A complete review on James Allen

James Allen engagement ring review All you need to know

In brief:

James Allen stands in a league of its own.  With a large inventory, 360 degree HD video for every diamond listed and exceptional 24/7 customer service, James Allen is our top pick for online engagement ring shopping.

Pros

  1. Large inventory to choose from
  2. 360 degree video for every single diamond including SuperZoom options
  3. Wide range of settings
  4. 24/7 customer service and Chat with a Diamond Expert option
  5. Clear and easy-to-navigate website
  6. Good range of diamond information
  7. High quality classy packaging
  8. Free engraving services

Cons

  1. Shipping is not free for international returns
  2. Showroom available only in NYC
  3. Idealscope images may be unavailable

James Allen is often cited as being hands down the best online diamond retailer. Interestingly, the company has achieved this reputation in little over ten years. Founded in 2006, one of the primary aims of James Allen is to combat the challenges that shoppers face when buying engagement rings online.  This focus has resulted in an ever-continuing series of innovation and streamlining of the engagement ring buying process, making James Allen most people’s top choice when it comes to making this most important of purchases. In this comprehensive review, let’s take a look at allhe reasons why James Allen may be the best place for you to buy your engagement ring and what you may need to watch out for.

Large Inventory

Let’s begin by talking about James Allen’s large inventory of diamonds – they have over a 100,000 diamonds listed on their site. This is an extensive range of diamonds to choose from and you will not be hard pressed to find the stone you are after. This large range also caters all sorts of budgets. It’s important to note that each of these diamonds are certified by IGS, IGI or GIA.

Unlike most brick-and-motar stores, James Allen does not own the diamonds listed on their site. They source their diamonds from suppliers who are based around the New York area, where they are located. This is why James Allen is able to take HD videos of all the stones listed on their site, as they have staff members who visit the suppliers and take videos of each stone. Unlike many other online diamond vendors, James Allen ensures that each stone is evaluated and examined by their diamond experts prior to shipping to the customer.

In addition to this, James Allen has exclusive deals signed with many of these vendors, which means that the diamonds you see on their site cannot be found anywhere else. This also means that a diamond you see on the website will never be out of stock after you have ordered it, so you can be sure that the stone you pick out on the website will be the one you receive in the mail.

High quality at good value

One of James Allen’s founding principles was to provide the highest quality diamonds at the best possible price. It is well established that buying diamonds online can save you up to 50% on the stone. Shoppers sometimes wrongly believe that because a diamond is cheaper, it means that the quality is lower as well. Cheaper price does not mean lower quality. Remember that a company like James Allen does not stock all their diamonds or have traditional brick-and-mortar stores and as a result, they have less overheads. Less overheads means better prices on their diamonds. Although James Allen does not have a price match guarantee like Blue Nile, it is safe to say that their diamonds are reasonable in terms of price. Read our comprehensive review on Blue Nile and compare these two giant engagement ring retailers.

Another factor to note is that because James Allen provides very clear visuals of each diamond, you can pick out the diamonds with fewer flaws at the best price. Bear in mind that although inclusions are mentioned on grading reports, what is critical is where the inclusion is located. This is not mentioned on the report. In addition, issues due to poor cutting such as bow-ties, extinction or windowing are not evaluated on the grading report.

To clarify this point, have a look at this image. All the diamonds listed here have similar specifications. They’re all SI2, Excellent cut, 1 carat diamonds. However, the diamond on the top right has fewer visible flaws than all the other diamonds. The grading reports for these stones would all be fairly similar, but because you can see them clearly you will be able to select the best stone from the lot at the best price.James Allen Diamond image quality

Conflict free diamonds

The diamonds listed on James Allen are all conflict free stones. This means that they have been ethically sourced and you are not unwittingly purchasing a blood diamond. The company guarantees that their diamonds have been acquired legitimately and are in compliance with the Kimberley Process, the Patriot Act and a number of United Nations resolutions, all structures in place to ensure that the consumer is not unsuspectingly buying a diamond that has come from a conflict zone in an unethical manner. So you can rest assured that your diamond is clean.

If buying conflict free diamonds is very important for you, read our comprehensive review on Brilliant Earth because when it comes to the world of ethical diamond shopping, Brilliant Earth stands out as a leader in the market.

The ground-breaking Diamond Display Technology

Perhaps the best feature James Allen offers, the Diamond Display Technology has taken a lot of the guesswork out of online diamond shopping.

Many diamond vendors often do not put original pictures of their stones on their sites, and if they do, the images can be heavily edited or taken from an angle that hides the stone’s flaws. James Allen understands that a diamond, unlike other commodities, needs to be viewed prior to purchase. They realized that one of the major drawbacks of online diamond shopping is the fact that more often than not, shoppers are compelled to buy blind.

James Allen have truly revolutionized the online diamond buying experience by introducing their trademarked ‘Diamond Display Technology’. This provides a 360 degree view of every diamond in their inventory. In fact, as James Allen puts it, this is even superior to viewing a diamond in person, because you can magnify the stone by up to 20x.

In the images below, you can see the diamond in its actual size (first image) and the same diamond magnified by 20x (second image). The actual size appears eye-clean but once you zoom into the diamond, you can see that it has visible inclusions across the surface. If you create an account and log in on the James Allen website, you will have access to 5 SuperZoom images that will further magnify the diamond. Image 3 below shows you the SuperZoom version of the same diamond, which is equivalent to using a jeweler’s loupe. By using James Allen’s 360 degree video and magnifying features, you will be able to carefully evaluate the diamonds on offer and cherry pick the best diamond for the best value. You can then visit their showroom in NYC to view the diamonds that you have selected (more on this later).

James Allen Magnification by X1

Actual size

James Allen Diamond Magnification by X20

20x image

James Allen Diamond Super zoom

SuperZoom image

Light performance images - Idealscope

When purchasing a diamond, it’s important to check out the light performance of the stone. Idealscope images are an easy and effective way to evaluate where the diamond is leaking light from and the amount of light it reflects. These are really critical aspects because it will determine the overall scintillation, fire and brilliance of the stone you eventually buy. You should ensure that you are provided Idealscope images of the diamond you have chosen, regardless of where you buy it from.

Most online vendors do not provide light performance images, but James Allen does. For their True Hearts diamonds, James Allen have up to two Idealscope images already provided on the site. In the image below, you can see the two red Idealscope images on the bottom right of the diamond.

James Allen Diamond Light performance images - Idealscope

For diamonds apart from True Hearts, Idealscope images will have to be requested. It can take up to 3-5 business days for you to receive these, as it depends on where the diamond is located. The diamond must be brought into the James Allen New York office to be photographed. This seems somewhat of a tedious process, but is well worth it if you want to ensure that your diamond is going to have optimum light performance.

You can use the Idealscope image to check out light leakage of the stone and symmetry. This will show you whether the diamond is truly a ‘Hearts and Arrow’ diamond. The two images below are of the same diamond demonstrating the coveted ‘Hearts and Arrow’ pattern.

James Allen Light performance images - Idealscope -arrows      James Allen Light performance images - Idealscope -hearts

User Friendly Website

As one of their main aims is to provide the easiest way for shoppers to buy engagement rings, the James Allen website is always evolving and being revamped. The website is dynamic, easy to use and has many features. It works efficiently and doesn’t have any glitches or huge loading time problems. Most importantly, finding your loose diamond is easy due to the filters provided to narrow down the search results.

Because James Allen knows that most shoppers who visit their site are not highly knowledgeable on the subject of diamonds, they have provided a section where consumers can educate themselves as they search for their diamond. While not as comprehensive as Blue Nile’s education section, James Allen has still addressed all the necessary topics in an easy-to-understand manner.

What you can find at James Allen

James Allen has a wide range of products on their e-commerce site.

  1. Diamonds: These are the main product, and as mentioned before, there are over a 100,000 diamonds at any given time in their inventory. There are 10 diamond shapes to choose from (round, princess, cushion, emerald, radiant, marquise, pear, heart, aascher and oval). Their True Hearts diamond collection contains stones that have an ideal cut, with exceptional symmetry, shape, color and clarity. These diamonds are among the best in the world and, of course, they come with a premium.
  2.  Settings: For engagement and wedding rings, James Allen has an impressive range of settings and metals to choose from. There are 9 main settings, and within each of these categories are more options. Take into account the fact that there are 6 types of metals (14k and 18k white gold, 14k and 18k yellow gold, rose gold and platinum) and you have hundreds of settings and metals to mix and match. James Allen even offers unique settings such as tension, which many other vendors like Blue Nile or Brian Gavin Diamonds do not offer. However, in terms of metals for wedding rings, James Allen only provides white and yellow gold in 14k and 18k, rose gold and platinum, which is somewhat limited.
  3. Gemstones: James Allen also offers sapphires, rubies and emeralds. You can find three varieties of sapphires on their site – blue, pink and yellow. Blue sapphires are the most common with over 1300 listed on the site, while only about 120 each of pink and yellow sapphires can be found. Read our guide on buying sapphire to shop with confidence. There is a small number of emeralds (only about 130) and about 700 rubies to choose from. James Allen’s range of gemstones offered may not be very wide but there is still a decent number on offer.
  4. Colored diamonds: James Allen has a wide range of colored diamonds listed on their site, with 10 specific colors. When putting in the search parameters, there is the option to choose intensity of color. Bear in mind that the higher the intensity, the higher the price. There are 10 different types of colored diamonds on offer. With colored diamonds, the distribution and intensity of the color is what gives the stone its value, whereas with colorless diamonds, the cut is critical.
  5. Designer jewelry: James Allen has the collections of four renowned designers showcased on their website. These are Verragio, Martin Flyer, Jeff Cooper and Danhov. These designers offer gorgeous jewelry and more settings and styles to choose from. Each designer is unique and offers shoppers something different.
  6. Diamond and gemstone jewelry: While most people prefer to design their own ring, there is a large array of ready-made fine jewelry also on offer. There are two main categories in this collection: diamonds and gemstones. Within these two categories, you can purchase beautifully crafted earrings, bracelets, pendants and rings that are ready to ship, saving you the time and the effort of designing your own jewelry.

Exceptional customer service

One of the factors that makes James Allen stand apart from other online diamond vendors is the exceptional customer service that they provide. I found the representatives to be helpful and informative without being pushy. They assist the customer with every aspect of the purchase. According to James Allen, their representatives are given 6 weeks of extensive training on jewelry and diamonds prior to interacting with consumers, and then continue with ongoing training. This allows them to provide professional and accurate information and advice to shoppers to facilitate the complicated process of shopping for a diamond ring.

James Allen’s website comes with a 24/7 chat option. There is also the option to chat with a diamond expert, but this is only available at certain times (from 9 am until about 11pm). With this consult feature, you can easily talk to their qualified diamond experts and get a general idea about diamond shopping and latest trends and designs as you create your ring. James Allen has even taken this a step further where the expert will share their screen with you and walk you through the various aspects of the diamond. This takes further guesswork out of the way and makes the experience even easier for you.

The ‘Design your own engagement ring’ tool

James Allen, like many online diamond vendors, gives you the option of custom designing your engagement ring. With the range of diamonds, gemstones, settings and metals available, you will be able to design your perfect ring exactly as you want it.

James Allen Design your own ring option

You can set the parameters to suit your preferences and budget, playing around with the combination of 4Cs. You can begin by first choosing either your setting or your diamond. Based on your selection, you will be provided with all available compatible diamonds/settings. They also offer free engravings on most of their engagement rings and wedding bands. Ring engravings can be of any alphanumeric combination of up to 20 characters. Once you have chosen your ring size, your ring is complete. What remains is to review your purchase and check out. While the shipping is free, there may be taxes to be paid based on your location.

When you are building your ring online, it helps to see what the finished product will look like. James Allen provides an Inspiration Gallery that hosts recently purchased rings, all shot in normal light to give the user an idea of their finished product. This is their way of telling their customers that they truly deliver what they promise and make no compromises when it comes to quality. The gallery can also be a helpful guide for couples who want to know about market trend and what sort of designs people are usually going for.

Free Shipping and Other Benefits

James Allen provides free shipping to all parts of the world. Even rings that need to be resized will be re-shipped for free. Not only that, you also get lifetime warranty on all the jewelry items that you purchase from them. This includes free re-polishing, rhodium plating, prong tightening and cleaning services. If you encounter any other problem with your jewelry or need a service that is not listed above, you can still send your jewelry item for inspection. The James Allen team will evaluate the item’s condition and the service you desire and will inform you about the cost.

60-Day Free Resizing Option

All wedding bands and engagement rings will be resized for free within the first two months, except for eternity bands and tension rings (these need to be completely remanufactured if they do not fit). You can have your rings resized once for free within the first sixty days of your purchase.

Buying from James Allen – financing options

If paying outright in cash is not an option, James Allen has two financing options for you to choose from.

  1. No Interest for 6 Months Plan – this option allows you to make your purchase with 0% interest up to the first 6 months. The order must be of minimum $1000. However, the annual percentage rate is a steep 28.99% after this period so it’s best to complete the payment within the given timeframe.
  2. 90% Interest for 24 Months – this option is for purchases of at least $2000. This will give you 2 years to pay off the balance at a much lower APR rate.

While these are good options, it may be a good idea to do some research to see if there are low interest credit cards on the market that may have better offers than James Allen’s interest rates. If you do pay in cash, paying via wire transfer will entitle you to a 1.5% discount.

Another factor to consider is sales tax. Whether this concerns you depends on where you are located. James Allen does not collect sales tax except from Maryland and New York, where its offices are located.

 Return Policies

James Allen have a 30-day money-back guarantee policy for all their items. This means that you can purchase an item, try it on and if, by any chance you are not a 100% satisfied with it, you can return it for a full refund. The returns process is hassle-free and quite straightforward. The 30 days begins from the day the item was shipped to you. They do not take responsibility for return shipping for customers based outside of the US. So for international returns, you will have to bear the fee of secure shipping. For US customers, the entire process takes about 2 weeks to complete.

If the item is not in its original condition and shows signs of being worn or of being resized, it will not be accepted. If the original grading report is not returned in its original condition as well, a fee of $150 will apply.

Upgrading your diamond

You can always upgrade your diamond to a bigger rock at any time, thanks to the lifetime upgrade policy James Allen offers. The conditions are that the new rock must be at least 2 times the value of the original diamond. When exchanging the diamond, you will receive credit that is 100% of what the original stone is worth.

New Showroom – New York City

Many online vendors are starting to opt for a physical presence. Blue Nile has several ‘webrooms’ in the US that offer a variety of services. James Allen, in keeping with this new trend, has opened a showroom in New York City, the first for the company. However, the purpose of the showroom is for customers to physically view up to 3 pre-selected diamonds in person. For this, you will have to make an appointment, which can take up to a week to schedule, and then view the stones you have chosen from their website. It is still be to seen whether this will be a successful venture. If you are short of time or impatient, this will seem like a tedious process. However, considering that this is perhaps one of the most important purchases of your life, it is worth the trouble to view the diamond in person. A major drawback at present is that this service is only offered in NYC.

Beautiful Packaging

James Allen believes that love is in the details. Therefore, all their packages are beautifully designed and give you another reason to fall in love with their services and customer care. The engagement rings arrive in striking white and silver boxes that have James Allen’s signature heart shaped butterfly embossed on them.

James Allen engagement ring packaging

Inside the box, you can find your engagement ring box. The outer box not only looks very pretty and classy, but also ensures the safety of the jewelry item within it. This way, you can be sure that there is no way that their jewelry items can get damaged during shipping. The outer box also contains a sleek drawer that contains important documents like an appraisal, respective jewelry item’s certificate, invoice and other important documentation. The presentation is classy and elegant.

Conclusion

It is clear that James Allen stands in a league of its own. They have streamlined the process of online engagement ring shopping and you know exactly what you are getting from them. They support their customers from start to finish. Also, you will not be buying blind. This is why I recommend James Allen without hesitation.