This is my personal James Allen Review that I made after my own shopping experience in 2016. It includes my latest insights about the recent changes and all the other pros and cons of James Allen.
If you want to know more about James Allen’s particular True Hearts diamonds please read my in-depth True Hearts review. But let’s do it in an orderly fashion.
James Allen’s Business Model
First, James Allen runs its business as a “modified” dropshipping model. This means that James Allen itself does not really physically own any of the diamonds on its website.
How is James Allen then able to sell all these diamonds and engagement rings to you?
Well, James Allen uses the following strategy: It has its suppliers in near proximity to the James Allen New York offices. And it has photography centers in all its diamond manufacturing centers so that they can photograph and QC diamonds 24/7. It is for this reason that James can provide 360° HD videos of all their 120,000 diamonds!
It is this feature that makes James Allen currently a pretty good choice! I will be referring to all the benefits of this technology later on in the article and explain how it can save you money!
Now, once an order is placed, the diamond is sent to the James Allen offices where it is inspected by the James Allen staff. By the way, James Allen has real in-house gemologists at its headquarters who will review your diamond to ensure quality.
Then the order will be shipped to the customer who will hopefully receive a great diamond.
As James Allen does not have to buy all the diamonds upfront it is thus able to offer very competitive prices, especially compared to brick and mortar jewelry stores!
James Allen’s inventory of diamonds
James Allen offers around 120,000 diamonds in its entire inventory! It offers all kind of diamond shapes that you might ever be interested in and also has fancy-colored diamonds in its inventory. For white diamonds you will therefore have no problem finding a diamond that is perfect for you.
Apart from classical white diamonds James Allen also offers fancy-colored diamonds. In terms of specific fancy-colored diamonds you might find that James Allen does not offer enough alternatives, depending on the kind of fancy colored diamond that you are looking for.
In this case Leibish&Co. might be a good alternative which is specialized on fancy colored diamonds. However, I would first try to look for a fancy-colored diamond at James Allen as the overall service is better and Leibish&Co. does not possess high definition 360° videos of all its diamonds in stock!
James Allen’s quality of diamonds
James Allen offers all kind of qualities in regard to diamonds. You can get diamonds with the best cut, clarity and color and diamonds with pretty the worst cut, clarity and color.
However you will always be sure what kind of quality diamond you are getting. One of the best ways to be ensure the quality and the value of a diamond is to get a grading report by a reputable grading lab!
Thus, if you choose a well graded GIA or AGS diamond you can be sure that the diamond’s quality in terms of light performance, color, clarity and monetary value will match your expectations.
James Allen also has its own signature line called True Hearts. Please read my James Allen True Hearts review here.
James Allen’s 360° video technology in action: Find cheaper eye clean diamonds!
James Allen offers high definition photos and high definition 360° videos of all its diamonds!
Most online vendors do not offer this function at all and some only offer it for a small part of their diamonds. In my opinion this is not only a fancy marketing feature but it can contritube to you making a better choice and saving more money!
For instance in some cases you can have a SI1 diamond that has a visible inclusion. Then you can also have a SI2 diamond that is eye clean.
On the picture on the left you have a SI1 diamond that has a visible dark inclusion under the table. Thus, the SI2 diamond in that particular case would be a better deal although it is one clarity grade lower:
Without actually seeing the diamond from all sides you would never know that in this particular case the SI2 diamond is the better deal!
You can never know for sure what a diamond will look like only from having a look at a GIA or AGS grading report. Sure, if the diamond has a clarity grade of VS1 or better you can be sure that your diamond is going to be eye-clean.
But for clarity grades from VS2 to SI2 the diamond might be eye-clean but it does not necessarily have to be. This is the clarity range where you can make the best deals, though.
Now, many online vendors do not even offer an enlarged picture of a diamond in their inventory. Buying a diamond this way is like a gamble unless you are willing to spend significant amounts of money on the best clarity grades!
The bottomline is: Never buy a diamond blindly!
Easily find diamonds with higher degrees of scintillation!
Let’s look at some other common issues where James Allen’s video technology can be quite helpful.
For instance, the “Excellent” cut grade by GIA combined with the “Excellent” symmetry grade allows for a wide variety of quality. Just have a look at the two diamonds below. They both have an “Excellent” cut grade and an “Excellent” symmetry grade:
The diamond on the left has very clear and distinct pavilion mains that are black. This will give the diamond a much better contrast and thus the scintillation of that particular diamond will be quite high! Scintillation refers to the amount of perceived brilliance when the diamond is in movement.
The diamond on the right however has a very weak contrast and the amount of scintillation will therefore be very low. Furthermore, the diamond on the right also has some black areas under the table which signify light leakage.
The diamond on the left is therefore a much better option but without high definition images and videos you would never know!
If you find all of that complicated you are always welcome to write me a mail and I will be more than glad to help you out!
Easily find diamonds with higher amounts of fire or brilliance – as you prefer!
Some diamonds also exhibit much more fire than other diamonds. Fire refers to the amount of “rainbow colors” that you can see reflected from a diamond.
For instance the diamond on the left has much more fire than the diamond on the right:
Of course you cannot see it on the pictures. But if you actually click on both diamonds you can view them from all sides and angles. Are you able to see that the diamond on the left shows much more rainbow colors?
This has to do with the proportions of the diamonds. The proportions of the left diamond maximize fire while the proportions of the right diamond maximize brilliance.
By the way, both diamonds above are over one carat in weight. If you don’t have any clue what a certain carat size will look like set on a ring setting check out this this carat size simulator. It will let you have a pretty accurate idea of how big the diamond will appear on a ring setting:
Easily find fancy shaped diamonds with a decent light performance
The high definition videos are also a great help when trying to make out certain characteristics of fancy shaped diamonds. For instance, you cannot see from a grading report whether a Cushion shaped diamond has a “crushed ice” look to it or not.
Similarly you could never know whether an oval, marquise or pear shaped diamond is prone to exhibit a bow tie effect or not.
Below for instance the oval cut diamond on the left has the undesirable bowtie effect. The diamond on the right however is completely fine:
Other advantages compared to a conventional brick and mortar store
From the fact that you can clearly see all the inclusions in every diamond it becomes clear that James Allen is not trying to hide anything.
I myself even consider the 360° video technology even to be an advantage to a conventional brick and mortar store. In brick and mortar stores your options might be very limited. Furthermore, you might have sales people trying to hard-sell you.
The advantage of James Allen is that you can scrutinize each diamond even better than at a brick and mortar store.
I also consider it way more user friendly not to browse through lists of specifications but through real life photos of real diamonds. This way I can quickly see at one glance whether a particular diamond is worth considering. This saves me a lot of time when browsing for diamonds.
What I consider to be particularly useful is the comparison feature of James Allen. Once you like a diamond you can simply tick the “compare” box and it gets stored away in the comparison folder.
This way you can narrow down your diamonds in a very efficient way and then compare each diamond from every angle.
Furthermore James Allen is particularly user-friendly for people who want to design their own engagement ring. After choosing a ring setting and the diamond shape you will be able to view a 360° video of the end result:
When you see the videos of different diamonds on a ring setting you quickly realize that you can go way down in diamond color to save money. The ring setting always picks up some of the diamond color anyway.
If you want more details on the issue read my post on diamond color.
James Allen’s diamond color simulator will also let you have a good idea of what certain diamond colors look like opposed to other colors:
In case you need some inspiration for which ring setting to choose check out James Allen’s recently purchased engagement rings. It can give you a good idea what specific diamond rings look like on the finger:
James Allen’s customer service
James Allen offers a 24/7 customer service. You can always chat with an employee by clicking on the “Chat Now” button which is accessible from every page of James Allen’s website. Usually the staff will answer within one minute! I mean: It is really amazing! I never even had to wait for several minutes. This is really great if you need quick help!
From the several chat talks I have had with the customer service staff I can tell that the customer service does have expansive knowledge on the topic of diamonds and most likely will be able to help you.
Even if you came up with a super difficult question, the answer might take longer but it will definitely be answered. Up till now I was always very content with the answers and the honesty of the customer service staff.
Unlike Blue Nile you can actually ask the customer service for up to three different Idealscope images for free. They offer ASET images on select fancy shape diamonds and Idealscope imaging on select round diamonds:
This possibility is due to the fact that all of James Allen’s suppliers are in near proximity to its New York offices. James Allen will ask its supplier to make an Idealscope image which will be sent to you! This usually takes about 3 to 5 business days.
Unfortunately due to a recent policy change it is not possible to reserve stones anymore. This means that while you think you might have found your perfect stone someone else could snatch it away from you by buying it first.
The only way to get a reservation for a stone is by asking for a an ASET, Idealscope or a gemologist inspection on a fancy shaped diamond. Then your diamonds can be reserved up to a week.
James Allen’s terms and conditions
I have found that James Allen offers a superbly risk minimizing package as far as their terms and conditions are concerned. Check out James Allen’s terms and conditions for yourself!
The shipping is ALWAYS free and fully insured. It does not matter whether you order a diamond for $300 or $300,000. You get a 100 % full return if you return the item within 30 days. This way you have enough time to check out the engagement ring and to see whether you really like it.
If you don’t like it you can even return the ring for free (only inside the US, outside the US you will have to pay for the return shipping). At your local jeweller you would hardly be able to check out your ring for 30 days and return it for free after such a long time.
Furthermore, I think that James Allen’s conditions are particularly ideal if you want to design your own engagement ring. You can always engrave your engagement ring for free and thus give it a personal twist of yours (Only if you return it back, you will have to pay a $25 re-polishing fee).
And in case the ring size should turn out to be too big or too small you can still resize it for free within 60 days of receiving the ring. Free resizing is available for all platinum, yellow gold and white gold engagement rings, as well as for all Three Stone Rings. Due to the nature of eternity bands and tension rings a resizing is not posible or these ring setting types.
Your engageent ring also comes with a lifetime warranty that covers prong tightening, repolishing rhodium plating, free cleaning for the life of your engagement ring and the replacement of lost sidestones caused by broken prongs or beads!
Here are all the benefits in short form:
– Real 360° diamond videos in high definition
– Magnified diamond photographs: See your diamond like a jeweler
– 3D engagement ring setting visualizer
– Intuitive diamond search tool
– Build Your Own Ring
– 24/7 customer support service
– Free engraving with laser inscribing
– 100% full refund within 30 days
– Free returns (JA will pay for the return shipping within USA)
– Lifetime warranty on your jewelry purchase
James Allen’s pricing
As I have described above, James Allen is running a modified dropshipping business model and is therefore capable of running its business in a very cost-efficient manner. James Allen basically only has to pay for the maintenance of its website, its photo and video staff, its customer service staff and its diamond inspecting staff.
It does not take much imagination to explain why a brick and mortar store which has to pay for fancy showrooms, its salespeople and all the diamonds in its inventory will require much higher markups on every diamond sale.
From my experience offline diamonds will be approximately 30 – 70 % more expensive than online diamonds with the same 4C parameters. Insofar there can be no doubt that the price offered by James Allen will be way better than any price you would get at a brick and mortar store.
Compared with other online vendors I think that James Allen offers highly competitive prices. Some people say that James Allen is generally cheaper than Blue Nile. My impression is that James Allen is not really more expensive. If you take the average of all the diamond prices to me they seem to be around the same. I would not prefer James Allen to Blue Nile because of lower prices but because of the photos and videos you can be much more certain what you are getting at James Allen.
What are the cons of James Allen?
So, what are the cons?
Of course, there are also downsides with James Allen.
For instance, if you are ordering from outside the US you will also have to pay the return fees if you decide that you don’t want to keep the diamond. Within the US however the returns will always be free.
Furthermore, it is also not possible to reserve round cut diamonds, anymore. This used to be possible a while back. James Allen will most likely have changed this reservation policy for efficiency reasons!
As already mentioned, for specific fancy colored diamonds you might find that James Allen is not offering enough choices.
Nonetheless I still think that for buying diamonds or engagement rings online James Allen currently is a very decent choice!
But don’t just take my word for it and check out James Allen for yourself and gain some new insights with their 360° high definition video technology!
On the next page I will be reviewing James Allen’s True Hearts signature diamonds in greater detail.