In a nutshell, the top six options are (see below why)...
- JamesAllen.com - the best for GIA graded Diamonds. They have the finest HD 360° high resolution technology available. James Allen, a $318 million dollar company offers you a price match to take advantage of it. The benefits will be so rewarding.
- Whiteflash - your bet for high quality precision cut Hearts and Arrows diamonds. Whiteflash diamonds are finer cut diamonds than what you would purchase at Tiffany’s.
- Blue Nile - for the finest diamond jewelry. The company has pioneered the online diamond trade virtually transforming the industry.
- Brian Gavin Diamonds - for AGS Ideal Cut Diamonds. Brian is one of the premiere diamond cutters in the world.
- Brilliant Earth - a reliable company and offer decent pricing on engagement rings and lab diamonds. It is a good site to consider, but we recommend JamesAllen as our preferred choice.
- Ritani - for good quality settings and decent pricing on natural diamonds. While JamesAllen is a better choice, Ritani is still fair site to consider.
On the basis of over 10 years of experience in the diamond and fine jewelry industry, we will share the best insights about buying ethical diamonds and engagement rings online. This article will cover the following topics:
- The Best Places for Buying Diamonds and Engagement Rings Online
- How to Prioritize the 4Cs (Four Scenarios to Consider)
- How to Allocate Your Budget
- The Seven Critical Factors that Affect the Price of a Diamond (it should be 7Cs, not 4Cs).
- Things You Should Consider While Shopping Locally
- Designers vs Custom Offerings
Best Places to Buy Diamonds Online...
We have given considerable thought about this article and we will share what is your best bet in the long-term. After selling countless diamonds and custom rings and working with every major brand. We learned that it’s best to shop at a reputable jeweler for an engagement ring or loose diamond. Here are the reasons why:
- Many small vendors online may not honor its stated return policies because of their smaller size. If they do they may have cash flow issues in refunding your money in a timely manner.
- Long-term servicing on jewelry is important because the stones could fall off the mounting, need resizing etc. We really do not know if small vendors are equipped for such services for an extended period (they may be out of business next year).
- If you are looking to spend less money, a jeweler has several options to give you cheaper prices. Strive to obtain a fair price and high quality. First, educate yourself about diamonds. If the price is too good to be true then you have reason to be worried. Nowadays, online diamonds and jewelry are marked up a maximum of 10-20%. So, there is not much room for significant discounts.
- We cannot understate the importance of having quality long-term customer service and warranties. It’s also important to have the option for a trade policy. What if you want to upgrade to a larger stone in a year or two? Would the vendor offer you a fair deal for your current diamond if you decide to upgrade?
- Many small sites and local stores will offer you diamonds graded by unknown labs or diamonds that have not been certificatied. Always ask for GIA or AGS graded diamonds.
Taking the above factors into consideration:
Our top pick is James Allen.The company is the world's largest privately-owned company and is credited for bringing diamond prices significantly down over the last decade. They have the best 3D technology showing every angle of a diamond or engagement ring before it is purchased. Additionally, they offer a life-time warranty and a price match guarantee. What else could you ask for? Best price, Best Customer Service, and Top Quality. Click here to watch super HD diamond videos at James Allen.
Our second pick is Whiteflash, 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 consumers. They also offer most designer brands of engagement rings at fair prices. If you go with Whiteflash, here is what you will get 1) a large inventory of in-house hearts and arrows diamonds graded by AGS; 2) authentic designer collections such as Tacori, Simon G, Verrgio, a Jaffe, Danhov etc. 3) life-time trade benefits on all diamonds. They are rated A+ by the BBB.They also won the 2018 BBB Pinnacle Award. Click hereto learn more about Whiteflash’s heart and arrows diamonds.
Our third pick is Blue Nile, the leader of the online diamond and fine jewelry industry by volume and scale. The company was a pioneer in bringing integrity to the diamond industry and in revitalizing the online fine jewelry trade in the late 1990s. When Petra Gems started selling diamonds online, we initially specialized pre-owned fine jewelry. After selling dozens of Blue Nile rings, we assure you that we are impressed with their quality and craftsmanship. The company has also updated its online platform. They offer cutting-edge technology for making your diamond buying experience as pleasant. Click here to review Blue Nile's quick diamond buying cheat sheet.
Our fourth pick is Brian Gavin Diamonds, if you are in the market for a high quality AGS Grade Diamond. Brian Gavin, is a well-known figure in the diamond industry and is a pioneer in diamond cutting space. He is a 5th generation diamond cutter and he is credited for inventing the hearts and arrows cut. Click hereto learn more about Brian Gavin's signature princess cut diamonds.
The owner of Petra Gems, Sharif, is happy to work with you directly to help you buy loose diamonds. We have been in this industry for over a decade and we have seen it all. We have worked with every major company and know some of the biggest dealers in this space, including De Beers sightholders. Please follow this link if you decide to seek Sharif's advice.
Best Way to Buy Diamonds by Shape...
We will discuss the best way to prioritize the 4Cs in the following sections. However, in this section, we will cover what are some of the optimal ways to maximize the cut of the diamond by shape.
Purchasing round cut: round cut diamonds are very popular as roughly over 75% of all polished diamonds sold are round. While buying round cut diamonds, pay close attention to the quality of their cuts. Ideally, you want a round brilliant cut diamond that has a table of 55-58% and a depth of 60-62.5%. The girdle should be thin to slightly thick (or in the 2.5-4%) range. The crown angle should be 34-35, the pavilion depth should be 40-41. The cullet should be none.
Buying princess cut: princess cut diamonds are among the most popular fancy shaped diamonds. Prior to buying a princess cut diamond, please determine if you want a square or an elongated princess cut diamond. For square, a length-to-width ratio (l/w) of 1-1.05 is ideal, and for rectangular, a ratio of 1.26-1.4 is preferred. In terms of cut quality, the table should be between 62-69%, depth should be 64-73%, crown height should be 9-16, no cullet is preferred, and a very thin to slightly thick or thin to thick girdle is ideal.
Acquiring oval cut: oval cut diamonds are becoming one of the most popular diamond shapes. The shape will give you a good look for the carat weight. Moreover, it combines the brilliance of a round and marquise cut diamond. You can't go wrong with an oval cut diamond. If you are buying one, make sure it doesn't 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% is preferred and table of 53 to 60% is ideal.
Buying cushion cut: cushion cut diamonds are a brilliant cut, and it was the shape of the 20th century. While considering your options, determine if you want a square or elongated cushion cut diamond. A length-to-width ratio of 1-1.05 for 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.
Purchasing 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 one. It has 58 open facets. Therefore it is a good idea to buy an emerald cut with a high clarity grade in order to avoid seeing inclusions in them. Aim for a length-to-width ratio of 1.38-1.5, a depth of 58-69% and table of 57-71%.
Buying 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 table of 56-68% is perfect for this shape.
Buying pear cut: pear brilliant cut diamonds are slowly gaining increased market share. They are unique shapes and look especially fabulous in halo engagement rings, sounded 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%.
Acquiring 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 table of 59-67% in this shape. Also, make sure you have an appreciation for open facets as these step cuts are quite different from brilliant cut stones.
Buying marquise cut: marquise cut diamonds are brilliant cuts and were very popular about twenty years ago. They may make a comeback someday. As you consider this shape, buy a stone with length-to-width ratio of 1.75-2.0, a depth of 56-63%, and table of 52-64%.
Buying heart cut: Heart cut diamonds are brilliant cut stones cherished by people who are looking for something unique. Make sure you buy a well cut stone in this shape, with a depth of 58-63% and table of 53-62% and avoid a length-to-width ratio greater than 1.05.
Prioritizing 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. You can decide which of these categories is best for you:
Category 1: The buyer who is interested in the highest quality diamond that fits within his or her budget. We call these stones investment grade because they are very rare and high quality. An example of this would be a 1 carat, D-E Color, FL, IF, VVS1 Clarity, Ideal/Excellent Cut, GIA/AGS Graded with no Fluorescence.
Category 2: The buyer wants to get a big stone, but he does not want to compromise on the quality of the diamond either (most common category). This is our favorite range because these stones are high quality. They also have a high circulation which means dealers can easily resell them (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: The buyer's priority is size and he is willing to compromise to a degree on color and clarity to get the size with good fire and brilliance. In this case, he/she would want a 2 carat diamond that is SI1/SI2 Clarity (preferably eye clean), H-J Color, Ideal to Very Good Cut, GIA Graded with Faint to Very Strong Blue Fluorescence.
Category 4: This is the category in which the buyer has basically decided that in order to get the largest possible diamond within her/his budget; they would heavily compromise on one C. In this case, we recommend that you compromise on the Color and prioritize Clarity and Cut so that you can still get a yellowish tainted stone that has an excellent fire and scintillation. So, it could be a 3 Carat diamond with M Color, VVS Clarity, and Medium to Strong Blue Fluorescence. Moreover, it could be even graded by IGI or HRD as these labs are consistent in properly grading higher color grade stones.
Now, that you have a glimpse of where you could possibly get the best design and deal on an engagement ring or other fine jewelry. How may you allocate your budget?
Our advice would be to allocate up to 15-20% of your budget to a semi mount or setting and the rest to purchase a gem quality wholesale diamond or other gemstone that is properly graded or “certified."
The setting is not going to be worth much if you ever need to upgrade or sell your engagement ring. If you are able to obtain the diamond or other gemstone at the right price and if it is a high gem quality stone; you will be able to sell it for most of what you've paid for it if you ever decide to sell it.
Important Factors that Affect the Price of a Diamond...
As soon as you start researching, you will discover a lot of mixed reviews and information about the 4Cs of a diamond. In the below quick guide we will summarize 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 larger the weight of the diamond, the more expensive it is. However, please note that if you are thinking 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 2ct. diamond, this is incorrect thinking. The larger a stone becomes, the rarer it becomes, and so the price multiplies 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 some price).
Factor 2 – Diamond Cut…
Diamond cut is an extremely important factor that determines the overall brilliance, fire and scintillation of a diamond. GIA has a cut grading system from Poor to Excellent and AGS has from Poor to Ideal for Round Brilliant Cut Diamonds. For other fancy shapes, AGS assigns a cut grade, but GIA doesn’t. 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. Check out this quick guide for princess cut diamond proportions.
Factor 3 – Diamond Color…
In white diamonds, GIA assigns a color grade in order to determine the presence of tint or yellow color in a diamond. The less the diamond exhibits color, the better the diamond is. Colorless range from D-F, near colorless range 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 competitive price and for stone above 1.5 carat, it is recommended to go for a slightly higher clarity grade such as VS2.
Factor 5: Diamond Shape…
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.so, this causes a significant difference in price.
Factor 6 – Diamond Certification or Report…
There are several labs out there and it is important to know which ones to trust and which ones that cannot be trusted. Appraisals are good for verification purposes, but are not reliable for grading a diamond. If you are not a diamond expert, never buy a diamond without a preferred grading report by an authoritative laboratory. GIA and AGS are well established labs in the US and HRD Labs are established in Europe.
Factor 7: Diamond Fluorescence…
Fluorescence in a diamond is not a widely known factor and is usually ignored. However, you shouldn’t’ ignore it. It is critical in factoring a price for a diamond. You can save up to 15% by buying a diamond with a slight fluorescence in it. Fluorescence ranges from None to Very Strong Blue. None is best, but faint to medium blue would also be in the safe range. Strong to Very Strong Blue might affect the appearance of a diamond. In some cases it is good to have a strong return policy if you are considering buying a diamond online which has a strong blue fluorescence. Just in case you do not like how it looks on a person.
One thing we do not understand is that a mounting that should cost $1500 is sold by some big designers for $5,000-$6,000 but still their customers would pay the higher mounting cost.
They must get their precious metal, diamonds and other gemstones from the moon…
A setting or semi mount should not cost $4000-8,000 no matter how great the design, but it seems to be the normal price range. Instead, try Whiteflash's designer collection. They are as good as any other designer's mountings.…
Local Jewelry Stores…
It is a known fact that local brick-and-mortar stores don’t even come close to the prices of online retailers for fine jewelry. However, it is understandable that shoppers might still opt for this option. If that is the choice you want to make, you might want to take your time to find a reputable privately owned local jeweler...
The big brand names in the malls have high prices and won’t even show you their top products unless you want to spend some serious money. Additionally, most of their diamonds are graded by labs that are known to have inconsistent grading systems. After you find a jeweler that you think you might be able to work with, be sure to take the time to have a strong sense of online prices so that you know what you will have to pay.
As a rule of thumb, try to answer the following questions prior to 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 as a reference.
- Does the diamond company offer a life-time warranty?
- Does the retailer offer free repairs and maintenance plans? Small diamonds tend to fall off mountings all the time.
- Does the vendor offer a reliable diamond upgrade program in the future? Many couples would buy a small diamond initially and then they would upgrade to a larger stone sometime in the future.
- Minimally, does the website accept returns within 30 days with a full refund.
- How convenient is their return policy (read reviews about their return process)?
- Are they big and strong enough to honor all returns? Some vendors might not have the cash flow to refund your money in a timely manner.
- 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 doesn't mean you should finance the purchase. In fact, it might be a good idea to open new credit with a year of free APR.
Conclusion: educate yourself about each of these factors and get a diamond that balances all factors proportionally based on your budget, and you will get a great deal.