In brief, the top six options are:
JamesAllen.com: While looking for high-quality natural GIA graded diamonds, lab-grown diamonds, and/or fine jewelry, this platform must not be ignored. James Allen has a unique HD 360° high-resolution technology for viewing and inspecting diamonds and offers exceptional support over the long term. As the biggest online retailer of fine jewelry in the world, they have a large selection of options for buyers to consider while shopping for engagement rings. James Allen's price match policy and other discounts are also important factors that qualify them as the top option for buying diamonds online.
Whiteflash: The Company is best known for its high-quality precision-cut Hearts and Arrows diamonds. They cut higher-quality diamonds than Tiffany & Co. Whiteflash also has one of the largest selections of in-house diamonds in comparison to other online retailers. Due to their exceptional customer service, Whiteflash continues to be a recipient of the Better Business Bureaus' Award for Excellence since 2004. They also offer designer engagement rings which makes them a top contender for online diamond shopping.
Blue Nile: For fine diamond jewelry and diamond gifts, this place is essential to be familiar prior to making a purchase. The company is one of the first online retailers of diamonds and is credited for transforming the online fine jewelry shopping experience. Blue Nile also has the distinction of being one of the largest diamonds and fine jewelry companies in America.
Brian Gavin Diamonds: One of the best places for buying AGS-graded ideal cut diamonds. Brian is a leading diamond cutter in the world and takes pride in his craft. Given that Brian strives for excellence, diamond prices at Brian Gavin Diamonds are slightly higher compared to other online retailers.
Brilliant Earth: A reliable company that maintains reasonable prices on engagement rings and lab-grown diamonds. While Brilliant Earth is a good company to consider, we recommend James Allen as our preferred retailer.
Ritani: They are best known for high-quality engagement ring settings. While James Allen is a better choice, Ritani is still a good company to consider.
Based on over a decade of experience in the diamond and fine jewelry industry, this article highlights our best insights on buying ethically sourced diamonds and engagement rings online. We will cover the following topics as part of this guide:
- The best places for buying diamonds and engagement rings online.
- How to prioritize the 4Cs while buying a diamond (four scenarios to consider).
- Smart ways to allocate your budget.
- The seven critical factors that affect the price of a diamond (why it should be 7Cs and not 4Cs).
- Important factors to consider while shopping locally.
Best Places to Buy Diamonds Online:
After giving considerable thought to this article, we have identified the following insights to be critically important for shoppers to consider while buying a diamond online. We also believe that it would be in a buyer's best interest to buy a diamond and/or an engagement ring from a reputable company to avoid getting swindled.
Here are some reasons why you should consider buying a diamond from a reputable retailer:
- More often than not, unreliable online vendors will not honor their stated return policies because of how their businesses are structured. Worse, they might not even have the cash reserves to accommodate large returns in a timely manner. In the best possible scenario, a buyer would have to wait for months to get a refund.
- Having the option to repair a setting is crucial as side stones often fall off the mounting. Additionally, resizing needs also emerge over the long term. Most small online retailers do not have such in-house capacity — they might even be out of business by the time you need such a service. Therefore, it would not be wise to take their "lifetime" warranty seriously.
- Striving to obtain a fair price and high quality often works best. If the price is too good to be true, then there is a reason to be concerned. At present, diamond markups are just between 15-25% online, and it's practically impossible to offer a higher discount unless there is a significant flaw in a diamond.
- It's best not to ignore the importance of long-term customer service and warranties. Having the option to trade a diamond is also helpful. If an upgrade is needed, the retailer should be willing to offer a fair deal for the current diamond.
- Many sites and local brick-and-mortar stores sell diamonds graded by unknown labs or diamonds that are not graded at all. This makes buying a GIA or an AGS-graded diamond a must.
Considering the above factors, our top pick is James Allen. This is one of the world's largest diamond companies and is credited for helping diamond prices become significantly lower over the last decade. They also have the best 3D technology, showing every angle of a diamond and/or engagement ring before it's purchased. Additionally, James Allen offers a lifetime warranty plus a price match guarantee. Best price, best customer service, and top quality: what else could a buyer wish for? Click here to watch super HD diamond videos at James Allen.
As a background, James Allen was founded by Oded Edelman, James Schultz, Michelle Singler, and Dean Lederman. After being bought Signet Jewelers, James Allen has become the largest privately held online diamond and bridal jewelry company in the world.
Our second pick is Whiteflash. They are a leading retailer of precision-cut Hearts and Arrows diamonds and designer engagement rings. The company's A Cut Above® diamonds are truly remarkable and highly sought after by educated buyers. They also offer many designer brands of engagement rings at a fair price range. By buying at Whiteflash, a shopper will get the option to 1) check a large inventory of in-house hearts and arrows diamonds graded by AGS; 2) buy authentic designer collections such as Tacori, Simon G, Verragio, a Jaffe, and Danhov, among others; and 3) get lifetime trade benefits on all diamonds. They are also rated A+ by the BBB. Whiteflash has also been the winner of the BBB Pinnacle Award since 2004. Click here to learn more about Whiteflash's heart and arrows diamonds.
For reference purposes, Whiteflash is an ISO 9000 certified company and is a member of the American Gem Society. Stationed out of Houston, Texas, the company serves clients in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and Australia.
Our third pick is Blue Nile. The company is a leader in the online diamond and fine jewelry industry by volume and scale. It was a pioneer in bringing integrity to the diamond industry and revolutionizing the online fine jewelry trade during the late 1990s. When Petra Gems started selling diamonds online, we initially specialized in pre-owned fine jewelry. After selling several pre-owned Blue Nile rings, we were impressed with the quality of their craftsmanship. The company has also updated its online platform and offers cutting-edge technology to make buying diamonds a pleasant experience. Click here to check Blue Nile's quick diamond buying cheat sheet.
Our fourth pick is Brian Gavin Diamonds for enthusiasts who are searching for high-quality AGS-graded diamonds. Brian Gavin is a well-known name in the diamond industry and is a pioneer in the field of cutting diamonds. He is a 5th generation diamond cutter and is credited for inventing the hearts and arrows cut. Click here to learn more about Brian Gavin's signature princess cut diamonds.
Our fifth pick is Brilliant Earth. The company's mission is to make beautiful jewelry. Since 2015 they have strived to be transparent in how they conduct their business and are trying to make the jewelry industry more compassionate. With its motto "luxury with a conscience", the company designs unique jewelry pieces in San Francisco that are then brought to life by its expert artisans. In addition to its robust online presence, the company also has several showrooms. They have also partnered with the Rainforest Alliance. Be sure to check their lab-grown diamonds and compare them with James Allen.
Our sixth pick is Ritani. The jewelry company was founded in 1999 by a family of jewelers and is known for its elegant and high-quality fine jewelry. Ritani's jewelry pieces are uniquely designed by expert artisans in New York, and while they have good pricing on loose diamonds, it is more their settings and/or semi-mounts that stand out. Besides, Ritani's transparent diamond pricing, free in-store preview, free returns, price matching policy, lifetime care package, and warranty for life are all helpful add-ons.
Considering the Cut of a Diamond by Shape:
The cut of a diamond is the only C that can be influenced by human beings. All other Cs and related factors are naturally formed in a diamond. While we will share how to prioritize the 4Cs in the subsequent section, here we will cover what are some of the optimal ways to buy a well-cut diamond --- cut is considered to be the most important C among the 4Cs.
Round cut: Round cut diamonds are very popular because over 75% of all polished diamonds sold worldwide are round shaped. While buying a round-cut diamond, pay close attention to the quality of its cut. Ideally, buy a round brilliant cut diamond that has a table of 55-58% and a depth of 60-62.5%. The girdle should be in the 2.5-4% range. The crown angle should be 34-35, while the pavilion depth should be 40-41. The cullet should be none.
Princess cut: Princess cut diamonds are among the most popular fancy-shaped diamonds. Before buying one, determine your preference for a square or an elongated princess cut diamond. For a square one, a length-to-width ratio (l/w) of 1-1.05 is ideal, and for a rectangular one, a ratio of 1.26-1.4 is preferred. In terms of cut quality, the table should be between 62-69%, the depth between 64-73%, and the crown height should be between 9-16, having a very thin to slightly thick or thin to thick girdle with preferably no cullet.
Oval cut: Oval cut diamonds are becoming one of the most popular diamond shapes. The shape will give a good look for the carat weight. Moreover, it combines the brilliance of a round and marquise cut diamond. One cannot go wrong with an oval-cut diamond. While buying one, make sure it does not have a big bow-tie effect. A length-to-width ratio of 1.38-1.52 is perfect for an oval-cut diamond. A depth of 57 to 62% and a table of 53 to 60% is ideal.
Cushion cut: Cushion cut diamonds are a brilliant cut, and it was the preferred shape of the 20th century. While considering different options, first determine a preference for a square or an elongated cushion cut diamond. A length-to-width ratio of 1-1.05 for a square and 1.18-1.28 is perfect for a rectangular one. There are three types of cushion cuts; cushion brilliant, cushion modified, and cushion hybrid. The hybrid style is currently the most popular. A depth of 56-70% and a table of 57-68% is perfect.
Emerald cut: Emerald cut diamonds are among the oldest diamond shapes and are known for their elegance. It is not a brilliant cut, but a step cut. It has 58 open facets. Therefore, it is a good idea to buy an emerald cut with a high clarity grade to avoid seeing visible inclusions in them. Aim for a length-to-width ratio of 1.38-1.5, a depth of 58-69%, and a table of 57-71%.
Radiant cut: Radiant cut diamonds have 70 facets being full of fire. These cut-cornered stones come in both square and rectangular shapes. For a square, go for a length-to-width ratio of 1-1.04, and for an elongated one, a ratio of 1.15-1.3 is perfect. In terms of cut, a depth of 57-69% and a table of 56-68% is perfect for this shape.
Pear cut: Pear brilliant-cut diamonds are slowly gaining market share. They are unique shapes and look especially fabulous in halo engagement rings, surrounded by round diamonds. When buying this shape, consider a length-to-width ratio of 1.4-1.5, a table of 51-64%, and a depth of 55-68%.
Asscher cut: Asscher cut diamonds are step-cut and have open facets. It is imperative to buy an Asscher cut diamond with a high clarity grade. They are square cut as opposed to emerald-cut diamonds. Aim for a depth of 60-66% and a table of 59-67% in this shape. Buyers must have an appreciation for open facets as these step cuts are quite different from brilliant-cut stones.
Marquise cut: Marquise cut diamonds are brilliant cuts and were extremely popular about two to three decades ago. They might make a comeback at some point in terms of popularity. As a buyer considers this shape, buying a stone with a length-to-width ratio of 1.75-2.0, a depth of 56-63%, and a table of 52-64% is perfect.
Heart cut: Heart cut diamonds are brilliant-cut stones cherished by people who are looking for something unique. Buying a well-cut stone in this shape with a depth of 58-63% and a table of 53-62% is important. It is also critical to avoid a length-to-width ratio that is greater than 1.05.
Prioritize the 4Cs - What C to Prioritize:
Based on our experience, we have divided shoppers into four categories in terms of how they prioritize the 4Cs.
Category 1: Those falling in this category are interested in the highest quality diamond that fits within their budget. These stones are considered investment grade because they are very rare and of high quality. An example of this would be a 2 carat, D-E color, FL, IF, VVS1 clarity, ideal/excellent cut, GIA/AGS graded diamond with no fluorescence.
Category 2: A buyer of this category wants to get a big stone, but, at the same time, does not want to compromise on the quality of the diamond either (the most common category). This is our favorite range because these stones are not just high quality but they also have a high circulation—they will have a good resale value. An example of this would be a 1.5ct, G color, VS1/VS2 clarity diamond, graded by GIA or AGS, excellent/very good cut with excellent proportions and none to faint fluorescence.
Category 3: This buyer's priority is the size and is willing to slightly compromise on color and clarity to get a big-sized diamond with good fire and brilliance. In this case, they would want a 2-carat diamond that carries SI1/SI2 clarity (preferably eye clean), H-J Color, has an ideal to very good cut, and is GIA graded with faint to very strong blue fluorescence.
Category 4: This is the category in which the buyer has decided that to get the largest possible diamond within their budget, they would have to compromise on one C. In this case, we recommend that a buyer compromises on the color and prioritizes clarity and cut so that they can still get a stone that has excellent fire and scintillation. For example, a 3 carat diamond with M color, VVS clarity, and medium to strong blue fluorescence would fit this category. Moreover, a buyer may even consider a stone graded by IGI or HRD as these two labs are consistent in grading higher color grade stones.
A mounting/setting that should cost $2,000 is often sold by a designer for $5,000-$7,000.
A setting or semi-mount should not cost $5000-8,000, but it is often the average price for a designer engagement ring mounting. Instead, try Whiteflash's designer collection. The company offers competitive prices on most designer rings. Alternatively, go with either a custom piece or buy a regular nicely crafted mounting from the top vendors in the above list that can be as good as the designer option.
As a buyer, your budget ratio should be 80% - 20% (80% spent on the main diamond and at a maximum of 20% on the setting/mounting).
Important Factors that Affect the Price of a Diamond:
There are several insights and perspectives available online about the 4Cs of a diamond. In the quick guide below, we will offer a summary of what we think are the seven most critical factors in determining the value of a diamond.
Factor 1 – Diamond carat weight:
Diamond carat weight is easy to understand; the heavier the diamond, the more expensive it is. Also, assuming that a .5ct diamond would be 50% the price of a 1-carat diamond (all other factors being equal) or 1ct. would be 50% of a 2-carat diamond is wrong. The larger a stone becomes, the rarer it becomes, and so the price is multiplied by up to 10+ fold depending on the stone. Usually, the difference between a .5ct and 1ct. would be roughly 3 times ($1500 for .5ct and $4500-5000 a 1ct. of the same quality).
Factor 2 – Diamond Cut:
Diamond cut is an extremely important factor that determines the overall brilliance, fire, and scintillation of a diamond. The GIA has a cut grading system from poor to excellent while the AGS has from poor to ideal for round brilliant cut diamonds. For other fancy shapes, the AGS assigns a cut grade, but the GIA does not. However, there are ways to assess the cut in fancy cuts by paying attention to its polish, symmetry, depth, and table and width to length ratios, among other factors. For example, check our guide for princess cut diamonds to determine ideal proportions in that particular shape.
Factor 3 – Diamond Color:
In white diamonds, the GIA assigns a color grade to determine the presence of tint or yellow color in a diamond. The less the diamond exhibits color, the better the diamond is. Colorless ranges from D-F and near-colorless from G-J followed slightly by tinted diamonds in the other color ranges.
Factor 4 – Diamond Clarity:
Diamond clarity is graded from a range of flawless to included 3 or I3. The higher the clarity, the fewer inclusions or imperfections a diamond will have. Typically, 1ct or under diamonds graded by GIA above SI2 would be eye clean, VS2 loupe clean or 2ct diamonds VS2 would be eye clean, and VS1 loupe clean. Generally, a 1ct or under in the range of SI1 or above would have a competitive price and for stone above 1.5 carats, it's recommended to go for a slightly higher clarity grade such as VS2.
Factor 5: Diamond Shape:
The diamond shape is critical and affects the price significantly. Round cut diamonds are more expensive than other fancy cut diamonds. One of the main reasons for this is the amount of diamond that is lost while cutting a rough diamond into a round shape or princess or cushion cut stone. A round diamond would require a larger rough stone than would a cushion modified brilliant-cut in which cutters save much of the rough stone which would cause a significant price difference.
Factor 6 – Diamond Certification or Report:
Since there are several labs in the business, it's important to know which ones to trust. Appraisals are good for verification purposes but are not reliable for grading a diamond. Never buy a diamond without a grading report by an authoritative laboratory. GIA and AGS are well-established labs to consider.
Factor 7 – Diamond Fluorescence:
Fluorescence in a diamond is not a widely known factor and is usually ignored. However, it should not be ignored because it is a critical factor in determining the price of a diamond. It is possible to save up to 15% by buying a diamond with a slight fluorescence in it. Fluorescence generally ranges from none to very strong blue. Although none is best, faint to medium blue would also be in the safe range. Strong to very strong blue might affect the appearance of a diamond. While buying a diamond with fluorescence in it, it is important to have a strong return policy in case the fluorescence is affecting the physical appearance of the stone.
Local Jewelry Stores:
It's known that local brick-and-mortar stores do not even come close to the prices of online retailers for fine jewelry and diamonds. However, it is understandable that some shoppers might still opt for this option. If that is the case, it is important to research a reputable privately-owned local jeweler thoroughly.
The big brand names in local malls have high prices and will not even display their top products unless a buyer is willing to spend serious money. Additionally, most of their diamonds are graded by labs that are known to have inconsistent grading systems. After finding a reputable jeweler to work with, be sure to take the time to have a strong sense of online diamond prices and how they compare with what they offer.
Rule of Thumb:
As a rule of thumb, try to answer the following questions before making a purchase:
- Is the diamond at least GIA or AGS graded?
- Does the diamond have the right proportions?
- Is it within a competitive price range? Use these diamond prices for reference.
- Does the diamond company offer a lifetime warranty?
- Does the retailer offer free repairs and maintenance plans? Small diamonds tend to fall off mountings all the time.
- Will the vendor offer a reliable diamond upgrade program in the future? Many couples would buy a small diamond initially and then upgrade to a larger stone sometime in the future.
- At the very least, does the website accept returns within 30 days offering a full refund?
- How convenient is their return policy? Read reviews about their return process to educate yourself on this matter.
- Are they big and strong enough to honor all returns? Some vendors might not have the cash reserves to make a refund on time.
- Do they offer any financing options, and if so, how competitive are their financing terms? Please note that just because they offer a financing plan does not mean one should take the deal. It might be a better option to open a new credit with a year of free APR and not take a jeweler's financing with a highly inflated price.
Retailers often prefer buyers who are more interested in the physical appearance of a diamond and not so much so in its quality and/or price. Therefore, it is critically important that a buyer is well-educated about diamonds and the various grading labs before making a purchase. Learning the above seven factors and buying a diamond that balances them proportionally within a given budget range is the best approach. Finally, buying diamonds online at one of our top-rated retailers will not only save you money but would also guarantee long-term support and assurance.