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Beyonce said it best: if you like it, you should put a ring on it. And according to the latest data, more and more people are doing just that during the pandemic.
Industry experts like Edahn Golan Diamond Research & Data reported double-digit sales gains in the fine jewelry sector in August, a huge increase from early pandemic numbers and the same time last year. Proprietary research on love in the time of Corona by Signet Jewelers (parent company to Jared, Kay, Zales, and more), meantime, found that 48 percent of couples quarantining together felt their relationship had strengthened, 12 percent reported speeding up plans to propose, and most were planning to splurge more than usual this holiday season, willing to buy bigger and better rings because they’re not spending money on things like destination engagements or vacations.
Add to the fact that December is already the most popular month to get engaged, according to The Knot’s 2019 Global Wedding Report, and well, the pandemic could prove to be a boon for couples — and jewelry stores.
“We’ve seen a huge spike in engagement ring sales as the pandemic accelerates relationships and generally there’s been a huge shift in mindset to have fewer but better things,“ says Grant Mobley, a diamond expert and spokesperson for the Natural Diamond Council. “Historically, diamonds grow in value year over year.”
And while shopping for rings in a physical store may not be ideal in the current shelter-in-place climate, many major retailers, independent jewelers, and digitally native companies alike have spent their quarantine refining and improving their online experience—often guided by the kind of research and statistics mentioned above—to better serve customers wary of in-person browsing or who simply prefer shopping on screen.
“A couple of years ago, I would have never recommended buying a diamond online because every diamond is one of a kind, a big investment, and notoriously difficult to photograph,” Mobley says “I would still recommend in-person viewing and completing purchases in-store, but the pandemic has forced a lot of rapid positive change in the digital retail world. It has made shopping for engagement rings online more feasible.”
If you’re intent on not stepping foot in a store you, Mobley urges reading the fine print, especially that which pertains to whether a diamond is natural or lab-made and return policies, dealing with retailers that come highly recommended by friends and family, seeing the stone’s grading report, and taking advantage of home try-ons and video appointments.
“Use a retailer who gives you that personal touch [of a video appointment], can walk you through the stone’s certifications and what those mean, and can show the stone on camera and side by side with another ring while a human is holding them rather than looking at pictures,” Mobley explains.
As with most sizable purchases, doing your research makes the diamond (or another gemstone) ring purchase less rough, according to Ritani gemologist Ryan Kelsie. “You don’t need to become a gemologist but you want to understand the information [about] the features of your soon-to-be diamond to understand what features are most important to you,” Kelsie says. “Knowing if you care more about color or carat weight is important so you remain within your budget. Do not select a diamond on looks alone and do not purchase [anything] off the salesperson’s word.”
Kelsie also reminds that diamonds are forever and you don’t want you or your betrothed spending that amount of time regretting your choice. “Slow down, shop around for the best price, and do not settle. New inventory is constantly coming in. If you don’t love it, keep looking.”
We’ve rounded up 10 of the best places to shop for an engagement ring online. These sites offer a wide variety of styles, from vintage solitaires to Disney-branded dazzlers, plus competitve price points, and virtual tools for seamless shopping experiences.
Before you dive into all that glitters, Mobley echoes a final tip: “Make sure you love it. You’re going to wear it every day for the rest of your life.”
1. Blue Nile
This Seattle-based veteran practically invented online jewelry sales and over the last 20-plus years, became the largest e-commerce retailer of GIA-graded diamonds. Seriously, there are more than 150,000 in its catalog, including petite nonpareils that cost as low as $250 and super rare Astor diamonds known for extraordinary maximum brilliance, scintillation (that’s sparkle to us laypeople), and fire. Luckily, its interactive search function makes sifting through stones less daunting. BN carries collections created by celebrity fashion designers Zac Posen and Monique Lhuillier.
Special Services: A build-your-own-ring configurator allows buyers to mix and match jewels, settings, metals, and other details to create a personalized conversation piece. Consultants are on call by phone or chat 24/7 to walk customers through each step of the process and that service is about to get better. Virtual appointments in their new studios kick off on Black Friday.
Shipping and Returns: Discreet packages are shipped free with insurance. Items can be returned /exchanged within 30 days no questions asked.
Everything’s bigger in Texas. Since its founding there by immigrant brothers in 1924, this patriarch of forever ring-finger accessories has grown into a 1,700-store empire backed by Signet and featuring diamonds (natural and lab-made) and birthstones at all price points, interactive custom design siftware, and branded bridal baubles from big names like Vera Wang, Marilyn Monroe, and Disney (perfect for the theme park devotee who dreams of being a princess). There’s even a quiz to help you find the perfect token of your love just like WNBA star Ty Young did recently.
Special Services: Size matters when it comes to customer perks. It means they can afford to include lifetime diamond cleaning, chipped/broken diamond coverage, lifetime trade-in value on bridal sets and diamond solitaires, sales, financing, gold exchange, contact-free concierges, and virtual appointments.
Shipping and Returns: Items bought online can be shipped to a store for free but home delivery options like next-day air for last-minute shoppers come with an added charge. Returns are granted within 30 days of shipment and exchanges within 60. There is an extended return period during the holidays.
You won’t be ashamed to rock these rocks (or buy them) even in front of your most woke friends as VRAI, backed by green machine Leonardo DiCaprio, features sustainable lab-created sparklers made by the Diamond Foundry, the only certified diamond producer in the world with a net-zero carbon footprint, and recycled gold. Even the LA-based company’s packaging is eco-friendly, made from recyclable, compostable, or reusable materials like compressed sugarcane pulp. They don’t have the high value of mined diamonds, and critics like Mobley charge that they won’t stand the wear-and-tear test of time, but they’re atomically identical, can be cut into unique shapes, are inspected for quality more than 1,300 times, and fit a lot more budgets.
Special Services: Virtual design appointments with engagement specialists, engraving, mobile design app, complimentary ring sizers, and the proposal care package, which includes ring resizing, an annual cleaning, and a lifetime warranty.
Shipping and Returns: All made-to-order jewelry, engagement, and wedding pieces ship with insurance via complimentary two-day service. Have 60 days to return rings.
The woman-founded Brooklyn-based indie jewelry store has been matching fingers to filigree and finery purrfectly for 16 years. The house line and pieces by Polly Wales, Kataoka, Prounis, Wwake, and Anthony Lent use only stones that are conflict-free. It also offers cultivated and recycled brilliant-cut diamonds. Catbird is a member of No Dirty Gold. True to the aesthetic of the anarchist jurisdiction it calls home, the company deals mostly in daring, hip, non-traditional, and vintage-inspired designs. While it supports eschewing the typical rules of engagement rings, it isn’t set up for custom ring creation. Also carries wedding bands and men’s styles.
Special Services: Virtual and in-person consultations, re-sizing, and styling.
Shipping and Returns: Even standard delivery will cost you, but there’s no charge for in-store pickup. Made-to-order or engraved rings are final sale. Qualified merchandise can be returned in the original condition within 10 days.
You’re solid on your soulmate, but choosing the perfect symbol to slip on their finger? Not so much. It’s for people like you that the Warby Parker of engagement rings was founded. First, customize rings using three metals, five stones including ethically sourced natural diamonds, three types of sapphires, and lab-grown gems, and a wide range of cuts, settings, colors, styles, and bands. Then, Gemist sends up to three of those designs, approximated with plated sterling silver and Swarovski zirconia and ceramic stones, to try on for size for two weeks in the comfort of your home. Customizable studs and earring charms are coming soon.
Special Services: Full, half, and quarter sizes from 3-10, 15-character engraving, and $45 resizing. If you need a little extra handholding during the design process, the On The Hunt program connects customers with a complimentary consultation with a stylist. Further help will cost you $150, but the fee can be applied to purchases and includes three follow-ups and three renders.
Shipping and Returns: All jewelry is shipped via two-day FedEx; expedited shipping is extra. As all rings are custom, they can’t be returned or exchanged.
Founded in 1999 by a family of jewelers, the New York brand counts Victoria’s Secret Angel Jasmine Tookes, Queen Latifah, WAGS’ Nicole Williams, and canine influencer Tinkerbelle the Dog among its fans. Maybe they’re drawn to the splendid solitaires and side-stones, handsome halos, or three-stone triumphs. Perhaps it’s the ease with which they could narrow the search of existing inventory by price point, diamond shape or type, and ring style or maybe it’s because they could create a custom showstopper with the help of a gemologist and 3D renderings.
Special Services: We’re willing to bet the attraction has something to do with how above board Ritani is about pricing, offering a diamond price match guarantee and a transparent diamond pricing tool that itemizes the wholesale cost, operational costs, and the final margin earned by Ritani, and a market analysis tool that compares the price of its loose diamonds, both earth- and lab-made, to 200,000 similar stones.
Shipping and Returns: Free priority overnight shipping and a hassle-free 30-day return policy. They’ll even send someone to collect it from your house.
You can understand why thousands of people went to Jared this year when they needed a gleaming gift to express their desire to spend forever with someone. The 234-store-strong, off-mall favorite offers customization and has a wide selection of stunners from classic to contemporary, from reasonable to extravagant, and from understated to Jennifer Lopez. They also have lines from Bachelor/Bachelorette regular Neil Lane, fashion designer Vera Wang, and the Dutch luxury house Royal Asscher.
Special Services: To adjust to our new normal, Jared has upped their online shopping experience with virtual sales appointments, instant line advice, visual search functionality, a drop-a-hit feature, and live-streamed shows with influencers. Also expanded financing options (private label credit, lease-to-own, and installment loans).
Shipping and Returns: Whether you buy online or in-store, direct shipping or curbside pickup is available. Returns and exchanges are accepted for up to 30 days normally and the window has been extended for this holiday season.
8. James Allen
This digitally native ringleader has joined forces with industry giant Signet, even going brick-and-mortar under some of Jared’s roofs this fall. But the chic company assures it’s still cool, following and using social media closely and using that data to nail millennial trends like thinner bands, mixed metals, diamonds held in place by band-created tension, marquise and pear cuts, and rose gold. Design your own bauble, starting with either the setting (there are hundreds to choose from in six metals.) or the center diamond (there’s about 200.000). Or rely on the expert vision of artists behind featured lines like cutting-edge Verragio or handmade eco-friendly Danhov.
Special Services: All certified conflict-free diamonds in its inventory are photographed in 360-degree HD 40x super-zoom to make it easier to inspect the 4 Cs. You can also book diamond experts 24/7 for real-time inspections. Also provide a lifetime warranty, free ring resizing within a year of purchase, lifetime upgrade policy, and a virtual ring sizer.
Shipping and Returns: Free shipping worldwide and guaranteed hassle-free returns and refunds.
9. Doyle & Doyle
Diamonds have long been a girl’s best friend, which translates to decades worth of dazzlers looking for a new home. This is where the Sisters Doyle come in. They’ve dedicated themselves to finding the best of the best in the antique, vintage, and estate category from divine art deco dinner rings and bold Edwardian clusters to Victorian solitaires and pieces with flower-patterned shanks or colored gemstones like rubies or aquamarines.
Special Services: Prospective purchasers meet one-on-on over Zoom with co-owner/curator/jewelry historian Elizabeth Doyle herself. If you can’t find your dream ring, she can guide custom creations using new and existing settings, sourced stones, a stone you already own, or components from family heirlooms. First sizing, subsequent adjustment, and insurance appraisal are included.
Shipping and Returns: Free standard shipping with insurance, tracking, and signature confirmation; $75 overnight shipping throughout the U.S. Rings under $2500 are eligible for refunds within seven days, but more expensive rings can only be exchanged or returned for merchandise credit within 14 days. Custom or altered rings are final sale.
10. With Clarity
Steeled by their own stressful battle to design the perfect bridal bling, a husband-and-wife team started this online newbie four years ago with the aim of smoothing out the rough edges of the ring-buying process by combining compassion, convenience, and customization. Now it’s one of the country’s fastest growing jewelry outlets and has amassed an impressive selection of loose (natural and lab-made) diamonds, engagement and wedding sets, and accompanying bijouteries like tennis bracelets and pendants.
Special Services: A blog with informative articles and design advice, lifetime warranties, and an in-house credit card are cool, but the real flex is the at-home preview. Through the magic of 3D printing, two replicas that look and feel like the real thing are sent to you to test drive and gather feedback on.
Shipping and Returns: All U.S. shipping is complimentary and comes with insurance. Shipping is also free on returns, which are accepted as long as the item is in its original condition. Whatever you do, don’t lose the diamond certificate. Failing to return it incurs a hefty recertification fee.