Updated April 25, 2017

Best Place to Buy an Engagement Ring

Read more about Diamonds
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Buying an engagement ring is one of the biggest purchases you'll ever make. It comes attached with deep emotions, major nerves, and perhaps even uncertainty. It might also be one of your first major purchases at a time when your income is far from robust.

Thinking about buying an engagement ring online? View our top pick for the best place to buy an engagement ring online.

Our goal is to provide useful resources to help you make the most informed decision possible.

In this article, we're taking a look at a few of the top engagement ring retailers: Blue Nile, Costco, and Tiffany & Co. All three have built major brands in the industry, but each has taken a vastly different approach for how they market and sell their rings. We'll also examine how two Internet upstarts, James Allen and Whiteflash, have shaken things up in the category.

Who will prevail as the ideal choice for your ring? Let's find out.

Here are the top places to buy an engagement ring you should not ignore:

  • James Allen (for the best place to buy an engagement ring online)
  • Blue Nile (for the best diamond selection)
  • Whiteflash (for the best quality diamonds)
  • Costco (for the best value)
  • Tiffany (for the best in-person customer service)

Roundup Methodology

For simplicity's sake, we evaluated each retailer using three core criteria:

  1. Pricing Value
  2. Selection
  3. Customer Experience

The first thing prospective buyers should know is that diamonds are universally measured using the 4Cs. These Cs stand for cut, clarity, color, and carat weight. They're the key factors used by the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) and AGS (American Gem Society) for rating diamonds. With this rating system, buyers can compare diamonds from any retailer on an apples-to-apples basis.

Tip: To understand the how the 4Cs affect the price of a diamond, read our detailed guide to diamond prices. We go over each of the 4Cs and tell you what to prioritize and what you can save on.

If a diamond does not come with GIA or AGS certification, you have no way of knowing the exact quality of the diamond unless you're knowledgeable enough on your own. This does not mean a diamond is inferior, but a common trick used by many retailers is to provide the clarity, color, and carat weight but leave out the cut. The cut (good, excellent, ideal) is the measurement for identifying the diamond's reflective brilliance.

Despite the standardized rating system, the retail jewelry market is notable for some of the world's most subjective pricing. The same ring can cost wildly different amounts depending on where you buy it. As a consumer, you want to know that you're getting the best value, so we used pricing value as one of our core criteria for measuring the retailers.

Hopeless romantics come from all walks of life, and not everyone is looking for something simple. Perhaps you've spent years saving for this moment, and you want only the best for your future spouse. A wide selection, for both diamond and setting, will be another major influence in your decision and thus is important in our rankings.

Finally, the customer experience can play a big role in selecting a retailer. What if you need the ring resized? What if it arrives defective? What if she declines your proposal? From return policies to repair speeds, we looked deep into the heart of each retailer's customer service reputation.

Did you know? Our tradition of a diamond engagement ring was actually borne out of an ad campaign by De Beers. Before that, women didn't get engaged with a diamond ring. It wasn't until when De Beers came onto the scene in the 1940s with their "A Diamond is Forever" campaign. This convinced everyone that a diamond was the only way to prove your love. Needless to say, this remains perhaps the most successful ad campaign in history.

Best Engagement Ring Selection: Blue Nile

  • Pricing Value: Well priced against our list's competitors - 5/5
  • Selection: Extensive choices from suppliers across the world - 5/5
  • Customer Experience: Reps knowledgeable but lack polish, many diamonds do not have actual photos, easy return process - 3.5/5
  • CreditDonkey Score - 4.5/5

Blue Nile, the largest Internet diamond retailer on the market, is known for historically low prices and a vast selection of products. With no physical location, the company is built on the idea that loose diamonds are a commodity and should require nothing more than specs, price, and few photos (if any) to be purchased.

What We Like
Due to its tremendous size, Blue Nile has the ability to offer a vast selection of diamonds and engagement rings, all at very competitive prices. It has by far the biggest selection and best pricing on loose diamonds among the others on our list.

Blue Nile's customer service representatives are known to be highly knowledgeable and helpful with your selection, though they are perhaps a bit unpolished in comparison to other options. Most notably, Blue Nile consistently upholds its return policy with a simple, hassle-free process that helps mitigate the disappointment of a returning a product. The retailer will even include a self-addressed mailing label on your invoice copy in case you change your mind (or don't get the yes you were hoping for) and need to send the ring back. Blue Nile allows returns up to 30 days after a product has shipped.

The benefit of being an online-only retailer is that limited overheard allows for significantly cheaper prices. Unfortunately, Blue Nile's significant growth has brought with it increased overhead, and the exceptional value it once offered can now be beaten by some smaller, nimbler online retailers.

If you want an engagement ring as opposed to a loose diamond, Blue Nile's setting selection is subpar compared to designer offerings at national retailers. The lack of high-quality pictures and physical outlets mean customers don't get to see the diamonds until they've been purchased and shipped. For high-end diamonds, this isn't a problem, but for clarity grades below VS2, the actual look can vary wildly across individual diamonds, making sight unseen ordering into quite a gamble.

Who Should Buy from Blue Nile
If you are looking to spend the majority of your budget on the diamond itself, Blue Nile is the way to go. You won't find designer settings or pretty packaging here, but you will get a high quality diamond for the same price.

    Blue Nile

    Blue Nile: Search for Diamonds

    Shop for diamonds at Blue Nile, a CreditDonkey recommended partner for the largest selection of diamonds.

Read: Blue Nile Review

Need help? Are you looking to buy an engagement ring online to save money? Read our comparison of the best place to buy an engagement ring online.

Best Engagement Ring Value: Costco

  • Pricing Value: Competitively priced, comparable to online retailers - 4.5/5
  • Selection: Limited in-store selection, larger online offering - 3.5/5
  • Customer Experience: Great policy, no servicing, lacks knowledgeable staff - 3/5
  • CreditDonkey Score - 3.7/5

Costco is the definitive wholesale retailer. With 635 locations in nine countries, the retail giant has formed a reputation over the years for exceptional pricing, a generous return policy, and exemplary customer service.

What We Like
Costco combines the pricing of an Internet retailer with the benefits of an in-store experience. Customers get deep discounts and can view the diamond in person.

How good is the value? In a test performed by Good Morning America, the list price of a Costco diamond was deemed undervalued by 17%, while the list price of a Tiffany diamond was found to be overpriced by 58%.

Costco also has one of the best return policies around. You can get a refund within 30 days for any reason and have the cash in hand (whereas with Blue Nile, you have to mail the unwanted jewelry back and wait.)

Costco's primary deficiency is a somewhat limited selection compared to dedicated jewelry retailers.

For the higher-end buyer, Costco offers neither the presentation nor long-term servicing of a Tiffany engagement ring. It doesn't offer a resizing option either, which can make finding the right ring difficult.

On the customer service end of the spectrum, the view is generally positive. However, since Costco isn't a dedicated jewelry retailer, store staff members lack the specialized knowledge many jewelry shoppers depend on.

Who Should Buy From Costco
If you want a fantastic-looking engagement ring for a great value, it's hard to beat Costco. Unless you're going the DIY route or require the prestige of a famous diamond brand, Costco will give you the best ready-to-propose engagement ring for your money as long as you can find the ring in her size.

Are you looking for good value? If you're currently shopping for diamonds, we know how complicated it can be. Read our in-depth James Allen review to see how their 360 degree videos can help you find the right stone at a good value.

Best Engagement Ring Customer Experience: Tiffany & Co.

  • Pricing Value: High quality and high prices - 2/5
  • Selection: Large selection, both in stores and online - 4.5/5
  • Customer Experience: Excellent presentation, ring service, and customer care - 5/5
  • CreditDonkey Score - 3.8/5

Tiffany & Co. is the preeminent American diamond company. Since creating the "Tiffany engagement ring" in 1886, the company has become a household name, known for top quality, top price, and top service.

What We Like
Tiffany & Co. is the Lamborghini of engagement ring retailers. Presenting your ring in a little blue box carries a level of prestige and history that other jewelry stores can't match. Every aspect of the Tiffany experience is intentionally top of the line, from the carpets in stores to the ribbon on the box. You never have to worry about getting an inferior product with Tiffany, and if you do, their legendary customer service will make it right.

Just like a luxury car, consumers pay a tremendous premium simply for the brand name. With a bit of digging, you can find similar diamonds for much less. There aren't really any other downsides to the Tiffany experience, but that's why you'll pay significantly more here for an engagement ring.

Who Should Buy From Tiffany & Co.
If you and your fiancé-to-be place a high value on premium products, Tiffany & Co. is for you. If you need to own the branded best and can afford it, Tiffany engagement rings are hard to beat. For everyone else, there are good options for diamonds of similar quality at significantly lower prices.

Related: When is the Best Time to Buy an Engagement Ring

Can't put a price on love? Read our review on why high-end retailers like Whiteflash specialize in ideal cut diamonds. (Hint: the cut is what makes a diamond sparkle.)

How to Get the Best Deal on a Diamond Ring

We're all looking for the best quality diamond at the best price. Here are tips you need to know to get the best deal:

  • Diamond Size: Look for a diamond just slightly under a full carat (or half carat) for a huge drop in price, yet no visible difference in size.

  • Diamond Color: A diamond with color H will appear white face-up, yet cost significantly less than a colorless stone.

  • For yellow gold or rose gold bands, you can safely go down to a J or K in color and save even more.

  • Diamond Clarity: You don't need a flawless diamond - only one that has no flaws to the naked eye. We recommend a clarity of VS2 as the sweet spot.

  • Diamond Shape: Another shape other than round can be as much as 40% cheaper.

For our best expert tips, check out our detailed article on what affects diamond prices. Learn exactly how small difference can affect the price and where to get the best value.

Best Online Diamond Sites

While Blue Nile, Costco and Tiffany are some of the more popular diamond retailers, there are a number of other online jewelers you should also consider. For 360 HD images, check out James Allen. For the most brilliant diamonds, then add Whiteflash to your list.

Tip: Nervous about buying completely online? Consider Ritani. Ritani has become pretty popular despite being a newer online jewelry retailer. It blends the ease of online shopping with the confidence of in-person viewing. It has a free in-store preview service. You can request a loose diamond or a finished ring (even if a custom designed ring) to be shipped to a nearby participating jewelry store. You can buy it if you love it. Or simply walk away if you don't. This way, you enjoy the benefits of shopping online, but you don't have to worry about buying blind.

Best Online Diamond Retailer Experience: James Allen

  • Pricing Value: Very competitively priced - 4.5/5
  • Selection: Large selection of diamond shapes, settings, and metals - 4/5
  • Customer Experience: See videos of the actual diamond you'll get in HD - 5/5
  • CreditDonkey Score - 4.5/5

James Allen has revolutionized the way we shop for diamonds online by providing HD 360-degree videos for every single diamond in its inventory. Its knowledgeable staff is available to chat 24/7 and even provides a Real-Time Diamond Consultation service.

What We Like
James Allen's Diamond Display Technology can't be beat. For every diamond (and gemstone!) in their inventory, they have an HD video where you can spin the diamond around and zoom in and out. You can't compare diamonds solely based on a description of the 4Cs, so this feature is crucial to see if there are any visible flaws, cloudiness, or dark spots. This is practically as good as (and perhaps even better than) seeing a diamond in person.

Tip: After you've narrowed down your choices, you can request up to 3 Idealscope images for free. This will allow you to see the light performance of the diamond (if there are areas that leak light, etc.). You can get a Real-Time Diamond Consultation so a staff member can explain the images to you and help you decide.

In our opinion, there is little downside to shopping at James Allen. The selection isn't as big as Blue Nile, but it's not small either. The biggest downside is probably if you're very specifically looking for a super ideal cut diamond (or True Heart diamond), you're limited on choices. In that case, you'll probably be interested in Whiteflash (up next).

Who Should Buy From James Allen
James Allen has truly made themselves a brand for the everyman with affordable pricing, a good selection to suit every taste, and great customer service. Most importantly, you can feel confident in your purchase with James Allen because you can see the actual stone you're buying.

    James Allen

    James Allen: Search for Diamonds

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

Related: James Allen vs Blue Nile: Read this comparison to learn more about the differences between these two online retailers.

Best Online Retailer for Ideal Cut Diamonds: Whiteflash

  • Pricing Value: High quality, pricier than other online retailers - 3.5/5
  • Selection: Smaller in-house selection; larger virtual selection - 3.5/5
  • Customer Experience: Provides exceptional data for each diamond - 5/5
  • CreditDonkey Score - 4/5

Whiteflash is known for their A CUT ABOVE® diamonds, and they have one of the largest selection of in-house super ideal cut diamonds of any retailer in the world. Their grading standard is extremely stringent, and to qualify for their special A CUT ABOVE® line, a diamond must pass all requirements. These diamonds truly represent the best of the best.

What We Like
Whiteflash provides an exceptional amount of data for all their in-house diamonds. Along with an actual photo, you also get a Idealsope image and ASET image (both of which show light performance) and hearts and arrows patterning (which shows symmetry). You can also view an HD video showing the fire and scintillation (i.e. how sparky it is). All this data takes the guesswork out of your purchase, so you can shop with confidence.

Whiteflash also offers an expert selection of diamonds that didn't quite make it into the A CUT ABOVE® line. Because of their strict requirements, these diamonds often just have tiny flaws that the human eye can't even see. This is where you can find a great balance of quality and price.

Whiteflash's in-house inventory only consists of round and princess cut diamonds. They have a virtual inventory with the other shapes, but you don't see the actual photos or detailed data upfront. If you do purchase a diamond from the virtual inventory, it will be brought in for evaluation and the results will be presented to you.

Another downside is that Whiteflash only offers a 90-day 0% APR financing option for online purchases (6 months for in-store). Make sure you have the budget to pay in full or another plan to finance it.

Tip: One of our favorite ring financing tips is using a credit card with a long 0% APR introductory offer. You can buy much more time to pay off this large purchase interest-free.

Who Should Buy from Whiteflash
Whiteflash is for those who value quality and understand the importance of cut. If you want a diamond that sparkles the brightest and have the budget for it, you'll be hard pressed to find a rock more perfect than Whiteflash's A CUT ABOVE® diamonds.

Bottom Line

Worst places to buy an engagement ring:

  • Mall jewelry stores: Chain jewelry stores have much higher prices due to overhead. Their prices are as much as 50% more than online stores. And they often have very limited selections of high quality stones.

  • Online classified: You're taking a risk if you buy an engagement ring from somewhere like Craigslist. What if the ring was stolen? Or if previous owner switched out the diamond for a fake? Ideally, seller should have the original lab certification. ONLY take this route if the seller will agree to meet you at an appraiser. Don't exchange money until you've gotten the ring appraised and verified that it's the quality claimed by the seller.

  • Anywhere without a clear return policy: Never buy from a store (physical or online) that does not have a 100% no-questions-asked return policy within a reasonable time frame. You don't want to get stuck with a ring if it's not what you expected or for whatever other reason.

Where you buy your soon-to-be betrothed's ring depends on your budget and your comfort level with certain types of retailers. Do you live fairly close to a Costco and have tighter budget? Then check it out as you may be surprised by the value that can be found there. If you're a shy type who doesn't want to feel pressured by a jeweler and doesn't mind buying a ring sight unseen, Blue Nile offers convenience and a lack of pressure. Tiffany, on the other hand, offers a level of prestige that can go a long way to winning over your loved one - but that will come with a price.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are those of the author's alone. Please support CreditDonkey on our mission to help you make savvy financial 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 Much to Spend on an Engagement Ring

Best Engagement Rings

Diamond Prices

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Hearts and Arrows

Hearts and Arrows diamonds are also known as super ideal cut diamonds. What is it exactly and is it worth the premium? Read on to learn more.

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Ritani Review

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