Ok. Now we’ve covered the fact that there is a big difference between buying an engagement ring online vs. in store depending on what kind of store it is. And then we covered exactly what those differences are when you’re comparing chain stores to independents. Now, let’s leave chain stores out of the equation entirely (as they should be.) It’s time to compare buying an engagement ring online to buying an engagement ring at a local (independent) jeweler.
First, we need to control for a few things. The first is reputation. I liked that the Money Under 30 post that sparked this whole tirade insisted that reputation was important, no matter where you shop. So today’s comparison will be organic, Whole Foods, sustainably farmed apples to oranges. No one’s buying anything on the side of the road, ok?
Your jeweler, whether they’re online or brick and mortar should have a great reputation (the longer the better), a no questions asked return policy on stock orders (custom orders are the only exception), and insured shipping (that one applies mainly to our online-only friends.) If you’re shopping on eBay, you should only be looking at sellers who fulfill these requirements – and they’re very likely selling elsewhere online too. But for today’s purposes, we’ll stick to the big guys who you’ve probably seen on your FB ads and Pandora pop ups.
Online jewelers can hold their own with the biggest and best independent jewelers, mainly when it comes to diamonds. They don’t have to securely store any of these rocks because they don’t have a physical location. Therefore they don’t have to outright purchase them. Rather, they rely on a trusted network of diamond dealers to supply exactly what their customers are looking for. This is a picky shopper’s dream come true. You can use a diamond search tool to specify precisely what you want, and the internet fairies will fetch you an exact price for your 1.74 carat, G, VS 1, triple excellent, 61% depth, GIA certified round brilliant.
If that sounds like a nightmare, and you’d rather shop for a diamond you can see is physically beautiful without getting your graduate gemologist degree, well…you know which shopping option is a better fit. And it doesn’t mean you won’t see dozens of diamonds either – just shop with a local jeweler who has a huge selection and a varied selection.
Also bear in mind how important setting is to you. If you’d like something simple, shopping from an online jeweler is a great choice, because your focus will be on the diamond only. But if you have a particular style in mind – or especially a particular brand – you will need to find an authorized dealer. All the better for you if you can find an authorized dealer who carries several designers. This way you can see the differences in design style, price point, and customization options.
Again, reputation is important here. Your online jeweler should be happy to do returns and exchanges, and service your ring. It should also come with a warranty to cover anything extensive. However, you’ll need to send your ring in.
For some brides this is NBD. For others, they may as well chop off your ring finger to FedEx along with your prized possession. If you shop local, your fiancé (and later wife!) can stop by whenever she’d like for a free cleaning or prong check. If her white gold ring needs to be rhodium plated, it’s done in an hour or so, rather than requiring a days long separation. As long as you’re shopping with a reputable online jeweler, the service will be very similar, just a little less convenient.
Of course, for some couples, the purchase of an engagement ring means establishing a lifelong relationship with their jeweler. It means becoming “part of the family” and knowing exactly who you can call for birthdays, anniversaries, push presents, retirement gifts, etc. It means you’ll have “a jewelry guy” or girl you turn to, and it also means you’re the first to hear about the best deals and most exciting new pieces in the store.
There’s a lot of talk about online jewelers hands down being the lowest price. Without the overhead of a physical location and without having to actually purchase their inventory, this is often true. However you have to read the fine print.
Make sure you are not getting a “great deal” on a diamond an independent jeweler wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole thanks to an asterisk on the certificate.
More likely, the price difference between comparable diamonds will be hundreds, not thousands. And you just weigh those savings against the aforementioned perks, and the possibility of a long-term working relationship (and family discount once you stick around long enough) on future purchases from your local jeweler.
This is something that you can see with your own eyes, whether you’re getting your already purchased ring in the mail, or you’re checking out a potential stunner under the diamond lights at your jeweler. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – you will be able to spot a quality diamond. You don’t need a piece of paper to back up your judgment (though it won’t hurt to have.) And if you’re making sure to shop at a reputable jeweler, no matter where in cyberspace or physical space they are, it’s your first step to getting a quality ring.