Blue Nile Diamond Reviews- Part I(3 / 5)
Everyone is familiar with Blue Nile. They are the powerhouse of loose diamonds online and have been operating their online diamond business since 1999. Based in Seattle, Washington, their advantage in the online diamond market is shear size. At the time of this writing (June 2013), they have more than 150,000 diamonds available for search online at any given time.
The company continues to stay competitive and is still the largest online retailer for loose diamonds and engagement rings. In fact, it is estimated that Blue Nile is nearly three times larger than their nearest competitor! Diamond rings still make up about 70% of Blue Nile’s sales as they cater to the first time diamond buyer. Because most men don’t have a clue about how to go about purchasing a diamond, they rely upon Blue Nile to help educate and steer them in the right direction.
The future growth of Blue Nile looks promising as well with Blue Nile putting more focus on the non-engagement jewelry market for repeat customers throughout the year. Blue Nile’s long time specialty has been their very popular “design-your-own-engagement” ring tool. It is probably a well known fact by now that Blue Nile doesn’t own or house the 150,000 diamonds that are in their “inventory”. They instead utilize the drop-shipping business practice of showcasing diamonds on their website that are really owned and housed by various diamond vendors located anywhere in the world. Some consumers don’t seem to mind this, as many businesses use this practice to save on inventory and overhead costs. However, with the diamond business this can lead to serious quality and customer service issues.
There Are Easier Diamond Buying Options For Round and Princess Cut Diamonds Online
As the age of information continues to grow, more and more people are turning to the internet for reviews, pricing information, customer service, and product consistency. Although Blue Nile is still the reigning champion when it comes to purchasing diamonds online, there are other diamond vendors that specialize in diamonds that make the process much easier and very transparent (see my Whiteflash review to see what I mean). But for the time being, Blue Nile is still #1 and there are some tricks and tips to keep in mind when considering a purchase from this online diamond giant…
Blue Nile Reviews – A Diamond Assessment Issue
Although Blue Nile only sells GIA or AGS certified stones with access to the actual diamond certificate online, they do not provide any other features that would make a true assessment of a given diamond possible. For example, technological advancements have allowed such tools as Sarin machines, Ideal-Scope, ASET, and high resolution digital photographic technology to be available to the consumer so they can offer the novice buyer some help in choosing a quality stone without the need to see it in person beforehand. The vast majority of Blue Nile’s loose diamonds have a GIA certificate which makes it extremely difficult to evaluate a diamond’s cut proportions and light return because there is no ASET image accompanying the diamond (see How To Buy A Diamond Online for more information). With the growing online diamond market, these tools are becoming a necessity and that is why other online vendors like Whiteflash and Brian Gavin Diamonds are quickly gaining traction and notoriety within the industry. If any diamond vendor wants to stay afloat in this market, they will eventually need to step up their game and add this technology to their arsenal of selling tools.
Blue Nile ‘Signature Ideal’ Are Not Necessarily Hearts & Arrow Diamonds
Another concern that we have seen over and over again is the story behind Blue Nile’s ‘Signature-Ideal’ collection of diamonds. People want to know what this distinction means, how are these diamonds different? Well, to answer these questions one needs to do a little investigative work. First of all, Blue Nile has stated that their signature ideal diamonds have the following standards:
Table % – 55.0-57.0%
Polish – Ideal
Symmetry – Ideal
However, most of Blue Nile’s Signature Ideal Diamonds are GIA certified. And if you read our report on GIA vs. AGS, GIA has larger parameters for what they consider an “excellent” cut grade. In other words, what may be “excellent” to GIA may fall into a lower cut grade according to AGS standards. We are not saying that all Blue Nile Signature Diamonds are bad, but we do stress that it is simply Blue Nile’s “opinion” that these set of diamonds are up to par with IDEAL standard diamonds. Blue Nile’s Signature Ideal’s come with a 3rd party Gem Certification and Assurance Lab (GCAL) certificate. See below…
GCAL is an independent diamond research and identification laboratory located in New York, New York. It appears that Blue Nile has branded GCAL’s Diamond Audit Guaranteed Certificate. This report bascially verifies the accuracy of another lab’s grading report. The report information says, “If the diamond meets GCAL’s grading standards, then it qualifies for certification and GCAL’s “Zero Tolerance” 4C’s Consumer Guarantee”. The inexperienced diamond buyer is paying a premium for Blue Nile’s Signature Diamonds just to be independently certified by a 3rd party lab and to have it laser inscribed with the Blue Nile logo and cert number. That is the only difference between Blue Nile Signature diamonds and their other available diamonds. This is NOT the same as hearts and arrows certification, nor does this necessarily mean that the given diamond is eye-clean.
1) If they were hearts and arrows certified, then Blue Nile would have used GCAL’s Heart and Arrows Guaranteed Certificate (GCAL’s Heart and Arrows Guaranteed Certificate)
2) Pulling a random diamond out of their “inventory” like: 1.1ct Signature Ideal, I-SI1 we can see that this diamond doesn’t score well on the HCA tool. This diamond’s score was 3.0, with Light Return -Very Good, Fire -Very Good, Scintillation- Very Good, Spread or Diameter for Weight – Very Good. Conclusion: Very good worth buying if the price was right $7106.00 (which it is not).
Blue Nile Diamond Reviews Part II – How To Find Your Perfect Round Diamond At Blue Nile
Now that we know that we can’t really trust what Blue Nile “says” is a great cut diamond, we are tasked with finding our perfect diamond all on our own. Unfortunately, the vast majority of their diamonds are lesser quality stones that aren’t worth your time or money. However, there are ways to cull through their large virtual inventory and find a perfectly cut diamond. How? I’m going to show you step by step…
Step 1 – Go to Blue Nile’s Search for Diamonds page and enter in the following parameters (Depth %, Table %, Crown Angle and Pavilion Angle):
- Enter round brilliant for your desired diamond shape, carat weight, and diamond color
- Leave the Price parameter untouched
- Choose “very good”, “ideal”, “signature ideal” for cut
- Choose your desired clarity grade (recommend VS2 – VS-1) (SI1′s may not be eye-clean and therefore without pictures it is safer to choose a VS2 or better in clarity)
Step 2 – Advanced Criteria (Very Important!)
- Choose ‘excellent/ideal’ polish and symmetry
- Choose 53% to 58% Table (55%-57% is optimal but will show less results)
- Choose 59.5 to 62.5% Depth (60% to 61.7% is optimal but will show less results)
- Leave everything else blank
Step 3 – Results The results that show up according to the above parameters is a very refined list of available diamonds that are of top cut qualities. Go through the list and see if there are any AGS graded diamonds. These diamonds are your preferred diamonds as AGS has stricter cutting standards than GIA (click here for more on the differences between GIA vs AGS). Additionally, AGS issues ‘The Platinum Light Performance Diamond Quality Document‘ to elite diamonds that meet their strict cut guidelines. After finding diamonds with an AGS grading report pay special attention to it’s ASET image located on the grading report itself (some AGS reports will not have an ASET image, only Platinum Performance Diamond Quality Documents will have this). For example, we found this 0.508ct, H-color, VS-2 clarity, AGS Ideal cut for $1533.00 at Blue Nile. This diamond shows ideal light performance, ideal polish and ideal symmetry. It shows virtually no inclusions and the ASET image is bright red with blue contrast. ASET images help to show how well a diamond is cut. This diamond may not be a perfectly cut hearts and arrows diamond, but it shows excellent symmetry and contrast. This is an example of a beautiful looking stone that will shine bright and show off a beautiful sparkle.
Step 4 – Enter Your Diamond Into The HCA Tool Since this diamond is graded an AGS ideal cut, we can expect this diamond to be brilliant. However, for the purposes of further understanding a diamond’s expected “performance” we can easily plug in this diamond’s available proportions into Gary Halloway’s HCA Tool (click diamond cut for more info on this). This tool only works for round brilliant diamonds, but helps to predict light performance (brilliance, fire, scintillation and diamond spread). As expected, this diamond resulted in an “Excellent” score. For the record, nearly all AGS “0″ ideal cut diamonds should score well in the HCA Tool; so it isn’t really necessary to use HCA in order to confirm what we already know. Remember, this isn’t one of Blue Nile’s coveted Signature Ideal diamonds which goes to show that you really must do your homework in order to find an excellent cut diamond.
Step 5 – Buy The Darn Thing! There are other diamond sites that pull you away from Blue Nile for many reasons. The honest truth is that Blue Nile’s diamond database is easy to use and has many many thousands of diamonds to search through. There is something for everyone at Blue Nile. Sometimes their prices aren’t the most competitive, but often times this will even out when you consider their excellent customer service and return policy. Additionally, there are some settings that Blue Nile offers that you cannot find anywhere else. For these reasons, it does makes sense to buy from Blue Nile as long as you know what you are getting.
***Incidentally, I did purchase this diamond and had it set in a classic four prong 18k white gold solitaire setting. I ordered the ring on a Thursday and it was shipped free to my home by the following Wednesday. I have to say that I wasn’t at all surprized when I saw the diamond in person. It was exceptional. This little beauty is definitely “eye-clean”. Take a look at its accompanying AGSL report which you can see both in the original version and electronic versions below:
In fact, I put this diamond to the real test and looked at it through my scope at home. Here is a great shot of its perfect “arrows”:
However, despite all the grading reports, close-up magnified pictures, HCA analysis, and ASET/ideal-scope images, what you are ultimately buying is a sparkly diamond. How does this diamond sparkle at home? Check out the video I made below and see for yourself…
So, would I recommend buying a loose diamond from Blue Nile? Absolutely. Blue Nile offers many thousands of loose diamonds online and has the advantage of shipping all over the world for free with a great return policy. Although Blue Nile’s prices aren’t always the most competitive, they do offer other great customer service perks that may interest other people and balance it all out. Remember, finding a perfect diamond like this doesn’t have to be difficult but does take some experience. If you’d like some help finding your perfect diamond online don’t hesitate to contact me with your questions! I’m always happy to help.
Blue Nile Offers:
- Free delivery for both domestic and international orders
- 30 day return policy
- Conflict-free diamonds
- Specific Canadian diamond selection (for those that are very concerned about where their diamonds are sourced)
- Only Blue Nile Signature Ideal Diamonds have an actual diamond photograph of diamond to let you see clarity characteristics before you purchase it.
Some Disadvantages to Purchasing from Blue Nile:
- No real pictures of diamonds online for easy shopping assessment (except with the Blue Nile Signature Diamonds, in which case you can see the picture as part of the GCAL report. This picture is not magnified and shows no real clarity assessment value).
- Blue Nile drop ships most of their diamonds
- No longer the cheapest and most competitively priced for loose diamonds online
- Use caution when looking to buy Blue Nile’s ‘Signature-Ideal’ diamonds
Although you can find excellent diamonds in this category, our findings have shown that Blue Nile has a very large range of what they consider an acceptable “ideal” diamond as well as higher prices. Our Conclusion: Blue Nile has the advantage of all other online diamond vendors in that they have choice, and lots of it. If you are a savvy consumer, and know what to look for you can find a great diamond at Blue Nile. Just follow the steps and guidelines given above and you’ll be sure to find an excellent cut stone at a great price!
Online Diamond Buying Advice Recommends!
Whiteflash- “Most visually balanced diamonds in the world.” Whiteflash has the largest inventory of super-ideal hearts and arrows round and princess cut AGSL diamonds in the world and offers some of the top leading luxury bridal and jewelry designs by: Veraggio, Ritani, Vatche, Leon Mege and Benchmark. Be sure to check out our Whiteflash review and read recent diamond Q&A for tips how how to buy your perfect diamond!
Brian Gavin Diamonds- Brian “The Cutter” is a 5th generation diamond cutter originally from South Africa. Brian offers super-ideal round brilliant, princess and cushion cut diamonds; all cut to his meticulous high cutting standards. Brian Gavin is the only retailer that specializes in super-ideal blue fluorescent diamonds, an industry specialty that offers the same hearts and arrows perfection at a fraction of the price. Read our Brian Gavin review for a our actual diamond buying experience with them and learn more about how to buy a diamond with our recent diamond Q&A from our readers!
Zoara- Specializes in certified GIA and AGS loose diamonds sold at the ultimate lowest prices on the internet. All diamond color, clarity, carat weight and cut parameters are available to suit any customers taste and budget. Zoara has actual REAL diamond pictures available for many of their diamonds which helps with clarity assessment. Be sure to read our Zoara review for our diamond buying experience and read up on our recent ODBA readers diamond Q&A for diamond buying tips and advice.
Ritani- High-end Jewelry brand specializing in micro-pave engagement rings that are all handcrafted in New York. All GIA and AGS graded diamonds are owned by Ritani allowing for FREE In-Store preview of a customer’s made-to-order engagement ring. No other online or retail store does this!
Blue Nile- “Forbes Favorite” online jeweler and still the favorite of many online shoppers. Read our very popular Blue Nile Review on how to buy a round brilliant diamond ‘step-by-step’. Readers ask questions all the time about buying from Blue Nile, so be sure to check out our recent diamond Q&A!
Don’t be shy! Please feel free to CONTACT ME with any of your diamond questions! Check out what others had to say about ODBA at