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How To Buy An Engagement Ring Online

Buying a diamond engagement ring online can save you thousands. Here’s what I learned shopping for my wife’s engagement ring and buying my own wedding ring online.


How to buy an engagement ring onlineRecently I was reflecting on my experience shopping for Lauren’s diamond engagement ring. (I proposed at Christmas, as many guys do, so I was shopping for the ring about this time of year.)

As a result, I decided to revive this important post on buying an engagement ring online. Doing what I should have done and learning how to buy a diamond online can save you a ton of money, and it doesn’t have to rob any of the romance. Here’s what I mean:

Buying My Wife’s Engagement Ring

About two four years ago, I was shopping for my wife’s engagement ring.

I had decided how much I could spend and I knew exactly what style of ring to pick out—my only dilemma was where to buy it.

Obviously, I didn’t want to pay more than I had to, but with such a big-ticket item, I wanted to know I was purchasing the engagement ring from a retailer that would guide me through the process of selecting a diamond and would be there for me after the sale, as well. In the shopping process, I visited a big chain jeweler and also carefully considered whether to buy an engagement ring online.

I was almost ready to pull the trigger on a ring online. I had the ring designed. It was perfect. And it was a great deal.

Then, I chickened out. “But I can’t see it!” I thought.

Ultimately, I bought a ring from a national jewelry chain. I paid more, justifying the extra expense because I had a real salesperson to work with and because I could see what I was buying before it was shipped.

Unfortunately, I regret not buying the engagement ring online.

My wife’s ring was beautiful, but after a few months of wearing it she noticed the diamond was set too high and was catching on things now and then. We went back to the store to see if they could reset it only to hear the jeweler say “yeah, we get this all the time with this ring; there’s nothing we can do, but we could sell you a different setting.”

We were pissed!

Not only did they never mention this potential problem with this setting, they wouldn’t do anything to fix it. In fact, they had the nerve to try to sell us on dropping even more cash with them. Later, we found a local jeweler who reset the ring for less than the chain offered. Ultimately, the ring is even more beautiful, has a custom touch, and my wife finds it more wearable.

That’s a long story, but the moral is I should’ve bought the ring online! (Or, I at least should have bought the diamond online and then had a local jeweler create a custom setting.

Diamonds are so marked up in stores that you can save almost 50% buying online. Reputable online diamond jewelers will let you customize your engagement ring by style, setting, and all the four C’s so you get a ring that’s not only one of a kind but also in your budget. Best of all, they understand that buying a ring is difficult online, so they make returns and exchanges easy.

I ended up buying my wedding band with Blue Nile and exchanged it once—at no cost to me—for a different width. Super easy.

SHOULD YOU BUY YOUR ENGAGEMENT RING ONLINE?

Buying an engagement ring online will save you huge money. To ensure you get a good deal, just go with a trusted online jeweler.

Obviously, many people are skeptical about buying engagement rings online. They think: “I’m more likely to get a fake stone or get scammed online”, “it could get lost/stolen in the mail” or “for something so important, I need to see it before I buy it.”

These are all valid concerns, BUT, any reputable online jeweler has these covered. For example:

  1. Reputable jewelers have their reputation at stake. Ergo, you will get a real diamond with a gemologist’s certificate. This may not be the case on some sketchy Website or with an online auction. Wherever you buy your diamond (online or in a store), it’s a good idea to take the stone to an unaffiliated jeweler for an independent appraisal.
  2. Reputable jewelers will insure your shipment. When you ship diamonds, you send them via FedEx or UPS with tracking, insurance, and a required signature. In the rare event that your stone gets stolen, you won’t be out a penny.
  3. Reputable jewelers have no-questions-asked return policies. As I mentioned above, when I bought my wedding ring on Blue Nile, I returned the first one I got for a larger size. I didn’t pay anything except the difference in price for the rings…no return shipping. Nothing.

Tips to Help You Buy an Engagement Ring Online

OK, you’ve decided to save a ton of cash and buy online. What next? Basically, you want to do your homework. My focus here on Money Under 30 is to guide readers through large financial decisions — paying down debt, starting to invest, and making big purchases like a home and, yes, an engagement ring. As this is a particularly unique subject, I even created a small site devoted just to learning how to buy a diamond online.

1. Find a Reputable Online Jeweler

Preferably one that specialized in engagement rings, like James Allen, an online jeweler featuring quality engagement rings and over 25,000 photographed diamonds to choose from.

A Note About Buying Diamonds on eBay

Diamonds are a popular item on eBay and other online auction sites, and for the experienced buyer can get some really good deals. But you can also get ripped off. Before you buy a diamond in an online auction you should a) know a bit about diamonds so you know exactly what you’re getting and b) be familiar with online auctions, escrow payments, and recourse in case something goes wrong.

You can learn more about the best online jewelers I recommend at my other site here.

2. Pick Your Ring Style

If you haven’t figured out your girlfriend’s tastes already, it’s time for some detective work. Ask one of your girlfriend’s girlfriends for guidance if you trust her, or ask some general questions the next time you’re passing by the jewelry displays at the mall.

The reason? No two diamonds are the same, but you can narrow down your choices by determining what shape diamond to buy as well as what style ring. Does she want a solitaire (one stone) or multi-stone ring? Does she like round, pear, princess [square], or emerald diamonds? What style band does she want (yellow gold or white gold/platinum)?

Online Stone, Custom Setting

Girlfriend have something specific in mind? Or do you want to add a personal touch to your ring? You can still save big bucks by buying the diamond for your engagement ring online and having a local jeweler craft a setting to your custom specifications. James Allen, Blue Nile, and others sell loose diamonds, any of which jewelers can use to build the ring of your dreams. You’ll pay a bit more for the jeweler’s time designing and building the ring, but still save a bundle buying the loose diamond online.

3. Set a Budget!

There is some crazy debate in the comments of this post on how much you should spend on an engagement ring. Here are my two cents: Throw that old adage about “two month’s salary” out the window. Spend enough to show your future wife that you’re investing in her but do not spend more than you can afford. If you’re struggling to pay off credit card debt and want to marry a woman who is expecting a $20,000 ring, you can’t afford that shit and would be stupid to try. You get the drift. But I’m also not going to tell you to skip the ring or buy something fake. This tradition is in place for reason. A diamond ring is a symbol that you’re able to save and willing to sacrifice some coin for the woman you love. If you can have an honest conversation with your girlfriend and you’re both on the same page about skipping diamonds, that’s fine. Otherwise, expect to participate in this tradition.

Whatever your engagement ring budget, stick to it, and don’t use credit cards to “stretch” what you can afford. The engagement ring is only the first of many expenses coming your way when you get married. This is no time to go into more debt.

4. Choose a Size

When it comes to diamonds, size matters, but not as much as you might think.

A smaller diamond that is a higher-grade color, clarity, and cut will be more brilliant than a larger but duller stone. These “4 C’s of diamonds”—color, cut, clarity, and carat (size)—determine how much you’ll pay. Knowing your budget, it’s time to determine what’s most important to you.

I opted for a smaller diamond that was as high a grade as possible in cut and color. One last time, James Allen has a helpful search tool that lets you browse diamonds in your price range by size and other characteristics; it’s the best way to pick the perfect diamond.

5. Buy!

Don’t get me wrong, when you buy an engagement ring, it’s a big decision and a big purchase. It’s easy to become paralyzed. But when you’ve set a budget you’re comfortable with and have a ring picked out that you like, pull the trigger.

Take advantage of online guarantees and return policies to check the ring out (leave enough time before you’re hoping to ask her in case you change your mind). Also, keep in mind that most return policies are long enough to take into account the slim possibility she’ll say no, so you can still get your cash back, if not your heart. But that’s not going to happen!

Good luck!

Shop for diamond engagement rings now at JamesAllen.com, our recommended online jeweler »

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About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.

Comments

  1. it sounds to me like you should have gone with the local jeweler. A local jeweler usually has an actual gemology degree, is personally invested in the happiness of your fiancee, and will often jump through hoops to make sure you are happy with your purchase. A local jeweler is also able to offer lower prices than a national chain.

    And local jewelers are a dying breed, precisely because people shop at big chains and online shops. Buying an engagement ring or wedding bands is a huge emotional and financial commitment. Wouldn’t you want to share this moment with a real human being who will be available to clean, repair, and care for your investment for years to come?

    • Meghan,

      I have to agree with you on this one. I guess I was fortunate in my jeweler being a personal friend, but we’re talking about a once in a life-time(hopefully!) purchase. There is definitely peace of mind that comes with buying from a local jewler. If you’re not lucky enough to know one, look at the BBB or go of your friend’s recommendations.

      I am a firm believer in shopping online for everything from electronics to clothing, but I was venturing into unfamiliar waters when I started the hunt for the perfect engagement ring. The 4 C’s were a language I had no idea of, and it was nice for an actual person to explain it to me in layman’s terms, rather than try to figure it out on my own.

      When it needed cleaning, it was done while we waited. When a stone fell out (my fiance is a pre-school teacher) we weren’t told that it was a downfall of the ring style- they simply replaced the stone free of charge.

      Did I pay a little more than I should have? Probably, but this was the only time I plan on making that specific purchase. Was I happy to have a trusted associate through this scary and exciting process? Absolutely!

      One thing you can use the internet for, though, is to ensure that the price you are being quoted from the jeweler is a fair one. As with most things in life- no price is set in stone (no pun intended)

    • I agree 100% with the first reply. When I started my hunt for an engagement ring I went online. The styles were out of this world and spectacular with assortments of diamonds at fair and affordable prices. But one thing that is not so well advertised is the clarity rating. I am not one to live beyond my means but I consider it to be the most important of the 4 C’s of diamonds. After reading many reviews of the rings I liked I saw how many people responded with such variance on how their diamonds came in with extreme cloudiness, black spots, pitting, etc. Not everyone was like this but the verdict was split. This was the case on several websites and several price ranges from $800-$1,500.

      I ended up checking out the local jeweler and it was the best decision. It was his design, his cut, etc. He stood behind it because it was his brand and his quality. He showed me the imperfections because of my price range and explained to me how well he hid them. This was immensely helpful and I would have never noticed it. I also had the benefit of negotiating prices something not so easily done online. I should genuine interest and he knew I was going to buy that day and wanted to lock in the price. The best part, because I paid in cash I got even more of a discount. He resized it on the house and has since stood to his offer for me to bring it in any time for a resizing, cleaning, etc. A much more pleasing and intimate experience.

  2. My boyfriend and I went to a jeweler to look at rings so we could figure out what size I wore, how big the stone could be without looking ridiculous, and get an idea of how the various styles looked on my hand.

    Then he is going to go online to buy a CZ in a white gold setting that is identical looking to what we liked. I think it costs $350 or so.

  3. In addition to the online vendors that you mentioned, I’d like to recommend http://www.brilliantearth.com/. They have a large selection of engagement and wedding rings (as well as other jewelry), and all of their gemstones come from conflict-free sources, which was really important to my fiancee and I when we were looking for rings. And Brilliant Earth has the best customer service of any online retailer I’ve ever dealt with.

  4. I’m a big fan of the local jeweler. Of course, you have to have the right jeweler, but if you don’t already know a good one, ask friends for referrals. The great service is, in my opinion, well worth the slight (if any) increase in price.

    I have bought some jewelery online, but I’ve never been completely satisfied. The item always looked a bit different than the pictures and/or felt different (i.e. weight) than expected. Being able to see the item with my own eyes and actually hold the item in my hand makes a big difference to me.

  5. David Weliver says:

    Not knowing any local jeweler’s reputations, I may have still bought online back in the day, and content it’s a good option for budget-minded buyers looking for something on the generic side.

    That said, I appreciate all the good comments on local jewelers. Having been introduced to the jeweler who reset my wife’s ring I have to say he will be my first stop the next time I’m in the market for jeweler. Hopefully NOT for another engagement ring, however!

  6. I purchased at BlueNile and loved the experience. I spent about 3 weeks researching and narrowing down my picks. When it was time to pull the trigger I asked to see the papers on the rock. It all checked out and I made the purchase. A week later I went to have it appraised. All was good. My wife loves the ring and gets comments on it all the time. My advice: spend money on the “cut”. Find the best cut you can get your hands on, regardless of size or clarity.

  7. Tim "Ripper" Owens says:

    Seems like a shameless plug for BlueNile.com (it probably is) but I ‘created’ similar rings on the Zales and Blue Nile website and the savings was essentially over $3,000. (Bluenile rings was slightly under $5,500.) Just like buying cereal at the supermarket, you pay more for a name brand because you are fronting an advertising and distribution budget. Save the money.

  8. My husband went to a local jeweler, as well, but I would have been fine with him shopping online, especially at Blue Nile. Some of my friends have rings from Blue Nile and they’re absolutely gorgeous and very good quality.

    My husband has bought various pieces of jewelry for me from Blue Nile in the past. Everything I’ve received is great quality and is definitely comparable to top-of-the-line jewelry stores like Tiffany and Co.

  9. For my wife’s engagement ring, my mom gave me diamonds that were passed along generation to generation in our family. I went to a jeweler and had them set in a band and ended up coming in around $350. And, because my wife is awesome, she wanted to use that ring as her wedding band as well.

    I bought my wedding ring on Etsy.com. I went to a jeweler to determine my ring size first and ended up very pleased with the ring I purchased. It was pretty much identical to the pictures online and it cost me around $250.

    Not only do we have beautiful rings but they come with a story now as well.

  10. Great write up!…

    I would definitely like to politely add that one seriously important aspect when it comes to cost of diamonds is WHO had graded the 4C’s.

    There are several grading groups, however GIA seems to be the strictest and most universal (adding a higher premium to diamonds with their paperwork attached)

    Some of the perks of course of having a diamond with grading papers (from a reputable grader) is that the diamond has much more transferable value than one without if one wanted to either trade the stone in for another or value the ring easily.

    A lot of the discounted diamond groups (like sam’s club) use some of the cheaper grading firms, who might do a great job (maybe just as good) grading the 4c’s but don’t have as much of a premium cost added on top of the diamond price. This of course allows the company as well as the consumer to buy a diamond at a lower cost, but may not provide as good of a resale value later on.

    I loved how blue nile let me view lists of diamonds of different grades in a database, this really helped me figure out how to judge what I can get for a set price as far as a balance with the 4C’s. Just adjust the dials and go!

    • PS….

      In my personal case, I totally went with color way before cut and clarity and carat.

      Any D-E-F color diamond just knocks the socks off even much larger, better clarity (but poorer color) diamonds.

      When perusing diamonds for Clarity I rarely would notice any difference in the IF to VS2 range even under 10x glass.

      As far as carat and cut?… I didn’t even really worry about that.

      I pretty much took “X” (what I wanted to spend on a diamond), and found what I could get for X in a D color and VS2+ clarity, and then saw what sizes I could get.

  11. James Young says:

    Earlier this year, I proposed to my (now) fiance with a ring from an online jewelry store. I’m very happy that I chose to purchase from there. I had phone and email contact with a single jeweler through the whole process which included three follow-ups to make sure that we were happy with the ring. It seemed like there was less pressure on the whole than the local jewelry stores I walked into. I also tried going into the national chains, but they just felt like high-pressure salesmen looking to sell you on a diamond that was well out of my price range. I would just also recommend looking at follow-on reviews of whatever storefront you have chosen, whether it be web or local, to see how they handle when something goes bad.

    • I agree entirely with James. My (now) husband bought my diamond online (with some help from me), I didn’t enjoy the shopping at the local jeweler thing and since I buy 99% of everything else online I thought I’d give it a try. I found an awesome website that had good reviews, the customer service I received was great. The diamond (which was actually second hand) was much bigger with better color and clarity than I could have bought in the store. It was a win win for us (me). The website guaranteed authenticity, but I had it checked out anyway. Everything was as promised. I had a great experience buying online, but it was only because I did my homework first.

  12. I first bought my wife our engagement ring online, she LOVED it, and we promptly ordered her a backup Cubic Zirconia ring as well, for when we travel, since she didn’t want to lose or ‘misplace’ the ring when we travel out of the country. I’ve never bought a ring in-store again.

  13. If you go to a local jeweler don’t forget to negotiate. I brought comps from online sites, had my set price in mind when I sat down, packaged my deal with some other jewelry, and reminded them that this probably won’t be my last jewelry purchase. Still probably the hardest check I ever wrote to date.