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Our Review of Online and Offline Jewelers

by Willyou.net * Dec 24, 2021
3 carat oval soliatire diamond engagement ring - Our Review of Online and Offline Jewelers3 carat oval soliatire diamond engagement ring - Our Review of Online and Offline Jewelers

So, you’re ready to propose – or, more specifically, you’re ready to start seriously planning the proposal. What started off as a vague idea has become a reality: it’s happening, and it’s happening soon.

Sure, you’ve got a lot of things to work out. From the Three Ws of popping the question – where you’re going to do it, when it’s going to happen, and what you’re going to say – to the Four Cs of picking out a diamond – cut, color, clarity, and carat – starting those wheels in motion is a daunting task.

First off, slow down and get ready for a process, rather than something instantaneous or easy. While getting engaged and married is a way of saying to the world that you’ll be making all your major decisions together from now on, a surprise proposal is something you’ve got to plan on your own time, in your own way.  It’s a great experience, but only if you’re ready to put in the legwork.

So, the ring. We’ve managed to go almost an entire introduction without explicitly mentioning it, but there’s no getting around the fact that the ring – the ring – is going to be the focus of all your daydreams, what your thoughts race over late at night, and the subject of all those questions you ask yourself in the shower from now, until the day you wake up as a fiancé.

We can’t count on two hands the number of decisions you’ll have to make about the ring alone between now and then, but WillYou.Net is here to guide to the entire way, starting with a big one: are you going to shop from an online or offline jeweler?

Why Does it Matter?

The experience, level of service, expertise, and aftercare that you get will all depend on the jeweler you choose to take you through this process. It’s about picking the level of client care you think you need.

For that reason, the question should probably be ‘why wouldn’t it matter?’ instead.

The jewelry store is still a mainstay across the United States. While so many other businesses have moved online, plenty of jewelers have chosen to stay in the real world, working with their clients in person and physically showing them their pieces.

Then again, you could type ‘engagement rings online’ into any search engine and find enough options to keep you busy for several days. They’ve been highly successful offering a convenient and time-efficient alternative to a real consultation with a real jeweler.

There’s a very good reason why both of these options exist side by side – they both serve a totally different purpose. One is based on a very old and traditional approach to fine jewelry; an approach that allows the craftsman and the customer to meet and talk and hash out ideas face to face. The other is based on the idea that, these days, shoppers simply don’t have the time to get out of the house and make a trip specially for their local jewelry store.

But, since they both serve totally different purposes, the results are totally different, too.

Working out which side of the ‘offline vs online’ fence you sit on is the first major step toward finding the right ring, save for actually deciding that it’s time for you to propose.

Why are Online Jewelry Stores Popular?

Online jewelry stores have made a killing offering a low-resistance approach to buying an engagement ring at a pretty good price.

For the average shopper, their pre-existing knowledge about diamonds or engagement rings could probably fit on a gum wrapper. And why shouldn’t it? Unless you’re a jeweler or jewelry collector, what reason would you have to know the difference between a D color diamond and an H color diamond, or between a Marquise and an Asscher, or a pavé setting and a channel setting?

In other words, suddenly heading into a process where you’re not only having to pick out a piece of jewelry on your partner’s behalf, but you’re also expected to pick out the most important piece of jewelry she will ever receive – and get it so right that she goes weak at the knees – isn’t just overwhelming. It’s terrifying.

This is where online jewelers find their greatest benefit. They make the process simple. First, you do this simple step. Next, this one and, what do you know, you have a beautiful engagement ring. We can certainly see the appeal for anyone who worries that they’ll never know enough to build a better ring on their own.

It’s no secret why so many people use them, but it’s also no secret that a lot of people wind up disappointed. Why? Not only because you can never accurately judge a ring before it’s actually in your hand – and especially not from a generic photo – but also because there’s no perfect alternative to research.

Research will tell you about hidden halos – one of the most popular special features right now. It’ll tell you how to get the biggest and most impressive diamond possible for the same cost as a diamond significantly smaller and less impressive. It’ll clue you in on some features your future bride will love that aren’t always listed on the first (or even second) page of options on the online jewelry stores. It’ll mean that you cover all your bases and make double, triple sure that this is the perfect choice before it winds up in your hand.

Why Do People Still Use Offline Jewelers?

Real, bricks-and-mortar jewelry stores offer a direct point of contact between shoppers, and experts who have designed, created, and sold countless perfect engagement rings.

Think of the difference between an online store selling clothing, and a tailor with decades’ worth of experience in drawing, stitching, and shaping bespoke clothing – or the difference between a candy bar and the work of an expert chocolatier.

Everything we mentioned above has its own place, serves its own purpose, but there’s not a lot of potential for overlap. The same goes for jewelry.

Chances are, your partner’s jewelry box features plenty of lower cost pieces – cocktail rings, statement necklaces and earrings, bracelets she can wear to work without worrying about them too much. Some of them, she probably bought online and didn’t think twice about.

An engagement ring is a little different. Like a perfectly tailored suit, it deserves to be given that extra time, attention and, most importantly of all, skill.

Jewelers operating bricks-and-mortar businesses are doing so because they possess a high level of skill in what they do. From the design to the creation of engagement rings, wedding bands, or any other jewelry they offer, their work is driven by a very personal passion for what they do.

For that reason, you get a personalized experience. You get conversation – conversations that lead to important questions, which themselves lead onto ideas, then suggestions, then a design that you may not have lucked upon just playing round with an online ring builder website.

This is why so many engagement rings and wedding bands are still purchased from ‘offline jewelers’, and why, even with the internet taking over our lives, there’s still a very strong argument in favor of putting the computer down, heading out your front door, and walking into a bricks-and-mortar jewelry store.

The Best Online Jewelers

Online jewelers make a lot of money selling engagement rings and other bridal jewelry pieces in large volumes. As a result, their prices are generally a little lower – primarily because they don’t have to operate storefronts, and because they are able to buy their products in bulk.

Like most new shoppers, you’ll probably want to start out by reading our full reviews of two of the biggest names in the business, James Allen and Blue Nile – two highly successful stores that have years’ of experience in matching buyers with rings – along with the easily recognized Ritani.

When it comes to the most well-known names in ecommerce, we also found some pretty significant issues with the engagement rings available through big-time e-commerce retailers Amazon and eBay – primarily as a result of the wide variety of sellers operating on the platform.

For more information, you can read our full guide to online jewelry stores here.

The Best Offline Jewelers

When there’s so much at stake – and so much that remains unfamiliar to you – settling on a jeweler you can trust to pull off this monumental task isn’t the easiest thing in the world. You’ve got to make sure they’re a reputable, reliable choice – not just a convenient option because they’re five minutes down the street from your office building.

The best way to find a recommended jeweler offering high quality, conflict free and GIA graded diamonds in your area is to use our Jewelry Store Locator. That way, you’re setting yourself up to find a gem in your local area, rather than a store that’s just one of many.

However, to start you off, there are a number of stores we consider to be pretty strong choices for shoppers.  

With a strong presence in the Northeast, but maintaining a highly personal approach to their customers, we rate Hannoush Jewelers pretty high – not least of all for the decades’ of experience this family-owned business is able to boast. Also boasting a strong presence in the area is Lux Bond and Green – another one to add to your list.

And, with even longer in the business, Ben Bridge represents another common recommendation for us – definitely one to check out, especially if you’re somewhere along the West Coast.

For advice tailored to your region, you’ll want to take a look at our specific buying guides for areas across the US, including the Chicago diamond district, LA, New York, Portland, or Orange County.

5 Signs Your Jeweler is Worth Your Time

Online or offline, there will always be businesses that are worth your time and effort, and those that are a waste of space. Here are five key things to look out for.

They Have a Strong Reputation

First of all, they’ve got to have a strong reputation. There’s no use giving a jeweler the benefit of the doubt when you’re putting them in charge of the most important piece of jewelry most people will ever buy. Sure, everything else might look good, but there’s a lot to be learned – and we mean a lot from other people’s experiences.

A recommendation is way, way more than a good looking website or a flashy storefront. At WillYou.Net, we know this more than anyone, and only recommend jewelers that have lived up to our own high standards for quality and service.

2 carat pear halo pave diamond engagement ring - Our Review of Online and Offline Jewelers

They’re Committed to Ethical Sourcing

We recommend anyone looking to buy a diamond engagement ring wises up on some of the most significant issues within the diamond industry – or risk finding out about these sad truths after having already picked out and paid for their engagement ring.

The fact of the matter is that, even in this day and age, creating an ethical engagement ring isn’t always a given, and you’ll want to make certain that you’re working with a jeweler who is as committed to ethical sourcing and preserving a positive global community as they ought to be.

They’ve Got Time for You

This is where online jewelry stores start to fall short, simply because of the business models they’re based upon. In our opinion, a personalized consultation is as important to any engagement ring as the diamond or gold that will go into it, since your jeweler will be the person who is actually creating it. It’s impossible to get that same personal touch when you have no idea who is going to be involved in the process of designing and making the ring, from start to finish. 

This is where even some bricks-and-mortar jewelers can fall short. If you turn up for your consultation and feel like your efforts are being treated as an inconvenience –as though you’re being rushed through without any opportunities to speak or get the jeweler’s undivided attention – then it’s probably not the best place for you.

Their Prices Seem Right

This goes both ways. Too expensive, and you’ll wonder where your money really went; too cheap, and you’ll wonder how long your ring is going to last before it starts to show its value.

There’s one very big reason why we don’t tend to recommend our readers go straight for the luxury brands, and it all comes down to the premium price some of them attach to their pieces, simply because of the brand they’re associated with. Sure, if you’ve got the budget, there’s nothing wrong with paying for a particular high profile (and highly coveted) brand like Tiffany and Co, but if you’re paying for the privilege at the expense of the type of ring you can afford, there’s other avenues worth exploring first.

Then again, the alternative is no better. You can’t escape the fact that diamonds are worth a lot of money – even relatively small diamonds. So are good craftmanship, solid gold and platinum, and quality aftercare. Paying a price that makes you jump for joy in the moment will probably wind up bringing you straight back down to earth again, and it’s not something we would ever recommend.

They Don’t Pile On the Pressure

A fear of the sales pitch is one of the reasons so many people are tempted towards the online stores. While they might start showing up in every other ad you see after just one short visit to their site, nobody is ever going to jump out of your computer screen and start throwing ‘best prices’ your way while trying to shake your hand.

It caters to our reluctance to enter into any high pressure sales situations.

The thing is the right jewelry store won’t do that either – and believe us when we say that there are plenty out there that wouldn’t dream of employing any quick sales tactics on their clientele.

Do All Diamonds Come With GIA Reports?

No, and this is another important consideration for anyone looking at potential jewelry stores.

This is a great moment for anyone who hasn’t done their homework on diamond certification to brush up on the facts – namely, why a GIA report is by far the strongest assurance you can have about the quality of your diamond.

Some jewelers, like Zales, use alternative grading bodies, like IGI. There are some pretty major flaws to this approach, but some big benefits for the jeweler – namely, the ability to save a load of money on high quantities of diamonds.

For us, jewelry stores that forgo the GIA – or, at second best, the AGS – certification scheme need to be treated with plenty of caution, since some of the labs offering certification seem to lean in favor of the seller, much more than they do the consumer. These labs tend to be looser in their approach, and will award diamonds with higher grades than a body like the GIA would be willing to give.

Any reputable jeweler will be able to tell you which lab graded their diamonds. If not, they’re not worth another second of your time.

How Long Does it Take to Find an Engagement Ring?

Generally between two and six weeks, from doing your research to finding a good jeweler, arranging your consultation, approving the design and diamond, and going to pick up the completed piece.

Let’s face it, we could all go onto one of the big engagement ring builders right now and create something genuinely beautiful in a matter of minutes. We could be at the checkout, pretty confident in our choice, faster than it takes you to finish reading this article.

That is ‘convenience’ in a nutshell, but is it appropriate given the importance and once-in-a-lifetime status of an engagement ring? No – not at all. And, sure, you could spend hours on those sites checking every style, shape, and color imaginable, but it wouldn’t be hard for you to run up against that solid, brick wall of shoppers’ fatigue.

Look at it this way. You won’t spend hours in a consultation with your jeweler, but you’ll probably get a lot closer to the ultimate, personalized design than you would if you were left to your own devices the build the ring all on your own.

So, how long should it take? As long as it takes – so long as it isn’t so brief that you don’t cover your bases, or so lengthy that everything starts to look the same to you.

Our Summary: Online vs Offline

If it’s not clear by now, we’re big proponents of the bricks-and-mortar stores scattered all across the country, as opposed to the large e-commerce sites that first spring to mind when many people think of buying an engagement ring.

Don’t get us wrong, there are some benefits offered by shopping online – and we’re not telling you to get off your computer and head straight to the jewelry store to talk things through, at length, with your jeweler. There are many, many things that you can teach yourself. It doesn’t even need to take that long, provided you’ve got the right resources to go through.

The internet has its benefits, no doubt about it, but we don’t think it’s ready (or ever will be) to take on the full task of finding an engagement ring.

If you’re one hundred percent positive about the exact ring you need to find – the style, metal, embellishments, engraving and size, as well as the diamond’s cut, color, shape, fluorescence, culet, proportions, clarity, and carat weight – then you’ll get away with shopping for it online. But, if there’s even a little voice of doubt in your head, or a sense that you might not be totally sure about how to handle one of those features, we just don’t think avoiding a trip to the jewelry store is worth the sleepless nights and self-doubt that will inevitably arise after you click ‘purchase’.