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You might’ve heard that a faction of Millennials raise their middle finger to diamond engagement rings today! But the old-school ones still value the timelessness of diamonds despite newer alternatives.
Smack in the middle of these two groups are Millennials who try to understand the science of sparkle so they can continue tradition without breaking the bank. This is where the new age of diamond shopping comes in. Enter: James Allen Diamonds!
In this review, I’m going to share my shopping experience, the pros and cons, and how James Allen appeals so much to the younger gen yet still manages to attract diamond purists around the world.
Let’s start with their beginnings!
The James Allen Story – 10 Years of Yes
A decade may sound young compared to jewelers with a century under their belt. But James Allen’s 10-year existence was created by diamond and online retail connoisseurs with decades of expertise. And with the boom of millennial platforms, ten years is already legendary in the World Wide Web.
A Cutting-Edge Business Model
James Allen runs their business as a “modified” dropshipping model. This means that they don’t physically own the diamonds on the website. How is James Allen then able to sell these gems to you?
Well, they use the following strategy: suppliers are in near proximity to the JA New York offices, and they have photography centers in all manufacturing centers so that they can photograph and QC diamonds 24/7. It is for this reason that JA can provide 360° HD videos for all their diamonds!
Now, once an order is placed, the diamond is sent to the James Allen office where it’s inspected by their in-house gemologist to ensure quality before being shipped to you.
James Allen also attempts to secure exclusivity agreements with their vendors so that the same diamonds on their website won’t be found on other sites. Since James Allen doesn’t have to buy all the diamonds upfront, they can offer very competitive prices!
Pricing Compared to Brick and Mortar Stores and Online Vendors
They only have to pay for website maintenance, photo and video staff, customer service, and diamond specialists. It doesn’t take much imagination to explain why a physical store that has to pay for expensive showrooms, salespeople, and diamonds in stock will require higher markups on every sale.
From my experience, offline diamonds will be approximately 30% – 70% more expensive than online diamonds with the same 4Cs. Insofar, there’s no doubt that the price offered by James Allen will be way better than the price you would get at any brick and mortar store.
Compared to other online vendors like Blue Nile, for example, James Allen isn’t really more expensive. If you take the average of all the diamond prices, they seem to be around the same. That said, I wouldn’t prefer JA over Blue Nile because of lower prices but because of the advantages below.
Inventory and Quality of Diamonds
With over 150,000 diamonds of different shapes and 4Cs, it’s easy to add poor cut stones into the mix. But JA made sure that even Good Cut diamonds can still be quality diamonds if you’re on a budget. James Allen also exhibits Canada Mark Diamonds and their own signature line called True Hearts if you want to own the best of the best.
Apart from traditional whites, they also offer fancy-colored diamonds. Although stunning pieces, they have a limited selection. So in this case, Leibish&Co. might be a good alternative as they specialize in fancy colors. However, I would first try to browse at James Allen as Leibish&Co. doesn’t possess high definition 360° videos for their diamonds in stock.
James Allen also walks the talk as they ensure the quality of diamonds by offering grading reports from GIA and AGS – the only labs that you should trust! Choosing a well graded GIA or AGS diamond will guarantee that the stone’s quality or 4Cs namely the cut, color, clarity, and carat size, and even the monetary value will match your expectations or better yet, surpass it.
James Allen Website Experience
Now, since online shops don’t have fancy showrooms, they lure you with their online presence. Their website is their exhibit, and a minimal, up-to-date website connects them easily to the Facebook generation around the world. Seen on digital giants like Forbes, Huffington Post, and The Knot, the James Allen Blog and education center are able to keep up with the age of blogging.
As for diamond shopping, their intuitive search tool makes navigation and filtering a hand’s on experience – far from the pressuring pitch of a salesperson in a brick and mortar store.
I find it way more user-friendly not to browse through lists of specifications but with real life photos of real diamonds. This way, we’re able to see at a glance if a particular diamond is worth considering. This saves a lot of time when diamond browsing!
The fact that you can see all the inclusions in every diamond makes it apparent that James Allen is not trying to hide anything. You may also compare your chosen pieces side by side by clicking the “Add to Compare” icon. Once it gets stored in the comparison folder, you’ll be able to scrutinize each stone!
360° Video Technology in Action: Finding Cheaper Eye Clean Diamonds!
Most online vendors don’t offer quality photos and 360° videos. And the ones who could are only able to provide for selected diamonds. In my opinion, this is not only a fancy marketing feature, but it can also contribute to making customers better diamond shoppers and in the process saving more money!
For instance, you can have a SI1 diamond that has visible inclusions, and a SI2 diamond that's eye clean. On the image on the left, you have a SI1 stone that has a visible dark inclusion under the table. Thus, the SI2 diamond on the right is the better choice even though it's one clarity grade lower:
Without actually seeing the diamond, you wouldn’t know that this SI2 diamond is the better deal! In general, we can never be sure what a diamond looks like by only basing from the grading certificate.
Sure, if the diamond is VS1 or better, it’s definitely going to be eye-clean. But from VS2 to SI2, there is no guarantee. Although, take note that this is the clarity range where you can make the best deals!
Unfortunately, a lot of online vendors don’t offer enlarged pictures, and some even dare to post fake images. Buying a diamond this way is a gamble unless you're willing to spend significant amounts of money on the best clarity grades. The golden rule is: never buy a diamond blindly!
Here are Some More Perks on Browsing with James Allen’s Diamond Display Technology:
Easily Spot Diamonds with Higher Degrees of Scintillation
The diamond on the right, however, has a weak contrast, so the scintillation is low. Also, the one on the right has black areas under the table which signifies light leakage. This makes the diamond on the left a much better option, but without HD images and videos, it’s hard to truly know!
Find Diamonds with Better Fire and Brilliance
Some diamonds exhibit much more fire or – amount of “rainbow colors” reflected from a diamond – than others. For instance, the one on the left has greater fire than the one on the right:
Well, you can't see it on these pictures. But if you click on the diamonds, you can view them from all angles. Can you see that the one on the left shows much more rainbow colors? This has to do with the diamond proportions! The left diamond maximizes fire while the right diamond maximizes brilliance.
Discover Fancy Shaped Diamonds with Good Light Performance
The high definition videos are also a great help when trying to make out certain characteristics for fancy shaped diamonds. For example, you cannot see from a grading report whether a Cushion shaped diamond has a “crushed ice” look or not.
Similarly, it’s hard to know if an oval, marquise, or pear shaped diamond is prone to exhibit a bow tie effect or not. Just like the examples below, the oval cut diamond on the left has the undesirable bow-tie effect. The diamond on the right, however, is completely fine:
James Allen ups the game with their Designer Rings, Gemstones, Fine Jewelry, and Custom Design Engagement Rings. That’s right, you can design your own ring! After choosing the setting and the diamond shape, you will be able to view a 360° video of the complete ring:
When you see the videos of different diamonds in a ring setting, you quickly realize that you can go way down in color grade to save money as ring settings tend to pick up some of the diamond’s color.
If you need inspiration for which ring setting to choose, check out James Allen’s recently purchased engagement rings. It can give you a pretty good idea of what the rings would look like when worn:
24/7 Customer Service
Google can answer anything under the sun, but it’s best to ask a professional!
I’ve tested James Allen’s “Chat Now” button that can be seen on every page.
Their staff responded within a minute and was able to provide an honest opinion on diamonds and a real-time inspection service where experts can share their screen with you.
Even if you come up with a complex question, the answer might take longer, but it will be solved. Unlike Blue Nile, you can ask the customer service staff for up to three Idealscope images for free.
They offer ASET images on select fancy shapes and Idealscope images on select rounds:
This possibility is due to the fact that all of James Allen’s suppliers are near their New York offices. JA asks suppliers to make Idealscope images that will be sent to you within 3 to 5 business days.
Unfortunately, due to a recent policy change, it’s not possible to reserve stones anymore. This means that while you think you might have found the perfect diamond, someone else could snatch it away from you by buying it first. The only way to get a reservation is by asking for an ASET image, Idealscope image, or a gemologist inspection. Then your diamond can be reserved for up to a week.
Terms, Conditions, and Benefits
I’ve also found that James Allen offers a superbly risk minimizing package as far as their terms and conditions are concerned.
The shipping is ALWAYS free and fully insured. It doesn’t 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.
If you change your mind, you can even return the ring for free (only inside the US as you will have to pay for the return shipping outside the US).
At your local jeweler, you would hardly be able to check your ring for 30 days and return it for free. Furthermore, I think that James Allen’s conditions are ideal if you want to design your own engagement ring. You can engrave your ring for free. Although if you return it, you will have to pay $25 for re-polishing.
And if ever the ring is too big or too small, you can still resize it within 60 days for free. It’s available for all platinum, yellow gold and white gold engagement rings, as well as for all 3-Stone Rings. James Allen engagement rings also come with a lifetime warranty that covers prong tightening, repolishing rhodium plating, free cleaning, and replacement of lost side stones.
Here are All the Benefits in Short Form:
- Magnified Photographs: See Your Diamond like a Jeweler
- Lifetime Warranty on Your Jewelry Purchase
- 3D Engagement Ring Setting Visualizer
- 24/7 Customer Support Service
- Free Shipping Worldwide
- Build Your Own Ring
- 60-Day Free Sizing
- Lifetime Upgrade
- Financing Options
- Conflict Free Diamonds
- Intuitive Diamond Search Tool
- Free Engraving with Laser Inscribing
- Real 360° Diamond Videos in High Definition
- Free Returns (JA will pay for the return shipping within the US.)
James Allen Packaging
The packaging is not just a pretty little bonus. It’s part of the brand and upholds the reputation of the company. Now, I’m very much aware that most online shops battle with their ring boxes.
James Allen made an impact because they also provide a jewelry box for the ring box itself. Vendors like Blue Nile secure the package with fillers and cutouts, while James Allen designed a beautiful kit to protect the hardwood ring box from bouncing or falling off during delivery.
And not only is their packaging the most secure, it’s also the classiest. The box I received has a drawer that contains a GIA certificate, an appraisal, and other documentations.
So, What are the Cons?
If you’re like me who initially hunts for the drawbacks, this review may seem biased because of all the positive feedback. But it is so because James Allen has proven to be one of the top choices for diamond engagement rings for the techy era. They deserve it.
Of course, there are also downsides. For instance, if you are ordering from outside the US, you’ll have to pay for the return fees if you decide that you don’t want to keep the diamond. Furthermore, it’s also not possible to reserve round cut diamonds anymore. And as already mentioned, for specific fancy colored diamonds, you might find that James Allen is not offering enough choices.
The Bottomline is…
James Allen is the new face of online diamond shopping, period. Their prices are great, their high-tech imagery lets you know of your money’s worth, and to top it all off, they bridge the gap between a mere consumer and a gemologist by sharing meaningful, easy-to-read diamond education.
So, it’s pretty evident that James Allen is the current favorite among engagement ring shoppers today. But don’t just take my word for it, see for yourself!
Should you have questions, don’t hesitate to write to me or drop a comment down below.
I’m here to help! 🙂
- Editor Rating
- Rated 5 stars
- Your Diamond Teacher Sebastian
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