In recent years, online retailers like James Allen and Blue Nile have disrupted the traditional ways of buying an engagement ring in a physical store.
With their innovative approach to doing business, consumers now have access to better selections, higher quality craftsmanship and enjoy significantly lower prices.
But here’s where it gets confusing: When two competitors claim to be the best, which one really is?
What factors come into play to determine which is the right choice for you? Answers to these questions and more as we perform an indepth comparison between James Allen vs Blue Nile.
|Feature||James Allen||Blue Nile|
|Inventory||More than 210,000 loose diamonds with high definition videos.||More than 198,000 loose diamonds. Not all listings have videos.|
|Website||Highly intuitive, informative and straightforward to use.||Search filters and result page slightly more cluttered during navigation.|
|Signature Diamonds||True Hearts: Round, princess & cushion.||Astor: Round, princess & cushion cut.|
|Prices||25%-40% lower than physical stores.||25%-40% lower than physical stores.|
|Setting Designs||590+ unique designs available.||360+ unique designs available.|
|Fine Jewelry||Limited selections and jewelry types.||Wide selections of colored gemstone jewelry.|
|Warranty||Lifetime warranty. Free prong tightening, re-polishing, rhodium plating and cleaning services.||Lifetime warranty on manufacturing defects. Complimentary cleaning and inspection.|
|Upgrade Policy||Lifetime upgrade for 100% credit as long as new purchase is twice the price of original diamond.||Lifetime upgrade for 100% credit as long as new purchase is twice the price of original diamond.|
|Support||24/7 support via phone, email and chat.||24/7 support via phone, email and chat.|
|Return Policy||30-day money back guarantee. Free returns in the US.||30-day money back guarantee. Return shipping paid by customer.|
|Buyback Policy||Not available.||Buyback program via Mondiamo based on market value and cash offer.|
The James Allen brand has been growing in popularity in recent years and for good reasons.
Their revolutionary 360 degree video listings make them one of the best places to shop for diamonds. Combine this with a wide range of ring styles and setting designs, James Allen has everything you need for your perfect engagement ring.
At the time of writing, they have over 200,000 diamonds of every price, shape and size in their inventory. Their intuitive website enables you to shop in the comfort of your home and away from pushy salespeople or pressured sales tactics.
Unlike buying from a traditional store, James Allen provides you with full control over your engagement ring buying experience. Customer satisfaction is something they prioritize and a key driver behind their success.
This can be seen in their generous sales policies which include risk-free 30 day money back guarantee, free return shipping, 24/7 expert support and even perform real-time inspections with a consultant.
James Allen is a fantastic jeweler but it isn’t all be sunshine and rainbows. While return shipping is free for people in the US, international shoppers will have to incur a return shipping fee.
Currently, James Allen has a showroom but it is only available in New York City. In comparison, Blue Nile has multiple showrooms across different states which makes it easier for you to check out products in person.
Lastly, if you want to see an Idealscope/ASET image of a shortlisted diamond, you have to make a request via live chat and wait a couple of days for them to get the photographs captured. So, if you urgently need a ring, the delay may not work out for you.
Their website has a clean and straightforward design which makes navigation a breeze. Currently, they offer more than 200,000 loose diamonds which is on par with what James Allen has in terms of inventory depth.
For the super competitive price point that Blue Nile offers, they actually offer amazing workmanship on their engagement rings and shopping with them gets you superb value for money.
Being one of the largest jewelry companies in the world, Blue Nile has the ability to offer a number of installment plans and financing options. If you are looking to make a purchase on credit, they have some of the most flexible terms available.
When it comes to customer support, they have professional staff available round the clock to answer any questions you have or to help you with a purchase. And of course, all your purchases are risk free and backed by a 30 day money back guarantee.
What are things we don’t like about Blue Nile?
Sample listing with generic stock image instead of a real photo of the diamond.
The biggest drawback about them is that they don’t have videos or photographs for all their diamonds. While they are making significant improvements in this aspect, there are still a number of listings which only use a default stock image.
Because of this, it is extremely hard to assess a diamond’s performance and you might have to make unnecessary upgrades for better clarity just for assurance that the diamond is eyeclean.
This is why I always recommend readers to use the search function to show only diamonds that have a video listing and avoid those that don’t.
Blue Nile’s packaging can also come across as “cheap” and less luxurious than James Allen’s. But to be fair, James Allen is in a league of its own in terms of packaging and if you compare Blue Nile to other vendors, they are actually pretty decent!
The other “complaint” that I have about Blue Nile is that they will charge also a small fee if you require add-ons like ring engraving ($25). While it’s just a small sum of money, I think customers would appreciate making minor things like this free of charge with a purchase.
At James Allen, you can interact with the diamond upclose and get exactly what you SEE!
In terms of shopping experience, James Allen is hands down the winner here for one main reason: their 360° high definition videos for every single diamond in the inventory. On request, you can also get idealscope/ASET images of the diamond you shortlisted.
If you are someone who is discerning and as selective as I am, JamesAllen.com enables you to scrutinize details and critically analyze the diamond. This makes picking out a well cut and eyeclean diamond a walk in the park.
On the other hand, Blue Nile doesn’t have video/photography data available for all their diamonds. When you shop at Blue Nile, I recommend using the search function to filter out diamonds that have 360° videos.
In terms of packaging, Blue Nile uses a simple and nondescript packaging. In contrast, James Allen stands out by being the best in the industry. Your order will come in a beautiful, classy jewelry box that can be re-purposed into storing jewelry.
Comparison of packaging and documentations received from both vendors.
When it comes to diamond prices, both James Allen and Blue Nile offer competitive prices that are 25-50% lesser than what you would pay in a typical jewelry store. Between the 2 of them, JA is a tad cheaper than Blue Nile on average but the differences are pretty much negligible in the grand scheme of things.
The reason they do this is because the generic the GIA triple excellent range holds a broad spectrum of varying cut quality and they select the cream of the crop for better brilliance and sparkle.
And before you say it, let me address a burning question you probably have at this point in time. From experience, I can tell you that James Allen’s True Hearts is better curated and their signature diamonds are generally cut to better precision and performance.
Check out these two G color SI1 round cut diamonds I selected for a case study…
In the JA listing, the tangible data like ASET, Idealscope and H&A scope images all point to it being a top-tier ideal cut diamond. With the Blue Nile listing, there’s a corresponding GEMEX report provided which gives you an idea of the diamond’s performance.
From the video of the Astor diamond, you can see that the contrast patterning of the diamond is slightly inconsistent and it doesn’t have a level of cut precision compared to the True Hearts option.
Of course, one could argue that this comparison is only based on 2 randomly selected diamonds. But when you start doing comparisons with a larger sample size of the Astor inventory, you will come to the same conclusion.
Designer engagement rings from James Allen (left) and Blue Nile (right).
One of the differentiating factors between James Allen and Blue Nile lie in their different range of engagement ring designs. The best way to see the differences for yourself is to click here and here.
If you opened the links above, you may notice that both vendors offer standard ring designs that are commonly found (i.e. 6 prong Tiffany style solitaire, pave designs etc…) but there are subtle differences incorporated into their designs (because of copyright issues!).
James Allen and Blue Nile have partnerships with different designer brands and there are also plenty of in-house pieces that are unique to each vendor. And this is actually a good thing because you have a variety of options to choose from based on your own unique tastes and budget preferences.
When it comes to the cost of settings, I find that Blue Nile generally offers better price points for similar ring designs. For example, a 4 prong comfort fit solitaire ring may cost $430 on James Allen but it may cost around $275 on Blue Nile.
With that said, the small variances in setting costs isn’t big enough to be a deal breaker unless you are buying an engagement ring with a super tight budget. In my opinion, being able to find a design that you like is more important than the difference of a few dollars.
One of the key attributes that I personally look for in a vendor when shopping for jewelry is product quality. Low prices don’t mean anything to me if the finished product is made poorly or has issues with workmanship.
In this regard, I’m actually pleased to say that both James Allen and Blue Nile have superb workmanship and finishing in their engagement rings. Watch these 2 close up videos I recorded of the purchases I made from both vendors…
Examined under magnification, both diamond rings are very well made and attention is paid even to the small details like the consistency of the pave melees.
Both of these vendors are pioneers in the industry and are highly reliable. I had personally purchased engagement rings at both vendors and find them really easy to work with.
James Allen is the newer player that revolutionized the online experience with their 360° high definition videos. Their intuitive website enhances the fun in shopping for a diamond ring and makes the entire process really transparent.
Blue Nile has a longer history and had built up a solid reputation in the industry. They operate one of the largest inventory of loose diamonds in the world and had been making vast improvements to their user interface by incorporating video listings.
They each have their merits and you can’t go wrong either way.
But if I had to pick a winner from the perspective of a complete beginner, James Allen edges out Blue Nile as my preferred choice when buying an engagement ring. At the end of the day, if I had a specific ring design or specification I’m looking for, that would steer me towards either of the vendors.
Now, I want to hear from you. Would you prefer Blue Nile or James Allen? Are there specific reasons for you to choose one over the other? Drop a comment below and let me know!