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How to Buy an Engagement Ring Online

Couple holding hands

Buying an engagement ring online can get you a higher quality diamond at a cheaper price. However, buying a ring online isn’t as easy as you think. Here’s what you need to know before buying a ring online.

Why buy online? The answer is simple. For decades, national jewelry chains have been getting away with high prices. Thanks to the internet, we know how much diamonds really cost.

Online stores have lower overhead. They don’t have to pay to rent space in a mall. They don’t need to invest in security, nor do they need to pay sales staff. All of this means you pay a much lower price online.

Of course, there are some obvious downsides. You can’t physically see the diamond before you buy it. You can’t always trust an online store with your payment information. You can’t talk to a salesperson to understand the unique features of a diamond.

Ultimately, diamonds bought online are the same quality and cut as diamonds you find in store – they just cost up to 40% less. As long as you do it right, buying an engagement ring online could be one of the smartest decisions you make.

Editor’s Note: Before you buy, find an online jeweler you trust—preferably one that specialized in engagement rings, like James Allen.

Buying an engagement ring online – what to expect

A writer at MoneyUnder30.com recently generated attention online by sharing his story of buying his wife’s engagement ring online.

That writer bought his wife’s engagement ring from “a big, well-known national jewelry chain”. Later, he would write that “I really wish I hadn’t”.

Like many other people in this situation, the writer had done his research. He knew the style of ring he wanted to buy – and he knew he wanted to visit a well-known retailer to ensure careful handling of such a big ticket item.

The writer also looked up engagement rings online. He said he was almost ready to pull the trigger on an online ring purchase, and he had the ring designed and everything. However, he ultimately bought the ring from the national jewelry chain for a higher price. He justified the cost with the fact that he could see the ring and talk to a salesperson.

That’s where things got bad: the writer’s claims the ring was beautiful, but they quickly encountered problems because the ring was set too high. The ring kept catching on things around the home. Frustrated, the couple took their rings to the jewelry store to fix the problem, where the salesperson told them,

“Yeah, we get this all the time with this ring; there’s nothing we can do, but we could sell you a different setting.”

Understandably, the couple was upset. They thought buying from a local jeweler would mean better customer service in exchange for a moderately higher price tag.

What the couple found instead was that they paid approximately 50% more for the ring in stores and never experienced significantly better customer service.

That couple, by the way, eventually went to an independent local jeweler who was happy to reset the ring for a fair price.

Obviously, diamond stores vary widely in terms of customer service and satisfaction. However, many online stores today are famous for their strong customer service, letting you swap out rings with different widths free of charge, for example.

Is the 50% markup on diamonds worth the experience of visiting a local diamond retailer? That’s up to you to decide. Keep reading to learn more about shopping for diamonds online.

How to buy a diamond online

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Are there risks to buying diamonds online?

Buying an engagement ring is already nerve-wracking. Buying online can be even more worrying. Can you really trust online diamond retailers to deliver a high-quality diamond like the one pictured on their website? Can you really ensure that your $5,000 or $20,000 payment is being processed securely?

It’s natural to worry about all of these things. However, if you work with legitimate online diamond retailers, then the purchase process is incredibly safe. These retailers process thousands of purchases every day. Millions of people around the world are walking round with rings they purchased online.

Still, many people are concerned about problems with fake stones, fake diamonds, or getting scammed online. Others worry that the ring will be lost in the mail or stolen. Some people just don’t like the idea of buying something online that’s “so important”.

Obviously, these are all valid concerns. Here are a few reasons why you should stop worrying, however:

Reputation is Everything in the Online World

People have this strange idea that because a purchase is performed over the internet, it’s easy for the seller to “cut and run” with the money, or to swap out the real gem for a fake gem.

That’s true if you’re working with some low-quality retailer on a shady website from a third world country.

However, modern online diamond retailers – like James Allen or Blue Nile – have their reputations on the line when they serve you. Let’s say that, in the worst case scenario, you paid $10,000 for a fake gemstone, and the company refuses to refund your money or talk to you. You would post reviews everywhere. You would contact media. Start a blog in protest. You would spread the names of these retailers all over the internet to get your revenge.

The truth is: these companies have their reputations on the line. If they were ripping off people all the time, then you would see evidence of that online. On the internet, it’s difficult to cover up repeated cases of bad customer service.

Gemologist Certificates

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Additionally, if you’re working with a reputable online diamond retailer, you’re going to get a gemologist’s certificate with your purchase. That’s not always the case if you’re buying from an auction website or a low-quality retailer, but most legitimate retailers provide extensive certification.

(However, it’s still a good idea to take that ring you purchased online to a local independent jeweler for an appraisal, just to make sure).

Insured Shipments Exist

Many people are worried their ring will get lost in the mail, or stolen from their doorstep. If that happens, then you’re suddenly out thousands of dollars and you don’t have a ring.

Fortunately, insured shipments exist. Most major diamond retailers insure shipments. The diamonds are sent via FedEx or UPS. The packages have extra security – including tracking and a required signature.

Sure, there’s always a chance that your diamond gets stolen. Stuff happens. Fortunately, because the package is insured, you won’t have to pay anything if it does go missing.

Some major online retailers, by the way, prominently advertise the fact that they have never lost a diamond over all their years of doing business.

You should also keep in mind that insurance companies won’t insure a shipment if they expect it’s going to be lost or stolen. In order for a package to be insured, it needs to meet strict security standards – including things like tracking and a required signature.

All of these things mean your diamond is safe going through the mail.

No Questions Asked Return Policies

Another neat feature of online engagement ring retailers is that they typically have generous return policies. Typically, customers enjoy a no questions asked return policy with free return shipping. If you decide to swap out a ring, for example, then you may only pay for the difference in price.

Obviously, the specific return policy varies between retailers. Always check and make sure you understand the policy before you buy.

The best online diamond retailers

Finding the right diamond retailer is the trickiest part of buying an engagement ring online.

Editor’s Note: Before you buy, find an online jeweler you trust—preferably one that specialized in engagement rings, like James Allen.

Like any industry, there are thousands of retailers online willing to sell you diamonds. Most of them are legitimate businesses that provide high-quality diamonds at competitive prices. However, there are a few major diamond retailers that are particularly popular and well-known.

Two of the most popular diamond retailers include James Allen and Blue Nile, both of which have decades of experience selling diamonds and engagement rings online. Both retailers also have a catalog with tens of thousands of pieces from which to pick. They’re also known for generous return policies, strong customer service, and an overall good shopping experience.

Other advantages you get from Blue Nile and James Allen include:

  • 24/7 customer service
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Free shipping and returns (making it easy to swap out rings for different sizes)
  • A 100% refund policy within 30 days, with no restocking fees or return shipping added on

eBay and other diamond retailers

Ideally, you’ll buy your diamond from a reputable retailer with a long history of quality customer service.

However, there are thousands of diamond retailers on the internet, including one of the world’s largest online shopping websites: eBay.

Should you really trust diamond retailers on eBay? You can find plenty of people online who have successfully purchased their engagement ring through eBay and similar retailers. Obviously, all of the same rules of eBay apply: work with retailers with a 97% or higher satisfaction rating. Work with retailers with lots of reviews. Avoid scams and trust your instincts.

At the end of the day, you can work with the most reputable eBay sellers and still get ripped off. Or, you could save thousands of dollars off the cost of a genuine diamond.

If you do decide to work with an “alternative” diamond retailer or an auction website, make sure you’re familiar with how online auction sites work, and make sure you know a fair bit about diamonds.

How to Shop for your Engagement Ring Online

You’ve done your research. You have a bunch of cash. You’ve found an online retailer (or two or three retailers) you like. What’s next?

Next, you need to do your homework. This is the hard part. You’re going to be spending hours doing research on your computer if you want to buy the nicest possible ring at a reasonable price. Below, you’ll find all of the things you’ll need to take into account when shopping for your engagement ring online:

Budget

We could write thousands of words about choosing engagement ring budgets. There’s no easy answer to the budget question. I’d love to tell you, “Spend $XXXX on your engagement ring, no more or no less”. However, we live in a world where everyone has different financial realities.

Today, it’s not unusual to talk to your fiancée about the cost of the engagement ring. It’s also not unusual to ignore old-timey rules like “two months’ salary”. That rule was introduced by a diamond company in the 1940s, and we don’t live in the 1940s any more. Today, we have more debt, higher costs of living, and lower relative pay than we did in the 1940s. All of this means young people getting married today have different financial realities than they did in days gone by.

One of the things people forget about the price of engagement rings – both online and offline – is that you share debt with your spouse. If you go into debt to buy a $25,000 engagement ring, then that debt is going to carry over to your marriage. Do you really want to burden your marriage with that debt from day one?

Few people recommend going into debt to buy an engagement ring. If the ring is so important that you need to go into debt, then you can probably afford to wait 12 months while saving up more money.

Remember: the engagement ring is only the first of many expenses involving your wedding and marriage. Don’t blow your entire budget on one item.

Ring Style

Now that the scary pricing talk is past, we can talk about the fun stuff: like ring styles.

Ideally, at this point, you know your partner’s preferred ring style. If not, it’s time to subtly (or not so subtly) start asking questions – because engagement rings vary greatly in style.

If you’d rather surprise your girlfriend, then you should talk to her friends to determine her preferred ring style. If they don’t already know, then they’ll be able to find out – and they’ll probably be more subtle than you.

Does your girlfriend want a solitaire engagement ring (with one stone)? Or does she prefer a multi-stone ring? Does she like the cut of a round, pear, or princess ring? What does she think about emerald cut diamonds?

What about the band? Does she prefer a yellow gold or white gold/platinum band?

Diamond Size (carats)

The size of the diamond matters. However, it’s obviously not the only thing affecting the quality of the diamond. There are plenty of 1 carat diamonds that are priced higher than 1.5 carat diamonds because they have better clarity, for example.

For this part of the online engagement ring shopping experience, you’re going to want to read up on the 4 Cs of diamond shopping: cut, clarity, color, and carats. Understand how the grades work. Know your budget, and you’re well-equipped to start comparing diamonds online.

One of the best parts about buying diamonds online is the selection available: online diamond retailers often have tens of thousands of items in their collection, giving you an enormous range of options from which to choose. These retailers will also have search tools that let you narrow down your selection based on various qualities – like a specific cut or grade.

Should You Buy a Loose Diamond?

If you’re feeling extra creative and brave, you may want to buy a loose diamond online. Obviously, a loose diamond costs significantly less than an engagement ring. You get the diamond, then get a custom setting. Some people like doing this regardless of the cost savings: it adds a personal touch to the ring, and it means your ring won’t look like anyone else’s in the world.

Most major diamond retailers sell loose diamonds. After buying a loose diamond, you can visit a local jeweler in your area to make a custom setting. It’s more personal, and you can even save a few bucks.

Other people buy loose diamonds and custom settings all from one retailer online, letting you craft your own custom ring while still enjoying the benefits of buying an engagement ring online.

The Importance of Appraisals

Whether you’re buying from a pawn shop, eBay, a reputable diamond retailer, or some homeless guy you met on Craigslist, it’s always important to have your ring independently appraised.

Independent appraisals give you peace of mind and they keep retailers honest.

The most important thing to remember about the appraisal is to get it appraised within the return window. If something goes wrong, and you need to return the ring because it isn’t what you thought it would be, then you don’t want to miss the 30 day return window.

The Pros and Cons of Buying an Engagement Ring Online

Up above, we dispelled some of the common myths of buying engagement rings online. We talked about insured shipping, for example, and the fact that many online retailers have a longer history and better track record than your local brick-and-mortar jeweler.

Editor’s Note: Before you buy, find an online jeweler you trust—preferably one that specialized in engagement rings, like James Allen.

So what are the real pros and cons to buying an engagement ring online? What can you use to make your decision if you’re still on the fence? Keep reading to find out.

Pros

Cheaper: Expect to save up to 40% or 50% when buying an engagement ring online compared to buying it at a brick-and-mortar retailer.

Convenient: You don’t have to talk to a salesperson when buying online. You don’t even have to get out of your office chair.

Customer Service: Reputable online retailers are known for their customer service, including generous refund policies and 24/7 support.

Safe Shipping: Reputable online retailers provide insured shipping. Some even claim to have never lost a diamond. Tracked packages, required signatures, and other security features make shipping diamonds online safe and easy.

Selection: Online retailers often have a selection of 10,000+ pieces available. A local diamond store has a fraction of that number.

Cons

Not All Online Retailers Are Made Equal: Whether shopping online or offline, some retailers are better than others. The anonymity of the internet makes it easier for shady retailers to mask themselves as legitimate businesses.

You Can’t Touch The Product: The major drawback of shopping for engagement rings online is that you can’t handle the product yourself before you buy. If you’re the type of person who likes to handle things and feel them in your hands, then this is a big disadvantage.

Diamond Stores Staff Salespeople, Not Diamond Experts: One of the things to remember about brick-and-mortar diamond retailers is that not all of them are staffed by diamond experts. They’re staffed by salespeople who want to sell you diamonds. There’s a big difference.

Ultimately, you can beat most of these pros and cons with research. Visit local jewelry stores to check out their selection and prices. Then, visit reputable online retailers to see what they have in stock. Just like any major purchase, research is your most important asset.

Conclusion

Ready to buy an engagement ring online? It’s a smart way to save 40% or 50% off the cost of your engagement ring.

Buying online isn’t riskier than buying a diamond in-store. Some of the world’s most popular online diamond retailers have been selling diamonds and engagement rings since the 1990s. They have repeatedly proven their value and their commitment to customer service over the years.

These retailers offer additional advantages – like insured shipping, free returns, and 24/7 customer service. You also get a larger selection of diamonds, most of which will be much cheaper than buying them in stores.

Of course, buying a diamond in-store has some advantages. You can feel the diamond before you buy, for example. You can also talk to knowledgeable salespeople. Some diamond retailers provide excellent customer service, generous refund policies, and knowledgeable staff.

Ultimately, by weighing the pros and cons, you can decide whether or not buying an engagement ring online is the right choice for you and your future spouse.

Shop now: Visit James Allen, our recommended diamond jeweler.

About Johnson Hur

After having graduated with a degree in Finance and working for a Fortune 500 company for several years, Johnson decided to follow his passion by embarking on a path to the digital world. He has over 8 years of experience with large companies setting marketing strategy.

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