eBay has been around since the dinosaur days of the internet. Like Amazon, it’s a pretty ubiquitous online marketplace filled with third party sellers; unlike Amazon, however, it primarily centers itself around the use of auctions, rather than a more traditional retail experience.
Virtually anyone can create an eBay seller account, which means that virtually anyone can attempt to sell you a diamond ring. If you’re anything like us, then your mind probably immediately starts mulling over the risks. And, while there’s every chance that eBay features plenty of legitimate sellers – after all, it is an open playing field, not just for the dishonest – it’s hard to overlook the fact that its business model renders you far more vulnerable to bad outcomes, than good ones.
And that’s before we even consider the risks of buying an engagement ring online, whether you’re shopping from eBay or from the website of a high-end, luxury jewelry brand.
Our rating: 1 star
The positives: none whatsoever
The negatives: a jumble of sellers and items, no consistency between listings, no opportunity to see the ring before you pay, and a very poor user experience.
eBay first found its legs as an online auction house for collectible items – most famously, Beanie Babies – back in the dot-com boom. It was a great site to track down items that, for whatever reason, weren’t widely available in bricks-and-mortar stores. Over the years, it’s lost a lot of users and sellers, but also gained plenty, too. With just a few exceptions, you can find almost anything on eBay.
And, while secondhand items may once have represented its primary draw, it now houses plenty of sellers who have established their own storefronts on the platform, and who promise highly competitive prices – either upfront, or through auctions and ‘Best Offer’ schemes.
Engagement rings represent another string to eBay’s bow, with millions of results and pages upon pages of very attractive – and, at times, downright ludicrous – prices.
For instance, take a look at this (supposedly) 2 carat Marquise cut solitaire ring.
The fact that this is a “simulated diamond” is only mentioned far down within the listing, and there’s no mention of whether the stone is CZ, moissanite, or any other of the cheap simulants.
But the ring is less than $90, so maybe that’s too easy. Let’s take a look at one of the listings with a price that would arouse slightly less suspicion in an unsavvy buyer.
$1,415 is still way too cheap for a 1.5 carat diamond ring, but, if you’ve not done your research, it’s a lot more believable than $87.99.
First of all, we came across this exact image a few times (and from a few different sellers) during our brief search through eBay’s listings. What’s more, in the item description below, you’ll see that the diamond has not only been clarity enhanced – meaning that the GIA would refuse to grade it anyway – but it’s also been graded by the ‘GIS’, a lab with no discernible credibility within the diamond world.
Before writing this review, we hadn’t visited eBay’s site for a number of years and, to our surprise, we found that very little had changed. The site still looks like a relic from a bygone internet era – poorly laid out, chaotic, and totally disorganized. With a limited number of search filters, it’s very difficult to get any cohesion between results.
The trouble for prospective shoppers is that no one who knows anything about buying a loose diamond or a diamond engagement ring would turn to eBay. While finding a good price is essential, there’s a limit to how ‘good’ that price can be before you’re all but willingly investing in a fake. Experienced buyers, and even buyers who have done an hour of research, know how to get the best diamond for the most affordable price.
This means that untrustworthy sellers don’t need to be too shy about posting photos of beautiful rings alongside absurd prices. Chances are, anyone who makes it that far won’t have a rough ballpark figure in mind for the minimum possible amount they should spend on their ring.
When we did encounter listings that looked to be pretty genuine, their prices were on a par with what you’d expect from a real, established jeweler – and, no matter how genuine they looked, we can’t see why anyone would choose eBay over an actual jeweler. For starters, you’re limiting yourself to what they’ve listed on their site, and to not being able to look the diamond and the ring over before you’ve paid.
For us, it’s impossible to imagine dropping $10,000 on an engagement ring you haven’t seen, from a seller you haven’t seen or spoken to. This is where our issue with any online jeweler or seller stems from, and why we can’t see any benefit to using eBay, even if you’re somehow capable of removing every unreliable, shady, and fake listing from the results page.
The cheapest ring we came across had a starting price of $0.02. True, we doubt the seller would have let it go for that – even if it was just cubic zirconia – but that’s where eBay’s prices start.
The most expensive ring we came across was over $2 million. Incredibly, shipping wasn’t even free.
There’s no way of quantifying a typical price for an engagement ring from eBay, since, in order to do that, you’d first need to find a foolproof way of sorting the fake listings from the reliable ones. You could pay $89.99 for a cheap, fake diamond ring, or you could be even more unlucky, and wind up paying thousands for something not even worth $89.99.
The best summary we can give is this: the cost is never worth it. You’re always going to be investing money blindly, and into a limited number of options that may or may not even live up to expectations.
Let’s take the scams totally out of the equation for a second, and imagine every seller on eBay is going to send you exactly what’s in their listing photo. You’re still handing over a lot of money, and investing a lot of emotional significance, into an unknown. Even if the diamond is authentic and GIA certified, and the setting made to a high standard, you might not like the ring once it arrives.
Jewelers aren’t just there ‘for show’ – they’re there to help you make an informed choice, rather than just pointing and clicking at one of a list of options.
We hope you’re already second-guessing any thoughts you might have had about buying a diamond engagement ring on eBay, but we answer the rest of your questions below.
Most of the diamonds we came across were either lab grown, or low value simulants like cubic zirconia and moissanite.
There are some real diamonds on eBay, but you do always have to maintain plenty of skepticism and question why, if the diamond really is as good as they say, a seller would choose to list it on eBay, knowing how skeptical most of us are toward the platform as a legitimate source for diamonds.
The obvious answer is that they’re selling it secondhand – and, sure, there are some listings that appear that way. However, the majority of listings we encountered were for brand new diamonds and diamond rings – items you would expect to be sold via the traditional routes, not on an unspecialized auction site with a shaky reputation for quality.
It’s always a risk, whether you’re investing in a special item like an engagement ring, or just a regular, everyday piece of jewelry.
We’ve focused primarily on the diamond, but there are other risks associated with buying an item with no guarantee of the seller on the other end. For instance, there’s a big step down in quality and value from an 18K gold plated ring, and an 18K solid gold ring, but how can you be sure which one you wind up with? One will last decades, while the other will last a matter of months – maybe a few years.
In our opinion, any store that has you asking questions, or trying to buoy up your confidence in its ability to meet expectations or make your investment worthwhile, is not worth the lost sleep and potential disappointment.
eBay is no doubt useful for some items, but diamonds and diamond jewelry is not one of them. We can’t imagine replacing the experience of sitting down to talk one-on-one with your jeweler, review your options and bounce ideas off one another, with half an hour scrolling through eBay’s listings.
We’re always talking about how some things are worth more than the ‘best deal available’, but eBay doesn’t even offer the best deals – it takes things one step further, and offers some really terrible opportunities to waste money, and wind up with a dud in a ring box that’s probably worth more than the cubic zirconia inside.
Save your time and your heartache, and steer clear of the online auctions.