James Allen(4.0 / 5)
Originally named “DirtCheapDiamonds.com”, James Allen Schultz changed the business name to James Allen in the late 90’s to reflect a different image to the more discerning diamond buyer. Over the years the website has evolved to reflect the business model of many other online diamond dealers as it is now owned by a large diamond supplier that shares their diamond inventory with other websites through their virtual stores online.
JamesAllen.com does not own or operate any retail stores but customers can shop via their virtual diamond inventory for colorless diamonds, fancy colored diamonds and even precious gemstones. The business shares a very large pool of diamonds with other online jewelry stores and diamond dealers (mostly in the NYC area). James Allen is technically not a diamond drop-shipper as their policy clearly states that they evaluate and inspect every loose diamond prior to sale. This means that when you make a purchase online, the diamond is shipped from the supplier to James Allen for inspection, brand packaging, and shipment (more about traditional drop shipping in my Blue Nile review). However, this can sometimes be a cumbersome process as shipping diamonds to their office can take several days and then you have to wait for James Allen to visually inspect the diamond for quality control.
JA Quickly Becoming Go-To Diamond Vendor Online After Blue Nile
James Allen is experiencing tremendous growth in the last several years and are quickly becoming the go-to diamond vendor for engagement rings and jewelry sales online. One of their biggest competitors is the very popular Blue Nile however what Blue Nile is lacking in visual aesthetics and ease of use, James Allen has become the formidable front runner. The 360 degree HD digital display images for all loose diamonds, gemstones and jewelry makes for transparent shopping in the convenience of your own home. Even a diamond novice can quickly compare loose diamonds side by side to visually evaluate the famous four C’s of diamonds: carat weight, color, clarity, and of course the highly complex, ‘cut’.
Suffice it to say, James Allen is the clear winner with their attention to detail in their diamond search tool and their large inventory of available products for their many potential customers to peruse through.
Overall, James Allen’s search tool continues to stay technologically up to date with magnified images and HD vidoes, although I did find it a bit cumbersome. For example, you cannot select more than one shape at a time, and you have to input color and clarity grades separately while the search dynamically updates. This can get very tedious as you input each separate value and watch the system update. Another pet peeve of mine is selecting a specific diamond and not being able to scroll easily to the next one. Thankfully when I designed my ODBA Diamond Search, I made sure that this feature was available. When you click on any diamond to it’s details page you can easily scroll to the next one in sequence. Ahh…..convenience!
James Allen Engagement Rings – Plenty of Choice!
James Allen also employs the same 360 degree HD digital display technology for their engagement ring search. Many of their styles are unique making it difficult to find anywhere else. They have everything from a Tiffany – style engagement ring to a highly unique micro-pave band with swirls of diamonds! All their engagement rings are available in popular jewelry metals including: White Gold, Yellow Gold, Platinum and Rose Gold. They also have a wide variety of accompanying wedding rings to compliment any engagement ring setting or simply to stand alone.
Ladies would be particularly interested to know that JA has a cool ‘stackable’ wedding ring search field for the more modern or stylish bride; reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn’s choice. Alternatively, men would be happy to know that JA provides a wide variety of different wedding ring styles from classic to carved, to diamond accent and even alternative metal!
James Allen Jewelry
In addition to loose diamonds and engagement rings, James Allen also makes shopping for alternative gemstones just as easy. Once again, their 360 degree HD digital display technology allows for the easy search of any favorite blue sapphire, pink sapphire, yellow sapphire, red ruby or green emerald. However, their search tool lacks the ability to search through ‘quality’ grades of these semi-precious gemstones leaving the consumer a bit lost as to which emerald or sapphire is actually worth the money. This is where JA’s 24/7 chat service would be helpful in trying to determine which colored gemstone would be the best for your available budget and quality requirements. (Click here for more info on How To Buy Sapphires).
JA also offers fine jewelry in the way of diamond stud solitaire earrings, pendants, and designer diamond and gemstone rings. In comparison to their main competitor Blue Nile, James Allen is a bit weak here might benefit from adding more choice to this area of their business.
James Allen ‘True Hearts’ Diamonds – ™ vs ®
James Allen has a selection of Hearts & Arrow diamonds called their ‘True Hearts” collection which has a trademark symbol. This is not the same as a registered trademark like Brian Gavin Diamond’s Cut Beyond Brilliant®. The difference being that a registered trademark requires a filing with the US Patent and Trademark office. Essentially, anyone can use a ™ but a ® requires legal filing which can take up to a year. There is a reason why I bring up this distinction.
True Hearts diamonds are not fully owned or held in-house like BGD mentioned above. These diamonds come with normal GIA and AGS grading reports that are being supplied by other diamond sellers. It is unknown what specific cut proportions True Hearts diamonds have; depth %, table %, crown angle, pavilion angle, however it is a known fact that they do permit a greater variety of crown/pavilion combinations than some other online vendors. In other words, their “True Hearts” collection is inconsistent as far as the quality of the optical symmetry is concerned. If you were to take a look at the various True Hearts diamonds available online you’d find a very mixed bag of ‘hearts and arrows’ results:
If you read my hearts and arrows article, then you would know that to get a perfect hearts and arrows diamond, a diamond cutter would need to perfectly align all bezel, star, upper girdle, lower girdle, and pavilion main facets to 180 degrees opposite of each other otherwise the hearts and arrows pattern will appear faded, incomplete, distorted or misaligned in it’s appearance. Also, please remember that a ‘Super-Ideal’ diamond not only has perfect optical symmetry but also has superior light performance. As you can see in the middle and right diamond shown above, the ideal-scope images show light leakage through the pavilion. This directly affects overall brilliance and white light reflection. Don’t be fooled with brand names. In this case, James Allen’s ‘True Hearts’ diamonds are not on par with the highly selective and superior ‘Signature’ range of diamonds from Brian Gavin Diamonds.
Feel free to review each diamond that I’ve selected for more information:
Overall, some JA True Hearts diamonds are of great cut quality and represent a great value while others unfortunately do not make the ‘cut’. It must be said that if you are discerning diamond buyer you must know that there is a clear difference in cut quality consistency when evaluating different diamond vendors. When in doubt, always feel free to contact me and ask before you make a huge diamond decision. I’m always happy to help.
James Allen Advantages:
– James Allen’s diamonds have either Gemological Institute of America (GIA), American Gemological Society Laboratory (AGS) certificate or International Gemological Institute (IGI) certificate.
– Their online database houses over 25,000 loose laboratory graded diamonds, as well as fancy color and precious gems
– Actual magnified images, hearts and arrows, ideal-scope and HD videos of diamonds
– James Allen will laser inscribe your engagement ring for free and offers free ring sizing
– Shipping is free
– All items are fully insured during transit
– 100% full refund within 60 days, no return shipping fees
Some Disadvantages to Purchasing From James Allen Diamonds:
– James Allen’s prices are not necessarily the lowest priced diamonds on the internet
– James Allen’s jewelry (diamond stud styles, gemstone jewelry, diamond pendants) does not compare to the vast choice available at Blue Nile or other online retailers
– Their “True Hearts” diamonds permit a greater variety of crown/pavilion combinations than some other online vendors, which basically translates into inconsistent hearts and arrows quality diamonds
– You must spend at least 2x’s the original diamond purchase in order to take advantage of their buy back policy
James Allen was one of the first to have actual magnified diamond images online and they continue to make strides in this technology making it easier and more transparent for the newbie diamond or jewelry buyer. Their website is easy to navigate whether you are looking for loose diamonds, engagement rings, wedding bands, diamond studs, loose gemstones, or gemstone jewelry.
Unfortunately, I cannot confidently recommend their True Hearts diamonds collection as the cut grades found in their inventory are highly inconsistent with regard to precise optical symmetry and overall light performance of super-ideal hearts and arrow diamonds (this just means that for those of you looking for an ideal cut quality diamond, you must be very attentive to the precision of the overall cut). James Allen has thousands of loose diamonds to search through and continues to innovate and take the lead in terms of the next generation of millennials looking to invest in a great quality diamond that offers great value for money. Check them out and if you need any help finding a diamond, remember to contact me!
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