Should you buy a diamond Engagement Ring Online or at a Jewelry Store?

December 21st, 2021

There’s a lot of information online these days about buying a diamond engagement ring (or other gemstone).  If you’re shopping for an engagement ring this holiday season (December is the biggest month for engagements), it’s important for you to think about what you get from shopping online vs buying at a retail jewelry store.

A diamond engagement ring (or other gemstone) is likely one of the major purchases in your life. You want to be as informed as possible.  Here’s a closer look at questions people ask about buying online vs in a store, with answers from my perspective as a third-generation jeweler with 13 years-experience selling thousands of engagement rings to young couples in a retail jewelry store setting.

Are more engaged people buying an engagement ring online these days?

BriteCo jewelry and watch insurance conducted an online survey in October 2021 of people (mostly millennial men) who bought an engagement ring.  More than 80% of them bought the ring in person at a retail store. Another 11% bought it online from a jewelry store website, and only 9% bought it from an online only jewelry seller such as Blue Nile, or Brilliant Earth.

Four out of five engagement ring buyers prefer to purchase their ring in person at a retail store

The preference for in person purchasing is likely a major reason why online retailers are opening brick and mortar stores. They realize the purchasing experience for high value jewelry like engagement rings still requires an in person exchange or conversation with customers so they can see and feel what they are buying. The research bears this out.  When we asked why they bought their engagement ring in person at a retail store, in-person purchasers listed trustworthiness (42%) as their top reason, followed by only wanting to buy their ring in person (31%).

Chart showing reasons for choosing to buy an engagement ring online vs at a retail jewelry store.

In contrast, online-purchasers indicated convenience as their top reason for buying online (41%), closely followed by believing they would get a better price (35%). Not surprisingly 33 percent of those who bought online said reading good reviews influenced their decision and 22 percent indicated they buy “everything” online.

Who or what influences engagement ring purchasers the most?

Both online and in person engagement ring buyers said their most influential advice came from a jewelry store either in person or on the phone.  So even when buying online, engagement ring buyers end up getting advice from an “expert” jewelry sales person (41%) exceeded only by a jewelry website (53%) and social media such as Facebook and Reddit posts (44%).

Otherwise there was little difference between in person and online purchasers with both relying in equal measure on their significant other, parents and family.  In person buyers did depend a bit more on their friends for advice (28%) compared to those buying online (19%).

Chart showing the influences when buying an engagement ring

Will I save money by buying my engagement ring online?

You might save 5-10% on the purchase price of a diamond engagement ring by buying online but there  may be trade offs that the final price doesn’t capture. What is the value of trustworthiness and seeing and touching a major purchase like an engagement ring?

Your local retail jewelry store typically offers a better buying experience, especially if you’re looking for a customized ring design. Speaking with a jewelry salesperson is likely much better at capturing subtle nuances of what you want your ring to convey. Also, from a logistical perspective, having to adjust ring sizing with an online purchase can require a back and forth with shipping you’ll want to avoid. The same goes for jewelry cleaning, and repairs.

How does the quality of diamonds or gemstones compare online versus at a retail jewelry store?

Because retail jewelry stores are dealing with diamond and precious stone wholesalers on a regular basis with many long established relationships, your retail jeweler is likely to get the first pick of best diamonds available on the market. Even diamonds of equal GIA rating, for example, can display differences that the experienced eye of a retail jeweler can spot immediately.

Two diamond engagement rings side by side
Two diamond engagement rings rated the same in a GIA report can be very different in appearance from each other in terms of color, clarity and overall look.

Do I get an appraisal with my online jewelry purchase?

In our experience, appraisals from online jewelry providers do not always provide a complete or accurate picture of the item being insured. To get jewelry insurance, you should go to a local jeweler in person to get an appraisal even if you purchase it online. While your homeowners insurance may cover a jewelry piece or engagement ring, their coverage is typically limited to $1,000 or $2,000 per item which may fall short of your ring’s replacement value. A better choice is to get a replacement insurance policy from a company that specializes in jewelry insurance. The International Gem Society has evaluated these types of insurance companies with BriteCo rated as best in overall value for jewelry and engagement ring insurance.

is your engagement ring insured?

Another advantage of buying your engagement ring from a local jeweler.  Should you have to make a claim for loss, theft, damage or mysterious disappearance, you’ll want to replace or repair your ring through your local jeweler to make sure you get a comparable replacement.

Even though most people shopping for an engagement ring may be going online to get an idea of what they might want, looking at ring types and maybe even customer reviews, the vast majority will still want to engage in person when making such a momentous decision.

About the Author

Dustin Lemick is the Founder and CEO of BriteCo and a third-generation jeweler with over thirteen years of retail jewelry experience. He holds a Graduate Gemologist degree from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and has in-depth knowledge and expertise in appraisal systems, diamond and gemstone markets, retail pricing models, insurance replacement models, and jewelry quotation pricing systems.
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