The Ultimate Guide to Getting the Best Deal on a Diamond Engagement Ring

Little known tips to make the most of your big purchase.

With a purchase as big as a diamond engagement ring I did a tremendous amount of research to figure out how exactly to get the best deal. Since this is a one time purchase for me, it felt like a waste not to share all my research with my fellow guys out there.

Here is your guide for getting the most for you money when diamond engagement ring shopping.

Where to Buy

This is where your largest savings will come from.

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Avoid chains and local stores. I support local businesses when I can, but you would have to be insane to buy a diamond ring locally. Local jewelers have high overhead (inventory, salespeople, physical storefronts, etc.) and have to jack up the price on the same stones to stay in business. Online is the way to go.

I heard that the resale value of diamonds is low so I looked for used / second-hand rings, but they really aren’t any cheaper. There is a funny site named “I Do Now I Don’t” for no longer wanted rings, but again they are more expensive than other options.

I also looked at man-made diamonds, which are starting to become more popular. I figured they are chemically the same as real diamonds and must be cheaper. Surprisingly they are still 20–30% more expensive than other options. I suspect this will change in the future, but for now they are more expensive and have a stigma attached to them that they aren’t “real” diamonds.

My go-to for most everything is Costco and I had heard Costco had Tiffany quality rings for good prices. Their prices are significantly better than any jewelry store, but for the same quality Blue Nile is still roughly 10-20% cheaper.

For the uninitiated, Blue Nile was the first to sell diamonds online in 1999 and is now the world’s largest online jeweler. They operate with a high volume, low cost business model. Blue Nile is a publicly traded company so we know their gross margin is around 19% and on loose diamonds / engagement rings they make less than on small ready-made jewelry etc. Compare this to the 50% margin you will find in the typical jewelry stores and the 60% at Tiffany’s. Local stores can’t come anywhere close to Blue Nile’s prices. This is where your biggest savings will come from. Buy online.

Blue Nile also has excellent customer service. I had to do a resizing and had zero issues. Blue Nile is absolutely, without a doubt, the best value for the money. Don’t let local jewelers sway you with lies about quality. Everything is easy to verify with GIA certificates and all diamonds are bought on the same market.

Understand the 4Cs and Where to Make Tradeoffs

Cut: This is the most important C and the one you can’t compromise on. A diamond is essentially a prism of light, and diamond cutters work to let the most light shine through each stone. You want ideal or near ideal cut, which means that the angles and proportions of the diamond have been cut to produce the ultimate brightness, fire and scintillation. Just go with the ideal and sacrifice on the other Cs to make it happen. People often say they want X carats, but what everyone notices and what people actually care about is that diamond sparkle. A big diamond that is cut poorly will look horrible.

Nearly colorless is what you want

Color: The color of a reasonable diamonds goes from D (colorless and most expensive) to J (starting to get noticeably yellow and cheaper). D diamonds are astronomically expensive for something that is 100% not noticeable. H/I diamonds are the sweet spot where they appear white, but they are significantly cheaper. Pair an H/I diamond with florescence (see below), for the best deal.

Carat: Carat is actually a measurement of weight, not size. Small changes can make a difference in price and aren’t really noticeable to the naked eye. My biggest advice is don’t sacrifice cut for carats. Dull big diamonds are sad to see. Don’t do it.

You can also save some money by avoiding exactly .5, .75, 1, 1.25, 1.5, 2 carats, etc. Get a bit under a defined marker for a better deal. You won’t be able to tell the difference.

Carat is also very location and budget dependent. What may look normal in New York looks wildly out of place in the midwest. Stay in the ballpark of what your social circle goes with here. I do think there is an ideal diamond size for each ring size, but that hasn’t been embraced yet. Giant diamonds on little fingers are impractical and look ridiculous.

Clarity: Clarity is the least important C. Natural diamonds have flaws and clarity is a measure of flaws, known as inclusions and blemishes. Many of these inclusions are difficult to see to the naked eye even when you are very close. The grades here are not as defined so you will want to inspect a photo of the diamond or see it in person. Some SI1 and SI2 (slightly included) can’t be seen and many VS1 and VS2s (very slightly included) can’t be seen. I went with a VS2 and can’t find any flaws even up close. You can find some “eye-clean” SI2s, but it will take some digging.

Extra C - Florescence: Fluorescence is a measure of how a diamond responds when subjected to ultra-violet light like daylight or fluorescent lamps. About 25% of diamonds exhibit some degree of fluorescence where they emit a blue-ish glow.

Bluish fluorescence can make a faint yellowish diamond appear more colorless in UV light like natural daylight. Pairing a florescencent diamond with a lower color grade can give you the appearance of a more colorless, more expensive stone at a significantly lower price.

Florescencent diamonds used to sell at a premium, but recently they have been selling at a discount because any inclusions are viewed as flaws. A small number of diamonds with very strong bluish fluorescence may look oily so you want to confirm that isn’t the case before making a purchase.

Band Advice

This is largely personal preference and can be done locally for a reasonable price as long as you buy the loose diamond online.

Metal: Platinum is the strongest and most durable of the options. It will hold the stone the most securely. It is also the most expensive.

Prongs: Minimal prongs may look cool, but the more prongs the safer the stone is. My fiance quickly knocked one prong out of place which could have been problematic with a 4 prong ring, but is a non-issue with a 6 prong ring.

Bonus

Use Ebates for 2% back: Sign up for Ebates and get 2% back for shopping on Blue Nile. 2% on a diamond ring is too much to pass up. No need to install the browser extension or anything. Just sign up and click through their Blue Nile website link before making your purchase.

You’ll get an additional $10 by using my link when you sign up.

Cheat Sheet

  • Cut: Ideal is the only way to go. Don’t sacrifice here.
  • Color: H/I is the sweet spot especially when paired with Fluorescence for a diamond that appears colorless.
  • Carat: Budget dependent. Never sacrifice cut for carats.
  • Clarity: “Eye clean” which can be found in VS1, VS2, SI1 or SI2.
  • Blue Nile: Buy online for the best deal.
  • Ebates: Use for 2% back at Blue Nile.

Happy Shopping! 💍💍💍

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