When it comes to a James Allen vs Blue Nile’s 1-carat diamond, ready-to-ship pendant showdown, which is better? Which has the better diamond for the better price? I break down the contest. There’s one clear winner right now. (You can see it as the third choice, below.)
I’m not mentioning other online diamond retailers because Blue Nile and James Allen are in a class by themselves. The brick-and-mortar shops such as Zales or Costo which offer diamond sales online? They’re not anything like James Allen or Blue Nile. You can’t choose your own diamond, like you can at these two retailers. You can’t look at 3D images of your diamond before you buy. Etc.
Even worse, their prices are higher, because they’re paying for mall real estate, even if they’re also selling online.
Some other online retailers such as Brian Gavin and others … they do offer some choice like James Allen and Blue Nile. And some do offer imaging. But no one really competes with James Allen and Blue Nile in the stunning scope of their offerings. In their inventory, visibility of diamonds, prices, and service.
First thing to know: there are two kinds of diamond pendant purchases online.
The first kind: READY-TO-SHIP, also called “off-the-shelf” diamond pendants from James Allen or Blue Nile. (Best choice if you need it fast.)
These diamond pendants are ready to ship. You don’t get to choose your specific actual diamond. You choose a “product.” Then James Allen or Blue Nile sends you a diamond pendant “off the shelf”.
They’re either pre-made, in a warehouse now. Or they can be assembled very rapidly. My guess is that they are virtually all pre-made and ready to go. They have chosen the diamond for you. They tell you the color range and the clarity range. But it’s a range. And you can’t look at the diamond.
I recommend this way of buying a diamond pendant if you’re in a rush. YOu can get a better diamond, for less money, if you’re choosing your own diamonds at James Allen or Blue Nile. When you let the store send you an off-the-shelf diamond pendant, you’ll honestly end up paying more, in most cases, in my opinion.
The second kind: “Choose-your-own-diamond” diamond pendants (Best choice if you’ve planned weeks ahead.)
In this kind of diamond pendant, you choose the specific loose diamond that you want at James Allen or Blue Nile. And you choose the pendant setting (the metal necklace). Then they build it for you. Finally they send it to you. This takes some weeks. I’d say most often it takes 2 to 4 weeks. But the time can vary.
This is the way of buying a diamond pendant I recommend overall. Here’s why:
- You get better diamonds
- You can see the exact grades of your diamonds before you buy, and enlarged 3D images of them too
- You get far better prices (I don’t know why. I can only guess. Maybe it’s because the stores know that you’re a buyer who is interested and paying attention. Maybe it’s because the diamond industry in general is used to overcharging people who aren’t experts. You’ve seen how shockingly true that is when reading most of the price compares I do in this blog. See the right sidebar. I can’t honestly think of a good reason why it should be so. But I know it’s true. In spades. That ready-to-ship diamond jewelry is often overpriced for the diamond specs of color, clarity, cut, and carats.)
I’m not even going to mention buying at brick-and-mortar stores. (Not a great choice these days.)
(Btw … I’m not even going to mention brick and mortar shopping. Jared, Zales, Tiffany, etc. Doesn’t matter how “cheap” or how “high-end” they are. As you can see from my dozens of blog articles, brick and mortar stores cannot even get into the ring with James Allen and Blue Nile. Not on price. Not on service.
Just look in the right sidebar. Same old story, every time it seems in my experience: James Allen and Blue Nile DEVASTATE the brick-and-mortar diamond retailers on price, service, and quality. It’s no surprise, since James Allen and Blue Nile were designed from the ground up to be 21st Century businesses. Total disruptors, in the best way.)
Blue Nile vs James Allen: Ready-to-ship, off-the-shelf 1-carat diamond solitaire pendants compared for price and quality
In this head to head contest, I chose as close to an apples-to-apples comparison as I could. To be clear, I do not recommend buying off-the-shelf diamond jewelry. You’ll see why below. But it’s an interesting price comparison all the same.
Blue Nile’s off-the-shelf offer: I-Color, I1-Clarity, 1-Carat, 14K White Gold chain/setting: $3,960 on sale.
Click here to see it live. Or click the image above. As you’ll see in the specs, it’s as stated in this heading. That’s a Valentine’s Day sale. You may be able to find it 10% off again later. But don’t be rushed by any “sale” on a diamond of this size. You can do much better. Every day. Without any sale at all. You’ll see how in this article.
Here’s what those color and clarity scores mean:
Personally, for me, a clarity of I1 is unacceptable. Especially at this high price. You can do MUCH better for clarity and color for MUCH less. As you’ll see in this very article, below.
One more thing: Who graded these diamonds? Maybe no one. The GIA? AGS? IGI? Someone on the store staff? I think the answer is: someone on the staff hand-selected them as I1-Clarity, I-Color diamonds, based on their best judgment. I don’t know that. I’m not an investigative journalist. But I believe that is probably true.
So that’s not so good. No diamond grading report from an official diamond grading lab.
That’s why, unless you need a pendant right away, you should definitely choose your own diamonds. In other words, not buy an off-the-sheld, ready-to-ship diamond pendant at all. Here’s why: You’ll get a better diamond. You’ll get a MUCH lower price (surprising but 100% true). I’ll show you how in the very next article.
James Allen’s very similar off-the-shelf offer: I-Color, SI1-Clarity, 1-Carat, 14K White Gold chain/setting: $4,660.
You can find it live here.
Notice that everything except the clarity grade is the same.
The clarity “grade” (it’s not an official grade from the GIA, IGI, or AGS) is quite a bit better: SI1. That’s 3 grades better than Blue Nile’s I1-Clarity.
Now for James Allen’s best offer. If you must buy a ready-to-ship diamond pendant, buy this one. G-Color, VS-Clarity, 1-Carat Lab-Created Diamond, 14K White Gold chain/setting: $2,580.
That is a MUCH better deal. Select those choices (pictured above) at this James Allen produc2t page. Don’t feel uneasy about it being lab-created. Lab-created diamonds are 100% authentic. They are 100% identical in substance to earth-created diamonds. They just weren’t created deep in the earth then mined out. They were created in a lab.
The color and clarity on this diamond are MUCH better than the other two we’ve compared so far.
G-Color is two grades better than the I-Color of the Blue Nile diamond:
VS-Clarity is 4 to 5 grades better than Blue Nile’s I1-Clarity: