15 years ago, buying diamonds online was about as smart as buying investment property in Florida from a telemarketer, sight unseen. The reasons were manifold but the primary one was that in the old days internet safety was not was it is today. The Better Business Bureau, already a consumer advocate for decades, had not yet made its way into rating online businesses, and there was no Google+, Facebook, Twitter or other social media to spread the word of a dishonest operator. And the most important aspect of safely buying diamonds online, customer word of mouth via online testimonials and reviews, was almost non-existent outside of Amazon.com, and they were just getting started! 15 years ago we would have said stay away from online stores. Today, however, buying diamonds online is perfectly acceptable and in fact quite normal.
Fortunately for the educated consumer the world has changed. You no longer need to pay full price (or even full price+!) for an over rated diamond at the mall jewelry store, when you can get a better quality diamond online at stores such as James Allen, Zoara or Blue Nile. Here’s how.
It all starts with a diamond certificate. James Allen, Zoara and Blue Nile each provide diamond certificates from the most reputable diamond lab in the world, GIA the Gemological Institute Of America. GIA certified diamonds are recognized for their consistency and conservative grading outcome. Others, such as EGL (European Gemological Laboratory) are known for looser grading standards, and as such one would not view their diamonds of equal rating to be of equal value. Stick with GIA certified diamonds.
All four C’s are graded on a GIA diamond certificate, so you can be comfortable that what you’re being sold is what you’re going to receive.
Better Business Bureau ratings. All three have a strong BBB rating, with James Allen rated A+ and the other two rated A. We find this the single most important safety net for the online diamond buyer, primarily because an online company is generally not required to get a BBB rating to do good business. Those that achieve A+ or even an A rating are in the top few percent of online stores and will defend their rare advantage rigorously – trying to keep customers happy at nearly all costs.
Return policy. James Allen and Blue Nile have a 30-day policy, Zoara’s is up to 45 days, more than enough time to know if you love your diamond or not.
Price. James Allen, Blue Nile and Zoara all price out about the same – and about 40% less than brick and mortar stores with high overhead such as Zales and Kay Jewelers.
Picture of diamond being purchased. This is where we think James Allen and Zoara nailed it and Blue Nile missed the boat. Both James Allen and Zoara have HD photos of the actual diamond that is being purchased, while Blue Nile uses a stock photo for all diamonds of the same shape. We don’t know about you, but we want to see our actual diamond before we buy it.
The Bottom Line
We like James Allen best for the Better Business Bureau rating, followed by Zoara for their 45-day return policy. Both also display the actual diamond you are buying. All three stores are reputable and have been in business for many years with hundreds of thousands of satisfied customers, and very few complaints.
We recommend trying each online diamond store’s diamond pricer to compare like for like diamond ring pricing.
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