Advice: Buying Diamonds Online

James Allen Wedding Ring SetWhen a customer buys a diamond in a brick and mortar store, they often choose a jeweler based on one of two things, a referral (“I know a guy”) or the brand recognition of the store, (e.g. Tiffany or Kay Jewelers). Often an impulse buy, customers sometimes overpay for a diamond of lesser quality because, frankly they don’t know what they are looking for. In almost every case, they walk into a jeweler knowing the amount they want to spend (one month’s salary, two months, etc.), but they don’t know how that translates into a diamond’s value. Compound that with the lack of transparency between the tradeoff on price with a change in color, cut, clarity and carat weight and a customer often walks out thoroughly confused about what they just bought. Buying a diamond this way is like walking into a used car dealership and saying “how much car will $5,000 get me?” When the salesperson asks “how much do you know about cars” and your response is “not much,” there is a good chance you’ll over pay . . .

Below we outline where online diamond shopping is better and worse than buying a diamond in a brick and mortar store. On the points where it’s worse we also try to show you how to mitigate those risks so that your experience is both fruitful and even enjoyable!

Where Online Diamond Buying is Better

According to a recent online New York Diamond Discounters Survey, hassle free shopping was second only to price as the main reason people buy diamonds online.

The good news is that online diamond shopping, particularly from well-respected online diamond titans such as James Allen (A+ rated by the Better Business Bureau), Zoara (A rated) and Brian Gavin (A+ rated) have made pricing completely transparent. A GIA certified, 1 carat weight, round diamond of H color, VS2 clarity and Excellent cut can be compared across all three online diamond stores to determine which is priced the best (and for many of you, against the original diamond price and specs that you saw at the jewelry store that made you come here to learn more about shopping online). The reason that online diamond shopping is so powerful is because you can hold three of the four variables of color, cut, clarity and carat weight constant while adjusting the fourth to see the change in price, all without the pressure of someone standing over you trying to get you to buy.

loose-diamondsFurther, online diamond stores also have access to a massive inventory because the buyer base is much larger and the inventory available is on consignment.

Compound this with the fact that buying diamonds online saves the customer about 40% over retail store prices on average, so you can either get your loved one a better diamond for the amount you want to spend or use the funds elsewhere.

Where Online Diamond Buying is Worse

Given what I just said: better pricing, better inventory, no pressure and time to make an informed decision, why wouldn’t everyone buy their diamonds online. That’s a good question. Most of the time, it’s because they have not taken the time to learn the basic qualities of a diamond and the effect on price when these qualities move around. In other words they need to be guided. This is fine if you are dealing with a reputable diamond dealer, their job is to make your purchase easier and charge a fair price in return. There are many listed here in this directory, and if you want to be guided, just make sure you look for those with high customer review ratings as a starting point.

The other reason is that the buyer does not trust the online retailer. 20 years ago this would have been a good reason to avoid buying online, but today online diamond retailers have gotten the formula right: a no questions asked return policy, a hoard of top quality, low price GIA certified diamonds, and an A or A+ Better Business Bureau rating.

Gemologist inspecting JewelryThe third is a concern about the overall look of the diamond when held up close. This is called “symmetry” and it is part of the overall “cut” of a diamond. While a round diamond is indeed round, what if it’s too flat or too thick for example? GIA has a cut rating scale between Excellent and Poor, which measures both the precision of the cut and the proportions and angles. Computers do the work for you so that an Excellent cut diamond is technically perfect or nearly perfect in shape and lines. Also, Very Good is hard to distinguish from Excellent for the average person. Below this the diamond shape starts to turn a little funny. In all cases, even if you purchase an Excellent cut diamond, make sure you understand how much time you have to return the diamond and any restocking fees charged.

What do “most people” buy?

We currently only run one survey on Jewelers.NYC and it is a popup that is run on about one out of ten entrants to our site. In our survey we want to know what the “average person” buys when it comes to a diamond. Why do we want to know that? Because we want you to have better data than, “How much diamond will $5000 get me?” This makes sense intuitively because you could get a large 2-carat diamond for that amount, but it would be off in proportions, color, clarity, etc. Conversely you could get a nearly perfectly cut ½ carat diamond for that amount, but do you really need that level of precision (over 99% of the people don’t for a diamond of that size)? Repeat the exercise for every element of the Four C’s and, well you get the point. Most people want to know where the balance between the 4C’s is “on overage“ and then tweak it to their own needs accordingly. Here’s the most recent data:

What diamond carat weight are you interested in?
about 1/2 carat 9%
about 3/4 carat 18%
about 1 carat 45%
about 1 1/4 carats 18%
about 1 1/2 carats 9%
about 1 3/4 carats 0%
about 2 carats 0%
about 2 1/2 carats 0%
about 3 carats 0%
over 3 carats 0%
What diamond color are you interested in?
D 0%
E 9%
F 0%
G 45%
H 45%
I 0%
J 0%
What diamond clarity are you interested in?
Flawless (F1) 0%
Internally Flawless (IF) 0%
Very Very Slightly Included – High (VVS1) 9%
Very Very Slightly Included – Low (VVS2) 0%
Very Slightly Included – High (VS1) 27%
Very Slightly Included – Low (VS2) 55%
Slightly Included – High (SI1) 9%
Slightly Included – Low (SI2) 0%
What diamond cut are you interested in?
Excellent 18%
Very good 73%
Good 9%
Fair 0%
Poor 0%

Data as of May 2, 2015

Conclusion: The average diamond buyer is interested in a 1 carat diamond of either G or H color, VS2 clarity and Very Good cut.

Where to get started

At this point you are armed with more information than most people looking for a diamond. Now we recommend that you have a little fun by visiting a few well-regarded online stores. For those that have already visited a jeweler, you probably have the information about the diamond that you viewed on a business card or in your notes. Compare their price and 4 C’s characteristics to the price on the “Recommended Jewelers” listed below to see the price variance – it’s usually 35-40% less online. For those that have not been to a jeweler, try using the “average diamond” metrics from our survey results above. Then play with the 4 Cs to see their effect on price as you move up or down in size or rating’s scale – remember no one is watching you so you can do this over a few minutes, hours or even days and weeks!

Last but not least, we recommend that you only buy diamonds that are graded from the diamond lab GIA (Gemological Institute of America). GIA is widely recognized as the most stringent and reliable diamond grading lab in the world, so as you search these sites, ensure the “Fifth C,” Certification, is GIA on each diamond that you are viewing.


Jewelers.NYC Recommended Online Diamond Stores

James Allen


Brian Gavin