I Shopped For My Diamond Engagement Ring Online—Here's What It Was Like

Plus tips on where to shop.
Jessica Estrada - The Knot Contributor.
by Jessica Estrada
Jessica Estrada - The Knot Contributor.
Jessica Estrada
The Knot Contributor
  • Jessica contributes wedding planning, wedding etiquette and relationship content to The Knot.
  • She also covers lifestyle and wellness topics for print and digital publications such Refinery29, Bustle, Well + Good, Cosmopolitan, Byrdie, The Zoe Report, The Cut and more.
  • Jessica has a journalism degree from Cal State University, Northridge and is certified as a life and success coach.
Updated Nov 09, 2021
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My boyfriend, now fiance, and I have been together since high school—13.5 years and counting. Getting married right away wasn't high up on our priority list. We always jokingly said that we'd wait until we both turned 30. So when we did, we knew it was time we finally made it officially official.

When we started the engagement ring shopping process, we knew we wanted to shop for it online. Not only are we still living through a pandemic, but I also love the convenience of shopping online.

Once we dove in, we quickly learned that shopping for an engagement ring online is definitely a process, albeit a fun process. There is so much to learn about engagement rings, especially if you're opting for a diamond engagement ring—from the carat, cut, color and clarity to all the different setting options and finding a jeweler. It can quickly become an overwhelming process. Given that this is also an investment piece of jewelry you'll wear and treasure for a lifetime, it's not a decision to take lightly.

Below, I walk through the process of what it was like shopping for an engagement ring virtually—plus tons of tips I learned along the way.

In this article:

Get Clear On What You Want

Before you dive into the actual shopping part, I highly recommend starting your engagement ring journey by gathering lots of inspiration and deciding on the engagement ring style you want. Are antique rings your vibe? Do you want something super traditional or unique and personalized? Do you want a diamond center stone, and if so, what cut? Or does a different type of gemstone altogether appeal to you?

I spent more hours than I care to admit scrolling through Pinterest and Instagram happily pinning and saving images, but I'm glad I did. It helped me narrow down what I wanted, making the rest of the ring shopping process much easier.

Educate Yourself on the 4Cs

If you're opting for a diamond engagement ring, it's essential to educate yourself on the 4Cs of diamond grading, which are: cut, color, clarity and carat. There is a lot to learn about this, which your jeweler can explain, but I found that having an overall understanding beforehand was helpful. With that, here's a quick overview of the 4Cs:

Cut

A diamond's cut refers to how well the diamond was cut, which determines how well it refracts light, aka how much it sparkles, Kelly Shapiro, customer experience manager for Brilliant Earth, tells me during a virtual appointment. Her recommendation: Opt for a cut that is very good or above to optimize light refraction as it is a characteristic that has the least impact on price.

Color

The next most important C to consider is color because it's noticeable to the naked eye. Rovel Obata, diamond expert for online jeweler Blue Nile, tells me color refers to how white the diamond appears. The diamond color range goes from colorless (D to F) to near-colorless (G to J). "With an I color plus, you'll get the most natural white diamond appearance," he says. "Below that, you may notice a warmish, yellowish shade."

Clarity

"Clarity refers to the level of imperfections and internal characteristics within the stone," Shapiro says. With clarity, the goal is to ensure the diamond is eye clean, meaning those internal imperfections or inclusions are not visible to the naked eye. With an SI2 or SI1 clarity (SI stands for slightly included), she explains, you may be able to see some inclusions with the naked eye, but a clarity of VS2 (stands for very slightly included) and above are generally eye-clean.

Carat

Carat is likely the characteristic that first comes to mind for people when they think of diamonds. Contrary to popular belief, however, "carat is how heavy the stone is, not how big it is," Shapiro says. So you may have two diamonds that have the exact same carat weight but look slightly different sizes. Keep that in mind as you're shopping for a diamond.

Research Different Jewelers

Once I narrowed down what engagement ring style I wanted and had a high-level understanding of the 4Cs, it was time to look into different jewelers. The online engagement ring market has grown significantly over the last few years, so there are many options out there. That said, since you are purchasing a big-ticket item, it's important to do your research and ensure that you're buying from a reputable jeweler.

To help with this, here are a few jewelers I found in my research process. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but feel free to use these as a starting point.

Ring Concierge

Ring Concierge can create completely bespoke engagement rings with a starting price of $10,000. They also have more affordable options via their Vow by RC collection, which allows you to select your desired diamond and setting and create your own unique piece—all you have to do is add to cart.

Another unique feature worth noting is their home try-on program. You can select three engagement ring styles you'd like to try on, and they'll send you a box with replicas of those styles so you can get a better feel for how they'll look and feel on your hand. If you're torn between different setting styles, this is super helpful. The try-on kit personally helped me decide on a diamond shape and setting style (cushion cut halo). The box also comes with a few wedding bands to try on and play with as well. I loved the platinum pave diamond band style that came in the box so much, I ended up choosing it as my wedding band.

Brilliant Earth

Brilliant Earth specializes in beyond conflict-free diamonds, which means they go above and beyond the minimum qualifications required for conflict-free diamonds. The jeweler's virtual try-on feature is pretty fun to play with. All you do is snap a picture of your hand, and you can get an idea of how a particular ring will look. If you're still hesitant about buying an engagement ring online, Brilliant Earth is a good option as they also have showroom locations across the United States in many major cities. My fiance particularly loved Brilliant Earth's selection of wedding bands and chose a beautiful white gold beveled band from their collection.

Blue Nile

Blue Nile has been in the online jewelry game since 1999. Similar to other jewelers, their Build Your Own Ring feature allows you to create a custom ring by selecting a setting you love and handpicking a conflict-free diamond to go with it. You can either shop the site on your own or book a virtual appointment with an expert. Blue Nile also recently launched a collection of inclusive, non-gendered engagement rings and wedding bands designed by fashion designer Zac Posen. So no matter your style, you're bound to find an engagement ring you love. Plus, free returns and lifetime warranty makes you feel comfortable making a big purchase online.

James Allen

James Allen is another popular online jeweler worth checking out. They offer both natural and lab-created diamonds, so there are lots to choose from, and you can see them in a magnified 360 degree HD view. The diamonds can be paired with hundreds of different setting styles. James Allen also offers diamond price matching, lifetime warranty and hassle-free returns. The website's chat feature is also handy if you need to chat with a diamond expert and get your questions answered.

The Clear Cut

If you and your soon-to-be fiance want to create a completely custom engagement ring, The Clear Cut is another solid option. They work only with natural, GIA-certified diamonds. And if you already have a diamond, like a family heirloom, for instance, that you want to use as your center stone, they can help design a ring setting around it. Their gemologists will guide you through the process, including handpicking a curated selection of diamonds for you. Pro tip: I found their Instagram account, and their IGTV episodes in particular, very helpful when I was researching and learning about all things diamonds.

Choosing the right jeweler for you will ultimately come down to your personal preference. However, there are a few key things I recommend looking for in a reputable jeweler. One, check their return and exchange policy. An engagement ring is a major investment piece, so I understand the hesitation of making the decision online without ever seeing it in person. Thankfully, some jewelers offer free returns and exchanges, which gives you added peace of mind.

Transparency is also very important. For diamond engagement rings, in particular, ensure you take a look at the diamond's GIA certificate to know exactly what you're going to get. The GIA certificate comes from the Gemological Institute of America. Think of it as a diamond's birth certificate that includes everything you need to know about the specific diamond, including its specs, carat weight, inclusions, color, clarity grade and measurements. Some jewelers, such as Blue Nile and Ring Concierge, provide links to the diamond's GIA certificates right on their websites. For other jewelers, you may have to ask to see it.

If a jeweler ticks the above boxes, your final decision on which jeweler to go with may just come down to the settings styles they offer. For instance, I had my heart set on a halo setting with a pave band. While that is a fairly common setting style, each jeweler I looked into offered options with subtle differences, and it came down to which details I liked the best.

Schedule Virtual Appointments

Although you definitely can make an engagement ring purchase solely online without ever speaking to anyone, it was very important to me that my fiance and I had some one-on-one time with an expert to answer all of our questions. Not all online jewelers offer virtual appointments, so that's another thing to keep in mind when choosing the right one for you.

During our shopping process, we scheduled virtual appointments with Blue Nile and Brilliant Earth. Overall, the virtual appointment experiences with both were very similar and incredibly helpful. I highly recommend it. Their diamond experts walked us through different setting options available based on the style I was looking for. It is one thing to see the settings online, but having an expert explain all the specific details and nuances between the different settings, such as band width or how high or low the settings sit on the finger, was very helpful.

From there, the diamond experts briefly explained the 4Cs, and we browsed the selection of diamonds and narrowed it down to a few that fit the specific parameters I was looking for based on their recommendations. Again, this is something you can do yourself on the jeweler's websites, but having an expert guide you through it makes it so much easier.

Overall, both diamond experts answered every single one of our questions, including which diamond will take up more real estate on my finger and if a wedding band would sit flush against the setting. Before your appointment, I suggest jotting down all your questions, so you don't forget them.

The only difference between the two virtual appointments was the setup. For virtual appointments, Blue Nile uses multiple cameras, so you can see the rings close up from all different angles on someone's finger, which really brings the ring to life and helps you better assess how it'll look on your hand.

Order Your Engagement Ring

Once we decided to go with Blue Nile as our jeweler, we scheduled a second virtual appointment during which we finalized the selection of the setting style and chose the specific diamond after looking at a few different ones and reading over the GIA certificates.

Then we played the waiting game. Different jewelers will have different lead times, even more so if it's a custom design. Generally, you can expect a wait time somewhere between three and six weeks, depending on the jeweler and the engagement ring. If you're ordering a pre-made engagement ring, it may be faster.

Since we are located near a Blue Nile showroom, we opted to pick up the ring ourselves in person once it was ready. However, shipping the engagement ring straight to your home is an option. Check to see the jeweler's shipping policy. Ideally, the jeweler should ship it securely, insured and require a signature.

Once we received the ring, we were completely blown away. It is exactly how we envisioned it, but better. I love that we were able to custom create it by selecting the setting and sifting through Blue Nile's diamond inventory to find the perfect one.

All in all, shopping for our engagement ring online was a truly joyful experience. The only thing I would strongly advise is doing your research and shopping with a jeweler you trust. Once you find a reputable jeweler and know what you're looking for, the options are endless.

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