This article has mentions of products from one or more companies, and I may receive compensation if you purchase those products following reading my recommendations.
In a modern world, we have learned to place great trust in online retailers. We are perhaps willing to take the risk on a pair of shoes or an outfit, but resort to the safety of a brick and mortar retail store for anything we deem to be more precious.
Buying a diamond can be as puzzling as it is appealing, and time and again I am asked (quite understandably) how safe it can truly be to buy something of such value online? This query is second only to “what are the benefits of buying a diamond online?” I will endeavor to answer both of these questions for you.
The Benefits of Buying Diamonds Online VS Jewelry Stores
There is one, very simple answer that will convince as many people as it will discourage:
It is cheaper to buy a diamond online
Some may snap at the prospect of a cheaper diamond, while others approach this with caution. Is the price lower because the quality is lower? Does this mean it is not an ethically sourced diamond? The answer, for the most part is no.
If you dine in a restaurant, you may find you could create the same meal for far less at home. This does not necessarily mean you are being ripped off. We must also account for the cost of the building, maintenance, bills, paying the staff, and so on. Add to this, the demand for impressive visual merchandising, shop front maintenance, intensive staff training, cleaning materials and stock, and running a jewelry store adds up to be an expensive business. That is the first consideration when comparing costs between diamonds online and diamonds in a physical store.
The margins on diamonds and jewelry are much slimmer than those made on clothing and other retail items. For this reason, there is a great pressure on physical stores to increase prices in order to cover running costs and still make a profit. They must also buy in a huge amount of stock from the offset. The pressure for an online retailer is far less. A huge percentage of the diamonds we see as ‘available’ has not yet been purchased by the vendor. With the advantage of no running costs, they are able to shave down the price and still make a profit.
We then move onto the subject of knowledge. In the diamond world, knowledge is power, and it is also the difference between being ripped off and being in the know.
Self-Education is Better than Sales Techniques
An online store cannot compete with the experience of a high-end jewelry store. Sumptuous leather seats, flowing champagne and a sales consultant with all the answers.
It is not my intention to take the shine off of the wonderful experience, rather my duty to remind you of this: The staff are employed to sell, sell, sell.
Often working on commission, jewelry store staff can be extremely knowledgeable but they are also heavily trained in sales techniques. They have the power to sway you towards more expensive diamonds with little explanation as to why you should go for them. The entire store is designed to be as flattering to the diamonds as possible. Staff are trained to overcome objections and potential problems in the sales process, meaning your information and experience is not as authentic as it seems. Wrapped up in the moment and the romance, many buyers will believe they have landed the deal of the century, only to find an online diamond retailer with the same specs at a fraction of the cost. Worse still, they may come to identify flaws within the stone that were smoothly skimmed over by their sales consultant.
Online retailers, on the other hand, have no choice but to present you with facts. They provide information about the certification, outline the exact specifications of the diamond (carat weight, cutting proportions, fluorescence etc) and set the price. This does not mean they are innocent of deploying other techniques to guide the prospective buyer. Websites may be rife with claims of ‘the clearest/most perfect/most brilliant diamond in the world’, but armed with time and a wealth of online information, the buyer is able to separate the fact from fiction.
As a minimum, get to know the 4 Cs. From here you can explore cut grades, colored stones, fancy cuts, and anything else that may help on your journey. Online stores have nowhere to hide, so being able to directly compare specifications and understand them empowers you to make a good decision. A high-res photograph is far less forgiving than the bright white, vanity lights of a jewelry store where even the champagne glasses seem to sparkle.
Websites are held to higher precedents of accuracy. Words are printed with their name below all across their website.
However, the words that slip out of a sales consultant’s mouth as they try to close a deal are likely to be less factual and weighted with less accountability.
A legitimate website offering GIA certified diamonds will not claim a diamond has a GIA color grade of F when it is actually an H.
Variety and Inventory Online
Variety is the spice of life, and online retailers have a huge advantage when it comes to offering a seemingly endless array of diamonds. This is another reason for the difference in cost; an online store will have thousands of available diamonds for you to look at, without often having had to buy the stock. They will have ‘in-stock’ diamonds, while the rest are bought in when a sale has been made. This means they avoid holding costs, dodge a large initial stock investment and are able to display a huge range of diamonds to suit all needs.
There is an obvious disadvantage which underpins the entire online experience: You cannot see the diamond until you have bought it.
The best online retailers have overcome this by offering high-res images and videos of the actual diamond. The clarity and magnification can allow you to see more of the stone than an untrained eye may be able to pick up through a jewelers loupe. Again, there is nowhere to hide. Traditionalists may advise there is no better solution than seeing the diamond in person. I must disagree. If you do not know what you are looking for, studying a diamond under a jewelers loupe is inconsequential.
Where Can I Buy a Diamond Online?
Before giving my recommendations, I have first created a set of guidelines that should be applied to any online diamond purchases.
- Do your diamond research. It may sound dull, but it is essential in any diamond purchase, whether online or instore. Do not rely on gimmicks, marketing or even the staff. Your own knowledge will be far more beneficial.
- Look for Certification. After all your research, you will understand the different certification bodies, and what they each mean. My recommendation is always AGS and GIA. They have the highest standards and are internationally recognized as leaders in diamond grading. A certificate from a substandard institute (or worse, one that has been created from thin air) will give no true indication as to the quality of the diamond. An unbiased report is essential.
- Do your retailer research. Do a background check on the website. Establish how long they have been in business, and read unbiased reviews on other websites. Be sure to read the small print, and understand their shipping policies, return policies, aftercare services and any additional costs that may be hiding. If you are able to have a phone conversation, even better.
- Ask about ethical trading. This is a concern for many people buying online. The truth is, large vendors will not hold conflict diamonds. They use the Kimberly Process to ensure the diamond is conflict free. If you are unsure, ask the question and ask for evidence.
- Consider your payment options. Even shopping from legitimate websites can run a risk of card cloning and other online fraud. Credit cards usually offer some protection against any potential issues, so these are a safer option.
- Treat second-hand trading sites with caution. While I am an advocate for the purchase of diamonds online, few can speak for the legitimacy of second-hand sites and online auctions. Be stringent in your approach, ask for as much information and as much paperwork as possible, and remember that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Seek an appraisal. If your retailer has ticked all the boxes and your diamond has arrived, get an appraisal done. This is not the same as a certification. However, it is important for insurance purposes and will identify if any HUGE errors have been made in the grading.
As always, my recommendations come based on quality.
There are a number of places you can buy diamonds online that are perfectly legitimate. The diamonds are real, they arrive on time and without a call from your bank’s fraud prevention unit. However, as we have seen, being ripped off goes deeper than buying a cubic zirconia for $8,000.
Blue Nile was the pioneers of online diamond sales. It offers a wealth of services including lifetime upgrade options, insurance, and product warranty as well as complimentary ring resizing. To this day, it boasts the biggest online inventory of diamonds, including colored stones and fancy cuts. For this reason, it is my top choice for those working on a particular budget. An inventory of this size and a website run with such clarity allows you to play with specifications and requirements until you find the perfect diamond within your budget.
If it is true quality that you are looking for, then Whiteflash would be your first choice. With an emphasis on it’s a CUT ABOVE® in-house diamond collection, the bottom line for Whiteflash is exceptional diamonds at a price that is reasonable. Its inventory is smaller than Blue Nile, and it does not offer colored stones. However, its collection is still impressive in its velocity and even more so in its quality. Whiteflash’s Education section is also a great site to refer to when trying to understand the more complex and scientific aspects of diamond grading.
James Allen was one of the first online vendors to introduce individual, high-res photographs of each diamonds. It understands online buying, and this is reflected in its services. While it slightly falls short of the dizzying heights of Whiteflash quality, its diamonds are undoubtedly beautiful and it offers an impressive inventory.
The Final Word on Buying a Diamond Online
An online diamond purchase is not something to be feared. Use the rules and guidelines and bring the enjoyment back into the experience. Chill the champagne, and be your own slick consultant from home; use the infinite and unbiased facts at your disposal and feel assured you are not being misled.
If you still have any question after reading my articles, please do not hesitate to get in touch so I can guide you through the obstacles you’re experiencing.