Best Places to Buy Diamonds & Engagement Rings
Buying a diamond or engagement ring can be a hectic experience for first-time buyers.
To help with the buying process, by building on our decade+ experience, we are offering our best insights on buying ethically sourced diamonds and engagement rings.
In addition to discussing and highlighting the best places to buy diamonds and engagement rings online, we will also discuss how buyers should prioritize the 4Cs while buying a diamond (four scenarios to consider), identify smart ways to allocate and maximize budget, learn about the seven critical factors that influence the price of a diamond (and why should it be 7Cs and not 4Cs), and consider the pros and cons of shopping locally.
Best Places to Buy Diamonds
In a nutshell, the top six places to buy diamonds are:
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When shopping for high-quality natural GIA or AGS graded diamonds, lab-grown diamonds, and/or fine jewelry, this jeweler should 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, James Allen has 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. Also, remember to check their True Hearts diamonds. Click here to watch super HD diamond videos by James Allen.
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For fine diamond jewelry and gifts, exploring Blue Nile's jewelry is critical before making a purchase. The company is one of the first online retailers of natural diamonds and is credited with transforming the online fine jewelry shopping experience. Blue Nile also has the distinction of being one of America's largest diamond and fine jewelry companies. They were recently acquired by Signet Jewelers for $360m. Click here to check out Blue Nile's quick diamond-buying cheat sheet.
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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 compared to other online retailers. Due to their exceptional customer service, Whiteflash has continued to be a recipient of the Better Business Bureau's Award for Excellence since 2004. They also offer designer engagement rings, making them a top contender for online diamond shopping. Whiteflash also started selling lab-grown diamonds recently. Click here to learn more about Whiteflash's heart and arrow diamonds
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Brilliant Earth can be an exceptional choice for buying lab-grown diamonds and designer engagement rings. Just like our other top-rated retailers, Brilliant Earth is known for ethically sourcing their products. They also carries many designer engagement rings and other fine jewelry. Brillaint Earth became a publically traded company recently and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Moreover, Brilliant Earth 1) is a certified and audited member of the Responsible Jewelry Council, 2) is one of the first companies to offer blockchain-enabled diamonds, and 3) has created rigorous protocols for tracing the origins of a diamond. Click here to check their lab-grown diamonds and compare them with James Allen.
Brian Gavin Diamonds
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Brian Gavin Diamonds is also a good jeweler for AGS graded ideal cut diamonds. Brian is a leading diamond cutter in the world and takes pride in his craft. Because Brian strives for excellence, diamond prices at Brian Gavin Diamonds are slightly higher compared to other online retailers.
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Ritani is best known for its high-quality engagement ring settings. While James Allen is a better choice, Ritani is also a good company to consider.
In-depth Review of the Best Places to Buy Diamonds
After giving considerable thought to this article, we have identified the following insights as being critically important for shoppers to consider while buying a diamond online. We also believe that buying a diamond and/or an engagement ring from a reputable company would be in a buyer's best interest to avoid getting ripped off.
Here are some reasons why you should consider buying a diamond from a reputable retailer:
- Often 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 significant returns on time. 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 will also emerge over the long term. Most small online retailers do not have such capacity in-house — 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, there is a reason to be concerned. At present, diamond markups are just between 15% to 25% online, and it is practically impossible to offer a higher discount unless there is a significant flaw in the diamond.
- It is 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 with 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?
As a background, James Allen was founded by Oded Edelman, James Schultz, Michelle Singler, and Dean Lederman. After being bought by Signet Jewelers, James Allen has become the world's largest privately held online diamond and bridal jewelry company.
Benefits of Buying at James Allen:
- 24/7 Customer Service
- Financing Options and Lifetime Warranty
- 1 Year Free Resizing and Free Engraving
- Free Worldwide Shipping and Jewelry Insurance
Our second pick is Blue Nile. The company is a leader in the online diamond and fine jewelry industry. 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.
Benefit of Buying at Blue Nile:
- Free Returns and Shipping
- Diamond Price Matching and Upgrade Program
- Free Lifetime Warranty and Secure Shipping
- Jewelry Insurance and Service and Student Discounts
Our third 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 engagement ring brands 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, 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.
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.
Benefits of Buying at Whiteflash:
- Free Shipping Worldwide
- One Year Service Plan
- Life Time Trade up and One year Buy Back
Our fourth 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.
Benefits of Buying at Brilliant Earth:
- Free Shipping Both Ways
- Flexible Payment Options
- Free Lifetime Warranty and Diamond Upgrade
Our fifth pick is Brian Gavin Diamonds, for enthusiasts searching for high-quality AGS graded diamonds. Brian Gavin is a well-known name in the diamond industry and is a pioneer in the cutting of diamonds. He is a 5th generation diamond cutter, credited with inventing the hearts and arrows cut.
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 the other Cs and related factors are naturally formed in a diamond. While we will share how to prioritize the 4Cs in the subsequent section, we will cover some of the optimal ways to buy a well-cut diamond - cut is considered 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 its cut quality. Ideally, buy a round brilliant cut diamond with a 55-58% table 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. There should be no cullet.
Princess cut: Princess cut diamonds are one of the most popular fancy-shaped diamonds. Before buying one, determine your preference for a square or an elongated princess cut diamond. A length-to-width ratio (l/w) of 1-1.05 is ideal for a square one, 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 at 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 53 to 60% table 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 for a rectangular one is perfect for 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 57-68% table are perfect.
Emerald cut: Emerald cut diamonds are among the oldest diamond shapes known for their elegance. It is not a brilliant cut, but a step cut. It has 58 open facets. Therefore, it is good to buy an emerald cut with a high clarity grade to avoid seeing visible inclusions in it. Aim for a length-to-width ratio of 1.38-1.5, a 58-69% depth, and a 57-71% table.
Radiant cut: Radiant cut diamonds have 70 facets and are full of fire. These cut-cornered stones come in both square and rectangular shapes. A length-to-width ratio of 1: 1 is ideal for a square, and a ratio of 1.15–1.3 is ideal for an elongated one. In terms of cut, a depth of 57-69% and a table of 56-68% are perfect for this shape.
Pear cut: Pear brilliant cut diamonds are gradually 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 55-68% depth.
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 diamonds, as opposed to emerald-cut diamonds. Aim for a depth of 60-66% and a 59-67% table 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 that were very 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 56-63% depth, and a 52-64% table is perfect.
Heart cut: Heart cut diamonds are brilliant cut stones cherished by people looking for something unique. It is important to buy a well-cut stone in this shape with a depth of 58-63% and a table of 53-62%. It is also critical to avoid a length-to-width ratio greater than 1.05.
Prioritize the 4Cs: What C to Prioritize?
Based on what we've learned, we've divided shoppers into four groups based on how much they prioritize the 4Cs.
Category 1:Those falling into 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 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 in 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 would be a 1.5ct, G color, VS1/VS2 clarity diamond, graded by GIA or AGS, excellent/very good cut with excellent proportions and no to faint fluorescence.
Category 3: This buyer's priority is size, and he/she 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 compromise 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 fits into this category. Moreover, a buyer may even consider a stone graded by IGI or HRD, as these two labs are consistently 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 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 a maximum of 20% on the setting/mounting.
Important Factors that Influence 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 price of a diamond.
Factor 1: Carat weight of the diamond
Diamond carat weight is easy to understand; the heavier the diamond, the more expensive it is. Also, assuming that a 0.5ct 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 0.5ct and a 1ct. would be roughly 3 times ($1500 for a 0.5ct and $4500-5000 for a 1ct. of the same quality).
Factor 2: Diamond Cut
A diamond's cut is an extremely important factor in determining 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. The AGS assigns a cut grade for other fancy shapes, 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 out 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 a tint or yellow color in a diamond. The less the diamond exhibits color, the better the diamond is. Colorless diamonds range from D to F, and near-colorless diamonds range from G to J. Then, there are a few tinted diamonds in the other color ranges.
Factor 4: Diamond Clarity
The clarity of a diamond is graded from flawless to 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 stones 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 and oval cut diamonds are more expensive than other fancy cut diamonds because more rough diamond is lost while cutting them into these shapes. Because round and oval diamonds have a big surface size, they require a larger rough stone than some of the other shapes, thus causing 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 unreliable for grading a diamond. Never buy a diamond without a grading report from an authoritative laboratory. GIA and AGS 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. Fluorescence generally ranges from none to a very strong blue. Although none is best, faint to medium blue would also be in the safe range. A strong to very strong blue might affect the appearance of a diamond. When buying a diamond with fluorescence in it, it is important to have a strong return policy if the fluorescence affects the physical appearance of the stone.
Local Jewelry Stores
It is 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 known to have inconsistent grading systems. After finding a reputable jeweler to work with, be sure to take the time to get a strong sense of online diamond prices and how they compare with what they offer locally.
Rule of Thumb
As a rule of thumb, try to answer the following questions before making a purchase:
- Is the diamond GIA or AGS graded?
- Does the diamond has 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 start with a small diamond and then upgrade to a larger stone later on.
- 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.
- Is the company reliable enough to honor and process timely returns? Some vendors might not have the cash reserves to issue 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 card with a year of free APR and not take a jeweler's financing with a highly inflated price.
Retailers would naturally prefer buyers who are more interested in the physical appearance of a diamond and not so much in its quality and/or price. To avoid buying a low-quality diamond that might be appealing to the naked eye, it is critically important that a buyer is well-informed about the key quality factors of a diamond along with the consistency of the various grading labs that assign quality grades to a given diamond.
As outlined in this article, the best approach is to learn about the above seven quality factors and buy a diamond that balances these qualities proportionally within a given budget range. Finally, buying diamonds online at one of our top-rated retailers will not only save you money but will also guarantee long-term support and assurance.