Ultimate Guide to Buying a Diamond Engagement Ring in UK

1 carat engagement ring uk

Shopping practices differ from region to region and country to country. If you are currently shopping for an engagement ring and based in the United Kingdom, you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, you are going to find out how to buy high quality diamond rings and save a lot of money at the same time. You will also get answers to commonly asked questions and misconceptions that UK shoppers have when buying an engagement ring.

Let’s dive right in…

What’s the Biggest Problem When Buying a Diamond Ring in UK?

Well, the biggest problem for UK shoppers is that the majority of local jewellers are insanely overpriced and only sell diamonds with mediocre cut quality. From experience, this phenomenon is seen everywhere; from local family-owned businesses to high street jewellers at Hatton Garden.

To be fair, the problem of having mediocre diamond quality is the same as physical retailers in other parts of the world. But this problem is exacerbated in the UK jewellery industry due to the expensive overheads and staffing costs.

If you want to be a smart shopper and make educated purchasing decisions based on facts and tangible data, I recommend reading up the following sections of Beyond4Cs:

  1. Step by Step Guide to Choosing a Diamond
  2. Ideal Proportions to Look For When Buying a Diamond
  3. Common Scams to Avoid When Things Are Too Good to be True
  4. Why the Diamond Districts Are Bad Places to Shop
  5. Which Are the Best Grading Labs You Should Trust?

Once you had done so, I guarantee that you will have more knowledge about choosing a diamond than the jewellers who claim to have years or decades of experience.

In fact, if you don’t believe what I said above, all you need to do is to pay a visit to your local jewelry store after reading up and you will know who’s bullshitting you and who isn’t.

Where is the Best Place to Buy a Diamond Engagement Ring in UK?

faceup view of 1ct halo ring bluenile

A stunning 1 carat diamond engagement ring purchased at BlueNile.com

If you want to avoid high prices, lousy services and poor quality diamonds, you need to go online. Vendors like Blue Nile, James Allen and White Flash are some of the best places to buy a diamond ring in the UK.

The rationale to go online is simple. That’s because you get complete transparency of what you are buying, access to better cut diamonds and even enjoy significantly lower prices.

bluenile uk 1 carat diamond

You get to see full details of the diamond away from a pressured sales environment.

Unlike a traditional retailer where there is a limited selection of diamonds to choose from, online retailers enable you to cherry pick the best diamond out of a massive inventory for any given budget. This is in sharp contrast to the limited options you have available in physical stores.

The best part is, your purchase is 100% risk free and you are protected with a 30-day no questions asked refund policy. The fact is, in every single aspect of the shopping process, the online retailers offer far better benefits for UK shoppers than any other traditional store!

And if you are curious about the kind of quality you can expect, check out these 2 videos of diamond rings that were purchased from Blue Nile and James Allen.




There are 100s of beautiful ring designs across a range of different styles to choose from at Blue Nile and James Allen. Feel free to browse through their selections to find your perfect engagement ring!

Price Comparison of UK Jewellers vs Online Retailers

So, just how much more expensive are diamond engagement ring prices in the United Kingdom if you buy at a physical store? Let’s find out by taking a look at the largest UK jewelry chain store, Ernest Jones.

A simple solitaire ring with a 1 carat centre diamond was selected for this comparison and a screenshot of the listing can be seen below.

This is the kind of prices you can expect to pay in store.

I want you to take a good look on the Ernest Jones website and pay extra attention to the vague details they provide in their listing. Assuming that you get a 1 carat H colour VS2 centre stone, the cost of the diamond ring is a whopping £16999!

Could you guess how much a diamond ring with top of the line cut quality and similar colour and clarity ratings would cost at Blue Nile? If you guessed £10,000, you are nowhere near correct.

In fact, the total cost of getting a similar looking ring with a more valuable platinum setting and a diamond selected from their signature Astor line would only cost you a total of £7,572 (£247.20 + £7324.80 inclusive of VAT).

That’s less than HALF the price a physical retailer like Ernest Jones charges!

best place to buy engagement ring uk solitaire design

where to buy one carat round diamond united kingdom

It’s not just a bit cheaper, it’s a lot cheaper when you go online!!!

The phenomenon of overpriced diamonds is not isolated to large chain stores like Ernest Jones. In fact, it is prevalent across almost every UK based retailer! Prices are typically 20-50% more expensive than online vendors like Blue Nile and James Allen!

And when it comes to a big-ticket item like a diamond ring, the absolute differences is MASSIVE. A like-for-like diamond ring that is sold in a retail store for £5,000 would only cost you less than £3,500. And that difference is a huge sum of money.

Value Added Tax (VAT) and Import Taxes

VAT is an ever-present expense that UK consumers have to deal with and the United Kingdom charges a standard rate of 20% on the cost of goods purchased. For jewelry related products that are imported into the UK, an import duty of roughly 2.5% will also be levied.

The above information is correct at the time of writing and if you want to check out the latest details, head over to this link here: https://www.gov.uk/tax-on-shopping/vat-duties

Misconceptions About VAT & Import Duty When Buying Diamond Rings

tax confusion uk vat

Right off the bat, I want you to get this fact straight. The UK government assesses VAT and customs taxes on ALL items that are imported regardless of whether you are a commercial entity or an individual consumer.

One of the biggest misconceptions that UK shoppers have is that they don’t pay VAT or customs tax bills when buying locally and in contrast, they only get hit with tax bills when buying engagement rings online.

And if you think that you can magically save money and avoid taxes by shopping locally, you are being delusional. Get this, you PAY the same percentage of taxes regardless of where you shop.

Why? That’s because diamonds are traded in US dollars and more than 90% of the world’s polished diamonds will be exported from the United States. What do you think happens when a UK jewelry store imports and sells their inventory?

Well, they are required by law to pay the customs duty and VAT just like you and me.

In turn, these costs will be charged to the consumers. Instead of breaking down the components of VAT/Customs duty, the stores usually hide and conveniently lump everything together in their listed price tag to provide you with a “nice looking” rounded-up figure. FYI, the rounded up prices is a sneaky marketing tactic that many jewellers in the UK use to charge consumers more.

When you factor in the customs and VAT and compare final prices, you will get far better value by shopping at vendors like Blue Nile and James Allen. In fact, prices are typically 30-50% less than the traditional UK retailers and you get higher quality products!

What Does the Process of Buying a Diamond Online Look Like?

diamond cluster engagement rings uk

As stated in the earlier part of the article, there are many benefits of buying a diamond ring from online vendors like Blue Nile, White Flash and James Allen. Besides significantly lower prices and better transparency, the more important advantage is their huge selection of high quality diamonds over traditional brick and mortar stores.

For engagement ring shoppers in UK, the most convenient vendor to work with is Blue Nile as they have business operations in UK and Europe. This means that everything from taxes and shipping has been simplified for you.

As a UK shopper, the prices that you see on BlueNile is the FINAL price you pay since they have already included all necessary taxes in the order. It’s that straightforward and there are no hidden charges.

After you checkout, all you need to do is to wait a couple of days for your purchase to be delivered securely to your doorstep.

For US based vendors like James Allen and White Flash, delivery is made securely via a courier like Fedex. Once the parcel reaches UK, the customs charges and 20% VAT are calculated and you will receive an invoice from the courier.

Upon payment, the parcel will then be released for secure delivery to your doorstep.

 
  • Regardless of who you buy from, VAT is collected and payable on your diamond ring purchase. For US based vendors, the difference lies in the additional step of paying VAT to the courier before you receive the goods.

    Paul Gian

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    Summary – Buying an Engagement Ring in UK the Smart Way

    proposal ring united kingdom

    I hope that this article has shed some light on buying and shopping for rings in the UK. In actuality, it is the same process as buying anywhere else in the world, but with a few exceptions.

    Having seen the exorbitant prices and consistently mediocre diamond quality offered by UK jewelry retailers, it’s simply not worth it to shop in a physical brick and mortar store when there are plenty of better alternatives.

    Online vendors like Blue Nile and James Allen can give you the freedom to check out multiple items away from a pressurized sales environment, and not just what is available in a particular store.

    Plus, it is much cheaper to go online and it makes shopping in the UK easier and more fun.

    On a final note, shopping for a high quality diamond ring in the UK can be a bit more expensive and complicated but it can still be an amazing experience. You just need to plan accordingly and work towards what you want.

    Good luck with your search! If you need help or have any questions, feel free to drop a comment below!

    If you want to save more than 30% off retail prices for a high quality diamond engagement ring, check out Blue Nile, James Allen and White Flash for their fantastic selection of ring designs.

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    14 Comments

    1. Andy Gray-
      June 23, 2016 at 6:45 pm

      I have just spent the past couple of hours on your website – Beyond4cs.com – firstly, if I may, can I thank you for taking the time to upload all the material and detail – including your own story which I enjoyed reading about.

      I found common similarities with where I am now to where you were then – aged 29, 2 years into a relationship and with zero knowledge of the diamond industry. I was looking for information on the best engagement rings in uk and where to get them. Moreover, I too am fairly risk averse and buying a diamond does feel very much like any other high value purchase – a house or a car for example – whereby there is a naivety to trust unknown salespeople who either have little knowledge other than buzzwords or an ulterior motive to extort you for more than the product is worth.

      I’m not a trusting person, more of a cynical who questions everything. For that reason I decided it was going to take a while to make the purchase as I had to do my research. There has been brief discussion with my partner as to her having an involvement in the purchase of an engagement ring – for she will wear it for the rest of her life and I have no particular interest in making an investment to find out it is unsuitable etc.

      Having considered it more, I will consult her purely for ideas to get the right design, but I will choose the diamond because there has to be some element of surprise, and that way my conscience is clear that I’ve got the best deal for the budget. Knowledge is power as you say, so with little of it I decided I would visit the bricks and mortar stores to see what they had to offer. I was never going to purchase and made this clear at the outset, I needed to hold rings and see the variety of styles and types.

      I followed up my visit by checking out the more expensive stuff, Leo Diamond, and found your informative guide to that. Safe to say I won’t be buying one of them!

      I am convinced I need to purchase online and James Allen seems to be the best place to start, with a potential proposal between September and December also to be planned I’ve got a lot of work to do. Is the website purely an interest of yours or are you able to provide consultancy at a cost?

      I am based in the UK, so I understand the implications of buying from a U.S. website and the necessity of buying with a GIA certificate as other auditors can be less stringent.

      I think the most difficult thing for me buying online is not being able to physically hold the ring until it arrives. You may or may not be surprised to know that when the marketing tool came out to show me how good the Leo Diamond was I asked why I could see flaws (given I’m a total novice) and it transpired that the lens had not been cleaned for some time. This meant one of two things, either my vision is superior to many other walk in clients or they simply ignored it, either way it alarmed me.

      I appreciate you will be a busy man and there is a time difference to comprehend, but any correspondence you could offer me in reply would be appreciated.

      Kind regards,

    2. Paul Gian-
      June 25, 2016 at 2:15 am

      As a consumer and having seen a number of Leo Diamonds in person, I can tell you that the quality control and consistency in that line is really poor. While there are a couple of stones that are cut well, most of them aren’t actually well cut for performance. And they are really pricey!

      Read: http://beyond4cs.com/reviews/leo-diamond/

      If you are based in England, buying from a US retailer would be my advice. As I already mentioned in the article above, you get far more details than you ever would when shopping in a physical store. You are also protected with a 30 day money back refund with no questions asked. So, your point on not being able to hold the ring is moot. If you don’t like what you see, just send the ring back and there’s no hard feelings.

      For your case, Blue Nile would probably be the best vendor to work with due to their presence and operations in the UK/EU.

    3. Ann Parker-
      February 2, 2017 at 2:32 pm

      I have been fascinated by the information on your web site. I have always wanted a Tiffany solitaire as the brilliance of their diamonds seems to out shine anything else I have seen. However I also want a 2 ct stone which is very expensive from a jeweller such as Tiffany. I understand their stones are Hearts and Arrows cut which is why they are such quality.

      The other option suggested by a jeweller in London was to choose diamond cluster engagement rings which will bring down the cost significantly but I don’t like that idea.

      If I follow your advice and buy an ideal cut diamond certified by the GIA or AGS how do I know it is a top quality hearts and arrows cut as the certificates do not appear to state this. I do not think I trust myself to decide using a loupe despite your very detailed information on the subject.

      Buying diamonds in the UK is very expensive and we were planning to travel to Dubai but looking at the recommended jewellers on your site, it seem Houston might be a better choice. Do you have any experience of diamond buying in Dubai?

      I would be very grateful for any assistance and advice you may offer. I would also like a 10ct tennis bracelet so we will be spending a reasonable sum of money on these once in a lifetime purchases and do not want to make any mistakes. Re the bracelet – I want a good quality but understand with so many stones together you can reduce the specification and still get a quality product. I want all the diamonds to be G colour. Would you be able to suggest the cut and clarity I might specify and still get a stunning product?

    4. Paul Gian-
      February 4, 2017 at 1:45 pm

      Tiffany is a big brand and you can expect to pay a huge premium for their engagement rings just because of their name. I want to be clear about this as well. Just because you are paying more doesn’t mean you are necessarily getting a better product.

      You can read my review of them here: http://beyond4cs.com/reviews/tiffany/

      Traveling to Dubai to make a purchase is a bad idea as well. In fact, it is just as bad as shopping in Hatton Garden or a typical jewelry store in London. There are many other issues as well and you can get the details here: https://beyond4cs.com/jewelry-guide/buying-a-diamond-ring-in-dubai/

      If you are looking for a 10ct tennis bracelet with the best possible cut quality and sparkle, head over to White Flash: https://beyond4cs.com/go/wf/

      In terms of the diamond quality they use, they are second to none and they have to expertise to help you create a tennis bracelet with matching diamonds. More importantly, for the kind of top notch quality they are offering, you won’t get better prices anywhere else in the world.

    5. Chris-
      July 6, 2018 at 11:01 am

      I’ve found your site very interesting and informative!

      I am in the market for a round shape diamond, and was hoping to get a Canadian diamond. This is primarily due to the fact that I am Canadian and like the thought of supporting a Canadian industry. The problem is that I live in the UK. A lot of local jewelry stores here don’t stock Canadian diamonds due to their higher cost.

      Are you aware of any reputable online dealers that sell Canadian diamonds to UK residents? I’ve tried James Allen but they don’t seem to have anything in my price range (£2000 – 2500max). I’m looking for a 0.5c (or so) round diamond to fit on a white gold ring (single solitaire).

      Do you know if Blue Nile has diamonds from Canada and where it originated from?

    6. Paul Gian-
      July 7, 2018 at 12:25 pm

      Most cut and polished diamonds on the market do not come with a certificate of origin, so it is not possible to know exactly where a particular stone was mined. In this regard, you will have a tough time finding what you need at Blue Nile.

      For canadian diamonds, James Allen is the exclusive distributor for Canadamark diamonds and they have one of the biggest inventory available. These are tracked from Canadian mines to the polishing wheel to the retailer.

      If you couldn’t find a diamond there, that’s very likely because you have set your expectations for color and clarity too high. From what I had seen, there are plenty of diamonds in the range of £2000 to £2500.

      My advice is to relook into your budget or make some compromises. You would be able to find some nice looking diamonds. But if you still need help, feel free to bump me an email.

    7. Judy-
      October 23, 2018 at 4:23 am

      I stay in London and had made multiple trips to Hatton Garden to look at jewellery and I have seen some very bad things going on in HG. Salespeople will size you up according to what you know and will take advantage of you if you are a complete beginner. I have also encountered stone swapping where diamonds were supposedly reserved on the day of visit to show you the nice stuff. Upon returning to the store, a different set of diamonds were shown and the salespeople claimed that they were the same. Given the bad experiences, I would rather buy online everytime as Paul had suggested.

    8. Jason-
      November 4, 2018 at 7:14 pm

      Thanks for the article! I’m sure many brits like me would find it useful. Are there any jewellers you would recommend visiting in Hatton Gardens? I’m not necessarily looking to buy but to take a look at what’s on offer. Would you know if prices can be negotiated?

      Have you heard of Quality Diamonds? They have a website and are located right in the middle of Hatton Garden. They seem to have affordable EGL diamonds and discounted rings that they said were of good value when I window shopped.

    9. Judy-
      November 5, 2018 at 11:34 pm

      There’s a lot of jewellers at Hatton Garden and from experience, I know that prices can be haggled but they are still very expensive. They frequently list engagement rings with an exorbitant price and knock it down to make it seem like a good deal. But it isn’t. It’s a ploy to make you think you have a good deal when in actual fact, you don’t.

    10. Paul Gian-
      November 6, 2018 at 2:42 am

      As I said in this article, I don’t recommend buying diamonds in London and I have no experience with the business you mentioned. From experience, I can tell you that every single dealer who sell EGL diamonds are scumbags who are out to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers. So, that’s a red flag to me when you mention EGL.

    11. Kim-
      January 12, 2019 at 10:08 pm

      Which is the best online retailer based in the UK? Which would you recommend for someone like me who wants to design my own engagement ring? Lots of the international retailers like White Flash and James Allen have great prices, but then we get hit with big custom and tax bills when importing.

    12. Paul Gian-
      January 15, 2019 at 2:25 pm

      Well, VAT is charged everywhere even if you buy from a local retailer. It’s the law set by the government and it is applicable across the board. For readers who are looking to design your own engagement ring in UK, I would recommend Blue Nile to minimize hassle and you probably knew I made my own ring there as well if you watched the video in the article.

    13. Adrian Sfercoci-
      January 19, 2019 at 3:19 pm

      I’ve been doing some online research and education about diamonds, but only came across your website in a few days ago. It has been a real reboot of my search methodology. So first a big THANK YOU.

      I am hoping to get confirmation of understanding of what I learned on your website which should be reflected in the stones I shortlisted. Otherwise I would be still glad to find out I need to be more thorough and understand the details better now rather than after I would have spent my money.

      I am looking for a nice diamond for an engagement ring based on your guidelines:
      1. Highest rated GIA Round Brilliant cut, symmetry and polish together with proportions within the ranges on your website
      2. Clarity within VS2-VVS1, trying to go to the higher end to minimize the risk of unpleasant surprises
      3. Color within G-F, not realistic to go higher although I have included E in my filtering
      4. Carat 0.7 but definitely considering it as the first place to decrease in order get better clarity and/or color
      5. All based on my initial planned budget of GBP 3300

      Being from Europe, I shortlisted some diamonds from Blue Nile, after your updated review of them improving their listings details.

      My picks:
      • Budget choice: https://www.bluenile.com/uk/diamond-details/LD09371530
      • Potential bargain choice: https://www.bluenile.com/uk/diamond-details/LD09203391 apparently interesting price makes me wonder why? Could be the medium blue fluorescence that drives down the price?
      • Hard-to-decide-between and a lot over budget choice:
      o https://www.bluenile.com/uk/diamond-details/LD09335853
      o https://www.bluenile.com/uk/diamond-details/LD09203256
      o https://www.bluenile.com/uk/diamond-details/LD09203394
      o Which one do you think is best out of these? And are they worth it over the budget choice or over the potential bargain choice?

      Coming back to my picks I am wondering about the potential impact of the clarity characteristics as I am not able to distinguish them in the 360 videos, I can only see some points/spots but I cannot distinguish the clouds, feathers, needles and surface grains mentioned in the GIA report. All look eye-clean to me but I am afraid to trust myself completely :)

      What do you think about the Gemex report? To what extent should I use it to rank the selected diamonds? You mentioned the BrillianceScope as a side explanation on your Leo diamonds analysis but I didn’t understand how to actually use the report data, especially the 5 measurements photos.

      As part of the ask for advice, I would also like to show you the setting that I picked. Here is the link to it on the since1910 website where I found the best visual representation of it (even better than the manufacturer website): https://www.whiteflash.com/engagement-rings/diamond-settings/tacori-46-2-rd-sculpted-crescent-almond-crescent-diamond-engagement-ring-2740.htm. There are very brief details about the side stones (0.15ct total, G, VS). As I read on your website color gets noticed better as the carat increases. Also from your website I got that white gold works better with higher grade color diamonds. So for this specific setting what is the minimum color grade that you would recommend? Is G good enough or I would really need to go for a higher one.

      Now back to my main question, out of all my selected diamonds, which one would you recommend? Or would you be able to recommend a better one that I may have missed?

      Reading your Blue Nile review based on your shopping experience, I think that they replaced the GCAL with Gemex, how can I find out if they still provide the GCAL data somehow? Or what should be the next step after deciding on a specific diamond from my search, given the info available at this point?

      Once again big thank you for reading through, I really tried to minimize and structure my e-mail to make it an easy read, hopefully I succeeded at least to some extent.

      Looking forward to your reply.

      Kind regards,
      Adrian

      PS: If you have time to read further and clarify a few side observations and curiosities I got during my search please see below.

      Please have a look at this one: https://www.bluenile.com/uk/diamond-details/LD09335783; Why it is so expensive for its ct? It’s not included in my list because 60.9% depth is out of your proportions range by 0.1%

      Talking about prices and price per carat, I would think this is a parameter that generally should contribute to the confirmation of the overall diamond quality, and in the case when it is too good to be true and looks like a bargain perhaps there is a hidden flaw. What is your view?

      For example #391 from my selection above and https://www.bluenile.com/uk/diamond-details/LD09335850 (not on my shortlist because of the crown angle of 35.5): both are part of the Astor Ideal selection, XXX, G, #391 is +0.01ct and VVS1 vs #850 VS1, yet #850 is more expensive. I would have expected that #391 with a tiny bit more ct and 2 levels of clarity above has more than enough to be more expensive. But #391 has medium blue fluorescence vs none of #850. Is that enough to change the price balance?

    14. Paul Gian-
      January 19, 2019 at 3:39 pm

      BlueNile recently launched their Astro diamonds in place of their signature diamonds.

      Cutwise, you did well to pick out all these diamonds. Clearly, you read and understood Beyond4cs.com very well. Good job.

      Now, from a practical point of view, this would be the best diamond of the lot to buy: https://www.bluenile.com/uk/diamond-details/LD09371530

      It’s very well priced because it fell just under the 0.7 carat weight and there’s no premium for high clarity on that stone.

      This would be my second option: https://www.bluenile.com/uk/diamond-details/LD09203394

      All these diamonds are 100% eyeclean and will look identical in the face up view. The Gemex reports are flashy but they really aren’t that informative. I do prefer GCAL’s reports though because it shows more details like stone patterning and highlights light performance.

      Well, they phased that out. Having a Gemex report helps and is better than just a GIA report by itself.

      Anyway, go for the first diamond. It’s the stone I would personally buy.

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