Updated June 23, 2018

James Allen Review: Is It Good?

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Thinking about buying an engagement ring from James Allen? Read this in-depth review to find out if it's the right retailer for you.

James Allen
Visit Site

Overall Score

4.4

Price

4.5

Selection

4.5

Customer Service

4.0

Data

4.5
5-point scale (the higher, the better)

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

Bottom Line

Good online diamond retailer with 360 degree HD videos

James Allen is the #1 place to buy a diamond online for 2018. Before you buy a ring, view this diamond inspiration gallery for examples of engagement rings you should not ignore.

A Winning Combination

We are huge advocates of shopping for an engagement ring online. You get a much bigger selection and cheaper prices. But at the same time, it can be scary to make such a huge purchase online.

James Allen knows that an engagement ring is a major purchase. It excels in providing an unmatched online diamond shopping experience.

James Allen is our top recommended online diamond retailer for several reasons:

Read on to learn the pros and cons of shopping at James Allen.

Jump to a section below or scroll down to read the whole article.

What Makes James Allen Unique: Inventory and Quality

It's hard to sell diamonds online. Retailers often have to sacrifice in one area or another. For example, 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 diamond you purchase. On the other end of the spectrum, small retailers stock their own diamonds and can provide exceptional data, but as a result they have a much smaller selection.

But James Allen is the best of both worlds. It offers a wide selection and detailed images of the actual diamonds.

  • Big Selection. James Allen has over 200,000 loose diamonds in 10 different shapes. It even has about 2,000 fancy colored diamonds. Every single diamond is GIA, AGS, or IGI certified. Besides diamonds, it also has a decent selection of sapphires, rubies, and emeralds.

    Tip: James Allen mostly sells loose diamonds. The idea is that you create a customized ring by choosing your perfect diamond and setting. But it does have a small selection of pre-set rings as well.

  • Inspected in Person. James Allen sends out staff members to take stunning HD videos of every diamond on the site. Their inventory is from nearby suppliers in the New York area and diamond hubs worldwide. They don't own their own diamonds, but each one is examined by in-house experts before it's shipped to you.

  • A Range of Options. James Allen offers diamonds at every price point and quality. Since you can "see" every diamond, you can find the most affordable stones that look virtually flawless.

    They even have an exclusive line of diamonds called True Hearts. These are the most ideally cut diamonds with the best optical beauty and brilliance.

  • Conflict-free Guarantee. Every diamond from James Allen is conflict-free and procured through legitimate means. It also has a collection of Canada Mark diamonds mined from Canada. These diamonds are clean of conflict and human rights abuses.

We'll examine the pros and cons below. But first, let's highlight the current James Allen perks.

James Allen Benefits

    25% Off Sale

    25% Off Setting with Purchase of a True Hearts Diamond

    Expires 12/31/2018

    Free Engraving

    Free engraving on most engagement rings and wedding bands. If engraving is available for your selection, it will be presented as an option during checkout. Personal engravings can be any alpha-numeric combination up to 20 characters in length.

    60-Day Free 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

    Lifetime Upgrade

    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.

    Special Financing

    Learn about payment options at James Allen, a CreditDonkey #1 recommended partner for the best online experience.

Why We Like James Allen

Who James Allen is Best For

  • If you're nervous about buying blind. James Allen has a 360-degree HD video of every diamond in its collection. You can "see" the actual stones from all angles. This gives you more confidence when buying online.

  • If you're on a budget. James Allen has some of the lowest diamond prices among jewelry retailers that we've seen. This means you can find a larger stone on your budget.

  • If you're looking for a gemstone. James Allen has a huge collection of loose sapphires, emeralds, and rubies. You can design your own gemstone ring.

Let's take a more detailed look at what makes James Allen such a standout.

360-Degree HD Videos of Each Diamond

Though you can't examine the diamonds in person, James Allen provides you with the next best thing. Their trademarked "Diamond Display Technology" provides true-to-life, 360-degree, HD videos and images of every single diamond in their collection.

View each diamond from every angle.
View each diamond from every angle. Screenshot from James Allen Website

You can zoom in up to 20X to view the diamond in stunning detail. That's actually better than looking at diamonds at a local store. You'll be able to clearly see any flaws in the diamond.

Tip: If you create a free account, you can even access a "super zoom" feature. This allows you to examine the diamond as if you're using the tools of a professional jeweler. You get 5 free SuperZoom images.

Many other sites use just a stock photo. They only offer a description of the 4Cs (cut, clarity, color, and carat) and the price. You'll receive a diamond that matches the specs but you won't know what it really looks like. That's taking a big risk. No two diamonds are exactly alike. One SI1 diamond may be eye-clean, while another has visible flaws. You won't know without photos.

Related: Don't Get Ripped Off: the 4Cs and Buying a Diamond for Best Value

You Can Find Eye-Clean Diamonds for Less

When you can't see photos of the actual diamonds, you may feel like you must choose a higher quality stone to play it safe. This means you end up spending more.

But when you're able to see clear pictures, you can look for cheaper diamonds that are eye-clean.

Let's take a look at this example:

Screenshot from James Allen Website

The diamond on the left is 0.97 carat. It has a color of G, a 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 you can barely see any flaws even at 20x zoom. This diamond costs less and looks better. You would have never known that without the magnified videos.

You Can Pick Prettier Diamonds

Seeing the diamond is especially important for fancy- shape diamonds. Shapes such as oval, pear, and marquise have a bow-tie effect. This is a dark shadow caused by light blockage. You can only see that through visual inspection.

For example:

The oval diamond on the left costs over $5000 and has a large bow-tie effect. The diamond on the right costs almost $1000 less and looks a lot better.

There would be no way to know this without being able to see the diamond from all angles.

Tip: Emerald and asscher diamonds tend to have large black areas of light blockage too. You would also need to "see" the diamond to know that.

Also, fancy-shape diamonds aren't cut all the same. For example:

Screenshot from James Allen Website

These heart-shape diamonds all look different. The first two are unattractive looking hearts (too thin and too fat). The third is a beautiful, pleasing heart shape. Again, you wouldn't know if you were ordering blind.

Setting and Customization Options

James Allen offers tons of customization options to create your perfect ring.

It has over 500 settings in all styles. Most settings are available in platinum, white gold, yellow gold, or rose gold. Each setting also comes with a 360-degree HD video. You can also set a gemstone in any of its settings.

They also offer free engraving for most engagement rings. Adding a personal message is another way to make it more special.

Warning: Thin settings could bend out of shape during normal wear. If she's very active or does a lot with her hands, it may be better to go with a sturdier band. Or consider getting a platinum band, which is more durable than gold. If platinum is out of your price range, then go for 14k gold, as it's sturdier than 18k.

The idea of designing your own ring can seem daunting. But James Allen walks you through it, step by step.

Screenshot from www.jamesallen.com/

If you choose your diamond first, James Allen will then show you settings that fit that diamond. If you choose a setting first, the site will then automatically show you diamonds that match it.

Tip: If you don't see a setting you like, James Allen can work with you on a custom design. Of course, you would have to purchase the diamond from them as well. Keep in mind that super customized settings can take a few weeks to ship.

If you have a loose diamond from somewhere else, James Allen can set it for you in one of their settings.

James Allen

24/7 Customer Support

So what if you've looked at the website and are still confused?

James Allen's customer service representatives are available 24/7. All reps have specialized training and are there to help around the clock.

If you need advice, you can get a Real-Time Diamond consultation. You can even screen-share with a rep, so they can see the same diamonds as you. They will help you review the specs and compare diamonds. This feature is the first of its kind in the online diamond industry.

Financing

Sometimes, it's not possible to buy an engagement ring in cash. If this is your situation, James Allen offers two financing options:

  1. No interest for 6 months. This is good if you have a solid plan to pay off the amount in 6 months. If you don't, you'll be charged a very steep interest (currently 28.99%). The interest is assessed from the purchase date, so it can really add up.

  2. 9.9% interest for 2 years. A more attractive offer might be the 9.9% interest rate on the 2-year payment plan. With this, you'll have a full 24 months to pay off the balance.

In our experience, such financing options can work out if you are diligent about the terms. But if you're not, you can end up with a mountain of interest charges. A more practical solution could be to sign up for a credit card with a 0% APR introductory period or a low interest card.

If you have the cash, you get a 1.5% discount if you pay via wire transfer. This could save you quite a bit, but you also have to factor in the what your bank charges for wire transfers.

Another thing to consider is the 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.

After Your Purchase Protection

  • Returns: James Allen offers a 30-day money back guarantee. This gives you a decent amount of time to pop the question (and hopefully get the "yes").

  • Resizing: Got the wrong size? You get one free resizing within 60 days of purchase. Note that some rings (such as eternity bands) cannot be resized.

  • Warranty: Each purchase comes with a comprehensive lifetime warranty. It covers cleaning, polishing, prong tightening, rhodium plating, and other maintenance (though you'll have to pay for shipping costs).

  • Upgrades: If you want a bigger rock in the future, James Allen has a lifetime upgrade policy. You can swap your diamond for 100% credit and can use it towards a new one, provided that it's at least 2X the value.

Wedding Bands

It's smart to think about the wedding band at the same time as you shop for the engagement ring, especially if you want the rings to match. Matching rings will create a nice uniform look.

  • Finding matching bands. When you're looking at an engagement ring, if you scroll down all the way to the bottom, you'll see suggestions for matching wedding bands (if there is one). Sometimes a certain ring setting (such as a tension ring or some halo rings) need a specialized band that fits with its curves. You don't need to decide right away if you want the matching band or not, but it's nice to know your options.

  • Wedding sets. James Allen also has a small selection of wedding sets. These are a pair of matching engagement and wedding rings. The advantage is that they will perfectly match and fit well together.

    In our opinion, James Allen's wedding sets selection is lacking compared to say, Whiteflash's designs. Not all of James Allen's sets seem to be a perfect match. Some sets don't even sit flush together.

  • Men's wedding rings. Aside from the classic gold and platinum, James Allen also offers men's rings in alternative metals. You can find more budget-friendly rings in titanium, cobalt, and ceramic.

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 Allen has over 200,000 diamonds at every price, shape, and size. Your local jeweler will not have nearly as many options. If you're looking for something specific, you'll have limited choices. This means you may have to compromise on quality and/or budget.

  • 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 let you examine the diamonds under a magnifying glass. Also, James Allen's 360 Super Zoom feature allows you to view diamonds as if you're holding a jeweler's loupe.

    Screenshot from James Allen Website

    See flaws with the 360 Super Zoom feature (sample diamond here)

  • Ability to request Idealscope images. You can request up to three Idealscope images for free on James Allen. It's a good idea to do this after you're down to your final three diamond choices. These images show the light performance of the diamond. Most jewelers at traditional stores do not have Idealscope images.

  • 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 research, we've found that James Allen's prices are as much as 40% cheaper than physical stores.

  • Browse in peace: Shopping from the comfort of your own home means you can spend hours browsing at your leisure. No pressure to buy, no pushy salespeople, no up-selling.

James Allen

James Allen compared to Blue Nile

James Allen and Blue Nile are at the top of the online engagement ring game. Let's compare the two so you can decide which one is better for you.

 

James Allen

Blue Nile

 

Benefits and Features

SelectionInventory sourced from local diamond suppliersLargest selection of online diamonds, sourced from suppliers around the world
Customer Service
24/7 customer service
24/7 customer service
DataGrading report, 360-degree HD video
Grading report
Return PolicyIf 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. 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.
WarrantyJames 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.
ResizingAll 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 RingsĀ®, and Diamond Bands when within the manufacturer's recommended sizing range, during the first year.
Upgrade PolicyAny 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.
Price
Selection
Customer Service
Data
 Visit SiteVisit Site

We zeroed in on specific areas that are most important to ring buyers:

  • Price: Both online retailers offer more competitive pricing than traditional brick-and-mortar stores. Blue Nile has a diamond price match guarantee, but the conditions are pretty strict.

    James Allen doesn't offer price matching, but their rings are already priced low. Sometimes, their price for a comparable diamond is even less than Blue Nile's.

    For example, we searched for a 1-carat, Princess-cut diamond on both sites. We used Clarity: VS1, Color: G, and Cut: Very Good. With these specs, Blue Nile's diamonds started at under $5,000. On James Allen, comparable stones were priced between $500 and $700 less.

  • Selection: A quick search of James Allen turned up 200,000 diamonds and over 500 setting choices. A similar search on Blue Nile found 180,000 diamonds but only 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.

  • Diamond preview: James Allen definitely wins here. On Blue Nile, you're browsing through a list format that only includes the stone's 4Cs. On James Allen, you're browsing based on a 360-degree view of the actual diamonds. You can also request up to 3 IdealScope images for an even more detailed examination.

  • Inspection: This goes to James Allen too. James Allen's experts personally inspect every diamond before it's shipped to you. Blue Nile works on a drop-ship model with wholesalers all over the world. They ship the diamond blind.

  • Customization: We think James Allen has the edge here too. James Allen has more options when it comes to settings and metals. Blue Nile has very limited settings in yellow or rose gold. James Allen lets you create almost any ring in those metals.

    James Allen is better for customized gemstone rings too. Blue Nile offers only pre-set gemstone engagement rings. James Allen has loose gemstones that you can set into a ring of your choice.

  • Service: Both companies have great reviews for their customer service. Both have reps available to answer questions and handle problems by phone 24/7.

In regards to policies, here's how the two compare:

  • Refunds: Both offer a 30-day guarantee for refunds or exchanges.

  • Warranty: Both offer a lifetime warranty. Blue Nile's warranty covers manufacturer defects but doesn't apply to normal wear and tear or accidental damage. James Allen's warranty covers cleaning, polishing, prong tightening, and rhodium plating for maintaining white gold. It also covers the loss of side diamonds.

  • Complimentary resizing: Blue Nile offers complimentary resizing for customized engagement rings during the first year. James Allen only gives you a 60-day window to resize your ring at no charge.

Why You Might Prefer Blue Nile

Still not sure? You may be better off shopping with Blue Nile if any of the following applies to you:

  1. You want more selection: James Allen has a large inventory, but it's half of what you'll find on Blue Nile. As long as you don't mind not getting actual photos, you're going to have more choices in your price range with Blue Nile.

  2. 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. And they go fast. Blue Nile, on the other hand, lets you reserve a specific diamond for up to 48 hours.

    Blue Nile

    Blue Nile: Search for Diamonds

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

Locations

James Allen does have a physical location in New York City. You can schedule an appointment to see their showroom on Fifth Avenue:

551 Fifth Avenue
6th Floor, Suite 601
New York, New York

You can enter by appointment only. Call customer service at 877-826-9866 or schedule it over live chat on the website.

Insurance

It's smart to insure your precious ring. After all, it's a huge financial loss if something happens. Insurance will provide protection if you ever damage, lose, or get it stolen.

James Allen is partnered with Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company. You have the option to insure your ring with Jeweler's Mutual. Some protections they offer include:

  • Protection against damage, loss, theft, and mysterious disappearance
  • You can choose your own jeweler for repair (to the same quality as original)
  • For lost rings, you can get it replaced with another one in the same brand and style

Virtual Ring Sizer

Finding her ring size is a tricky part of the process. If you get the size wrong, it's not the end of the world as most rings can be resized. But it ruins the magic of a romantic proposal followed by slipping on a perfectly fitting ring.

We do have some tips on secretly finding out her ring size. But if you're unable to do any of these, James Allen offers some help. You can either request a free ring sizer to be mailed to you, or use their virtual ring sizers.

There are two virtual ring sizers:

  1. If you have a ring that fits: First, the sizer will calibrate your screen by measuring a credit card against your screen. Then hold up the ring over one of the circles to find the one that matches.

  2. If you don't have a ring: Get a strip of paper or a string and wrap it around the ring finger. Mark the length of the circle. Then after calibrating your screen, hold the strip of paper up to the virtual ruler to find the ring size.

While this helps to get an idea, it may not be 100% accurate. If you do get the ring size wrong, James Allen offers one free resizing within 60 days of purchase on eligible rings.

Related: Ring Resizing

Order Status

Unfortunately, one of the most common customer complaints is the wait time.

When you place your order, James Allen will give you an estimated ship date (which is usually about 2 weeks out). But there are quite a number of reviews saying that their order was delayed. Some people already made proposal plans but the ring didn't come in time.

To avoid this stress, we suggest that you order the ring way ahead of time. Give yourself about a month before your planned proposal date. That way, you can receive it before your proposal and have enough time to return if you need to.

Packaging

James Allen scores major points for their packaging. It's classy and doesn't scream "I bought the ring from the internet!".

  • The jewelry box: First, the ring box itself is packaged inside an elegant white and silver keepsake box. There is a pull-out drawer at the bottom that holds a cleaning cloth and a silver folder with the diamond's documents. Inside is the lab certification, appraisal certificate, lifetime warranty, and quality assurance guarantee.

  • The ring box: The actual ring box is a glossy red plastic lacquered box (it used to be hardwood). Some people say they think the plastic looks cheap. But we think it'll still look classy when you pull it out of your pocket for the big moment.

Overall, the packaging is excellent. Some other online retailers ship the ring box just in a cardboard cutout. It's nice that James Allen goes the extra mile to make the entire package presentable.

Ring Cleaning: Cleaning your ring at home is easy. Just soak in warm water and soap and then scrub with a soft toothbrush. James Allen offers lifetime ring cleaning as well, but you'll have to part with your ring for a few weeks and pay for shipping costs.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why James Allen is cheaper?
    James Allen doesn't stock their own diamonds. Instead, they get them from local suppliers around New York. This means they don't have expensive retail stores to pay for. And they aren't paying interest on the diamonds sitting on shelves. This allows them to cut overhead costs and offer better pricing.

  • Is James Allen reputable?
    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 only 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. You can only enter by appointment.

  • 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 exact diamond and quality 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 order 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 and what are the shipping costs?
    James Allen ships worldwide for free, no matter the order amount. However, international customers will be responsible for any duties, VAT, or taxes charged by their country.

Bottom Line

James Allen understands that buying a diamond online is tricky. They really go the extra mile to make you comfortable. Their 360-degree HD videos have revolutionized the way people shop for diamonds. Add in their great pricing, liberal return policy, and lifetime guarantee, and shopping at James Allen can be a real joy. 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 into a happily-ever-after proposal.

James Allen

Rebecca Lake is a journalist at CreditDonkey, a diamond jeweler comparison and reviews website. Write to Rebecca Lake at rebecca@creditdonkey.com. Our data-driven analysis has been recognized by major news outlets across the country and has helped young adults make savvy decisions. (read more)

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.

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Best Place to Buy Engagement Ring Online

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