When you browse through diamonds at Blue Nile you are always browsing through lists with all the 4C parameters clearly set out. It looks something like this:
However, you do not get to see any preview pictures of the diamonds and in fact you don’t get to see any pictures at all – unless you have chosen a signature ideal diamond. In this case you will at least be provided with two small photos on the GCAL report:
When you browse through diamonds at James Allen however, you can actually see real-life 360° videos of all their diamonds. If you hover with your mouse over a certain diamond you can see the diamond from any angle you like.
This way you get to have a thorough first impression of a diamond and can filter out all diamonds that are interesting for you. If you eventually click on the diamond you can view it from all angles in 20x or even 40x magnification! This way you even get to see more than you would in a usual brick and mortar jewelry store!
Looking for diamonds at James Allen is therefore a completely different experience than it is at Blue Nile. It is more fun to be able to see your potential diamond from every angle in 20x magnification. But apart from the fun part it is also more functional. Only by viewing the diamond from every angle will you be able to make out inclusions effectively and thus choose the best diamond for the best price.
In my post about diamond clarity I described how you get the biggest bang for your buck if you choose an eye-clean diamond within the VS2 – SI2 range. In order to choose this diamond you must be able to see it first. I feel like this is a major minus on Blue Nile’s part.
Let us for instance assume that you want to choose an SI2 diamond because you want to make a great deal. Below you can see two SI2 diamonds:
The diamond on the left is obviously a great choice and will definitely be eye clean. The tiny dot you can see in the centre due to the 20x magnification won’t be perceivable by the naked eye.
The diamond on the right however would be a really poor choice and will definitely look dirty to the naked eye.
What you will get to see at Blue Nile when comparing two SI2 diamonds to each other is just the following:
In order to be really sure to have an eye clean diamond at Blue Nile you will basically have to choose an VS1 diamond because in rare instances even VS2 diamonds can have visible inclusions. If you wanted to get a VS1 diamond anyway this might not be such an huge issue but for any shopper who wants to get the biggest bang for his buck this will be an issue.
Furthermore, viewing a diamond is not only about making out inclusions but also about seeing the proportions and the sparkling style of a diamond. Even diamonds that have an Excellent cut grade and an Excellent symmetry grade by GIA can look quite different:
Although both diamonds above have the same cut and symmetry grade it is quite apparent that the diamond on the left would be the far better choice! If you take the time to click on both diamonds and view them from all angles you will see that the diamond on the left also sparkles better!
Viewing a diamond properly has so many more advantages like being able to compare diamond colors to each other. You can also gauge whether a particular diamond color is good or bad for its color grade.
Check out this diamond color simulator and you will have a good idea of what certain diamond colors look like opposed to other diamond colors:
It is exactly for such reasons that I personally would never buy a diamond blindly. If you buy a diamond blindly you might or might not get a great diamond. For that one purchase I would prefer to have somewhat more security and confidence in the diamond I have chosen. This is exactly what I think James Allen can offer.
Diamonds can be a complicated issue when first starting out. It is only natural to have lots of questions – especially in a purchase in which a larger amount of money is involved. Thus, it is always good to have an expert at hand who can answer any question for you. Luckily, both Blue Nile and James Allen have a customer service.
James Allen offers a 24/7 customer service. No matter which time it is or where in the world you are browsing for diamonds, you can always be sure to get someone to help you. The customer service is really quick so that usually you receive an answer within no more than 30 seconds!
What I like about James Allen’s customer service is the fact that they will provide you with up to 3 different ASET/idealscope analyses for free. This only applies to fancy shaped diamonds, though.
Unfortunately though, James Allen does not give you the possibility to reserve a diamond. It used to be possible but due to their latest policy change it is not possible, anymore!
The Blue Nile customer service is also extremely quick! It also answers within 30 seconds! However, Blue Nile’s customer service is not 24/7 and thus it has already happened to me several times that it was not possible to chat with the customer service. In this case you still have the possibility to send a mail, though!
Unfortunately Blue Nile does not provide any ASET/Idealscope analyses of their diamonds. Thus, you will be left completely in the dark about the light performance of the diamond. The Blue Nile signature ideal diamonds do at least provide you with a basic idea of the light performance.
As the light performance is one of the most important things in a diamond, I feel like you will have to stick with Blue Nile signature ideal diamonds to not make a bad choice. As discussed before though, a Blue Nile signature diamond is also not a guarantee for superior light performance, though.
What I like better about Blue Nile’s customer service though is the fact that you can reserve a diamond for up to 48 hours via chat. The diamond will then upon your request be taken from the internet and if you want to buy it, you will have to call the Blue Nile customer service line.
Conditions of purchase
Now, comes the part which most people don’t pay that much attention to! The conditions can make a big difference, though. This is why I wanted to briefly compare the most important conditions of purchase to each other.
James Allen and Blue Nile both offer a “30 day money back guarantee”. Thus, you can be sure to get your money back as long as you send the diamond back within 30 days. James Allen even offers free return shippings within the US. This means that you will not even have to pay for the insured return shipping if you don’t like the diamond!
Thus, there is literally no risk at all. Currently, James Allen is the only diamond online vendor offering free return shippings. Check out James Allen’s general conditions of purchase here.
Blue Nile however, does not offer free returns at all. This is quite inconvenient as especially with Blue Nile the risk is higher that you might want to return the diamond. The fact that you cannot clearly see the diamond before you buy it will certainly contribute to many customer’s wanting to return their diamond. In fact, I also think that this is the reason why Blue Nile is offering no free returns and James Allen is.
I think that there are way fewer people who want to return their diamond that they have bought at James Allen. Now, as the return shippings are insured they can cost quite some money. For a diamond that has cost 3000$ the return cost will usually be around 100$.
What I like about Blue Nile is that it is offering a price guarantee. James Allen is offering no such thing. This means that if you find a cheaper and comparable diamond graded by AGS or GIA somewhere else Blue Nile will match the price! A comparable diamond would have to have the same cut, color, clarity and carat weight. Furthermore other criteria such as symmetry, polish, fluorescence and also exact parameters like the table and depth percentages would have to be the same or very comparable. All in all I feel that there are many restrictions applying to Blue Nile’s price guarantee so that most likely there are only few people out there who can really use it.
Conclusion James Allen vs Blue Nile
I think that you will have to make up your own mind whether you prefer James Allen or Blue Nile. Me personally, I prefer James Allen because one is able to examine all diamonds even better than at a brick and mortar jewelry store!
The 360 ° high definition videos in up to 40x magnification make James Allen the best choice when looking for an eye-clean and cheap diamond within the clarity grades of VS2 – SI2. Blue Nile is missing such a function so that in order to pick an eye-clean diamond you will have to choose a diamond with a higher clarity grade!
However, Blue Nile is offering nearly 10 times as many diamonds as James Allen which can surely be seen as an advantage!
In conclusion I think that Blue Nile still is an okay place to shop for diamonds, especially if you want to have as many choices as possible!