September 17, 2021

Blue Nile vs James Allen vs Brilliant Earth

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Blue Nile, James Allen, and Brilliant Earth are the three most popular online engagement ring stores. Which one is best? Read on.

Thinking of buying an engagement ring online? The three names you've likely heard are Blue Nile, James Allen, and Brilliant Earth.

Which one can you trust to make this important purchase?

They all seem kind of similar. Before buying the ring, review this in-depth breakdown of the differences, including cost, selection, and policies.

Who Each One is Best for

  • Blue Nile is best if you're looking for a high-quality natural diamond with a classic ring setting.

  • James Allen is best if you're looking for a big range of options. It sells everything from natural diamonds to lab diamonds to gemstones.

  • Brilliant Earth will appeal to socially conscious shoppers. All stones and metals are ethically sourced, and a portion of your purchase goes to support social missions in Africa.

Here's a quick overview table comparing the three companies.

Blue NileJames AllenBrilliant Earth
Loose diamonds
Lab diamondsx
Loose gemstonesx
Price match guaranteex
CertificationGIAGIA, AGS, IGIGIA, IGI, HRD
360 degree videos
Returns30 days30 days30 days

What All Three Offer

Before getting into the detailed comparisons, let's go over what you can expect from all three sites.

All three offer:

  • Conflict-free and certified diamonds
  • Loose diamonds in all shapes, sizes, and qualities
  • Design your own ring by picking a loose diamond and setting
  • 360-videos of diamonds
  • 30-day free returns
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Financing options
  • 1.5% discount if you pay by wire transfer
  • 24/7 customer service via phone, email, or live chat
  • Free one-on-one sessions with experts

How They Are Different

And here are the main differences between the three online retailers:

  • In general, James Allen has the lowest prices, while Brilliant Earth has higher prices.

  • James Allen and Brilliant Earth both sell lab-created diamonds if you're looking for a budget-friendly option. Blue Nile does not.

  • James Allen and Brilliant Earth also sell loose gemstones if you prefer an alternative ring. Blue Nile does not.

  • All Blue Nile diamonds are certified by GIA. James Allen and Brilliant Earth also sell diamonds certified by other labs (like IGI and GCAL).

  • Blue Nile and James Allen both offer a price match guarantee. Brilliant Earth does not.

Now let's get into the in-depth discussion. Keep reading.

Why Choose Blue Nile

Blue Nile (read full review) was one of the first online diamond retailers. It made diamonds accessible to everyone at a great value.

Between the three companies, Blue Nile doesn't offer as many products. Its focus is mostly on natural diamond engagement rings.

All their diamonds are certified by GIA, the leading gemology lab. They also offer a collection of "ideal" diamonds if you're looking for the highest quality.

Blue Nile carries a large selection of fine jewelry made with diamonds, pearls, gemstones, or just precious metal. It even has lots of options for under $100.

But if you're looking for loose lab diamonds or loose gemstones, you'll have to look elsewhere.

You may like Blue Nile if:

  • You're looking for good quality GIA-certified diamonds
  • You want to see some rings personally - either in a showroom or virtually
  • You also want to buy fine jewelry

  • Competitive diamond pricing
  • Free virtual appointments
  • More physical showrooms
  • Large range of fine jewelry
  • Not all diamonds have 360-degree video
  • Fewer yellow gold and rose gold rings

Why Choose James Allen

© CreditDonkey

James Allen (see review and unboxing) offers some of the lowest pricing among diamond retailers.

They have a huge inventory of natural diamonds, lab diamonds, fancy color diamonds, and gemstones. They also carry the biggest selection of rings.

James Allen was the first online jeweler to offer 360-degree videos of the diamonds. It truly changed online diamond shopping. Nowadays, this has become the standard.

The company continues to improve the online shopping experience. One of their best features is free expert consultation with no appointment needed.

Overall, James Allen has something for everyone, now what you're looking for.

You may like James Allen if:

  • Your biggest priority is getting the lowest price.
  • You're looking a lab-created diamond.
  • You're looking for a gemstone (sapphire, emerald, or ruby).

  • Competitive diamond pricing
  • Lab diamonds
  • Loose gemstones
  • Instant real-time diamond inspection
  • No diamond reservation
  • No free international returns

Why Choose Brilliant Earth

via Brilliant Earth

Brilliant Earth (read full review) is the leading jeweler for ethically sourced diamonds. Their philosophy goes beyond merely conflict-free.

All their diamonds come from ethical mines with fair wages, safe working conditions, and no human rights abuses. In fact, they tell you where each diamond came from.

They also offer more budget-friendly lab diamonds, recycled diamonds, and recycled metals. Everything, down to the wooden ring boxes, is responsibly sourced.

Plus, they have a great social mission. They partner with various charities to support mining areas in Africa, fund education for children, and restore rainforests.

You may like Brilliant Earth if:

  • An ethical engagement ring is your top priority.
  • You like the idea of giving back with your purchase.
  • You're looking for unique vintage and nature-inspired ring designs.

  • Responsibly sourced stones and metals
  • Lab diamonds and gemstones
  • Free virtual appointments
  • Social mission
  • More expensive diamond pricing
  • More pricey settings
  • Smaller inventory
  • No free shipping to every country

Difference between conflict-free and ethical diamonds:
"Conflict-free" merely means that the diamonds were not used to fund civil wars. But diamond mining comes with a lot of social concerns, like poor wages, unsafe working conditions, child labor, and environmental destruction. Conflict-free diamonds do not address those concerns.

Brilliant Earth's ethical diamonds are sourced from mines that maintain trade, labor, and environmental standards, going beyond just "conflict-free."

How Pricing Compares

James Allen generally offers the lowest prices among the three, though Blue Nile's pricing is pretty comparable. Brilliant Earth's diamond prices tend to be higher.

Let's look at some examples. To keep things fair, the examples below are the lowest-priced GIA-certified diamonds from each website that meet the specs.*

Blue NileJames AllenBrilliant Earth
0.80 carat, Round, H, VS2, Ideal $2,981 $2,790$3,750
1 carat, Round, H, VS2, Ideal$5,910$5,510$5,860
1 carat, Princess, G, VS2$4,130$4,000$4,490
1.5 carat, Oval, G, VS1$11,262$10,620$14,110
2 carat, Round, G, VS1$23,242$22,150$25,840

*These diamonds are available on the websites as of 8/6/21. They may no longer be available.

As you can see, Brilliant Earth diamonds can cost quite a bit more, just based on these 5 random searches. You can decide if ethical sourcing is worth the premium.

Blue Nile and James Allen both offer a diamond price match. If you find a similar diamond elsewhere for less, they can lower the price. But the other diamond needs to match on all 4Cs, fluorescence, table and depth percentage, symmetry, etc.

If you really like Blue Nile but the diamond is more expensive, you can look for a cheaper, similar diamond and ask for a price match.

Diamond Preview

All three companies get major points for providing 360-degree HD videos of their diamonds. But we think James Allen does it best.

First, James Allen has a video for every single diamond in its collection. Not all diamonds on Blue Nile and Brilliant Earth have a video, but most of them do.

However, some less expensive diamonds may not have a video, so you might feel like you have to go with a pricier diamond.

And second, James Allen has a Super Zoom feature. This enlarges the diamond to 40x, so you can really see every stunning detail. It's even better than looking at diamonds in a store.

Here's what James Allen's 360-degree videos look like:

via James Allen

Here's what Blue Nile's videos look like:

via Blue Nile

And here's what Brilliant Earth's videos look like:

via Brilliant Earth

We do like James Allen and Brilliant Earth's videos slightly more. Their videos seem to have more natural lighting (instead of super-white), so you can see any flaws more accurately.

Diamond Selection

Blue Nile and James Allen both have large online diamond inventories. Brilliant Earth has a smaller inventory, but it offers the greatest variety of products.

With all retailers, you can find:

  • Diamonds in 10 different shapes
  • Conflict-free diamonds
  • Diamonds of every quality and size (cut, color, carat and clarity)
  • A selection of super ideal diamonds
  • A selection of rare fancy colored diamonds
  • Only lab-certified diamonds

Blue Nile only offers loose natural diamonds, while James Allen and Brilliant Earth also carry lab diamonds and gemstones.

Here's a chart showing what each retailer offers.

Blue NileJames AllenBrilliant Earth
Natural mined diamonds250,000+250,000+80,000+
Lab-created diamondsn/a30,000+40,000+
Natural fancy-colored diamonds5,000+4,500+>100
Lab fancy-colored diamondsn/a1,000+200+
Sapphiresn/ablue, pink, yellow, greenall colors, including white
Emeraldsn/a
Rubiesn/a
Moissaniten/an/a
Morganiten/an/a
Aquamarinen/an/a

Brilliant Earth's smaller inventory does mean that sometimes you don't have too many options. For example, on a search for a 1.5-carat round diamond (H, VS2, Ideal), Brilliant Earth only has 1 option, while James Allen and Blue Nile returned dozens of results.

Of course, results will differ day-to-day based on the inventory at the moment. But smaller inventory will limit your choices. Having more choices means you're more likely to find a diamond within your budget.

One thing to note is that Blue Nile only carries GIA-certified diamonds. James Allen and Brilliant Earth also have diamonds certified by other labs, like IGI and GCAL - which are generally seen as not as reliable. If you're shopping on James Allen and Brilliant Earth, we recommend filtering your search to only GIA-certified diamonds.

Engagement Ring Styles

Did you know that 86% of brides say that the overall design of the ring matters the most? The ring needs to match her fashion sense and lifestyle.

It's smart to browse each website to see if there's a ring that really calls out to you.

Here's what you need to know about each website.

  • James Allen has around 600 different setting styles, from classic to vintage to truly wacky. If you're looking for something specific, James Allen is likely to have it.

    It's also good if you're looking for yellow gold or rose gold rings. Almost all their rings can be made in white gold, yellow gold, rose gold, or platinum.

    You can also find designer rings by Verragio, Danhov, Jeff Cooper, and Martin Flyer.

  • Blue Nile has only around 200 different styles. It mainly focuses on the most popular styles, like solitaire, halo, pave, and vintage. It's good if you're looking for something classic.

    Most of Blue Nile's rings are white gold and platinum. Only about half of the styles are also available in yellow and rose gold.

    Blue Nile also has designer rings by Zac Posen, Bella Vaughan, and its own premium designer line.

  • Brilliant Earth has around 250 different ring styles. All styles are available in platinum, white gold, yellow gold, and rose gold.

    Brilliant Earth has a strong focus on nature- and vintage-inspired rings. A lot of their rings have feminine design elements like leaves, vines, and flowing lines. In our opinion, it offers more uniquely designed rings.

    Their rings are a little more expensive than Blue Nile and James Allen. For example, the simplest solitaire ring is $490 on Brilliant Earth, while the other two both have options in the $200 range.

Online Shopping Experience

All three sites let you design your own engagement ring by choosing a loose diamond and a ring setting.

Since the sites work in a similar way, we'll highlight some special features of each.

James Allen has a virtual try-on feature if you're using your smartphone. You can select a ring and take a picture of your hand to see how it'll look on your finger.

Blue Nile has a diamond comparison feature. When you're looking at a specific diamond, you'll see a price and spec comparison chart for other similar diamonds. This can be good to quickly see if there's a better value stone.

via Blue Nile

Similarly, Brilliant Earth also has this feature for upgrade and downgrade options.

via Brilliant Earth

Premium Diamond Collections

If you're looking for the highest-quality diamonds, all three also have a super ideal diamond collection. These are diamonds cut in the most precise proportions for maximum brilliance and sparkle.

Blue Nile has a premium Astor by Blue Nileā„¢ line, while James Allen offers a TrueHearts collection. Brilliant Earth's collection doesn't have a name, except for Super Ideal Diamonds.

Overall, Astor by Blue Nile is a higher-quality collection. All Astor diamonds also have a certain color and clarity standard.

In general, they don't go below I color and SI clarity. On the other hand, James Allen TrueHearts can also contain lower-quality color and clarity grades, so you need to search for better ones.

But, one advantage of James Allen TrueHearts is that you also get the hearts and arrows and Idealscope images. These show the symmetry and light performance of the diamond. They're proof of the diamond's quality.

via James Allen

Having these images will give you more confidence in your purchase. Blue Nile and Brilliant Earth don't offer this data, so you'll have to trust in the specs.

Return/Resizing/Warranty Policies

Blue Niles, James Allen, and Brilliant Earth all offer excellent after-purchase policies and protections.

  • Returns: All three retailers offer 30-day free returns. If you're not happy with your purchase, return for free with no questions asked.

    Blue Nile even provides free international returns. James Allen will charge for an international return. And Brilliant Earth only offers free return shipping for the U.S., Canada, U.K., and Australia.

  • Warranty: All provide lifetime warranty, though they differ a bit from each other.

    Blue Nile's warranty only covers manufacturer defects and complimentary cleaning of diamond rings. It doesn't include damage due to normal wear (like metal discoloration or loose prongs).

    James Allen's warranty covers more. It includes cleaning, polishing, prong tightening, and rhodium plating for maintaining white gold. Plus, it has partnered with Jared, so you can get it serviced at a physical Jared location near you.

    Brilliant Earth's warranty is the weakest. It only covers manufacturer defects. It offers a paid Extended Service Plan that can cover cleaning and damage from wear and tear.

  • Resizing: Blue Nile and James Allen offer complimentary resizing within 1 year of purchase. Brilliant Earth's free resizing policy is only within 60 days of purchase.

  • Upgrade: All have a lifetime diamond upgrade program.

    For Blue Nile and James Allen, you can exchange your diamond for 100% of the original price, provided that the new diamond is at least twice the price of the original. For Brilliant Earth, the new diamond just needs to be 50% greater value.

    Note that upgrades are not eligible for lab-created diamonds.

Customer Service

All three companies offer 24/7 customer service via phone, email, or live chat. In addition, they all also offer one-on-one expert consultations.

  • James Allen offers a Real Time Diamond Inspection service. Any time you need help, you can start a session - no appointment needed. You can share a screen with a gemologist and compare diamonds and review specs together.

  • Blue Nile offers private virtual appointments designed to replicate an in-store shopping experience. You can schedule a 1-on-1 virtual session with a personal jeweler. They can show you close-up views of different diamonds and jewelry.

  • Brilliant Earth offers private 45-min Zoom appointments. This is completely personalized so you can ask the specialist any questions you have.

All have their advantages. James Allen is great if you need help right away picking a specific diamond. Blue Nile and Brilliant Earth are good if you want a face-to-face chat.

Bottom Line

Blue Nile, James Allen, and Brilliant Earth all offer great products with excellent customer service, online shopping experience, and policies. We can confidently recommend all three sites.

Your final decision will depend on what you're looking for. For some people, the decision will come down to cost. You'll most likely find the lowest prices on James Allen.

If your biggest priority is purchasing an ethical ring, you'll probably like Brilliant Earth despite the higher prices.

If you want a lab diamond or gemstone, you'll want to decide between James Allen and Brilliant Earth.

Because Blue Nile only focuses on natural diamonds, it may not seem as unique as the other two retailers. But don't write it off. After all, you may find your perfect ring there.

Anna G is a contributing writer at CreditDonkey, a diamond jeweler comparison and reviews website. Write to Anna G at feedback@creditdonkey.com. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

Note: This website 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. You do not have to use our links, but you help support CreditDonkey if you do.

Read Next:

Blue Nile Review

Blue Nile Reviews

James Allen Review: Is It Good?

James Allen Reviews

Brilliant Earth Review: Pros and Cons

Brilliant Earth Review

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