I'm an independent shopper. If I need something, I like going into the store, getting it, paying for it, and leaving. Online shopping is perfect for me because I don't have to drive anywhere, wait in line to pay, and then drive home.
Which means one thing — I really do not like going into jewelry stores.
When my lovely wife and I were engaged in the mid-2000's, shopping on the internet wasn't a novelty but people were not buying high dollar items and hoping it would arrive in the mail. Amazon Prime was created in 2005 but wasn't as ubiquitous as it is today.
If you're looking to buy a diamond ring online, chances are you've heard of Blue Nile too. You've probably also heard that they can offer diamonds up to 40% lower – but can you trust them? Are they legitimate? Is “up to” just marketing speak?
History of Blue Nile
Blue Nile would IPO in May 2004, raising $76 million, and would soon find itself one of the largest online sellers of diamonds. Blue Nile would eventually go private again, in February 2017, and while we don't have publicly know sales data, they still claim to be the world's largest internet retailer of diamond jewelry.
(If you're curious, here's a Forbes article about Blue Nile's jewelry operation based out of Seattle.)
They're an experienced operation and quite large, which hopefully translates to better deals as a result of these economies of scale. They publicly state that 70% of their business is in engagement rings.
Despite their reputation as an online retailer, they have a handful of physical retail locations. One is located in the Roosevelt Field Mall in East Garden City, New York.
Diamond Shopping Experience Walkthrough
When it comes to the shopping experience, Blue Nile let's you build your own ring, like many other jewelers.
Here's their “Select Your Diamond” screen:
It has a tremendous amount of information on one page and what you want in a diamond selection table. The filters allow you to pick the shape the stone, price range, size (carat range), cut, color, and clarity as the base set of filters. If you expand the filters, you can also select for Polish, Symmetry, Fluorescence, Depth %, Table %, and L/W Ratio (these are all getting into very technical aspects of the stone).
Here's what I like about the diamond selection tool:
- The filters are fun to play with. Blue Nile has a lot of diamonds!
- The table includes delivery date, many of which are available within ten days!
- They don't clutter the page with images of the diamonds. It's a table with rows of the specifications, which saves space and lets you compare a lot quickly.
- You can select the diamonds you want to compare and it'll show them to you on a table size by side. You can see an example below and on that page they include a 360 degree view of the diamond (if they have one)
Here is the side by side (by side) comparison table:
When you click through to a specific diamond, you've given it's actual specs:
They will also tell you all kinds of specs of the diamond like the length and width of the face, table %, depth %, the culet and girdle. This particular diamond had a width of 6.43mm and a length of 6.47mm, table % of 59%, depth % of 61.7% with no culet and a medium to slightly thick girdle.
Once you select a diamond, you can build it yourself or use their build a ring tool:
The filters let you filter by price, metal (platinum, rose gold, white gold, or yellow gold), 14k or 18k gold, plus other important ring filters like size, style, band width, etc. Once you select it all, you just add it to your cart and it'll be shipped by FedEx Priority Overnight for free.
By the way, if you mess up the ring size, Blue Nile offers complimentary ring sizing. 🙂
Blue Nile only collects sales tax on orders shipped to Washington State, New York and Virginia.
Blue Nile's Diamond Selection
At the time I looked up stones for this review, they had 172,627 loose diamonds. The largest shape category was Round but they still had thousands in the less common shapes, like Heart.
Astor by Blue Nile / Blue Nile Signature Collection
Astor by Blue Nile is their top of the line diamond category with very exacting specifications. They not only are certified by GIA for quality (the four C's and other common terms) but also examined by GemEx for light performance. They cite that only 1 in 1,000 diamonds qualify for the Astor by Blue Nile name.
Blue Nile Signature Collection is the former name of what has become Astor by Blue Nile.
The key difference is that Astor by Blue Nile diamonds have a brilliance above the rest due to exact proportions. The diamond may be cut in a way that up to 74% of the diamond is removed to achieve that level of brilliance.
The ones that exceed these high brilliance standards are deemed good enough to qualify for the Astor by Blue Nile label. If they do qualify, they are screened for and registered with Gemprint, which may result in a 10% discount with insurance companies (Gemprint is normally a single $50 lifetime fee per gem).
Blue Nile Financing Options
Borrowing money to buy a diamond, or any kind of jewelry, is not something we'd recommend. It's best to buy things like this with cash but everyone's situation is different. If you need financing, or you have the cash on hand and want to see if there are any low rate or zero rate options you can take advantage of, Blue Nile has some decent options.
Blue Nile offers two financing options:
- No interest if paid in full within 6, 12, or 18 months – This is deferred interest financing and the terms depends on the purchase. For purchases between $500 – $1499.99, the period is 6 months. 12 months for $1,500+ and 18 months for Astor by Blue Nile purchases of $2,000+.
- Equal payments and 9.99% APR if paid in full within promotional terms – The term of the loan depends on the purchase price. You get 24 months on purchases between $2,000 – $2999.99. 26 months on purchases $3,000 – $3,999.99. 48 months on purchases $4,000+ and 60 months on purchases $6,000+.
You can always take advantage of these terms and roll it over into a 0% balance transfer for additional time at promotional rates.
Or, if you have pretty good credit, you could take advantage of a 0% purchase offer too and get free financing for a year or more.
Blue Nile Promotions
Blue Nile has an email list where they will send you educational articles about diamonds, special offers, and other marketing material.
If you sign up, you can get $100 off your first purchase over $1,000, with a few restrictions.
Benefits of Blue Nile
If you do have to call Blue Nile, it's nice that they aren't commission-based so you don't have to be worried about a heavy sales pitch or pressure tactics. If you buy entirely online, you never deal with a person and thus never any heavy handed sales tactics.
Blue Nile only sources diamonds from conflict free areas and follows the Kimberley Process, which is a certification process that ensures certified diamonds did not come from conflict zones around the country. It's been in existences since 2000 and supported by 81 nations as well as a United Nations mandate. I don't know of a single online retailer that does not take steps to ensure their diamonds are sourced from conflict free zones.
They offer free insured shipping via FedEx Priority Overnight as well as free 30-Day returns. You can return or exchange anything you buy in the first 30 days. Shipping is free, returns are shipped free, and everything is insured to the value of your purchase.
Blue Nile, like many other large jewelry websites, offers complimentary cleaning and inspection. You pay for shipping to Blue Nile and they pay for shipping it back. What's nice is that you can send it in for cleaning, they will inspect it, and if there is a need for repair you can get it repaired at cost. They will still pay for the shipping back to you.
Blue Nile has a lifetime manufacturer warranty that they will repair or replace, if they determine it was a manufacturing defect. If it isn't a manufacturing defect, they'll let you know how much it costs to repair.
Blue Nile has a diamond upgrade program where whatever you spend on a diamond (100%) can be used to trade up to a larger one, as long as the new diamond is twice the price of the original. It's a nice little perk if you ever intend to use it but not something I'd bank on.
Finally, Blue Nile has a Diamond Price Match Guarantee. If you find a comparable diamond on another site that is lower than what Blue Nile would charge, you can request a price match. The system is pretty simple, you just call up their 888-565-7641 and walk through the diamond with a consultant. The only requirement is that the diamond is graded by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and not another certification.
Drawbacks of Blue Nile
Blue Nile's images of photos are not as good as James Allen. Not every Blue Nile diamond gets the 360 degree treatment. If it worries you to buy a diamond with just a 360 degree high resolution image that just rotates, then take a look at James Allen. They offer an HD 360 video of the diamond that's huge. They also do it on the diamond table, which makes it easier to compare and contrast if you're early on in your shopping journey and aren't sure about the specifications and what you'll want.
Blue Nile's doesn't have nearly as many settings as James Allen. Blue Nile has around 300, which sounds like a lot… but James Allen has 500+.
Blue Nile is a reputable company and if you were to get an engagement ring there, you'll probably be very happy. But like anything else, shop around.