Blue Nile Review
When it comes to online jewelers, no one has been around longer than the reigning champ of the space: Blue Nile. Formally founded in 1999, Blue Nile was the first major player in the online space and has maintained their position at the top of the industry by consistently putting out the largest inventory of diamonds at some of the lowest prices available anywhere. Today, Blue Nile has over 125,000 diamonds with real 360 degree videos and HD images and over 160,000 total diamonds listed on their site – nearly 50% more than the next largest online jewelers like Ritani and James Allen.
Blue Nile was a publicly traded company until they were taken private by Bain Capital and Bow Street LLC in February 2017. Since then, Blue Nile has seriously ramped up the number of real HD diamond images and videos they provide and built some excellent tools to help users find paired diamond earrings, compare diamonds side by side, and see recently purchased engagement rings. Blue Nile's recently sold engagement rings is an incredibly valuable page if you're trying to gauge how different color grades will look for a specific metal type (like an I vs. J color in a platinum setting).
The Largest Selection of Diamonds and Engagement Rings
Jeweler Overview & Ratings
Blue Nile made its mark on the diamond industry 20 years ago when it reinvented the way people bought diamonds and cut out the middle men to offer the lowest prices available anywhere. Today, Blue Nile continues to lead the market on price and has made a renewed commitment to building their brand as the price leader. Their business model is simple: list the inventory of wholesalers and diamond manufacturers virtually to minimize overhead costs and pass the savings on to their customers. It's the closest thing to a direct to consumer model in the diamond industry.
During our analysis of the top online jeweler brands we found that Blue Nile's prices were consistently as low or lower than their main competitors. Notably, Blue Nile's lowest prices beat out James Allen's lowest by 4% in the key diamond types we investigated. There are few online jewelers that can compete with Blue Nile on price thanks to the online jewelers long standing relationships with diamond manufactures and wholesalers as well as Blue Nile's sheer size which affords it the ability to negotiate the lowest prices on behalf of Blue Nile's customers.
Diamond Selection: 5/5
Simply put, the largest and most extensive online inventory available anywhere. One key factor in Blue Nile's price competitiveness is their massive selection of diamonds. Their prices stack up on average with any online jeweler we studied, but because they have a larger selection of diamonds it is likely that the lowest priced diamonds at Blue Nile will beat out the lowest prices available from other online jewelers.
Blue Nile has consistently defended their position as the largest online jeweler by carrying more options than any other online jeweler, but it wasn't until James Allen entered the industry competing on image quality that Blue Nile seriously invested in the visual component of their product. Today, Blue Nile boasts more HD images and videos than any other online jeweler and it's a key part of their brand identity. We harp on images a lot at StoneAlgo because every diamond is different and you need to see what you're buying to evaluate inclusions and find eye clean diamonds.
Blue Nile obviously has a huge selection to choose from, but what's really incredible is that this inventory is exclusive to Blue Nile. This might seem like a no brainer, but most online jewelers carry overlapping inventory. At StoneAlgo we always show the best price available in the case of overlap, but with Blue Nile you know that the diamonds you're seeing are not shown elsewhere for less because no other jeweler is allowed to carry these diamonds. It's a unique relationship that Blue Nile has been able to build thanks to their strong relationships with diamond wholesalers and manufacturers around the world. It's also the reason that James Allen no longer shows GIA Numbers listed alongside the diamonds on their website – they know that if you google those GIA numbers you'll find the same diamonds are available at other online jewelers and often for less than James Allen. Blue Nile has no problem showing full details alongside their diamonds, they have nothing to hide and stand by their product and their pricing.
Engagement Ring Selection: 4.5/5
The scale and pricing of Blue Nile's engagement ring selection is on par with its extensive diamond collection. The collection features over 400 engagement ring setting and metal color combinations from Blue Nile's house brand as well as designers like Monique Lhuillier and Zac Posen. Blue Nile also offers a branded line of upscale engagement rings called the Blue Nile Studio collection. For those shopping for the best value, Blue Nile offers a classic simple solitaire engagement ring starting at $180 in 14k white gold. From our research, all of the prices on the house branded line of engagement rings are as competitive as anyone in the industry.
Blue Nile vs. Tiffany & Co. Engagement Rings
One of our favorite engagement ring settings from Blue Nile is their petite cathedral pavé diamond engagement ring (1/6 carat weight). This setting is similar to the Tiffany Novo engagement ring (also 1/6 carat weight) so we thought it would be interesting to do a quick price comparison between the two. First off, Tiffany does not display their pricing for engagement rings but you can see the price of a fully set diamond engagement ring with center stone so we decided to go with a 1 carat G VS2 since it's one of the most common diamond qualities for engagement ring settings. Tiffany offers this 1.04 carat G VS2 in a platinum Novo setting for $16,500 while the Blue Nile currently sells this 1.04 G VS2 Triple Excellent None fluorescence diamond in a platinum petite cathedral pavé for a total of $8,121 – less than half the price of the Tiffany ring!
This shouldn't come as a surprise as there have been numerous studies on Tiffany & Co. that have highlighted their price gouging. Of course the brand name should command some sort of a premium, but twice the price for nearly the same product simply doesn't work for most diamond buyers. If you like the look of Tiffany engagement rings, we recommend exploring Blue Nile's vast selection of engagement ring settings – you're sure to find something similar for a fraction of the price.
User Experience: 4.5/5
While Blue Nile's user experience may not pop as much as some of its trendier peers (such as Ritani or James Allen), it is simple, intuitive, and has plenty of tools to help users make the perfect purchase. We've already mentioned a few of our favorite aspects of the site (the build your own earrings tool, diamond engagement ring builder, and the recently purchased engagement rings list) but there are a ton of other features that make shopping easier. One worth telling you about is the Best Selling tab on their diamond search page that recommends up to 20 diamonds with the most commonly purchased diamond characteristic combinations (like G VS2, I SI1, etc.) within your specifications, and at the lowest prices. It's the type of feature that has certainly been inspired by the evolution of search sites (like StoneAlgo) that are pushing the envelope on how people compare and evaluate diamonds.
Overall, Blue Nile's site design is clean and intuitive, and they do appear to be modernizing some of the styling. Most notably their new Diamond-Buying Cheat Sheet features some modern looking doodles and imagery that we'd typically expect of a brand like James Allen. This sort of styling is always a matter of preference anyway, and just because Blue Nile doesn't have as splashy of a design doesn't take away from any of the excellent tools they offer or the intuitive user interface they present. When it comes to finding the perfect diamond, their site is one of the best out there.
The Policies & Warranties: 4/5
Free Lifetime Warranty
Like every jeweler StoneAlgo shows on our site, Blue Nile stands behind the quality of its products and guarantees that all items will be free from manufacturing defects for the life of the product. Furthermore, Blue Nile offers complimentary cleaning and inspection of all Blue Nile jewelry for the life of the product, just pay for shipping the piece to Blue Nile and they'll pay for the return shipping.
Diamond Price Match Guarantee
Blue Nile offers a price match guarantee on all of their diamonds in the event that you find a diamond of comparable quality and characteristics available elsewhere for less. To begin the process simply call one of Blue Nile's diamond & jewelry consultants at 1-888-565-7641. This policy applies to GIA certified diamonds only.
Free Secure Shipping
Blue Nile offers free, fast, and discreet shipping on all of their products. For orders over $1,000 you will receive your purchase via FedEx Priority Overnight shipping and for other orders it will be either FedEx 2Day ($500 - $1,000) or FedEx Ground shipping. Every Blue Nile product is shipped in an insured shipping box with discreet packaging so you won't alert the whole neighborhood to your engagement proposal plans.
30 Day Money Back Guarantee
Like every online jeweler we work with, Blue Nile offers a full 30 day return period from the time of shipping. If you're not fully satisfied with your Blue Nile engagement ring or if the diamond you ordered doesn't look as you expected upon arrival, simply send it back to Blue Nile free of charge with no questions asked.
Diamond Upgrade Program
Blue Nile offers a lifetime diamond upgrade program where the online jeweler will credit you 100% of the original purchase price of your diamond toward the purchase of a new diamond in the future. There is one major condition here: the diamond upgrade that you purchase must be at least twice the price of your original diamond.
Complimentary Professional Appraisal
When you purchase diamond jewelry from Blue Nile they will provide you with a professional jewelry appraisal calculated using current market data and reflecting typical retail prices. You'll need this appraisal if you plan to get jewelry insurance to protect against theft, loss, or damage to the diamond itself.
The Final Verdict
Blue Nile is the #1 online jeweler not just in terms of size and history, but in terms of the intersection of selection, price, customer service, HD image coverage, video coverage, and shopping tools. When it comes to buying a diamond online, shoppers have more quality choices than ever before. StoneAlgo only works with jewelers that we would personally buy diamonds from, we've researched over 20 online jewelers and focused on only those with great customer reviews, real HD images, unique diamond inventory, and all of the modern perks our users should expect of an online jeweler. Blue Nile is at or near the top in every category we studied and we feel confident saying they are still the King of Diamonds.