October 18th 2023
The Best Place To Buy A Custom Engagement Ring
By Devin Jones
I tried ordering the same custom engagement ring from 13 different online jewelers Here’s what happened.
Our goal was to identify the best jeweler for custom engagement rings. So, we identified a list of 13 jewelers who offered custom engagement rings on their websites, and submitted an identical request to each of them. We then evaluated the final product based on quality, price, and delivery timeline.
Our custom engagement ring request included images of an engagement ring setting (our "future fiance's" ring design inspo) and a list of edits that made the ring truly custom.
We sent each of the jewelers up to 3 images of the below ring as visual inspiration for our design:
We then requested the following edits be made to the above design:
- Make the ring entirely in 18k yellow gold
- Remove the quilted rose gold section but keep the hidden accent diamond on the interior of the band
- Add pave diamonds to the prongs and basket
- Make the pave quality H VS2
- Center stone will be a natural 2 carat H VS1 (still looking for diamond)
The rings came back at various price points (explained below) and were of varying quality. Comparing the rings on price was fairly straightforward, they were all the same design.
However, the diamond recommendations were less consistent. The color and clarity ranged from G VS2 to H VVS2, with some diamonds having inferior cut quality or strong fluorescence. To put the diamonds on a level playing field, we used StoneAlgo's Fair Price Estimates and Cut Scores for each diamond.
Useful shopping tools from StoneAlgo:
- Diamond search engine - see diamonds from multiple jewelers
- Diamond check tool - enter diamond report number to see fair price estimates
- Diamond price calculator - check fair price estimate by entering diamond specs
- Diamond price indexes - see historical diamond price charts
Let’s begin by level-setting expectations here: we couldn’t realistically commit $150,000 to this experiment so we unfortunately couldn’t purchase the custom rings. Instead, we took the process through the design phase, requested quotes and timelines, and then informed the jewelers we were unable to proceed. Below is a summary of our experiment broken out by category.
|Jeweler||Setting Price||Diamond Price||Final Ring Price||Finished Ring Delivered|
|Blue Nile||$3,350||$20,280||$23,630||4+ weeks|
|Brilliance||$1,895||$16,850||$18,745||3 - 6 weeks|
|Brilliant Earth||$3,150||$20,500||$23,650||4 - 6 weeks|
|CustomMade.com||$2,891||$21,300||$24,191||2 - 4 weeks|
|Diamonds Direct||$2,640||$20,832||$23,472||4 - 6 weeks|
|Frank Darling||$2,000||$21,581||$24,581||4 - 5 weeks|
|James Allen||$2,500||$16,830||$19,330||3 weeks|
|Kays||$3,800||$18,500||$22,300||4 - 6 weeks|
|Rare Carat||$2,650||$14,998||$17,648||3 - 4 weeks|
Deposits & Upfront Payments
Going into this we were aware that most of these jewelers charged a deposit upfront to ensure they didn’t invest a lot of time in a custom design project that ultimately ends without a sale. The deposit ensures the client has some “skin in the game” to finish the project and not waste the jeweler’s time. We were expecting to pay deposits over about $150 on average. However, most of the jewelers did not require a deposit to do the design work.
Five of the jewelers we worked with did require us to pay a deposit to see the final 3D design files (CAD files). We ended up spending $800 on CAD designs throughout this experiment.
- Brilliance: $250
- RareCarat: $200
- Ritani: $150
- Blue Nile: $100
- Custom Made: $100
In each instance the initial deposit is non-refundable but is 100% credited towards the final purchase.
Custom Ring Designs
Since we supplied all 13 jewelers with the same request and inspo images, we expected the designs would all look pretty similar and that we’d largely be grading the jewelers on customer service, cost, and speed.
We couldn’t have been more wrong.
An accurate design provided by Brilliance
There were several small details that caused issues. Ultimately we were able to resolve the issues by giving each jeweler detailed feedback, but it slowed the design stage of the custom ring building process by up to a week in certain cases.
The below is an example of how the design evolved over time with our feedback to Kay Jewelers. The initial design (left) has a few key flaws. First, the prongs feature a very aggressive angle where they fold over the center stone. Second, the bridge in the initial rendering is very long and led to Kay adding 14 pave diamonds per side. Finally, the shoulders of the cathedral were rounded down, as opposed to sweeping upwards (concave versus convex).
Kay resolved all of these issues and sent us a good final design rendering (right).
Kay's initial design (left) and final design (right)
Some designs were completely missing certain elements on the first try, like the initial version of ring designs we received from Custom Made and Brilliance. Custom Made missed the pave on the side of the basket and Brilliance missed the pave on the basket and prongs, which we’d requested in our additional comments. Both jeweler corrected the errors quickly and delivered good looking designs. Although it created a little more back and forth and time spent, it wasn’t a hassle at all.
Initial design (left) and final design (right) from Custom Made
In general, the best designs came from Brilliance, With Clarity, and Diamonds Direct, who delivered the design renderings quickly and were a very close match to the images and specifications of our request.
Ritani has yet to deliver a revision which we asked for a few weeks ago. We’ll update this post if they circle back to finish the design.
Custom Ring Price (Setting Only)
As we expected, the prices for our custom engagement ring varied greatly despite the fact we sent every jeweler the exact same ring to make.
The median price for the custom setting was $2,650, with a minimum price of $1,895 (Brilliance) and a maximum price of $3,950 (Jared). The most expensive ring was more than double the price of the least expensive - for the exact same design.
Prices ranged from $1,895 to $3,950 for the same design
|Jeweler||Setting Price||Price vs. Median|
Diamond Recs & Prices
The diamond recommendations varied greatly in terms of both quality and price point. In each case, we steered the jewelers toward a total price of under $25,000 and told them we were looking for a 2 carat H VS1 diamonds. The jewelers recommended a range of different carat weights, colors, and clarities, but all of the diamonds were round cut.
Here is a summary of the diamonds they recommended with links to StoneAlgo's Diamond Check Tool pages for each:
|Jeweler||Diamond Details||Cut Score||Jeweler's Price||Fair Price Est.||Price Diff|
|Blue Nile||2.00 carat G VS2||8.3||$20,280||$21,141||-4%|
|Brilliance||2.01 carat H VS1||9.0||$16,850||$19,224||-12%|
|Brilliant Earth||2.03 carat H VS1||No Report #||$20,500||$21,135||-3%|
|CustomMade.com||2.01 carat H VS1||9.4||$21,300||$21,799||-2%|
|Diamonds Direct||2.00 carat H VS2||8.1||$20,832||$19,109||9%|
|Frank Darling||2.01 carat H VS1||No Report #||$21,581||$19,132||-13%|
|James Allen||2.01 carat H VS1||6.9||$16,830||$18,239||-8%|
|Jared||2.01 carat H VS1||8.8||$22,560||$21,507||5%|
|Kays||2.04 carat H SI1||5.5||$18,500||$13,732||35%|
|Rare Carat||2.00 carat H VVS2||5.4||$14,998||$17,459||-14%|
|Ritani||2.10 carat H VVS2||9.1||$20,567||$24,126||-15%|
|RockHer||2.08 carat H VS2||8.1||$14,597||$18,983||-23%|
|WithClarity||2.11 carat H VS1||8.8||$20,916||$21,800||-4%|
RockHer offered the least expensive diamond, a 2.08ct H VS2 with a cut score of 8.1 for $14,597. We thought it was a nice-looking diamond for the price.
Rare Carat offered a 2.00ct H VVS2 for $14,998. It had the lowest cut score in the bunch with a 5.4. Kay’s offered the second lowest cut score of 5.5 on an H SI1 for$18,500. Both were not very good-looking options in our opinion.
Although they were among the more expensive options, Custom Made kept us in budget with the highest cut score of the group, a 2.01ct H VS1 with a cut score of 9.4 for $21,300. All in with their $2,891 custom ring setting, Custom Made was $24,191.
Jared not only offered the most expensive ring ($3,950) but offered the most expensive diamond as well. The diamond was an 8.8 cut score 2.01 carat H VS1 for $22,560. The total price was $26,510 for the finished ring.
The customer service reps we worked with were all courteous, knowledgeable and professional. Generally speaking, the process did not feel very organized with the exception of Custom Made who has a dedicated process and dashboard for tracking and managing this process.
Diamonds Direct, Brilliant Earth and Frank Darling, Jared and Kay’s spent a lot of time talking through the process with us on the phone without asking for a deposit. We really enjoyed working with their sales teams. Not only were they capable, but they were also a pleasure.
Custom Made’s communication system and process platform was the best we studied. Step-by-step the process was laid out in a main dashboard making it really easy to navigate and communicate with their team. All messages were managed in their onsite chat interface and we received email notifications when new messages were received from their team.
Brilliance, With Clarity, and RockHer were all very fast, professional, and easy to work with. They were quick to respond through the entire process and really made it easy. All 3 delivered quality renderings rather quickly.
It was really a great experience working with all of these teams. From a customer support standpoint, any of the above would be a good choice. From a customer experience perspective, Custom Made was the only jeweler who offered an organized interface dedicated to managing the custom engagement ring purchase.
Delivery Dates & Shipping Speed
Getting a custom ring delivered on time can be stressful for anyone proposing on a tighter schedule. For each jeweler we worked with, we monitored the time it took to receive a finished CAD design that matched our original request, including the time wasted with back and forth over countless edits. With the design finalized, we then asked for a timeline to receive the finished ring.
|Jeweler||Finished Ring Delivered|
|James Allen||3 weeks|
|Rare Carat||3 - 4 weeks|
|Diamonds Direct||4 - 6 weeks|
|Frank Darling||4-5 weeks|
|Blue Nile||4+ weeks|
|Brilliant Earth||4-6 weeks|
Some jewelers offered lightning fast shipping speeds from the time the CAD design file was agreed upon, like RockHer (10 days) and With Clarity (8 days). However, many jewelers offered a delivery time frame of 4-6 weeks including Kays, Jared, Diamonds Direct, and Frank Darling.