James Allen Review: Is It Good?
Thinking about buying an engagement ring from James Allen? Read this in-depth review to learn the good and the bad.
Pros and Cons
- 360 degree HD video for every diamond
- Competitively priced with good selection of diamonds
- Large selection of setting options
- Limited selection of super ideal cut diamonds
Good online diamond retailer with 360 degree HD videos
A Winning Combination
Congratulations! You found the girl you want to spend the rest of your life with. Now the next step is finding the perfect engagement ring.
We are huge advocates of shopping for an engagement ring online. You get a much bigger selection and cheaper prices.
But here's the truth:
It's really scary to make this huge purchase online. You're dropping thousands of dollars on something you can't even see in person. Not only that, but the ring is a symbol of your love and promise of a future. So you want to make sure it's perfect.
James Allen understands what a huge deal this is. And it aims to provide an unmatched online diamond shopping experience. It offers 360-degrees HD videos, a wide selection, and 24/7 specialized customer service. This is why James Allen is our top recommended online diamond retailer.
In this review, we'll go over why you can shop with confidence at James Allen. And also 3 reasons to consider another diamond retailer.
- What Makes James Allen Unique: Inventory and Quality
- Why We Like It
- Returns/Upgrades/Diamond Buyback
- James Allen vs. Traditional Retailers (Wider Selection & Cheaper Prices)
- James Allen vs. Blue Nile
What Makes James Allen Unique
There's no perfect online diamond store. But James Allen comes in pretty darn close.
It's hard to sell diamonds online. Retailers often have to sacrifice one area for another. For example, the popular Blue Nile has a huge selection because they source from all over the world. But the downside is that you won't see actual photos of the diamonds. On the other end of the spectrum, small retailers stock their own diamonds and can provide exceptional data. But as a result, have less selection.
But James Allen excels in both areas. It offers a good selection and detailed images.
- Selection: James Allen has over 75,000 diamonds in 10 different shapes. It even has about 2,000 fancy colored diamonds. Every single diamond is GIA, IGS or IGI certified.
It also has a decent selection of sapphires, rubies, and emeralds, if you want to choose a gemstone instead.
- Source: James Allen sources its diamonds from nearby suppliers in the New York area. So it can send out staff to take hi-def videos of every diamond. Every diamond on the website comes with a stunning HD video (more on this later).
Even though James Allen doesn't stock its own diamonds, each one is examined by their in-house experts before it is shipped to you.
- Quality: James Allen offers diamonds at every point in the spectrum. You'll find perfectly cut, completely colorless and flawless stones to the ones we'd never recommend to anyone. We think this is a good thing. Since you can see each and every diamond, you can pick cheaper stones that look flawless.
- Conflict free diamonds: You can also feel good about your purchase. Every diamond is conflict-free and procured through legitimate means.
Why We Like James Allen
Let's take a detailed look at what makes James Allen such a standout.
360-Degree HD Videos of Each Diamond
While it's true that you can't examine each diamond in person, James Allen provides you with the next best thing.
James Allen uses their trademarked "Diamond Display Technology." The videos provide life-like 360-degree high-definition images of every single diamond in their collection.
|View each diamond from every angle|
In fact, this is even better than looking at diamonds at a local store. You can zoom in 20x to view the diamond in stunning detail. You can clearly see any flaws on the surface of the diamond.
This is why shopping at James Allen is an exceptional experience.
Most engagement ring sites only offer a description of the 4C's (cut, clarity, color, and carat) and the price. They use a stock photo for illustration purposes only. And you will receive a diamond that matches these characteristics. In other words, you are buying the diamond completely sight unseen. You're taking a risk that the diamond could be not quite what you expected.
No two diamonds are alike. Even if they have similar grading, they can look very different. When you can see the actual diamonds, you can cherry pick the perfect one.
We'll explain more below.
You Can Find Eye-Clean Diamonds for Less
This is when you can get great value shopping with James Allen. Most other sites offer no real photos. So most people feel like they must choose a higher quality stone to play it safe. And thus spend more.
But when you're able to see such clear pictures, you can look for cheaper, lower quality diamonds that are eye-clean.
Let's take a look at this example:
|Screenshot from www.jamesallen.com|
The diamond on the left is 0.97 carat and has a color G, clarity of VS2 (small imperfections), and an excellent cut. It costs over $6,000. But thanks to the HD video, you can see the black flaws scattered throughout. There's a good chance this diamond may not be eye-clean.
The diamond on the right costs $1,000 less and is slightly over 1 carat. The clarity grade is lower at SI1, but I can barely even detect any flaws at 20x zoom. You can see how you can pick a lower quality diamond that looks better, at a much cheaper price.
You would never know that without magnified videos. You see how important it is to be able to "see" the diamond?
This is especially important if you're shopping for a fancy cut diamond (i.e. not round). Shapes such as oval, pear, and marquise have a bow-tie effect. This is a dark shadow caused by light blockage, which you can only see through visual inspection.
Again, there would be no way to know this without photos. You need to be able to spin the diamond around to view all angles.
You can spend your time picking the perfect diamond on James Allen. The diamond you select will be the actual stone you receive. You can feel confident that you know exactly what you'll get before you buy.
Endless Setting Options and Customization
James Allen's diamond selection may not be as vast as Blue Nile's, but it makes up for it with more setting choices. You also get the option to customize with gemstones. James Allen offers blue, pink, or yellow sapphires, red rubies, or green emeralds.
You can design a fully customized ring with over 500 setting options in a range of metal materials.
If you're clueless about jewelry, you'll probably find the process of buying an engagement ring more than daunting. Have no fear, because James Allen walks you through it step by step.
If you know nothing about settings, you can either narrow your search by selecting from the simple illustrations or search to your heart's content through the hundreds of options. Each setting also comes with a 360-degree HD video.
|Screenshot from www.jamesallen.com/|
Next, the website will take you to the next step by showing you diamonds that match your chosen setting. So don't worry, there is no risk of error.
You can also design the ring the other way around. You can choose the diamond first, and then a setting that it fits into. You can also design other pieces of jewelry such as earrings and pendants, either with diamonds or one of the five gemstones.
Or, if you already have a loose diamond from elsewhere, James Allen can set it for you in one of their settings.
24/7 Customer Support
Okay, maybe you've looked at the website, but are still confused.
James Allen's customer service representatives are available 24/7 to help. Each rep has received specialized training, and are available around the clock to offer expert advice.
You can get a Real Time Diamond consultation while navigating the site. You can screen-share with a rep, so they can see exactly what you're looking at. They will review the specs with you and help you compare diamonds.
Sometimes, it's not possible to buy the engagement ring cash. James Allen offers two financing options:
- No interest for 6 months: This is good if you have a solid plan to pay off the amount in 6 months. However, if you don't manage to do that, you'll be charged a very steep interest, currently 28.99%. The interest will be assessed from the purchase date, so watch out.
- 9.9% interest for 2 years: A more attractive offer might be the 9.9% interest rate charged on the 2-year payment plan. With this, you'll have 24 months to pay off the balance.
If you have the cash and want to save a few bucks, you can pay via wire transfer. James Allen offers a discount of 1.5% of the listed online price if you do this. This could come out to a fair amount of savings (but factor in the cost your bank may charge you).
Another price issue to consider is sales tax. James Allen does not collect sales tax unless you live in Maryland or New York, where its offices are located. Sorry, Orioles and Yankees fans.
- Returns: James Allen offers a 30-day money back guarantee (effective January 1st, 2015) for your satisfaction. This gives you a window to pop the question.
- Warranty: You get a comprehensive, lifetime warranty that covers cleaning, polishing, prong tightening, rhodium plating, and other maintenance (though you'll have to pay for shipping).
- Upgrade options: If you're doing financially better after a few years and want a bigger rock, James Allen has a lifetime upgrade policy. You can swap out your diamond for a new one, provided it's at least 2x greater in value. In exchange, you get a 100% credit for the value of the original stone.
- Diamond buyback: James Allen no longer offers a two year buy back policy as of January 5th, 2016.
James Allen Compared to Traditional Retailers
In our opinion, James Allen has the edge over traditional retailers. Here are some reasons why:
- Wider Selection: James Alllen has over 75,000 diamonds on their site. Your local store will not have this many options in stock to choose from. If you are looking for something specific, you'll have very limited choices. This mean you may have to compromise on quality and/or budget. But James Allen has a ton of choices at every price, size, shape, and quality.
- Ability to see magnified videos: In many ways, this is even better than viewing diamonds at a store. If the jeweler isn't very trustworthy, he may not even let you examine the diamonds under a magnifying glass. Also, on James Allen, you can sign up for a free account and examine up to 5 diamonds with 360 Super Zoom. This feature allows you to view the diamond as if you're holding a professional jeweler's loupe.
Screenshot from www.jamesallen.com
- Ability to request Idealscope images: You can request up to 3 Idealscope images for free on James Allen. It's a good idea to do this after you're down to the final 3 choices. These images show the light performance of the diamond, so you can choose the best one. Most jewelers at traditional stores do not have Idealscope images to show. Or untrustworthy jewelers may refuse to show you them.
- Cheaper prices: Since James Allen is an online store and does not stock their own diamonds, they save a lot on overhead. This allows them to offer better pricing to customers. In our internal research, we've found that for diamonds of the same characteristics, James Allen's pricing are as much as 40% cheaper than diamond super-giants.
- Browse in peace: And lastly, shopping from the comfort of your own home means you can spend hours browsing in your PJ's. No pressure to buy, no pushy salespeople, no up-sell.
James Allen compared to Blue Nile
Now that you understand a little bit about James Allen, you can't just buy from there without considering other options.
James Allen and Blue Nile are the two heavy-hitters at the top of the online engagement ring game. Let's compare the two so you can decide which one is the better fit for you.
Benefits and Features
|Selection||Inventory sourced from local diamond suppliers||Largest selection of online diamonds, sourced from suppliers around the world|
|Data||Grading report, 360-degree HD video|
|Return Policy||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.||30-day money back guarantee. You will pay for shipping and insurance fees. Items must be in their original purchase condition, including all product documentation.|
|Warranty||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.||Lifetime manufacturer warranty. Terms and exclusions apply.|
|Buyback||Diamond buyback program through Mondiamo based on market value.|
|Resizing||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.||Blue Nile provides complimentary resizing for Build Your Own Rings®, and Diamond Bands when within the manufacturer's recommended sizing range, during the first year.|
|Upgrade Policy||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.||Lifetime 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.|
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We decided to zero in on specific areas that are most important to ring buyers:
- Price: Both online retailers offer more competitive pricing than traditional brick-and-mortar jewelers. Blue Nile operates on a lowest price business model. They even offer a Diamond Price Match Guarantee. But there are some strict terms and conditions to get this.
James Allen doesn't offer price matching, but their rings are already affordably priced. Sometimes, you may even be able to find a comparable stone or ring for less than what Blue Nile charges.
For example, we searched for a 1-carat, Princess-cut diamond on both sites. We used Clarity: VS1, Color: G, and Cut: Very Good. For these specs, Blue Nile's diamonds started at just under $5,000. On James Allen, comparable stones were priced between $500 and $700 less.
- Selection: A quick search of James Allen turned up over 500 setting choices and 75,000 diamonds. A similar search on Blue Nile found 198,000 diamonds but about 300 settings. Both retailers offer other fine jewelry as well, including pendants and earrings. James Allen has the edge when it comes to gemstones. But if it's pearls you're after, you'll find those at Blue Nile.
Both jewelers don't actually own the diamonds they sell. James Allen gets their stones from local New York diamond suppliers, while Blue Nile works with wholesalers from all over the world.
- Diamond preview: James Allen definitely wins. On Blue Nile, you're browsing through a list format that only includes the stone's 4Cs. On James Allen, on the other hand, you're browsing visually based on actual photos. And each diamond has a 360-degree view, so you see exactly what you're getting. You can also request up to 3 IdealScope images for an even more detailed examination.
- Customization: We think James Allen has the edge in this area too. Both allows you to design your own ring, but James Allen has more options when it comes to settings and metals.
And if your sweetheart prefers something non-diamond, creating a customized ring may be difficult with Blue Nile. The retailer offers only pre-set gemstone engagement rings. James Allen lets you design your own, using blue, pink or yellow sapphires, red rubies, or green emeralds.
- Service: Both companies garner great reviews for their customer service. Both James Allen and Blue Nile have representatives available to answer questions and handle problems by phone 24/7.
In regards to policy, here's how the two compare:
- Refunds: Both offer a 30-day guarantee for refunds or exchanges. But Blue Nile does charge you for shipping while it's free with James Allen.
- Warranty: Both offer a lifetime warranty. Blue Nile's warranty covers manufacturer defects but doesn't apply to normal wear and tear, accidental damage, theft or loss. James Allen's warranty covers cleaning, polishing, prong tightening, and rhodium plating for maintaining white gold. It also covers the loss of side diamonds even unrelated to damage.
- Complimentary resizing: Blue Nile offers complimentary resizing for customized engagement rings during the first year. James Allen limits you to a 60-day window to have your ring resized at no charge.
3 Reasons Why You Might Prefer Blue Nile
Still not sure? You may be better off shopping with Blue Nile if any of the following applies:
- You want more selection: James Allen has a large inventory, but it's just a fraction of what you'll find on Blue Nile. As long as you don't mind just seeing a list of stones (vs a 360-degree interactive view), you're going to have more choices in your price range.
- You want to lock in the lowest price: James Allen may be hundreds or thousands of dollars cheaper than a traditional jeweler, but you're not necessarily guaranteed to get the lowest price. If scoring the absolute rock-bottom price is a priority, Blue Nile's price guarantee program may sway your buying decision.
- You need some time to think it over: If you spot a diamond you like on James Allen, you'll have to act quickly to nab it. Blue Nile, on the other hand, lets you reserve a specific diamond for up to 48 hours. You have a bit more time to mull it over and shop around before you buy.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Why James Allen is cheaper?
James Allen is a good value. James Allen doesn't stock their diamonds. Instead they get their diamonds from local suppliers around New York. That means they don't have expensive retail locations to pay for and they don't have to pay interest on diamonds sitting on the shelf. This allows them to cut overhead costs and offer better pricing.
- Is James Allen reputable?
James Allen is legit. Many shoppers report positive experience shopping with James Allen. All James Allen diamonds are 100% natural and untreated. The diamonds are certified by either Gemological Institute of America (GIA), American Gem Society (AGS), or International Gemological Institute (IGI).
- Does James Allen charge sales tax?
James Allen collects sales tax on orders shipped to Maryland and New York.
- Are James Allen diamonds conflict free?
Yes, every diamond on James Allen's website is certified conflict-free. James Allen only works with vendors who are members of the professional diamond trade and procure their diamonds through legal sources.
- Does James Allen have a store?
Yes, you can stop by the showroom to try on rings if you're in New York. The showroom is located at the heart of the NYC diamond district at 551 Fifth Avenue, 6th Floor, Suite 601, New York, New York.
- Are the diamonds inspected?
Every diamond is inspected by James Allen's in-house experts before being shipped to you. This ensures that you are getting the diamond you ordered.
- Does James Allen offer discounts?
If you pay by wire transfer, you will receive a 1.5% discount on your entire order.
- What if I ordered the wrong size ring?
James Allen offers one free ring resizing within 60 days of purchase. But please note that not all rings can be resized, such as eternity bands and tension settings.
- Where does James Allen ship to and what are the shipping costs?
James Allen ships to the U.S., Canada, and internationally. All shipping is free, no matter what the order amount is. But international customers will be responsible for any duties, VAT, or taxes charged by their country.
James Allen understands that buying a diamond online is tricky. It wants you to feel confident about your purchase. Its 360-degree HD videos have revolutionized the way we shop for diamonds online. Add in great pricing, a liberal return policy, and lifetime guarantee, and you would do well to shop at James Allen. Most importantly, buying an engagement ring online through James Allen can give you confidence about what you'll get with the final product. Hopefully, that will trickle over to a happily-ever-after proposal.
Rebecca Lake is a journalist at CreditDonkey, a diamond jeweler comparison and financial education website. Write to Rebecca Lake at email@example.com. Our data-driven analysis has been recognized by major news outlets across the country and has helped young adults make savvy financial and lifestyle decisions.
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.