In today’s world, it has become easy to buy almost anything online. When you shop over the Internet, you can read reviews, find plenty of product information, and buy from the comfort of home. Although most people are accustomed to going to a jeweler when purchasing an engagement ring, the reality is that there are plenty of reputable jewelry stores available online when you know where to look.
Blue Nile is the most popular provider for couples looking to buy their rings online. My spouse and I personally chose to buy our engagement ring and both of our wedding rings from Blue Nile. We did not want to have to haggle with a local jeweler, and we certainly could not afford to pay a premium to buy locally. Instead, we wanted to buy diamonds that were already offered at the lowest price and to enjoy a wider selection that is sourced from around the world.
I can tell you that Blue Nile was the right choice in our situation, but is it the right option for you? Read on to learn from my experience to decide whether Blue Nile engagement rings or wedding rings are the best choice in your situation, or if you should choose another reputable diamond dealer.
Blue Nile’s Story
I will be honest that I first found out about Blue Nile by searching around on Google. The truth is that the company is hard to miss since its market share is about 50 percent. I found this degree of market dominance impressive, and I naturally began to question how Blue Nile grew to become so big and whether it deserves to maintain its position.
One of the main reasons why Blue Nile has become so popular is because it was one of the first companies to enter the online ring-buying space. When the company first launched, the Internet was only in its infancy. Shoppers would not even think about buying jewelry online back then, so purchasing an expensive diamond from anywhere but a conventional retailer was out of the question for most couples.
Today, of course, everything has been flipped on its head with the digital world now a ubiquitous reality. Thankfully, Blue Nile saw what the world would look like in another two decades, and it spent that time improving the quality of its platform. To fund its growth, Blue Nile went public in May 2004 with an IPO that raised $76 million in cash for the company.
Blue Nile primarily invested its IPO windfall into optimizing its shopping experience and improving its supply chain for diamond rings. Today, at least 70 percent of the company’s revenue comes from engagement rings. We should, therefore, expect an excellent buying experience and the best prices around when buying from Blue Nile. To put the company’s claims to the test, let’s start by examining how the Blue Nile shopping platform looks and feels.
Searching for Diamonds on Blue Nile
When you first visit Blue Nile’s website, you are immediately presented with buttons driving you to shop for diamonds, engagement rings, and wedding rings. Other jewelry is given less priority, and this is understandable considering that the company primarily focuses on the engagement ring market.
The website has a relatively basic design because it is designed to be highly functional. I personally like websites that are very detailed, but I think that Blue Nile’s platform strikes a good balance between providing information and ensuring usability. The website is also squarely focused on diamond rings, so you do not have to worry about getting drawn into buying other products, such as wedding dresses, bridal tours, or other purchases that are probably on your mind if you are on the road to getting married.
If you click on the “shop for diamonds” button, you will be sent to a very advanced diamond search engine. In total, Blue Nile was offering an astounding 137,042 diamonds at the time when I wrote this review. When you consider how there are a limited number of couples looking to get married in the near future, you can see that a substantial portion of newlyweds are currently walking around with Blue Nile diamonds. Overall, the search tool lets you sort by several factors, including:
Shape: Most couples choose ordinary round diamonds, but pear, heart, and princess diamonds are becoming increasingly popular. Blue Nile lets you choose between a total of 10 different diamond shapes.
Price: You can choose between prices ranging from just $293 to $2,921,157 for the diamond itself. Keep in mind that these prices do not include the cost of your ring.
Carat: Pretty much all diamond sizes are available since Blue Nile offers everything from a quarter of a carat to 21 carats. I liked the ability to search by sizes very much since I wanted my ring to be at least one carat.
Cut: The quality of a diamond’s cut varies depending on the quality of the base material and the skill level of the jeweler who made the gem. “Astor Ideal” is the cut that will look best, but less than 1 percent of available diamonds have this cut. Of course, “good” and “very good” cuts can also be acceptable, and buying these cuts can save you a lot of money.
Color: “D” is the ideal colorless grade while “Z” is the lowest grade. Blue Nile does not carry low-grade diamonds, so most of the available gems are nearly colorless to the untrained eye.
Clarity: Some diamonds can get blemished over time, so you should make sure that your diamond is at least reasonably clear. Most of the clarity levels that Blue Nile provides information about, including VVS1, VS1, and Sl1, have imperfections that are only noticeable when your diamond is viewed under a microscope.
With the extensive information that Blue Nile provides, it is relatively straightforward to choose the diamond that you want. Once you input all of the limiting factors that you would like to incorporate into your search, you can scroll down the page to view a table of matching diamonds that are available.
Comparing Diamonds on Blue Nile
When you first view the table of available diamonds that meet your specifications, you will probably feel overwhelmed because Blue Nile will provide you with thousands of diamonds to choose from as long as your search is not too specific. In my case, I set the carat range at 1 to 1.1 and set the price to $10,000 or below. Blue Nile still provided me with 12,210 results despite the relatively restrictive settings that I used. In terms of selection, therefore, Blue Nile is definitely one of the best providers on the market.
Of course, a massive haystack of available diamonds is useless unless you can employ search tools to pick out the diamond that is best in your situation. Thankfully, Blue Nile provides plenty of comparison tools to make choosing your diamond simple.
Results are arranged in a table so that you can sort them across several dimensions. In my case, I sorted my results by price so that I could identify the cheapest diamond that met my criteria. You will, however, want to sift through your results extensively because there can be some hidden treasures in the mix. For $3,520, I was able to find a diamond with a “very good” cut and a nearly perfect “H” color.
On the page for the ring that you chose, there is a massive amount of information about the specific diamond that you are considering. Some of the key factors that I like include:
- Product Images
Blue Nile actually goes to the length of providing 360-degree images of each diamond that it sells. The company sells plenty of diamonds, so it has no problem affording the photography equipment necessary to show real images. Although real images certainly are not a requirement, they are a nice extra touch that clarifies the care Blue Nile puts into ensuring that its customers can feel confident about their purchase.
- Free Shipping and Returns
There is nothing worse than spending several thousand dollars on a product only to have to pay for shipping and handling. Shipping costs could arguably be factored into the total purchase price, but I think that the availability of free shipping gives Blue Nile a premium feel.
Most importantly, you will also notice that Blue Nile offers free returns. Statistics show that 20 percent of engagements are called off before marriage, so the ability to return your ring for a full refund is a huge benefit. With most local jewelers and online stores, you are simply out of luck if you have to return your ring. In many cases, you are lucky to get half of your ring’s value back if you have to sell it elsewhere.
- GIA Report
The Gemological Institute of America has been around for almost a century, but it has done a remarkable job of staying on the cutting edge in terms of digital technology. When GIA started offering PDF reports for free on its website in 2010, Blue Nile seized the opportunity to use these reports on its own website. Today, you can actually see an authentic GIA report for all of the Blue Nile diamonds that are offered. I personally love that Blue Nile offers GIA reports since these documents prove that your diamond is authentic and that it matches Blue Nile’s claims. I looked through dozens of diamonds throughout my search and found Blue Nile’s claims to be perfectly accurate.
Using the information that Blue Nile provides, it is relatively straightforward to make your final selection. Since Blue Nile breaks the buying process into an optimized marketplace, you basically get what you pay for. If you spend more, you will, then, get the higher quality of diamond that you should expect. Most diamond buyers are not gem experts, so I personally think that it is extremely important for a marketplace to ensure that prices match value to the average consumer.
Blue Nile Engagement Rings
Once you have chosen your diamond, the next step is to pick your ring. The ring selection tool is another reason why I love Blue Nile since it automatically shows only the rings that can fit your diamond. You will not, therefore, have to sift through dozens of rings to manually find one that fits. Instead, you are only presented with the rings that are relevant to you.
As with diamonds, Blue Nile offers a vast assortment of rings. For my one-carat diamond, there were 365 matching results. Everything from plain bands to exotic diamond-encrusted rings were available. After browsing through the available selection, I decided to go for one of the diamond bands. The one I chose cost $1,980 and features 12 small diamonds that collectively add up to half a carat. The ring came with a lifetime warranty and also qualified for free returns.
The only aspect of Blue Nile’s ring selector that I did not like was that there was limited information available about what shapes or materials are suitable for a particular ring. I know from experience that platinum is generally seen as best for drawing out the beauty of a perfect gem, but it was not immediately clear to a shopper what the benefits would be if other materials were used, such as rose gold or white gold. Blue Nile does, however, let you preview what your diamond will look like on your ring, so you can use your own judgement to decide what ring looks best.
Financing Options From Blue Nile
Before moving on, it is important to point out that Blue Nile offers its own financing. I personally found the availability of financing to be surprising since I know that other people in my family have had to go to a bank or use their credit cards to fund the purchase of their engagement ring. Do you have three months worth of income lying around for an engagement ring? I sure did not. Therefore, I think that it is important to discuss the financing issue in detail since these rings often have to be purchased in a hurry. Your financing options from Blue Nile include:
- No interest for 6 to 18 months: Blue Nile varies the term of its interest-free loans depending on the amount that you borrow. You only get 6 months of interest-free financing if you borrow $1,500 or less, but you can get as much as 18 months without interest if you borrow $2,000 or more.
- Installment loan at 9.99 percent APR: If equal installment payments are more important for you, Blue Nile offers up to 5-year installment loans at 9.99 percent interest. However, you have to be extremely careful to make your payments on time because missing a payment will cause your loan to revert to 29.99 percent APR.
- 25 days grace: If you think that you will struggle to make your payments on time, the final option is to take out a variable loan at 29.99 percent APR. The advantage of the variable loan is that the minimum payment is just $27 plus interest, and you can make your payments up to 25 days late.
When I bought my ring, I chose to take advantage of interest-free financing because I was sure that I would be able to pay off my balance within 18 months. I took out a loan for half of my ring’s cost, and I financed the other half. However, you should evaluate your own personal financial situation to decide whether taking out a loan is the right choice for you. Keep in mind that Blue Nile’s financing is through Comenity Capital Bank, so you will need to have an established credit score to qualify for financing.
Once I had secured financing through Blue Nile, I went ahead and placed my order. There were not any unexpected charges when I arrived at the checkout page. In fact, Blue Nile actually gave me a 1.5 percent discount for paying by wire transfer for the portion of the bill that I paid immediately.
As I made my purchase, I was repeatedly prompted with message boxes inviting me to chat with the company’s staff about my order. Since I planned on making this review, I decided to call Blue Nile at the phone number listed on its website. A representative answered the phone almost immediately, and the individual provided clear answers to my questions. Blue Nile’s representatives are clearly screened for their friendliness and based in the U.S., so I have no complaints about their customer service team.
When my package finally arrived 10 days after I had placed my order, I could hardly contain my excitement. Although my partner had linked me to the rings that she liked, she had no idea that I had ordered her a ring. Therefore, I opened the rather large package to view the contents inside.
The first item I noticed when I opened the delivery box was a thick blue packet marked “important documents enclosed.” Inside, there was a receipt that Blue Nile’s shipping officer had signed by hand. I especially liked how the company enclosed clear information about how to return the ring. Many companies try to make returns incredibly difficult to avoid giving your money back, so I really thought that the return policy information was a nice extra touch.
Most importantly, the ring itself looked exactly like what I had ordered. It was dazzling to see a huge diamond surrounded by platinum and sparkling gems. Overall, I was quite pleased with the delivery experience. When I was later able to show the packaging to my partner, she was impressed as well.
Advantages of Blue Nile
As with all purchasing decisions, the best provider is usually determined by a set of personal factors. No two people have the same needs, so it is unrealistic to expect Blue Nile engagement rings to be best for everyone in all situations. I would, however, keep the following advantages in mind when considering Blue Nile:
- Blue Nile’s return policy is exceptional since you can return anything for a full refund within 30 days.
- The support team is happy to help if something goes wrong, including when you are dissatisfied.
- Blue Nile has an “A+” rating with the BBB and better reviews than other providers that I considered.
- I had few complaints about Blue Nile’s service or products throughout the buying process, and there were no last-minute strings attached.
Disadvantages of Blue Nile
- Although Blue Nile provides good information about its products, online images cannot compare to viewing a ring in person at a conventional store.
- Blue Nile’s financing is expensive since its loans are not secured by the asset that you purchase. You may, therefore, want to consider alternative modes of financing, such as low-interest credit cards or refinancing one of your other secured loans, to save money if you need long-term credit.
- Returns over $500 require you to call the company and submit paperwork, so it may take a couple of weeks to get your money back.
If you have made the decision to buy a ring but cannot decide where to look, I recommend starting with Blue Nile to see what it has to offer. You will only need to spend a few minutes on the company’s website to browse through some of its inventory and compare prices. Likewise, if you are the type of person who simply wants the best, the truth is that Blue Nile is hard to beat. Prices are about 40 percent less than at other stores, so you can stretch your budget further to get a better ring.
I personally was quite satisfied with Blue Nile and would recommend the company to other couples. The products match your order exactly, and the purchasing experience is better than in a store. I felt especially comfortable ordering from Blue Nile since I knew that it always accepts returns for any reason. The bottom line is that Blue Nile was the right choice in my situation, but you should definitely evaluate the competition as well to make sure that you get the most value possible.