When I proposed to my wife, Blue Nile was in its infancy.
The idea that you could shop online and thousands on a product, any product, was sheer lunacy.
But today? It's common. It's completely safe and totally expected that you'd buy online because you can get a better price, better service, and add-ons you wouldn't get from a store at the mall.
And with today's technology, you can see exactly what you're getting at magnifications you can't get in a store.
One of the companies leading that charge is James Allen.
Who is James Allen?
James Allen was founded in 2006 by four individuals – Oded Edelman, James Schultz, Michele Sigler and Dean Lederman.
For thirty years, Oded Edelman was involved in the jewelry business. He started as a diamond polisher and would eventually move his way up to designing manufacturing machines to help automate the work he did. Using his expertise and work with diamonds, he began trading diamonds in Belgium, Russian, South Africa, and Israel.
I don't want to spend too much time on the founders but they are all equally impressive as operators. Interestingly, James Allen was acquired by Signet in August of 2017.
Signet Jewelers is a publicly-traded company under the ticker NYSE:SIG and with a market capitalization of $1.2 billion. It is the largest retailer of diamond jewelry in the world, headquartered in Akron, Ohio, and they have approximately 5,000 stores.
Why James Allen?
If you're comfortable buying a diamond or an engagement ring online, you might be wondering why James Allen?
Here are a few reasons:
Massive Diamond Selection
As of August 2020, James Allen has over a 200,000 loose diamonds in its catalog. That's almost a quarter-million diamonds that run the gamut of color, clarity, cut, carat, and shape. It's one of the largest catalogs online and each one has 360-degree video so you can look at it as if it were sitting on a satin board in front of you. Each one has a GIA, AGS or IGI certification.
360 Degree Video
You can save a lot of money when you buy a diamond online, but it can intimidating to think about spending that type of money without being able to see the diamond. If you go to a site like Blue Nile, you can see your diamond and even spin it around. That's good, but James Allen improves on it.
First, you get 360-degree video on every single diamond in their catalog.
Next, you can get it magnified (they call it Super Zoom) to 40X. It's not as large as a jeweler's loupe but to be perfectly honest, I'm not sure I would gain anything even if I did have a loupe to examine a stone.
What really separates James Allen is that every diamond gets this treatment. Many other online retailers only do this for their priciest diamonds.
Does this really matter? Yes. The diamonds don't all look the same.
Check out this eight 1-ish carat, VS2 Excellent diamonds:
The price variation is very small but you can already see how they each trap light differently (the dark spots) when looked straight on. When you hover over the diamonds, you can spin each one around to see what they look like with the 360-degree treatment.
And you can compare them side by side:
As you can see, similar diamonds in all categories except clarity. There's a reason why the SI2 diamond costs over two thousand dollars less than the IF and VS2 diamonds and you can see it pretty clearly visually. These images let you make that decision with the most amount of information.
Expert Consultation & Inspection
James Allen also offers live consultation so you can get all of your questions about a ring or a diamond answered in real time.
It's online chat, not a video or audio chat, and it's a cool feature.
Here's some screenshots of the conversations I had when I called the live consultation line just to test it out.
As you can see, the nicer diamond is over $1,000 cheaper than the first one I chose. When I asked the consultant about this, she went on to explain that prices vary not just on quality, but on where the diamond is located.
The point is that you can’t just choose a more expensive diamond and expect that you’re getting a better diamond. For this reason, using the live chat consultation feature could be very beneficial.
And the “no commission” salesperson promise evidently rings true, as this person was showing me better diamonds that cost a lot less than the one I was looking at.
Conflict-Free Diamond Guarantee
All of James Allen's diamonds are conflict-free and comply with the Patriot Act, the Kimberley Process, and United Nations resolutions. The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) is the one to keep an eye on because it was established by the United Nations in 2003 as a way to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the marketplace. It covers both rough and polished diamonds.
They also have a Lab-Created Diamonds section, which by definition are conflict-free because they're made in a lab. These are becoming the go-to type of diamond if you are concerned about where your money is going. Rather than rely on a system of certification and tracking, which can't be 100% perfect and only adds to the cost, many buyers are now turning to the lab for lab-created diamonds.
James Allen only collects sales tax on orders that are shipped to Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Georgia, Iowa, Nebraska, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia.
If you live outside of one of those states, they don't collect taxes. They update their list so double-check that for the updated list.
Everything is shipped free worldwide via FedEx Priority Overnight Shipping with insurance. Order today, see it tomorrow.
There are also 30-day returns, 100% refund, and a lifetime warranty. If you see the piece and are not satisfied, send it back.
If that wasn't enough, you also get one free resizing on all engagement rings and wedding bands within the first year. If you make an error in measuring your ring size, or you find the fit to be just a little off, you can get it resized.
Oh! If you want to engrave the ring, that's free too.
Want one more reason? You also get lifetime upgrades on any loose diamond you purchase from James Allen. You get 100% credit for the price you paid if you upgrade to a replacement diamond that is at least twice its value.
Building Your Engagement Ring
On James Allen, you can buy one of their engagement rings or you can build your own. Building your own allows you to select a diamond, which is really the star of the show, and then build the ring around that diamond.
The first step is to go into the gallery and select the filters you want to start checking out diamonds:
You can filter on:
- Shape – Round, Princess, Cushion, Emerald, Oval, Radiant, Asscher, Marquise, Heart, Pear
- Color – M to D
- Clarity – I1 to FL
- Cut – Good, Very Good, Ideal, True Hearts
- Carat – 0.05 to 30
- Price – $200 to $5,000,000
- And Advanced Options for Polish, Symmetry, Lab, Depth (%), Table (%), and Flourescence
Once you've compared, contrasted, hemmed and hawed a bit, and selected a diamond, you can double-check its page for details:
Click “Select This Diamond” and you'll have the option to add it to a ring, pendant, or to your cart to check out. You can just buy the diamond and get a setting somewhere else.
For settings, the filters are simpler:
You pick from the type of metal and the setting type:
- Setting – Solitaire, Pavé, Channel Set, Side-Stone, Three-Stone, Tension, Halo, Vintage, and Special Collections
- Metal – 14K White, 18K White, 14K Yellow, 18K Yellow, Platinum, Rose Gold
It will only show you settings that work with the diamond shape you selected.
Each listing here will also get the 360-degree treatment as well as showing you what it will look like in common situations and with different sized stones.
The images on the left give you a bit of context. The images on the bottom show you other rings they've recently made – it lets you know what a 2ct stone looks like in this setting compared to smaller diamonds. It's a bit like staging a room in a house so you get a sense of what it's like in the real world.
Select it and boom, you will see:
The last step is to enter your ring size (and an inscription if you want, it's free for most rings) and order it.
When I ordered my wife's ring, I used the designer tool on May 8th and the ring would be shipped just a week later. That's the speed at which they work!
If you don't want to design your own ring, you can choose from pre-designs they have and add your custom-chosen diamond to it as well.
- 6 Months Deferred Interest: If you can pay it off within 6 months, this option gives you a 6-month grace period. If you don't, you will pay all the interest with a rate of 29.99% APR. Minimum purchase of $1,000.
- 2 Years at 9.90% APR: Alternatively, you can get a two-year loan at 9.90% APR with a minimum purchase of $2,000.
There is also an option of paying by wire transfer and getting a 1.5% discount. Your bank will usually charge a fee for a wire transfer so you'll have to compare that fee against the savings.
Your best option will depend on your finances. If you can pay cash, you can either pay with a wire transfer or open a new credit card for the new account bonus since you'll have a big purchase.
If you can't pay cash, you can secure alternative financing but the two years at 9.90% APR is a good option if you can pay it off in two years. The deferred financing is the middle area – you only want to do that if you can pay it off in 6 months or secure alternative financing so you don't get crushed with the 29.99% APR.
Pros and Cons
Although shopping online for a diamond ring might seem intimidating, James Allen does a lot to help ensure you get what you’re paying for. Here’s a list of pros and cons you might want to consider when deciding whether or not to shop at James Allen.
- 200,000+ conflict-free diamonds to choose from
- 24/7 customer service
- Free shipping worldwide
- Hassle-free returns, 100% money-back guarantee
- Lifetime warranty
- 360 view with 40x magnification
- Buying online means not seeing in person until you get it
- Seeing a diamond online doesn’t give you a real view of it, although James Allen gets about as real as they can with their online viewing tools
- Some people might not feel as comfortable shopping for a ring online
All said and done, James Allen has put some great features in place to help ensure your online shopping experience is as thorough as possible. And with their guarantee, you can always ship your diamond back if you’re not happy with it.
If you're curious about other major diamond and ring retailers, one of the biggest is Blue Nile. We reviewed Blue Nile earlier and we suggest you check them out if you don't find what you like at James Allen.
And before you go, if you were wondering what the most expensive diamond on their platform is when I was writing this review, it's this $400,000+ rock:
All yours if you've got a half million to spare!