For diamond engagement rings, diamond wedding bands, and loose diamonds, I recommend:
While they may have based their business model around that of industry giant Blue Nile, James Allen has improved upon it in one major way. Blue Nile and James Allen both sell diamonds directly to consumers, thus offering them better prices by cutting out the middleman brick and mortar jewelry store. Both offer a huge inventory of certified diamonds searchable through their websites. But on the Blue Nile website, the consumer can only choose between diamonds based on the “specs” on each diamond’s certificate. One can’t actually see the diamonds they are choosing from at all.
James Allen’s website makes choosing a great quality loose diamond vastly easier and more intuitive, by offering not just diamond certificates for each diamond, but high definition rotating 360° views of every diamond they have listed for sale. This is important because, in reality, diamond grading is more of an art than a science. Diamond certificate specs can vary from one lab to another (with GIA having the most stringent standards) especially when it comes to color. On the James Allen website you can actually see how a diamond will sparkle in person, how white (or yellow) they actually are, how noticeable (or not) the inclusions are. Once you find a stone you like, you can even save it to a comparison list, so you can compare it with other diamonds with similar “specs” to see which one really looks the best. Photos are especially important when it comes to fancy shaped stones, like marquise and pears, as there are tremendous variables in cut and proportions with these types of cuts. It is much easier to just look through photos and find a stone whose shape you find pleasing, than trying to compare length-to-width ratios on diamond certificates.
For an example of how widely color can vary even of stones of the same grade, compare these two diamonds from James Allen’s website. They are both graded an “H”, however it doesn’t take a diamond expert to see that the one on the bottom (which is actually more expensive) is an ugly light brown. On Blue Nile’s website you would have no way of making this distinction, as on paper the one on the bottom would actually look better, as its cut is graded as excellent rather than very good.
Also, James Allen carries the largest selection of fancy colored diamonds on the market, which of course, you would want to see before purchasing, because two pink diamonds of the same grade are obviously not going to look the same.
Once you find the diamond you want to purchase, James Allen, like Blue Nile offers “build-your-own-engagement-rings”. With “build-your-own-engagement-rings” you select the exact loose diamond you want and they set it in a setting of your choice, of which they have hundreds to choose from. Most settings can be made to accommodate just about any size diamond that you choose. Of course, you can buy just the loose diamond, or just the setting if you prefer, but most people buy a complete ring.
James Allen is also known for their excellent customer service. They offer free 60-day returns for 100% refund, a lifetime warranty, and free shipping, including internationally.
If you begin to feel overwhelmed by all the diamond choices, remember, you can always ask me for advice or help in selecting a stone.
For more ideas, check out my Picks-of-the-Week.