This is a super in-depth review of Brilliant Earth.
In this up-to-date review I’ll break down:
- Who Brilliant Earth is
- What makes Brilliant Earth unique
- Things I like & don't like
- Whether or not their diamonds are worth the price tag
- And lots more...
Let's get started!
Who Is Brilliant Earth?
Brilliant Earth is a popular online retailer that sells loose diamonds and ring settings. The sell colorless mined and lab grown diamonds. They also sell natural fancy colored diamonds and lab grown colored diamonds too.
There's something for everyone in their extensive inventory.
The company was formed in 2005 and currently hold the title as the leading source in ethical diamonds. The idea was conceived by Beth Gerstein and Eric Grossberg, who were frustrated with the lack of transparency of the diamond and jewelry industry.
Even though they operate mainly online, Brilliant Earth have showrooms for you to visit if you wanted to see a diamond in person. There are currently 14 showrooms in major cities across the US like San Francisco and Denver.
You can book an appointment in-store or virtually.
What Makes Brilliant Earth Stand Out?
Brilliant Earth's business model is targeted market campaigning. In this case, they are targeting up and coming generations that are more environmentally and ethically conscious. The biggest way they do this is by providing blockchain diamonds and recycled diamonds.
It's no secret the newer generations are starting to snub their nose at natural diamonds due to conflict diamonds. Conflict diamonds are diamonds that have been used in civil wars in other countries. But a lot of these generations have it wrong. You can have a natural diamond that isn't a conflict diamond.
The Kimberley Process was put in place to ensure diamond retailers only sold natural diamonds to these channels. Even though conflict diamonds only come from a small number of areas, people wanted more proof that they weren't contributing to this
Every online retailer recommended at Learning Jewelry is a conflict-free retailer.
But what sets Brilliant Earth apart to other conflict-free fine jewelry stores out there is their commitment to going "Beyond Conflict-Free" to ensure responsible sourcing from all fronts including human rights abuses, environment problems, and other ethical practices.
The Kimberley Process ensures that natural diamonds don't come from conflict areas, but there's no given information on the history of where the conflict-free diamond has been.
Brilliant Earth is most focused on conflict-free gemstones, giving back to the community, and providing transparency to customers concerned about diamond and gemstone ethical practices.
Blockchain diamonds have an online network that tracks the diamond through each phase of its manufacturing to provide transparency to the customer.
Recycled diamonds are diamonds which have been previously owned, re-cut, and repurposed.
They also sell lab grown colorless and lab grown fancy colored diamonds, which are also conflict-free, but not necessarily better for the environment.
All of Brilliant Earth's diamonds are said to be from Canada, Russia, and Botswana.
Read also: How to buy conflict-free diamonds?
Brilliant Earth Shopping Experience?
So, what can you expect when shopping with Brilliant Earth? Here's the general rundown on how the average process should go. It CAN be as easy as 1, 2, 3, 4. Note that different items may take longer than others.
1. Picking Your Loose Gemstone
To reiterate, you have a mountain of choices for your center stone for an engagement ring. You can build your own diamond ring or build your own engagement ring.
The colored gemstone options are lab grown and natural emeralds, lab and natural (treated and untreated) sapphires, morganite, aquamarine, lab created rubies and the most popular diamond alternative, moissanite.
On the diamond front, you can choose from natural, lab grown, natural colored, and lab colored diamonds.
The natural colorless diamond collection is a large one, with almost 100,000 of different varying grades and diamond shapes. For a minimum of 1 carat, they have over 20,000.
Unfortunately, they don't have 360˚ video on all of their diamonds. However, you definitely still have enough to choose from.
Like other online diamond retailers, you can narrow down your selections. You can also choose which area your diamond comes from in the filters, as well as blockchain diamonds, and the recycled diamonds.
I'd stay away from Fair cut and Good cut diamonds, especially if you're choosing a round. I'd never recommend getting a fair cut diamond and frankly I'm surprised they have it as an option. In addition to ideal and excellent cut diamonds, they also have a line of super ideal cut diamonds.
They don't sell I clarity diamonds either, which I find to be a good thing. It means their diamonds have high quality diamond clarity and shouldn't be littered with inclusions all throughout it. This is very different from popular retailers like Kays and Jared who have majority of I clarity diamonds in their jewelry stores, and at double the price.
Brilliant Earth's diamonds may be certified by the GIA, HRD, or IGI. We recommend buying GIA certified natural diamonds.
I've chosen a 1.5 carat oval cut diamond with a clarity grade of SI2 and a color grade of E. You'll notice in the video below, it shows the cut grade as Ideal cut. Remember, round diamonds are the only official ideal cut grades. The GIA doesn't award cut grades to fancy shaped diamonds.
Ideal cut grades on fancy shapes by Brilliant Earth indicate that these diamonds fall under the best proportions for that shape. You should always pay more attention to the diamond specifics like table percentage and depth when looking at fancy shaped diamonds.
Their 360˚ video is nice and clean. You can easily see obvious inclusions and you can control it, which is one of my favorite things about great viewers.
If you're choosing a blockchain diamond like the one in the video, you'll receive an overview of its journey from being mined in Botswana to being manufactured in India. You can also view the GIA certificate online too. Places like James Allen don't allow you to do that.
If you want to speak with a diamond expert to go over your diamond, Brilliant Earth's staff is now available 24/7. They have extensive diamond training and some are even GIA graduates.
Now that we've picked out our diamond, let's check out the ring settings.
2. Choosing Your Setting
If you don't want to put your diamond in a ring, they also have setting options for diamond earrings or diamond pendant necklace. But today, we're choosing a ring setting.
We have around 250 ring settings that show up to fit my oval diamond. That's a lot of options, seeing as each of them also come in white gold, rose gold, yellow gold, and platinum. Every ring setting seems to have these 4 options, which is nice. Other online retailers like Blue Nile sometimes only offer certain ring designs in a particular precious metal.
There's a lot of varied styles to choose from, both trendy and more unique. In addition to having a regular controllable 360˚ view, you can also visually see how your diamond engagement ring looks in different skin tones. This is especially helpful for people who aren't sure which color metal to go with or what looks best for your skin tone.
Check it out below:
The other additional viewer feature is only able to be done via the mobile site. They've incorporate a Virtual Try-on that allows you to take a picture of your own hand and super-impose the ring you've chosen on it. You can scrimp and pinch and angle it to fit around your ring finger. This definitely helps a customer get a better idea of how the ring style might look on them.
They have about 45 ring settings under $1000, but these are mainly solitaire settings and minimal side stone ring settings.
I've selected my diamond and ring setting, for a total of $9,030 before tax. At this point in time, Brilliant Earth is offering a free diamond necklace with purchases over $1000.
Read also: Top 6 places to buy diamond necklaces
Everything looks great, so let's move on to checkout and return process.
3. Purchase Process
You can either hit checkout or pay via Paypal on your Bag page. When you hit checkout, you're prompted to fill out all your info. You also have an option of creating a password for an account at this time. If you're not interested, you can just skip on by. I do recommend it though.
Once all the contact info is filled out, you can choose from a number of ways to pay. Debit/credit, by phone, Paypal (again), Affirm, via bank wire for a 1.5% discount, and their financing.
Brilliant Earth's financing option comes from Wells Fargo bank and is only available to US customers. You'll have to apply separately and put your card number if paying by financing. For a limited time, there's 12 months no interest if paid off by the 1 year. You can also manage your financing account online for your convenience, which is nice.
Your payment options at Brilliant Earth include debit/credit, bank wire for $500+ purchases (1.5% discount), financing through Affirm, and The Wells Fargo Jewelry Advantage® credit card. There's no interest if you pay off your purchase within 12 months.
The package is shipped to you via FedEx 2 day shipping. Brilliant Earth uses environmentally conscious packing materials as well as a wooden jewelry box.
4. Return Policy
Like most jewelry retailers, Brilliant Earth gives their customers 30 days to return, whether in-store or online. Online returns are free, and the FedEx return label is sent to you. They also offer a 60 day free resizing from the time your shipment is prepared. Many places offer this as well, but Brilliant Earth pays for shipping both ways and others don't.
They don't accept returns on items that have been personalized or engraved. I'd advise refraining from getting an engraving on a ring until after you're sure you love it, just in case.
To initiate a return, you'll have to contact the company via phone at 800.691.0952 to receive a Return Shipping Authorization Code.
Once you receive the code, you'll write it on the outside of your FedEx packaging. If you don't write your code on the box, they won't accept your return and you'll be subject to a $50 restocking fee.
Make sure that anything that came with your purchase (including certificates, jewelry box, and any complimentary items) because they won't be accepted otherwise. If you don't have your certificate, a $250 fee will apply. Don't write anything on the package about what the items are.
Brilliant Earth asks all of their customers to "double box" their return. Put the jewelry box and certs in a medium box and then inside of a larger box.
It takes approximately 7 days for a refund to your original method of payment. If paid via cash in-store or bank wire, you'll be sent a check.
What Did I Like About Brilliant Earth?
Blockchain Diamonds, Recycled Diamonds, and Moyo Gemstones Options
Brilliant Earth offers unique diamond and gemstone options that you won't really see anywhere else.
The biggest advantage Brilliant Earth has is blockchain diamonds. They're the first diamond retailer to offer them. You can view blockchain diamonds by expanding the filters under Natural Diamonds and check the box marked Blockchain.
Brilliant Earth has partnered up with Everledger, a blockchain technology company. Blockchain technology allows a person to view the manufacturing and distribution ledger through a computer system that is hard to hack or tamper with.
A natural diamond goes through 7 phases of production before it ever hits the customer's hands. The Kimberley Process ensures that the first phase is conflict-free. But there's no tracking after that available for the customer.
Blockchain diamonds fill in the missing pieces. When the diamond is passed on to the next phase, each head of that department must sign off in the online network. It's very strict. When you purchase the diamond, you're emailed by the company with a special access code to the network. You can see an overview on Brilliant Earth's website when looking at a blockchain diamond.
Currently, Brilliant Earth carries almost 10,000 blockchain enabled diamonds of various diamond grades and shapes. You can filter these by checking the box under the diamond filters. Around 2,000 of them are over 1 carat.
While many online diamond retailers like James Allen and Blue Nile sell natural diamonds with GIA Diamond Reports, Brilliant Earth goes the extra mile with GIA Diamond Origin Reports to confirm the diamond has come from one of their approved mines.
They also offer recycled diamonds, which are pre-owned diamonds that have been recut and repurposed into a new center stone.
Moyo Gemstones are a collection of colored gemstones that Brilliant Earth carries. It's a fairly small collection with under 20 options. Currently, the options are garnets, zircon, spinel, and tourmaline.
Moyo means "heart" in Swahili. The Moyo Gemstones come from female jewelry artisans. This collections serves to improve the conditions for women in the mining industry. They are responsibly sourced from women miners in Tanzania.
Most online retailers offer a manufacturer's warranty. Brilliant Earth is no different. I don't care for these warranties because they only cover manufacturing defects or design flaws. They won't cover routine maintenance for things like rhodium plating white gold, tightening stones, or retipping worn prongs.
To cover these things, they offer the Brilliant Benefits Extended Service Plan. This is a 3 year warranty that covers normal wear and tear for your ring. Remember, gold is a soft metal and we don't often realize how much we knock our hands around throughout the day.
If you're wearing an engagement ring or wedding band every day for years and years, the natural metals will get worn. It's a fact of life. Has nothing to do with the quality or integrity of the metal. So, to keep it in ship-shape, your ring will need maintenance. Brilliant Earth will actually let you renew at the end of your three years if you want.
It's not a free warranty, which is a bummer. But a paid option is better than no option at all in my opinion. The cost is based on a sliding scale dependent on the cost of your item.
If you're shopping in-store, your representative will inform you all about the ESP. But online, they don't tell you much about it other than for more info to call. They also don't say anything about it being renewable after the three years. I'd never known that unless my virtual appointment didn't say so.
Not only can Brilliant Earth make sure your diamonds are ethical, they also show how much they care about other impacted areas of the world. They give back to the community through various programs as well as parts of their sales.
Sometimes they will have specific collections or jewelry pieces that go toward a certain cause. A portion of the Simone I. Smith Jewelry Collection goes to the NAACP mission to seek structural changes to expand democracy, eliminate disparities, and achieve racial justice through litigation, advocacy and public education.
The Diamonds That Care collection is a line of brown diamond jewelry (you might know them as chocolate diamonds). They'll cost much less than the ones at Kay.
Portions of the proceeds to this collection go toward Feeding America's COVID-19 Response Fund.
And you already know about the Moyo diamonds, which ensures that we are supporting women in the gemstone mining industry. And don't forget about the steps they've taken to minimize the carbon footprint by using recycled metals, environmentally conscious packaging and offering recycled diamonds.
What Didn't I Like About Brilliant Earth?
There are a couple of things that I wish were different with this company. Here are the aspects I wasn't too keen on about BE.
My main problem with Brilliant Earth is the lack of explanations on their website. A customer who might not be familiar with diamonds could stumble upon the site and not know anything about the warranty options unless they were digging for it.
Under the footer, you can find info about the Brilliant Benefits plans, but not in detail or that's renewable. It just tells you to call. It'd be nice if they could include a general price scale on cost range of items like other companies that do ESPs.
The blockchain diamonds also need a better explanation. I had to stop and go do extra research to find out exactly what blockchain is in a general capacity to understand how to do it with diamonds.
There's a small paragraph under the blockchain page, but it doesn't really explain exactly how it works and honestly, I didn't pay attention to it. My focus was on the loose diamonds below it. I think there should be a main blockchain page that explains it all in detail and then clicks to open the loose blockchain diamonds. They don't actually explain the process of how it works for a customer.
If you do a chat with a diamond expert, they'll explain all of this either in-store or virtually online. But the site just isn't too friendly to those who are trying to actively avoid the sales presentations in-store. The problem is, most people who buy online are buying for that reason.
Same with the idea that you can't add an ESP until after you've already purchased and you have to call them. That just seems like a lot of extra steps when you could just have a button that calculates the cost of it, like Helzberg Diamonds does when you create your ring.
The website info really just needs to be a little more user-friendly, which is a pretty easy fix.
How's Brilliant Earth's Pricing?
One of the biggest complaints you'll read on Brilliant Earth reviews online is about their diamond prices. More often than not, customers are finding cheaper diamonds with the same or close grades at other online retailers.
Automatically, people always think, higher price: bigger ripoff. The diamond industry is already interpreted to many as a corporate scheme. While markup costs are inflated, there's a number of reasons why a diamond company might be more expensive when matched diamond for diamond.
I've chosen an ideal round cut 1 carat blockchain diamond from Brilliant Earth. It has a clarity grade of VS2 and a color grade of G. It also comes with a GIA Origin Report. The price of this diamond is $7580.
I've chosen a similar diamond from James Allen's website that comes with a GIA report. The cost of this diamond $6380.
While not completely identical, that's still over a thousand dollars difference. That's a lot to a lot of people.
So, why is Brilliant Earth more expensive?
Let's think about it:
The average online diamond retailer shows diamonds on their site that come directly from the vendors. The same diamonds are often on other retailer sites as well. Many retailers also offer their own personal stash of diamonds.
All of these diamonds are sourced through the Kimberley Process, which ensures the diamond was not mined unethically. The blockchain technology is an expensive system as well. Extensive partnerships with other companies can contribute to cost.
You're also going to pay more for a blockchain diamond with a GIA Origin Report than you would a diamond from James Allen with a regular GIA Report. Both are top notch in the diamond industry.
Always remember that even though the price tag may be different, there are other contributing factors the make a diamond the best value, not the best price.
Read Also: Brilliant Earth vs James Allen
Brilliant Earth Bottom Line: Best Socially Conscious Diamonds
Overall, Brilliant Earth is a great choice to purchase ethical diamonds from.
Brilliant Earth is a diamond company committed to social change. Even though the Kimberley Process ensures that all of our other retailers don't obtain diamonds from conflict areas, Brilliant Earth goes beyond it and offers a deeper look into a diamonds past, using blockchain technology.
Aside from blockchain, Brilliant Earth puts a heavy emphasis on recycled jewelry. Most of their ring settings are recycled. Metal mining is a tremendous strain on the environment and using recycled metals helps them be more environmentally conscious.
No diamond company is truly green, even if they're lab diamonds. Lab diamonds aren't necessarily better for the environment. Brilliant Earth tries to do more by also providing packing materials suited for the environment, including a wooden jewelry box.
They give back in so many ways to women miners, people of color, education, hunger and other areas that are near and dear to the millennial generations and beyond.
Check out their huge selection of ethical jewelry from the link below.