In our Battle of the Online Diamond Titans, James Allen (www.jamesallen.com) outperformed Blue Nile, but it was tight. Both offer custom cut engagement rings, diamond solitaire pendants, pave diamond eternity bands and a host of other popular jewelry; and both offer exceptional pricing compared to retail diamond stores, but James Allen aced over 10 important features that you need to consider before buying a diamond online.
James Allen starts with a build your own landing page. You select your diamond, select your setting and you are done. On this point, James Allen and Blue Nile are roughly the same. This is where the similarities end.
There are 12 attributes that we considered. Some were essential, some were important and some were just nice to have. Essential items are showstoppers. If the Jeweler did not have these, it did not matter how well they did in other areas.
Better Business Bureau Rating ★★★★★
James Allen has the highest Better Business Bureau rating of any online diamond store. They carry an A+ rating – the highest possible.
Return Policy ★★★★★
James Allen has a 30-day “no questions asked” return policy. If you don’t want your purchase for any reason you have 30 days to return it. We tested it and it worked as described.
You don’t buy a diamond online because you find the process rewarding, you buy it because it’s cheaper. We test priced a 1/2 carat round diamond engagement ring at James Allen: F color, VS-2 clarity, highest possible cut and a simple platinum setting and compared it to the same ring at Zale.
Zale charged $1636.78 for the band and $2995 for the diamond, for a grand total of $4631.78. Below is a link to their website showing the final price as of November 26, 2014: Zale Engagement Ring
James Allen charged $2320 for the exact same quality diamond: James Allen Diamond and $975 for a nearly identical platinum setting: James Allen Platinum Setting. Total cost for the James Allen ring was $3295.
Zale charged 41% more than James Allen. James Allen crushed it in this category.
Display of Actual Diamond Purchased ★★★★★
An attribute that is unique to James Allen is its 360 degree HD Diamond view technology. Every diamond that they sell is displayed in 3DHD. Blue Nile, their closest competitor, displays either a stock photo or real image, depending on the diamond.
Diamond Selection ★★★★★
James Allen sells diamonds on consignment which means that they keep prices low (your price that is) and inventory high.
Setting Selection ★★★★★
James Allen had 470 settings available. In reality you only need one and can’t possibly sort through them all, still we need to give them five stars if for no other reason than they took the time to provide significant choice.
Other Jewelry Selection ★★★★★
Engagement rings for women is by far their best seller, but they also have everything else: men’s wedding bands, wedding ring sets, diamond stud earrings. We had to ding them one star because they don’t sell bracelets however.
Online Chat Feature ★★★★★
We tested their online chat at 9:00 PM on a Friday night and it performed well. We tried to stump them person on the other end by asking a litany of questions about yellow diamond engagement rings, but to be fair they were about right with their answers.
Sales Tax ★★★★★
James Allen charges sales tax in Maryland and New York. If you live in one of these states you’ll need to pay tax or order elsewhere (Blue Nile charges sales tax in Washington State and New York).
Gemologist Telephonic Assistance ★★★★★
James Allen has their gemologist inspect every diamond before it is shipped to you.
Shipping Cost and Insurance ★★★★★
Free expedited shipping and free insurance. Enough said.
Customized Orders ★★★★★
There is some customization available, basically matching stone to setting, but you’re not going to create an artisan piece online. If this is what you’re looking for, read our Diamond District NYC Top 10 Stores article.
Of all the online jewelers, James Allen has our highest rating. They did well in almost every area and have terrific prices, 40% or more off in most cases.