Updated June 2, 2018

Blue Nile Review: Really Good Place to Buy a Ring?

Read more about Blue Nile
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Blue Nile offers diamonds up to 40% lower, but are they good? Our review tells you what you need to know about this large online jewelry retailer.

Blue Nile Promo Code
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Overall Score

4.3

Price

5.0

Selection

5.0

Customer Service

3.5

Data

3.5
5-point scale (the higher, the better)

Pros and Cons

  • Largest selection of diamonds online
  • Low price guarantee
  • Limited data for most diamonds
  • Limited setting choices

Bottom Line

Good online diamond retailer with large selection and low prices

Thinking of an Engagement Ring?

Buying an engagement ring can be daunting. It can be especially daunting if you have no clue about women's jewelry, you don't have deep pockets, and you're worried you'll be judged the minute you walk in the jewelry store.

Going online to buy the ring gives you a chance to design one for your beloved. In peace, from the comfort of your home. And you can also save big bucks.

If you've considered this, you've probably heard of Blue Nile.

Blue Nile is the largest online diamond retailer, offering pricing of up to 40% lower than traditional stores. Is it good enough for your future spouse and your hard earned money?

CreditDonkey set out to find the answer in this in-depth review.

Who Blue Nile is Best For

  • If you're looking for the lowest price on a diamond. Blue Nile offers very competitive pricing. It even has a Price Match Guarantee (keep reading to learn about it).

  • If you have a specific budget. Blue Nile has a huge selection of diamonds, so you have more choices in your price range with your preferred characteristics.

    Counterpoint: If you're more concerned about buying a diamond blind, consider James Allen. It offers a HD 360-video for every diamond in its collection.

  • If you're shopping for other fine jewelry. Blue Nile has a great selection of other fine jewelry with diamonds, gemstones, and pearls. You can even design your own.

Read on. In this review, you'll find:

Overview: What Is Blue Nile?

There's no denying it that Blue Nile is a mega online diamond giant. Back in 2004, Forbes reported that Blue Nile sold as many engagement rings in the U.S. as Tiffany and Co., and it's only continued to grow since then.

  • Blue Nile has the largest online diamond inventory, with over 140,000 loose diamonds listed. Prices range from just a couple hundred bucks for a tiny, 1/4 carat stone to over 20-carat monster rocks.

    Blue Nile gets this large inventory from signing exclusive contracts with diamond wholesalers all over the world. Each loose diamond comes with a GIA (Gemological Institute of America) or AGSL (American Gem Society Laboratories) grading report, so you know the diamond you're purchasing has been certified by a jewelry industry authority.

    The good news is that you're sure to find something you like within your budget from such a huge selection.

    But the downside is that since the diamonds aren't in-house, not all will have a real photo. Though Blue Nile has made huge improvements in this area, which we'll go over later.

  • Blue Nile also guarantees to have the lowest diamond prices. In fact, if you see another comparable certified diamond at a lower price, Blue Nile will match the price.

  • If you're worried about accidentally purchasing conflict diamonds, don't worry. Each Blue Nile diamond is ethically sourced, and it says it only works with the world's most respected suppliers. The company subscribes to the "Kimberley Process," an international method for tracking diamonds from the mine to the market, to ensure the authenticity of the diamond.

We'll examine the pros and cons below. But first, let's highlight the current Blue Nile coupons and promotions.

Blue Nile Coupons 2018

History of Blue Nile

Blue Nile's principle is simple: diamond shopping should be easy.

Frustrated with a bad in-person shopping experience, founder Mark Vadon turned to the web and purchased an engagement ring from internetdiamonds.com.

A year later in 1999, Vadon had raised the funds necessary to purchase the small company. The name was changed to Blue Nile, and boom! - a diamond giant was borne.

Vadon parted ways with Blue Nile in 2013, but the company has shown no signs of slowing down. Blue Nile has since expanded into non-engagement jewelry by offering pearls, gemstones, and precious metal jewelry.

Blue Nile's goal is to make diamond shopping a smooth experience. It educates customers about diamonds so that they can shop from the comfort of their home. This was rare back in the day. Because of this, Blue Nile has repeatedly have won the prestigious Bizrate Circle of Excellence Platinum Award.

Products Offered

  • Diamond Engagement Rings: Of course, Blue Nile is most known for its diamond engagement rings. Blue Nile gives you the opportunity to design a custom ring with its easy-to-follow process. You'll choose the ring setting and then the diamond (based on price, shape, the 4Cs, and any other characteristic that you'd like).

    The website is easy to use - just slide the bars to what you want you. You can narrow down your search to the specific characteristics you want.

    Screenshot from Blue Nile Website

    In a nutshell, a diamond is characterized by the 4Cs - cut, clarity, color, and carat weight, with the cut of the diamond deemed most important. Blue Nile offers 10 styles of diamonds: round, princess, cushion, emerald, radiant (vintage), marquise, pear, heart, Asscher and oval.

    As one of the leading diamond and fine jewelry online retailers, Blue Nile offers a relatively seamless buying experience, even for the jewelry-challenged.

    You may want to begin with the site's comprehensive educational page that clarifies what to look for when buying diamonds, including an explanation about settings and how to decide on the right diamond.

  • Wedding bands: You can kill two birds with one stone - pun intended - if you also want to purchase your wedding bands at the same time you buy an engagement ring. Blue Nile has a large selection of men's and women's wedding bands in gold, platinum, palladium, tungsten carbide and cobalt.

  • Fancy color diamonds: That's the actual name for these rare, naturally colored gems. All of Blue Niles' fancy color diamonds are natural, with no artificial dye to give them their hue. Yellow is the most prominent color on the Blue Nile website, but you'll also find variations of pink and green. Blue Nile has a detailed page on what sets these gems apart, which are first measured based on color and intensity and don't subscribe to the standard 4Cs rating system.

    Of course, cut and shape play into their value, but that's not what a true fancy-color diamond aficionado looks for first. Because of their rarity, you'll pay more for these diamonds. Most online diamond sites don't offer these, so it's pretty special that Blue Nile has them in their inventory.

    Did you know: Only 1 in 10,000 diamonds have a fancy color, with yellow being the most common and red being the rarest (so rare that only a handful exists in the world). Fancy cut diamonds are usually cut into other shapes (other than round) in order to display the most intense color. The color can change according to how it's cut and polished, so cutters will often sacrifice carat, in order to cut it in a way that gives off the most color.

  • Pearls: If you're in the market for pearls, Blue Nile provides a large selection of four different varieties: Akoya, Freshwater, Tahitian and South Sea - and an in-depth analysis of the characteristics of each variety and what sets them apart. They can be purchased as earrings, bracelets, or necklaces, in different colors and sizes.

  • Other jewelry items: If you're looking for fine jewelry for other special occasions, Blue Nile offers a wide selection of rings, pendants, bracelets and earrings, either with gemstones, diamonds, pearl, or just plain metal. You can also design your own diamond necklaces and earrings, or choose from pre-made products.

  • Designer diamonds: If branding means something to you, Blue Nile offers jewelry created by specific designers, including popular bridal designer Monique Lhuillier and Zac Posen.

Did you know: Most grooms-to-be spend an average of 4.8 months to research and learn about diamonds, and then 3.6 months to find the perfect ring. They visit average of 5 retailers and see 25 rings before making the final choice. With Blue Nile's huge selection, it's a good place to start this process.

Is Blue Nile Astor Cut Worth It?

Blue Nile recently introduced their premium Astor by Blue Nile™ diamonds. This is Blue Nile's line of super ideal diamonds. They're cut in the best way to give off maximum brilliance.

Tip: Many diamond experts will say that cut is the most important of the 4C's. A good cut can make a diamond shinier and appear larger. The perfect cut means that the diamond has the most ideal proportions for maximum brilliance, symmetry, and light performance. To understand why cut is the most important, read our detailed article here.

Astor is a re-brand of Blue Nile's Signature Collection. Is it worth the premium? And is it cheaper than comparable diamonds elsewhere?

Here's an overview of the Astor line:

  • Available in round, princess, and cushion cuts.

  • Graded by GIA and GemEx. All Astor diamonds have an Excellent cut from GIA. GemEx grades diamonds for light performance. Astor diamond have grades in the "very high" range for brilliance, fire, and sparkle. However, GemEx is not an industry standard and their certification is not a guarantee of quality.

  • 360-degree video the actual diamond, along with the GIA and GemEx reports.

HOWEVER, you do not get Idealscope, ASET, or hearts & arrows images. These images are crucial to show the light performance and optical symmetry of the diamond. Without these, there's no way to truly tell the performance of the diamond.

If you're looking to buy a super-ideal diamond and want to be confident in your purchase, check out Whiteflash. Their A CUT ABOVE diamonds are AGS Triple Zero rated and come with light performance and hearts & arrows imagery.

Now, what about pricing? Let's compare Blue Nile's Astor pricing to Whiteflash's A CUT ABOVE® line, as both are touted to be super ideal cut diamonds.

Super ideal cut diamonds are pricier due to the level of perfection and the fact that more raw material is used.

This one here is a 1.01 carat, G, VS1 round diamond and costs $9,235. Whiteflash has a 1.007 carat diamond with similar specifications for $8,702 - over $500 less.

Among the many other diamonds we compared, Whiteflash's A CUT ABOVE diamonds mostly came in at a lower price. Between the two, we would pick Whiteflash's diamonds. Not only are they better priced, their diamond quality requirements go beyond GIA Excellent. Plus, Whiteflash provides detailed light performance imagery so you can feel more confident in your purchase.

The upside of Blue Nile is that your selection is far, far larger, so you are sure to find something in line with your budget and the characteristics/size you want.

Overall, we have to say that Blue Nile's Astor diamonds are great quality. However, the price isn't always the best. And it's also too bad that they don't offer light performance imagery. If you want to buy a diamond from this line, make sure the diamond is within the ideal proportions.

360 Diamond View

Blue Nile has really made major improvements in this area.

It used to be that Blue Nile only had sample photos for their diamonds. But now they have added a 360° Diamond View feature.

Screenshot from Blue Nile Website

This mini video player allows you to get a full 360° view of the actual diamond. You can drag the diamond and spin it around to see it from all angles. The purpose of the feature is to give you an idea of what the diamond will look like in person to the naked eye. You can be more confident in what you're buying.

You can also use this feature to save some money. Without a photo or video, you may feel like you need to buy a diamond higher in clarity to err on the safe side. But with a video, you can pick a diamond lower in clarity, as long as you can't see obvious flaws.

Buying a diamond sight unseen is scary. It's nice that Blue Nile has finally addressed this deficiency. This now makes Blue Nile competitive with other online jewelers who long ago had this technology, such as James Allen.

WHY YOU MAY LOOK ELSEWHERE

There are a couple downsides of Blue Nile.

  • Limited setting choices
    We also think Blue Niles comes up a bit short in terms of setting options. You basically get solitaire, halo, pave, 3-stone, rings with gemstones, or some vintage designs. If you want other specific settings like tension or bezel, you're out of luck. Blue Nile has around 300 setting options, while James Allen has over 500.

  • Not a lot of yellow or rose gold options
    It also doesn't have a lot of setting options for yellow gold or rose gold bands. So if you're looking for any of those metals, you are very limited on choices.

Blue Nile vs James Allen

While Blue Nile beats physical retailers when it comes to price, they are up against more difficult competition when it comes to fellow online jewelry sites. James Allen is Blue Nile's biggest competitor.

Both offer competitive prices. While Blue Nile has a larger diamond selection, James Allen has a better selection of settings in all metals and styles. James Allen also allows you to design your own ring using a gemstone center. Overall, James Allen has more options if you're looking for a new unique ring.

James Allen's service is also a little better. You can request up to 3 Idealscope images for free, so you can judge which diamond has the best light performance.

Let's take a look at how the sites compare:

 

Blue Nile

James Allen

 

Benefits and Features

SelectionLargest selection of online diamonds, sourced from suppliers around the worldInventory sourced from local diamond suppliers
Customer Service
24/7 customer service
24/7 customer service
Data
Grading report
Grading report, 360-degree HD video
Return Policy30-day money back guarantee. Blue Nile will send you a fully insured free shipping label via email. Items must be in their original purchase condition, including all product documentation.If you are not 100% satisfied with your purchase, you may return it in its original, unworn condition within 30 days for a full refund or exchange. Free return shipping only applies to U.S customers and is limited to three per customer.
WarrantyLifetime manufacturer warranty. Terms and exclusions apply.James Allen warrant that all items will be free from any manufacturing defects at time of delivery. James Allen will repair and maintain your jewelry for a lifetime. Lifetime warranty offers free prong tightening, re-polishing, rhodium plating and cleaning services.
BuybackDiamond buyback program through Mondiamo based on market value. 
ResizingBlue Nile provides complimentary resizing for Build Your Own Rings®, and Diamond Bands when within the manufacturer's recommended sizing range, during the first year.All engagement rings and wedding bands, excluding eternity bands and alternative metals, may be resized once for free within the first 60 days of purchase.
Upgrade PolicyLifetime diamond upgrade program on all GIA and AGSL graded diamonds. You will receive credit equal to 100% of the original price toward the purchase of a new diamond. The price of your new diamond must be at least twice the price of your original diamond. Your diamond must be in its original condition with the original diamond grading report.Any loose diamond purchased from James Allen can be exchanged at 100% credit for any replacement diamond of at least 2X or greater value. The diamond that is being upgraded must be in original condition and accompanied by the original laboratory grading document.
Price
Selection
Customer Service
Data
 Visit SiteVisit Site

    James Allen

    James Allen: Search for Diamonds

    Shop for diamonds at James Allen, a CreditDonkey #1 recommended partner for the best online experience.

FINANCING

Kim and Dan's Engagement
Kim and Dan's Engagement © ChrisGampat (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

We usually recommend purchasing a ring with cash you have saved, but we understand. You have other loans and bills, and it may not be reasonable to wait until you're debt-free to pop the question.

In this case, you have a few diamond financing options:

  • Blue Nile credit card, no interest plan: The exclusive Blue Nile credit card provides special financing on your purchase, no annual fee, exclusive offers, and online account management. This can be a good option if you think you'll buy from the site fairly frequently. If not, you'll be better off using a card that has a broader use instead.

    The finance plans include 0% interest for 6 months for purchases ranging from $500 to $1,499, or 0% interest for 12 months for purchases of $1,500 and over. You'll want to pay your balance within that timeframe, as the APR is a steep 27.24% after the promotional period (interest rate information as of July 19, 2016).

  • Blue Nile credit card, equal payment plan:This financing option is a bit more complicated: you get a 9.9% APR and you'll make equal payments over a pre-set period of time - but you'll have to charge at least $2,000 to be eligible. For balances of $2,000-$2,999, you'll have 24 months to pay; $3,000-$3,999, you'll get 36 months, and anything $4,000 and over gives you 48 months to pay off your balance. If you still carry a balance at the end of your term, your APR will be increased to 27.24% (interest rate information as of July 19, 2016).

  • CreditDonkey tip: get a low interest credit card: Many cards on the market today have 0% APR introductory offers that last longer than Blue Nile's, and the APR after the intro period ends is generally lower. This is one of our top recommended tips if you're making a large purchase soon and will need breathing room to pay.

Returns, Warranty, and Everything Else You Need to Know

  • Discount on purchase: You can pay via PayPal and most major credit cards, or by wire transfer, with which you'll receive a 1.5% discount on your purchase of $750 or more. The $11.25 savings might seem paltry if you spend $750, but if you spent $5,000 for a ring (approx. the average price), that's a savings of $75. Not too bad.

  • Price match: Blue Nile has a lowest price guarantee. If you see another, practically identical, GIA-certified loose diamond at a lower price, Blue Nile will match the price. But that has to be done before you make your purchase. The diamonds need to match on the 4C's (cut, color, clarity, and carat), and even other criteria like polish, symmetry, and light performance.

  • Returns: Blue Nile has a 30-day full-refund return policy, which should be a decent amount of time for you to get the ring and pop the question. This includes a fully insured, free shipping label sent via email. Purchases that fall below $500 can be returned fairly easily, but anything over that amount will require a phone call to the company and an explanation about how to proceed.

  • Warranty: Blue Nile offers a lifetime warranty. At any point, Blue Nile will repair or replace the item if the damage is determined to be due to manufacturing defect. There is also lifetime complimentary cleaning and inspection (you'll have to pay for shipping).

  • Diamond upgrade: If years down the road, you and your sweetie want to trade up the diamond for a larger one, you can return the diamond (as long as it's in its original condition with the original grading report) for a 100% credit toward a new diamond. The condition, though, is that the new diamond must be twice the price of the original.

  • Insurance: No matter how much your diamond cost, it's a good idea to insure your jewelry the way you would any other precious item for peace of mind. Blue Nile is partnered with Jewelers Mutual Insurance Co., the nation's leading jewelry insurer. You can receive a free quote and purchase insurance immediately as part of your total purchase price.

  • Refer a friend: If you've inspired your buddy and he also makes a purchase from Blue Nile, both of you will get a little gift. You'll both save $20 on an order of $100 or more; $50 on an order of $500 or more; and $100 on an order of $1,000 or more. This is a nice little perk if you want to buy more jewelry for your sweetheart down the road.

To learn more about diamond pricing, read our in-depth guide and find out what you should really spend for a diamond ring.

BOTTOM LINE: DO WE RECOMMEND BLUE NILE?

If you don't want to shop for a ring at a physical jewelry store, Blue Nile is a good place to start your online diamond shopping comparisons. With no pressure to buy, you can learn about the diamonds and gems, compare prices to other online retailers, and do various types of searches to get the price and item you want.

It is a good site if you are on a budget and want a lot of options. Because of their large selection of rings, you're sure to find something that matches what you want. But you'd have to have the time and patience to look for that one perfect diamond out of the thousands they have.

We're happy to see that Blue Nile now has 360-degree videos for the diamonds on their site. This takes out most of the guesswork and lets you buy with confidence.

In our eyes, this feature now puts them on an even footing with James Allen for online diamond shoppers.

For true super ideal diamonds, we would recommend Whiteflash over Blue Nile's Astor. Whiteflash provides better information, has high quality standards, and overall is priced lower.

In our opinion, Blue Nile is a great starting point for your online diamond search and it does offer an unbeatable selection with attractive prices.

(Updated Writing by Anna)

Cynthia Cohen is a retail analyst at CreditDonkey, a diamond jeweler comparison and reviews website. Write to Cynthia Cohen at cynthia@creditdonkey.com

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone. Please support CreditDonkey on our mission to help you make savvy decisions. Our free online service is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content.

More from CreditDonkey:

How to Buy an Engagement Ring

How to Buy an Engagement Ring


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Best Time to Buy Jewelry

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