For most of us, shopping for fine jewelry can be a time-consuming task. After all, you’re going to be shelling out big bucks and want to make sure you get the perfect piece. If you’re shopping for something particularly special, like an engagement ring, you’ve probably spent lots of hours online and perusing shops looking for just the right one.
There’s a good chance that during your search you came across the Blue Nile and James Allen brands. These two are considered behemoths of the online jewelry world and both boast that they provide high-quality jewelry and excellent customer service.
We were curious about how the two stack up to each other, so we did a little comparison shopping of James Allen vs Blue Nile. Keep reading for our take on these two jewelry titans.
James Allen vs Blue Nile
Clash of the jewelry titans.
Probably the first things you’ll notice when you go to each company’s website is how easy they are to navigate and how they showcase their products.
Both have pop-ups galore, but who doesn’t these days? Probably noworth mentioning, but it is what it is. Both seem to have pretty intuitive, navigable sites, but in our humble opinion, James Allen’s site is a bit cluttered. That’s a pretty subjective thing to measure, though, so check the sites out yourself.
We are pretty confident when we say the most apparent at first blush is how they each showcase their jewelry products. Both offer 360-degree views, but James Allen offers HD images, which are much clearer. That can make a huge difference, particularly when it comes to choosing a diamond.
Let’s takes closer look at each company, shall we?
The Skinny on Blue Nile
What We Like
There are plenty of things to like about Blue Nile, but here are the key features we swooned over:
Let’s get right to the nitty gritty: are they cheaper without being cheap?
Blue Nile offers up more reasonable prices (on average) than pretty much any other reputable online retailer, including James Allen. And they even take it a step further by offering a price match guarantee.
Blue Nile is also a large and established brand, which some have reported as an advantage when it comes to credit options if you’d like to purchase your ring with a line of credit.
Product Quality and Selection of Alternative Gemstone Jewlery
Their inventory is a bit behind James Allen when it comes to loose diamonds and their settings selection. They do, however, offer more non-diamond and colored gemstone jewelry.
As far as quality goes, they get fantastic reviews from those in the know, so we’re comfortable saying you won’t be receiving anything sub-par from them.
What’s the deal with their customer service, you ask? They have a 24-hour customer service staff available to answer your questions and handle issues you may run into. All purchases are also backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.
They offer a lifetime warranty on manufacturer defects and complimentary cleaning and inspection services on diamond rings. Blue Nile also offer a buyback option through Mondiamo if your return does not qualify for the lifetime warranty terms and conditions.
Other things of note
We like the fact that they work under ethical mining and conflict-free diamond purchasing policies. They’re proud supporters of the Kimberley Process for tracking and certifying diamonds. Two thumbs up on that.
What We Don’t Like
Ok, so just a couple of small issues here:
Routine Maintenance Fees
Blue Nile does have a less flexible policy when it comes to routine maintenance. They charge for things like re-polishing, prong tightening, and rhodium plating for white gold rings. If you do opt to pay for these services, you’ll also be paying for return shipping.
Extra Charge for Engraving
Engraving services aren’t complimentary either. That may seem petty because they don’t charge a ton extra for it (25-ish dollars). But when you’re dropping that kinda dough on a ring, you’d think they’d throw that kind of thing in for free.
Another thing that’s a small disadvantage for Blue Nile is the quality of their packaging. It’s nice, but in our opinion, could (and should) be a bit posher. After all, this is what you’re presenting when you ask for his or her hand in marriage.
What We Like
As with Blue Nile, there’s lots to like about James Allen, but here are the key things that make them stand out:
Inventory Quality And Selection
Blue Nile carries a more diverse selection of colored gemstones and other kinds of fine jewelry, but James Allen is the king of the hill when it comes to engagement rings.
Their selection of loose diamonds is more extensive and more diverse than Blue Nile. They also have more to choose from in the settings category. If you want to build your own engagement ring, James Allen has more options in stock.
They are also pretty strict about their curating standards when it comes to their cut diamonds, so you know you’re getting something quality. Not that Blue Nile doesn’t sell quality diamonds, they absolutely do, but James Allen takes it a step or two further.
James Allen’s customer service policies are similar to those of Blue Nile. They offer price match guarantees, 24/7 customer support, and both offer lifetime manufacturer’s warranties.
Unlike Blue Nile, however, James Allen also offers services like rhodium plating, prong tightening, and re-polishing for free in addition to cleanings. They also offer free engraving services.
These are great perks, but it’s worth noting that James Allen’s prices do tend to be a bit higher than Blue Nile’s, so in the end those ‘free’ services are probably just built into the price tag.
James Allen’s packaging is pretty darn posh, and we think when you’re presenting the love of your life with an engagement ring, that’s a big deal. It may seem silly, but when you’re down on one knee, you quickly realize it isn’t.
What We Don’t Like
Here are a few drawbacks to James Allen:
Newer Company, Fewer Showrooms
So one of the things we could see being a potential setback is that James Allen is much newer to the business and has fewer brick-and-mortar showrooms. Fewer meaning two. Blue Nile has somewhere in the ballpark of five (as of the date this article was written).
Limited Selection of Gemstones
The fact that they specialize in diamond engagement rings is a good thing if that’s what you’re looking for. If you want sapphire or emerald or something different, James Allen’s selection is limited.
A Bit Pricier
While price comparisons are pretty hard to make when it comes to diamonds, we can get a more reliable idea of who has the best prices by looking at settings. Turns out, James Allen is a bit pricier than Blue Nile when we compare the same settings. While it may not be a huge difference, as my grandmother used to say, “pennies make dollars.”
Our takeaway? Thank goodness for online jewelry shopping. There are just so many benefits to this option.
We know it makes many people nervous because they feel more confident if they can actually see and hold the ring before they buy it. With the bulletproof no-risk return policies these online retailers offer, however, it’s kind of a moot point.
So who’s the best? Depends on what you’re shopping for and how you judge quality.
Both companies are reputable. Both offer excellent customer service and inventory options, and both will treat you well because they want your business.
If you want a more personalized, specialty engagement ring, James Allen is probably where you’ll end up. If you want to find something easy peasy and more readily accessible, or want something besides a diamond, try Blue Nile.
Either way, happy ring hunting! May the jewelry gods smile upon you and give you a great deal!