover design flaws or defects.
You do get free cleaning and inspections at Blue Nile, but you'll have to pay for Fedex shipping. You also get 1 free resizing within the first year. You'll pay shipping to Blue Nile and they'll pay the return.
Like Blue Nile, Clean Origin doesn't offer a free lifetime warranty that covers routine maintenance. They also have a manufacturer's warranty that covers design flaw and defects.
I really don't understand why retailers still aren't offering service warranties when they know how much cash is being dropped on these items. At least with Clean Origin, you're already paying much less for their lab diamonds. Imagine if you were paying for mined diamonds and still having to pay to retip your prongs.
Like rhodium, prongs wear down over time. You can usually tell your prongs need to be retipped when they start catching on clothing. It starts out once, and then happens a little more often. Prongs may feel kind of rough to the touch. Sometimes you can even tell a prong isn't touching a diamond.
In most lifetime service warranties, prong retipping is covered. Manufacturer's warranties don't cover this service or similar repairs. To retip or rebuild a prong, it usually costs around $25 per prong, or more. Prong damage usually happens more with high profile ring settings like cathedral settings.
Price vs Value
For most people, how much a ring is going to cost them is at the forefront of their mind. Often before features and added benefits. But sometimes you can get an excellent priced diamond with no benefits, or you could find yourself paying a little more on your debit or credit card, but saving money in the long run.
Sometimes it's not about the price tag, but the overall value of said price tag years down the road.
When comparing the price to value ratio for Blue Nile and Clean Origin, it's a bit like comparing apples to oranges.
Blue Nile doesn't sell any loose lab diamonds, so I went with one of their mined princess cut diamonds. I've picked out a GIA certified 1.51 carat diamond with VS2 clarity and F color grades. The cost of this mined diamond is $10,426.
I've pulled a similar lab grown diamond from Clean Origin with the same diamond grades and even GIA grading report as well. The grades are a little different because Clean Origin has less diamonds available in more specific grades. This diamond is 1.51 carats with VVS2 clarity and G color grade. The price of this lab diamond is $4,096.
As you can see, Clean Origin's diamond is exponentially cheaper than Blue Nile's. Not to mention that VVS clarity is a tier higher than VS clarity, so it's better quality as well.
But this is true with any lab diamond. Lab diamonds in general are at least 20% cheaper than a mined diamond of the same grade. More often than not, they can be over 40% cheaper.
The reason for this is because we can easily make lab diamonds, but natural diamonds only happen by change. Every lab diamond is gem quality, but most rough diamond crystals in the ground aren't.
Lab diamonds are also in controlled environment, so other impurities aren't introduced by chance, or other crystals. This is why lab diamonds often have better clarity than mined diamonds. You won't see heavily included lab diamonds. They still have inclusions, but they're metallic and needlelike. No big dark spots here.
For that same reason, you'll also find lab diamonds in larger carat weights. Since they're less included, it's easier to produce larger pieces of eye clean high quality diamonds.
One of the biggest reasons that deters some people from choosing a lab diamond engagement ring is because of the overall value of lab diamonds.
Once purchased, mined diamonds tend to lose half their value for resale purposes. If you've got a GIA or AGS grading report, you might be able to get more from pawn shops or diamond buyback programs. Often times it's less.
Lab diamonds only return the value that someone purchases them for, like on Facebook marketplace. Diamond companies don't purchase lab diamonds. You can't resell them professionally because their value is always fluctuating. That's why some lab diamonds are 30% cheaper and some are 60%.
Lab diamonds don't make good investments and they probably won't ever increase in value. But if that's not important to you, they might make are a great choice for you.
The bottom line is that value is subjective, and only you can know which is the best for you and your wallet.
While there's a lot of customer reviews on the internet at places like the Better Business Bureau, Google Reviews, and Yelp, most people only file complaints about the retailer. This can be helpful, but we always take reviews with a grain of salt.
Instead, we check out Reddit and many subreddits that speak of diamonds and engagement rings. Here you can read both positive and negative experiences.
You'll notice that Blue Nile and James Allen pretty much dominate the engagement ring posts and similar subreddits. Mainly this is when referring to mined diamonds, but many people have also bought loose lab grown diamonds from James Allen.
The archive of Blue Nile posts goes back years and years, so you won't see too many in-depth posts about the company in recent months. However, in comparison posts, it's clear to see they are still a top choice when deciding which jewelers to buy from.
Most recent posts on Reddit regarding Blue Nile are mainly asking about comparisons between the Astor Ideal and James Allen's True Hearts collection. My thinking in this is because there's already so many posts about Blue Nile, it's easy to search old ones and get all your information.
Blue Nile is often bought from and always comes up as a suggestion when Redditors are asking for best places to buy diamonds from.
The biggest problems from customer posts with Blue Nile is prices. This is most often when compared to James Allen. The other complaints are about the Astor Ideal collection, which we've already said you should stay away from. Keep to their regular ideal collection and you will find much better prices.
Clean Origin posts on Reddit are few and far between, even when talking about lab diamonds. Most people on Reddit seem to be buying lab diamonds from places like James Allen or Brilliant Earth, and even Ritani.
Out of the posts I can find, anyone that has purchased from Clean Origin has been happy. People like this Redditor below's own jeweler couldn't beat their pricing.
You can see that Clean Origin's 100 day free returns policy is also mentioned a few times, showing that it definitely is a feature that draws people in.
I think the biggest problem with Clean Origin on Reddit is that they're not marketing themselves. They have their own account, but it's active sporadically. James Allen has an active account on Reddit and they are all over the posts. I think that if Clean Origin were to market themselves this way, they'd snag way more lab diamond buyers. They also carry lab colored diamonds, which would draw even more people in.
Bottom Line: Clean Origin
In the battle of Blue Nile vs Clean Origin, we're going to choose Clean Origin as our victor. Here's why.
Clean Origin sells lab diamonds exclusively, which has become more in demand now than ever. Even though every recommended retailer we talk about follows the Kimberley Process for conflict-free diamonds, young people are still put more at ease with lab diamonds than mined diamonds. It gives them peace of mind.
Not only that, but people today have a hard time spending a large chunk of money on such a small item. That's why a lot of people opt out of diamonds entirely. Some choose colored gemstones, others use diamond simulants like moissanite. And even some throw out the idea of rings together.
Buying a lab diamond allows you to still have a gorgeous ring to represent your engagement and marriage, without paying near as much for a mined diamond of the same grade.
Clean Origin has so many ring settings to choose from, giving you a variety of options. They carry unique ring setting styles and many that you won't find at Blue Nile. And if you don't want a ring setting from Clean Origin, you can always just buy the diamond.
Clean Origin's 100 day return policy is the main feature that really separates them from Blue Nile. A policy like that speak to me about the trust they put in their product.