In 2015, so much of the wedding-planning process can be outsourced to the Internet. You can order and arrange the flowers online, create a universal gift registry, choose the dress, and even cheaply create a personalized app in lieu of regular invitations. The latest wedding essential to be digitized is the engagement ring process, with jewelers like Brilliant Earth and James Allen offering smart ways to design your ring online.
In the past 12 months, the number of people using James Allen’s virtual engagement ring design service has doubled, with couples, men, and women choosing to avoid pushy salespeople in stores (so annoying) and mass-produced pieces by designing their own rings.
“Our customers appreciate that they can control the entire process from start to finish. They want to educate themselves rather than being directed by a sales associate. They also want to feel that they’re personalizing this very important purchase for the person receiving it—they take pride in picking out each and every detail, showing their significant other that they can get it right,” Oded Edelman, the company’s CEO and founder, told us.
Sundesh, 34, from San Francisco, recently used the online service to create a ring for his fiancée (you can check out what he came up with here). When planning to pop the question, he starting combing through online forums for ring inspo, and he stumbled upon James Allen’s DIY service. “I loved the fact that I could see the actual diamond and compare it with other diamonds on the website before purchasing,” he explained.
Shoppers navigate through the site by choosing various filters, including picking between styles such as solitaire, halo, pavé, and vintage, choosing the metal (white, yellow, or rose gold, or platinum), and selecting the gemstone.
In the end, Sundesh got down on one knee with a comfort-fit setting and a high-carat dazzler. “I wanted a simple ring where the diamond really stands out,” he noted.
We know that you’re probably thinking, This is a diamond, not some flippant, impulse purchase from ASOS. But tech entrepreneurs have made the online experience just as great as (maybe even better than) the in-person shopping experience with “diamond display technology” that lets you zoom in on 360-degree views of hundreds of different stones. Photos are extremely vivid, so you really can see what you’re ordering. “Within the diamond [options], we have filters for all of the four Cs, diamond shapes, and more. This way, you’ll be able to design exactly the ring you’re looking for,” said Edelman.
You don’t have to be a diamond or jewelry expert to design your ring online either—it’s built for folks like us (and Sundesh), who haven’t the faintest idea about the four Cs. When testing out the service ourselves, we chatted online in real time with a diamond consultant who was able to explain all the nitty-gritty stuff in layman’s terms. (Important: These experts are not commissioned, which means they’re hired to inform and help, not up-sell you!)
Of course, there’s also the critical issue of budget to consider when picking an engagement ring, and it’s one more category in which designing your ring online wins out. Compared with traditional brick-and-mortar jewelers, James Allen promises to pass on savings of between 30 percent and 50 percent to customers while still offering conflict-free stones—hardly an insignificant amount when you’re talking about diamonds. “It also gives you access to an inventory that a physical store could never supply. Our inventory of over 70,000 diamonds and hundreds of settings means you can get exactly what you want,” added Edelman.
After placing an order, you can expect to receive the ring in five to 15 days, and you can return it for a full refund if you don’t love it (or, um, the proposal doesn’t go as planned). In Sundesh’s case, things did go well: “I nailed it! She still thinks it’s the most beautiful ring in the world.”
If you’re keen to get creative and design your own ring online, here are a few key tips to keep in mind.
Depending on your budget, you’ll probably have to compromise on one of the four Cs when it comes to diamond selection. Edelman recommends prioritizing the diamond’s cut over other factors: “Don’t sacrifice on cut; instead, go for eye-clean clarity and color,” he said, explaining, “diamonds with excellent or ideal proportions cost slightly more, but will look larger and more brilliant than any other cuts.
An “under-size” diamond is a stone that weights just under a cutoff weight such as one carat or 0.5 carats. Edelman promises it makes financial sense to choose one of these stones: “You will save substantial sums of money on a diamond that looks essentially the same as a cutoff-weight diamond to the naked eye. Online retailers are a great source of these under-size diamonds as they have tremendous supply.”
The general rule to remember when choosing the band for your ring is that wide bands tend to complement longer fingers, while thinner, smaller settings are often more flattering on short fingers.
Specifically, there are two things you need for peace of mind when buying any expensive jewelry online. First, make sure the diamond you’re buying is certified and comes with an authenticity certificate. Also, double-check the online store’s return policy, so you’re not stuck with something you don’t love.