In breif, the top six options are:
- JamesAllen.com: the best for natural GIA graded Diamonds, lab-grown diamonds, and fine jewelry. They also have a unique HD 360° high-resolution technology for viewing and inspecting diamonds. Do not forget to take advantage of their price match policy and other discounts. JamesAllen also offers exceptional support over the long-term.
- Whiteflash: the best for high-quality precision-cut Hearts and Arrows diamonds. They cut better diamonds than ones available at Tiffany & Co. Whiteflash also has one of the biggest collection of in-house diamonds as opposed to other online retailers. Do not forget to also check their collection of designer engagement rings and fine jewelry.
- Blue Nile: for fine diamond jewelry and diamond gifts. The company is one of the first online retailers of diamonds and has virtually transformed the diamond industry. As such, they are one of the largest diamond and fine jewelry companies in America.
- Brian Gavin Diamonds: for AGS Ideal Cut Diamonds. Brian is one of the best diamond cutters in the world and takes pride in his craft.
- Brilliant Earth: a reliable company and offers decent pricing on engagement rings and lab-grown diamonds. A good site to consider, but we recommend JamesAllen as our preferred retailer.
- Ritani: for high quality settings. While JamesAllen is a better choice, Ritani is still a fair company to consider.
Based on over a decade 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 a Budget
- The Seven Critical Factors that Affect the Price of a Diamond (it should be 7Cs, not 4Cs).
- Factors to Consider While Shopping Locally
- Selecting a Designer vs. Custom Setting
Best Places to Buy Diamonds Online:
After giving considerable thought to this article, we have identified the following insights as critical for shoppers to consider while buying a diamond online. We also believe it is in a buyer's best interest to buy a diamond or engagement ring from a reputable company in order to avoid getting riffed off.
Here are some of the reasons why a shopper should buy a stone from a reputable company:
- More than often, unreliable online vendors will not honor their stated return policies because of how their business is structured. They might even not have the cash reserves to accommodate large returns in a timely manner. In the best scenario, a buyer would have to wait for months to get a refund.
- Having the option to repair a setting is critical because side stones often fall off the mounting, and resizing needs might also emerge over the long term. Most small online vendors are not equipped for such services over an extended period -- they might even be out of business by the time such a service is needed, so it would not be wise to take their "lifetime" warranties 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 around 20% online. With these markups, it impossible to offer higher discounts unless there is a problem with 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 vendor should 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. Buying a GIA or AGS graded diamond is a must.
Considering the above factors:
Our top pick is James Allen. The company is the world's largest privately-owned company and is credited for bringing diamond prices significantly lower over the last decade. They also have the best 3D technology, showing every angle of a diamond or engagement ring before it is purchased. Additionally, James Allen offers a life-time warranty and a price match guarantee. What else could a buyer 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. 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) authentic designer collections such as Tacori, Simon G, Verrgio, a Jaffe, and Danhov, among others; and 3) life-time trade benefits on all diamonds. They are rated A+ by the BBB. Whiteflash also won the 2018 BBB Pinnacle Award. Click here to learn more about Whiteflash’s heart and arrows diamonds.
Our third pick is the Blue Nile. The company is a leader in 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 in pre-owned fine jewelry. After selling dozens of pre-owned Blue Nile rings, we were impressed with their quality and craftsmanship. The company has also updated its online platform. They offer cutting-edge technology for making a diamond buying experience pleasant. Click here to review Blue Nile's quick diamond buying cheat sheet.
Our fourth pick is Brian Gavin Diamonds for buyers that are in the market for a high-quality AGS graded diamond. Brian Gavin is a well-known figure 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, Brilliant Earth has strived to be transparent in how they conduct their business and make the jewelry industry more compassionate. Under the motto of “luxury with a conscience”, the company designs unique jewelry pieces in San Francisco before they are brought to life by their master jewelers. In addition to their robust online presence, the company also has several showrooms. Brilliant Earth has 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 their 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 also helpful addons.
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.
Round cut: round cut diamonds are very popular as roughly over 75% of all polished diamonds sold are round. 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 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.
Princess cut: princess cut diamonds are among the most popular fancy shaped diamonds. Before buying a princess cut diamond, 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 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.
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 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 one. It has 58 open facets. Therefore it is a good idea to buy an emerald cut with a high clarity grade to avoid seeing 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 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%.
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 highly 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.
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.
Category 1: The buyer is interested in the highest quality diamond that fits within his or her 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 with no Fluorescence.
Category 2: The buyer wants to get a big stone, but he/she 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 of 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: The buyer's priority is the size and he/she is willing to slightly compromise on color and clarity to get a big size diamond 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 decided that to get the largest possible diamond within her/his budget, they would heavily compromise on one C. In this case, we recommend that a buyer compromise on the Color and prioritize Clarity and Cut so that he/she 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.
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 minimum price range of many designers. Instead, try Whiteflash's designer collection. They are as good as any other designer's mountings.
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 larger the weight of 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 multiplies by up to even 10+ folds 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. 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 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 a competitive price and for stone above 1.5 carats, it is 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:
There are several labs out there and it is 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 shouldn’t’ ignored. 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 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. While buying a diamond with fluorescence in it, it is important to have a strong return policy in case the fluorescence is affecting the physicals appearance of the stone in-person.
It is not clear to us why a buyer would pay $5,000-$6,000 for a setting that should cost $1,500 simply because it has a designer name attached to it.
A setting or semi-mount should not cost $6,000-8,000 no matter how great the design, but it seems to be the normal price range of many designer.
Still if a buyer must buy a designer setting, 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 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.
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 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.
- At the very least, 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 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 a much better option to open new credit with a year of free APR and not take a jeweler's financing with a highly inflated price.
Thoroughly learning the above factors and getting a diamond that balances all factors proportionally within a given budget is the best approach.