Should I Buy an Engagement Ring Online or in a Jewelry Store?

Buying the right engagement ring is one of the most important – and dare we say – stressful purchases of your life.

After all, the engagement ring you choose represents your love and commitment. It simply must be perfect so that your partner loves it as much as you love them.

Yet once you start looking, you’ll be bombarded with both on and offline jewelry stores, each claiming to have the best diamonds, ring designs and pricing.

Try not to be overwhelmed, though. If you approach this with care, you’ll find exactly what you are looking for.

We recommend you start with LOTS of research. Don’t buy on impulse. Look online, stop by your local high street jeweler and see what they are offering, by all means.

If your partner is helping you choose, go try on some rings and see what style you both like. If it is to be a surprise, make sure you know the type and style of jewelry your partner likes, such as classic, modern or vintage and if she prefers gold or silver colored jewelry, so what you buy can match what she wears every day.

Ask her friends and family to point you in the right direction. But, resist the temptation to buy something yet.

Things to Consider Before You Start Shopping

Here’s a quick primer on some of the key decisions you’ll need to make:

Start with a budget and stick with it! You don’t want to go into debt as you start your married life together.

Then choose the shape you want. There are many different diamond shapes. These include Princess, Cushion, Emerald, Asscher, Radiant, Marquise, Oval, Pear, and Heart. Each diamond shape has its own unique look and is cut to different specifications.

The 4 C’s

Next come the 4Cs, which are diamond color, cut, clarity and carat weight.

Make sure you understand what each of these means because the quality – and therefore price – of the diamond or diamonds you choose will be reflected in each of these.

  • Cut reflects the symmetry, polish and proportion of the diamond and affects its visual brilliance. The better the cut, the more sparkle the diamond will reflect.
    • Budget tip: Don’t skimp on the cut of the diamond you choose. A well-cut diamond looks larger than one with a lesser quality cut, so opt for the best you can afford
  • Color has a rating system. D, E, and F colored diamonds are the rarest and have an icy white appearance. G and H diamonds are more common; I and J diamonds have a warmer color which goes well with rose or yellow gold and vintage styles.
    • Budget tip: You can save money by opting for faint coloration in the stone, which you may not notice.
  • Clarity is how clean or clear the diamond is and how few microscopic flaws or inclusions it shows under magnification. If you want a completely flawless diamond, choose an SI1 clarity rating.
    • Budget tip: If you need to save money, this is one area to consider. The flaws or inclusions in a diamond may be almost impossible to see with the naked eye, so one with a lower clarity rating can be a good option.
  • Carat represents the weight of a diamond, not its size.
    • Budget tip: if you buy a diamond just under a carat weight (for example 2.8 or 2.9-carat) it will cost less than a 3-carat stone.

Style and setting should be the next priority. Do you – or does your partner like the look of the traditional single solitaire, or something more adventurous? 3-stone? Pavé? Precious metal options include white gold, yellow gold, platinum, palladium, silver and rose gold.


Should I Shop for an Engagement Ring Online or in a Physical Jewelry Store?

Before you collapse in panic, take a deep breath.

Yes, you have tons of options. Yes, it’s a lot to take in. However, where you buy your ring can actually help you make some of these important decisions.

The best online retailers have a huge selection of diamonds, ring styles and settings with endless choices, so you won’t be limited by the rings on display in a high-street retail store.

They also have knowledgeable customer service representatives who can talk you through your options and help you narrow down your search.

The internet is a wonderful resource for checking products and comparing prices instantaneously, as we all know. It has made a traditional physical business location and retail opening hours almost prehistoric.

Here are a few common questions that people have when the idea of buy an engagement ring online pops up:

  • Is it better to buy online or in store?
  • Where should you shop to get the best value for your money?
  • Can you trust an online retailer with such a pricey and important purchase?
  • How can you be sure you are getting what you pay for?
  • Are online retailers trustworthy?

The fact is more and more people are buying diamond engagement rings online.

Sales are growing every year at over 20% and look to increase further as online retailers become even more sophisticated and customer centric.

Unfortunately, the number of high street jewelry retailers going out of business is also on the increase, which no-one really wants to see, but it’s a fact of life that the internet has taken over the sale of practically everything -and that includes diamond jewelry.

Their argument that “nothing beats seeing the diamonds in person” doesn’t necessarily hold water if you think about it. You are probably not a diamond expert, so, in all honesty, could you tell the difference between a high-quality diamond and a sub-par one, particularly with an aggressive salesperson trying to convince you to buy? Probably not.

Online jewelry vendors are required to offer all the features you’ll find in a physical store and more, if they want to survive in today’s competitive market. And if you’re an internet savvy millennial, the bull’s eye in today’s bridal market, you will feel completely at home shopping online, particularly if price is the driving factor.

The smartest online retailers know that – and they make it staggeringly easy and cost-effective to shop for an engagement ring on their sites.

We recommend you work with one of the reputable online jewelry sources for many reasons.

A few if our favorite online retailers for diamonds and engagement right are James Allen, Blue Nile, and Brian Gavin.

Advantage of Buying an Engagement Ring Online Instead of a Jewelry Store

Here are the main advantages of buying from a reputable online store:

  • Better selection
  • Opportunity to custom design to your exact specifications
  • Lower price
  • Potential savings on sales tax
  • Same third party AGI or GIA certification
  • Excellent customer service
  • Prompt refunds for returns

Better Selection

Firstly, online retailers have a much larger selection of diamonds and offer more ring styles than your typical high street retailer.

That is because bricks-and-mortar jewelers need to offer more than just engagement or wedding rings in order to stay in business.

They also have space constraints.

You’ll probably see watches, fashion jewelry plus other collectibles in their stores, but you will probably find a limited selection of engagement rings in display cases from which you will have to choose – if you are determined to buy something there.

You will not have as many options and choices as with an online store.

Custom Design Options

If you don’t see the ring design you like in a retail store, they may not be able to custom design one specifically for you.

For example, if you like a three-stone ring but prefer a cushion cut sapphire in the middle surrounded by two smaller pavé diamonds instead of the ring with three white diamonds you see in the display case, the store may not be able to make it for you.

On the other hand, the best online stores, such as James Allen will allow you to custom design your own, unique engagement ring starting with the loose diamond(s) or colored gemstone(s), to the type of setting, style and color of the ring you want, rather than just what is available in a jeweler’s display case.

You can start from scratch and let your design creative juices flow!

Alternatively, you can speak to a knowledgeable online customer service person who can help you every step of the way.

Lower price

The price of a diamond starts with its qualitative measurements (the 4Cs, as in above), but beyond that there are mark-ups added by the retailer which represent his or her profit margin.

We don’t begrudge any smart businessperson from making a profit, but do you want to pay an excessive mark-up? No.

The bottom line is – you’ll pay a much lower price if you buy from an online retailer.

The reason for this is that the high-street retailer has much more overhead than a typical online business.

This includes expensive property rent, staff salaries, stocking, insurance, steep marketing costs, interior displays etc. which make up the bulk of the operating costs for running a physical jewelry store.

That’s why you often see a limited amount of selections in brick and mortar stores; they simply cannot afford to own and carry the type of volume offered by online stores.

The mark-up and profit they need from each sale in order to stay afloat will be passed on to you, the customer, of course. For this reason, you can expect to pay anywhere from 40-50% MORE for a store-bought ring than for the same quality ring online.

According to industry experts, even diamond rings sold by big jewelry chains and branded boutiques can easily cost twice as much as the same quality ring sold by an online retailer, which will come as a shock to those of you who expected a better deal from them. After all, many of them specialize in engagement rings, don’t they?

If you are buying online, yet live in another state, you will not be subject to sales tax, resulting in considerable savings.

However, if you buy from a bricks and mortar retailer based in New York City, for example, you will have to pay a sales tax of 4.5%.

A $5,000 ring will cost you an extra $225 in sales tax. Not an inconsiderable amount.

Customer Service

What about customer service? What can you expect from an online retailer? Is it easy to return a ring if you are not satisfied with it?

James Allen, Blue Nile and Brian Gavin all have outstanding customer service departments.

James Allen’s Customer Service team consists of non-commissioned diamond experts you can call, skype, chat or email 24/7. They have also revolutionized online diamond selling with their Diamond Display Technology which allows you to look at each diamond and turn it around 360 degrees so you can see what it looks like at each angle.

Blue Nile also has non-commissioned experts offering 24/7 diamond guidance and they guarantee to answer you call within 10 seconds or less.

The fact that they are non-commissioned diamond experts is important: you don’t want to be talking to a pushy salesperson who is looking to earn a fat commission for selling you a ring.

Generous Shipping/Return Policies

Before you buy through any online retailer, we recommend you check out their reviews, payment and shipping methods plus their return policy.

Make sure you are familiar with their shipping and insurance policies and that you understand how their return policy works in case you are not happy with your ring purchase.

Blue Nile and James Allen both offer free shipping and free 30-day returns with a refund or exchange. At Brian Gavin you may return your diamond for a full refund within 15 days of purchase, less shipping and insurance.

Compare this with a high-street retailer who may not allow you to return a ring and who will not offer to exchange it with another ring.

The reputable online retailers we’ve mentioned all have excellent, transparent policies regarding returns. Their customer service reputation is on the line each and every day and they work hard to maintain it.

Bad online reviews can cost them thousands in lost sales, if not their entire business.

Authentic, Quality Stones

How can I be sure of the quality of a diamond I buy online? How will I know if it is genuine or not?

To be sure, there are plenty of scam artists online who will try to sell you a lesser quality diamond than are paying for.

The less scrupulous among them will put generic photos of diamonds on their websites and pass them off as the actual ones they are selling.

When you work with a reputable online retailer, such as the three we recommend, they will be willing to share information and data about your stone with you and send you a series of actual photos or videos of the stone, showing it in different lighting and at different angles.

Retailers like James Allen enable you to inspect diamonds up close with their revolutionary video technology, so you can see exactly what you are buying with a 360-degree view. You can spin it around and see it at every angle.

Their Diamond Inspection function allows you to chat with a consultant, in real time, and ask questions about a diamond you are considering while you are both on the same screen.

The moral of the story here is to only shop at reputable online stores.

Third Party Diamond Certification

It is important to request third partycertification on any diamond you buy online, such as its GIA (Gemological Institute of America) or AGS (American Gem Society) diamond grading report.

As you are probably not a professional gemologist, it is difficult to know whether what you are buying is genuine. Ask the online customer service representative for help with this.

A reputable online retailer will be happy to oblige with third party accreditation for your diamond or other gemstone(s).

You might also ask for a “fingerprint” of your ring on the bill of sale, which would include the stone’s 4 Cs, shape, dimensions and any cosmetic enhancements. This will be important to have when you come to insure it.

Also, anything that affects its value—if it was made by a famous designer, is an antique or period piece, or is handmade or custom-designed—should also be noted.

Conflict Free

All diamonds sold by James Allen, Blue Nile and Brian Gavin are guaranteed to be conflict free.

A word or two about conflict diamonds here:

Conflict or “blood” diamonds are those mined in conflict zones. They are traded illegally to fund bloody wars, particularly in central and western Africa, causing untold deaths and misery for the innocent people caught up in the fighting.

They are usually traded in rough form, i.e. uncut.

Secondly, there are thousands of workers, including children, who suffer untold misery. They are hired as virtual slaves to dig for the diamonds in back-breaking work for long hours in unbearable conditions for very little pay.

In 2000, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme was introduced to try and stop these practices. It requires all diamond exports to carry a certificate proving that it they legitimately mined and therefore “conflict free.”

You will want to see a guarantee that the diamond you purchase through an online retailer is 100% conflict free.

Our Recommended Online Jewelry Stores for Engagement Rings

Here’s a snapshot of what we consider to the best online retailers:

James Allen

(Recommended for affordable pricing, great selection and great customer service, plus you can see a video of each gemstone)

  • Very competitive pricing
  • Huge selection of GIA/AGS certified diamonds
  • Wide choice of settings and metals
  • Offers HD 360-degree videos of each diamond
  • Free value-added services, gemologist to evaluate your choices
  • Conflict free diamonds
  • Knowledgeable staff available 24/7, Real time Diamond Consultation
  • Free shipping, 30 day returns for full refund, lifetime warranty and 100% lifetime upgrade
  • Secure shipping & insurance

Blue Nile

(Recommended if you are looking to spend most of your budget on the diamond itself)

  • One of the largest internet diamond retailers
  • Extensive diamond selection from suppliers worldwide
  • Conflict free diamonds
  • Not as many setting choices as other online retailers
  • Known for its low prices
  • Knowledgeable customer service
  • Easy return 30-day return process, free shipping with self-addressed mailing envelope

Brian Gavin

(Recommended if you are looking for a top notch cut and superb quality diamond)

  • Industry pioneer, with patented diamond cuts and new signature line of ideal cut emerald diamonds
  • Exclusive source for Brian Gavin Signature and Cushion Cut Hearts & Arrows diamond, Brian Gavin Black, Brian Gavin Cape, Brian Gavin Blue, Brian Gavin Ideal Cut Princess, Quality and Custom Designs
  • Exceptional quality – in the top 1% of the finest diamonds
  • Conflict free diamonds
  • Reasonable pricing, but higher than other retailers
  • Wide range of colored diamonds
  • Wide selection of settings and designer rings
  • Inventory in stock, unlike other online retailers
  • Excellent customer service, live chat
  • Refund offered within 15 days, less shipping and insurance

The bottom line is: if you want an easy shopping experience, better product choices, higher quality and better value for your money, we suggest you buy your diamond ring though a reputable online retailer and avoid buying in a physical store.

Your typical high street retailer still has its place in today’s world of online shopping, but todays online retailers offer the benefits of higher quality diamonds and risk-free sales policies that physical retailers cannot afford to match.

Their money back guarantees also mean that you can always return the engagement ring for a full refund if you don’t like it. Doesn’t get much better than that.

Still not convinced?

If you are someone who absolutely HAS to see things in person, head to a bricks and mortar store first and look at the varieties of diamonds that are available.

Check out how diamonds with different shapes, cuts, color, clarity and carat weight actually look like on the finger, in real life, if you must.

Once you have a good idea of what you want, then our best advice is to buy your ring online and take advantage of the significantly lower prices and better product quality.

Frankly, it’s a no-brainer.