There are some James Allen reviews out there but as of 2015 James Allen has introduced changes to their diamond reservation policy and so I thought that I would have to update my review with my latest insights.
This is my general James Allen review. If you want to know more about their particular True Hearts diamonds please read my in-depth True Heart review.
But let’s do it in an orderly fashion. James Allen actually began as dirtcheapdiamonds.com and was founded by James Allen Schultz. Thus, the name James Allen does not have anything in common with the famous British philosophical writer you might have heard of.
Dirtcheapdiamonds.com actually proved to have a great amount of humour which could be deduced from their slogan: “You’ll love everything but our name…” 🙂
Later on the website was relaunched as “James Allen” to create a new image. From there onwards James Allen dedicated itself to constant and never ending improvement. I will explain to you in detail what this means for your shopping experience at James Allen.
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 the heck can James Allen then sell all these diamonds and engagement rings to you?
Well, James Allen uses the following strategy: It attaches great importance to having its suppliers in near proximity to the James Allen New York offices. This way James Allen can send out its staff to its suppliers and make HD photos and 360° HD videos of all the diamonds it is offering. This feature makes James Allen completely outstanding! I will be referring to this benefit later on in the article.
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.
James Allen thus pays its suppliers the money you have paid them and keeps around 10 % as their own profit margin. 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 25.000 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 hat 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.
What I mean by quality of diamonds however is whether you can be sure what 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!
James Allen nearly exclusively only offers GIA and AGS graded diamonds. As of today there are only 161 IGI graded diamonds in James Allen’s entire inventory and it can be assumed that this number will further decrease.
In fact, only AGS and GIA graded diamonds are diamonds that you should trust! I have written a separate post on this issue.
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 User Friendliness
The reason why James Allen is only offering a comparably small amount of diamonds is at the same time also James Allen’s biggest plus point. James Allen has all its suppliers in near proximity to its New York offices so that it can take 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 its diamonds. James Allen is the only online vendor offering video technology for all of its diamonds in high resolution. This is a huge advantage for the customer!
If you know something about diamonds, you will surely know that you cannot know for sure what a diamond will look like only from having a look at a GIA or AGS grading report. Sure, if you have the grading report of a diamond of the 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 Price range where you can make the best deals, though. Without being able to have a real look at the diamond, you will never know for sure what your diamond looks like and whether you are making a good deal or not.
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. An enlarged picture of a diamond gives you a good first clue about a diamond. But quite often there are inclusions in a diamond that cannot be made out just from the standard front view of a diamond.
This is where James Allen’s 360° high definition video technology comes into play! In fact it happens sometimes to me that I see a diamond on James Allen’s website that I consider to be eye-clean at first glance. But when viewing the diamond from another angle I realize that the diamond is not eye-clean. This is a huge advantage if you are out to find the best possible eye-clean diamond for your budget.
Apart from making out inclusions the high definition photos and videos offer 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. For all this you will definitely need a high definition photo or better yet a high definition video from all angles.
James Allen is offering all that and it is for this particular reason that I consider James Allen to be a particularly good choice when it comes to buying diamonds online! Somehow I still cannot quite believe that the other competitors are not trying to do the same! From the fact that you can clearly see all the inclusions in every diamond it becomes very clear that James Allen is not trying to hide anything and that in fact they are very honest. I think it is in their best own interest to be very honest with the customer. By having the customer know exactly what diamond he will get, the customer will most likely be satisfied and not return the diamond back.
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 many salespeople will try to sell diamonds to you that are only of average quality. Once you request to compare several diamonds to each other or even try to scrutinize a diamond under a 10x magnification loupe, the salespeople’ pressure on you to buy might mount in ever so subtle ways. I know that because I used to be a salesperson in a brick and mortar store. The advantage of James Allen is that you can scrutinize each diamond better than at a brick and mortar store, compare as many diamonds as you want without the salespeople getting impatient and without having any psychological tricks and pressure applied on you to buy the diamond.
Apart from these huge advantages of having real life photos and videos of each diamond 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 make out whether the diamond at hand might be an option for me or not much quicker. This saves me and will most certainly also you save a lot of time!
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. Once you have ticked several diamonds you can compare all the diamonds to each other which you have liked most so far. This way you can narrow down your diamonds in a very efficient way and then compare each diamond from every angle. This is a feature that helps tremendously when looking for quality diamonds.
Furthermore James Allen is particularly user-friendly for people who want to design their own engagement ring. After having designed your own engagement ring consisting of a ring setting and a diamond, the “Complete Ring” 360° video function will give you a good idea what your diamond will look like. Usually James Allen uses the ring setting you are buying and places the diamond shape that you have chosen on top of this particular setting and makes a 360° video of that.
Obviously, the preview will differ in that the diamond on top of the ring setting will not be exactly the same diamond that you have chosen. But it will be the same diamond shape that you have chosen for your engagement ring and thus the preview image will come very close to what you will be getting.
I also like some of the special features that James Allen is offering in their educational section.
For instance James Allen’s carat size simulator will let you have a pretty accurate idea of how big the diamond will appear when being set on a ring setting:
Other than that James Allen’s diamond color simulator will let you have a good idea of what certain diamond colors look like opposed to other diamond colors:
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 ASET/idealscope analyses for free. This only applies to fancy shaped diamonds. An ASET/idealscope analysis becomes important if you want to compare the specific light performance of several 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 ASET analysis and the ASET analysis will be sent to James Allen who will then send it to you! This usually takes about 3 to 5 business days. This way you will be able to see which one of your favourite fancy shaped diamonds is the best deal in terms of light performance.
Unfortunately due to a recent policy change in the beginning of 2015 it is not possible to reserve stones anymore. This means that while you think you might have found your perfect stone someone else could theoretically snatch it away from you by buying it first. But I would like to mention that this hardly ever happens. If it should happen however, it might be very frustrating. This is why I consider their new policy change to be a drawback in customer service.
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 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 definitely not 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.
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
What are the cons of James Allen?
So, what are the cons?
Of course, there are also downsides with James Allen. As I have mentioned earlier, you might have a bigger choice of diamonds elsewhere for instance at Blue Nile.
Furthermore, 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.
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! This means that if you really like a round cut diamond that you have found and need some more days to ponder whether you will really buy it, someone else could buy it away from you! On the other hand though, no one is able to reserve a diamond that you might be interested in.
As already mentioned, for specific fancy colored diamonds you might find that James Allen is not offering enough choices.
Nonetheless I still think that as far as buying diamonds or engagement rings online is concerned in 2015 James Allen is the best deal you can get!
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.