James Allen is a powerhouse in the diamond industry with a robust online presence. Analysts estimate that James Allen will sell more than $200 million worth of diamonds and jewelry in 2018.
While you're probably only interested in the engagement ring that you're buying from James Allen, the sheer volume of this company is impressive. Two million dollars buys a lot of diamonds, which means there are a lot of women sporting James Allen engagement rings on their hands.
James Allen is clearly a popular destination for millennials who are buying diamond engagement rings. Although this may be true, knowing how to select the right diamond is as important as deciding to buy your diamond from James Allen. With that in mind, I'll also explain what to look for in a diamond in this James Allen review.
Because if you want to present the kind of "Kick-Ass Ring" featured in this entertaining James Allen video, you need to look beyond the basics of GIA Excellent or AGS Ideal cut.
First-time diamond buyers or paid affiliates write the majority of James Allen reviews you’ll find online. For the sake of full disclosure, you should know that I am a James Allen affiliate. What sets me apart from the rest of the pack is that I also have 30+ years trade experience as a diamond buyer.
I have personally evaluated tens of thousands of diamonds during the course of my career as the senior diamond buyer for a high-volume diamond brokerage. I am one of the minds behind the original Nice Ice website, which blazed the trail for all other internet diamond dealers to follow in 1996.
James Allen Schultz and his wife Michelle launched their first diamond website two years later in 1998. Unlike the majority of affiliates who write James Allen reviews, my relationship with them goes back to the beginning of time. That's approximately twenty years if we're talking about the use of the internet for e-commerce:
Those were the Wild West Days of the Internet! Practically everybody was scrambling to stake their claim in the emerging market of cyberspace. At the same time, there was tremendous synergy in the open exchange of ideas by diamond dealers on diamond forums.
As you might imagine, the close nature of our competitive relationship provides unique perspective into the inner workings of James Allen. With that in mind, this review of James Allen Diamonds reflects the insight and perspective of a professional diamond buyer.
We'll leave the "James Allen is Great" and "My Ring is so Pretty!" type commentary to first-time diamond buyers and consumers who consider themselves prosumers. This review will teach you How To Buy A Stunning Diamond from James Allen. The type of center range ideal and super ideal cut diamonds that Nice Ice was built upon.
Speaking of Nice Ice, this cushion diamond halo setting by James Allen is stunning! I love how crisp and white it looks against the bright snow background. From the position of an industry insider, I have to say that I am both dumbfounded and impressed by JA’s substantial growth.
I’m also a little humbled by the fact that James Allen has far surpassed what I ever dreamed was possible to achieve in this business. What began as a small time mom and pop online jewelry store has grown exponentially into one of the most successful online ventures in our industry.
The rapid growth and seemingly overnight success of James Allen might seem difficult to comprehend at first glance. However, a peek behind the corporate curtain will reveal the secret to the success of this industry giant.
James Allen boasts an inventory of 150,000+ diamonds. The vast majority of these diamonds are not physically in-house but as you’re about to discover that doesn’t matter.
James Allen can provide high-resolution 3D video of diamonds because of their partnership with R2NET and other suppliers.
You might say that R2NET is the brain trust that drives the success of James Allen. R2NET was formed in 2006 by Oded Edelman, James Schultz, Michele Sigler, and Dean Lederman. The company is located in New York City with technology centers strategically located in the major diamond producing hubs.
According to R2NET, they are the Brain Behind the Brands:
The Edelman family is a former supplier of ours with roots that run deep into the diamond community. The entire premise behind the company is to promote the distribution of diamonds via James Allen and other websites. The alliance between R2NET and James Allen is one of the reasons for their incredible growth and success.
Segoma machines capture images of a diamond from every possible angle and then create a three-dimensional model that enables you to see the characteristics of the diamond. Dealers throughout the world use Segoma Imaging Technology and upload their diamonds into a worldwide trading network. Segoma Imaging Technologies has become the industry standard for producing high-quality diamond images.
The high-resolution 3D video files on James Allen enable you to buy a diamond with confidence. With a little bit of practice, you will be able to look at the diamonds and pick the best ones!
You just need to look for the diamonds that exhibit the best contrast brilliance and the least obstruction. In my experience, you’ll find the best options by limiting your search to the James Allen True Hearts collection.
Segoma has an imaging laboratory in practically every major diamond hub. Thus they can provide James Allen with images on diamonds from every major diamond producer. Consequently, the advancements that Oded Edelman is using to create a fantastic diamond buying experience for James Allen customers is available to other dealers through his network.
You might be wondering what a huge diamond conglomerate like R2NET is doing with an animation studio in its portfolio. Perhaps you’ve seen the video of James Allen engagement rings performing a ballet which is a creation of Brio Animation Studios. It is a stunning and visually engaging advertisement that expresses the innovative nature that drives James Allen’s success.
At the same time, I’m rather enjoying the more entertaining approach that James Allen is using lately. More recent advertising efforts by James Allen target the ever-growing millennial market that is flocking to James Allen. For example, this video demonstrates why you might want to involve your fiancé in the engagement ring selection process.
Of course, you might want to take a more traditional approach and maintain the element of surprise. The presentation solitaire from James Allen is the perfect solution if you want to keep everything a secret until you propose!
The presentation solitaire doesn’t cost very much because it is lightweight and only intended for presentation purposes. Ringing in at just a little more than a hundred bucks, this ring says “Marry Me” and does the job.
The setting is secure enough that your fiancé can enjoy wearing her ring while shopping for a permanent setting on James Allen.
Your bride and her future wedding party will love the opportunity to shop for engagement rings on James Allen. There are more than five hundred and sixty styles of engagement rings to choose from!
If you're like most guys (including myself) the thought of trying to pick just the right engagement ring is a daunting task. How are you supposed to know that she is dreaming about this Falling Edge pavé setting on James Allen?
Just do yourself a favor and set a reasonable budget for the engagement ring in advance. In fact, you should probably low-ball the budget a little bit so that she has room to push the envelope! As you might imagine, this will be good practice for all that wedding planning!
But I'm getting a little ahead of myself. I was in the midst of explaining the relationship between James Allen and R2NET. To summarize things quickly, James Allen is a subsidiary of R2NET which is the brainchild of Oded Edelman.
Thus, when we talk about the success of James Allen, we're really talking about one piece of a very large puzzle. The Edelman family is a major player in the diamond industry and one of our former suppliers. Which is why I was pretty excited when the Signet corporation purchased R2NET for $328 million.
In August of 2017, Signet Corporation acquired R2NET for a mere $328 million in cash.
You might not be familiar with Signet Jewelers as a parent company, but the odds are that you’ll recognize their stores:
R2NET has been providing Jared’s with online sales support for years. The company and it’s products seem to be an integral part of Signets plans to grow their market share in the future.
According to the press releases, the current management team of R2NET will continue to manage the day-to-day operations. R2NET will operate as a separate division within Signet. Thus, it seems like the titles on the phone directory at R2NET will change but the song remains the same.
People often ask me whether James Allen is a reputable company. Whether James Allen is a good place to buy a diamond is another popular inquiry. As a matter of fact, that is the reason why I wrote this in-depth James Allen Review.
It might seem counter-intuitive to discuss whether James Allen is reputable at this point. After all, they are built upon the backbone of industry legends like R2NET and Signet. At the same time, the financial strength of a company does not necessarily dictate their level of customer service or satisfaction.
People just like you give James Allen high marks and five stars on independent rating services like Ivouch, Bizrate, and Trust Pilot. From the perspective of an industry insider, I have to say that I think that James Allen has a rock-solid reputation.
According to Signet CEO Virginia Drosos, James Allen has increased their sales 2.5 times in the past two years. Drosos told analysts that James Allen sales for the 2018 fiscal year are expected to top $200 million.
The kind of popularity that James Allen enjoys is clearly driven by the experience of their customers. Five star reviews don't write themselves and people only rate companies that high if they are completely satisfied.
You're probably familiar with the formula that happiness equals reality less your expectations. Based on the introduction of this theory, you might assume that I'm suggesting that you lower your expectations. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
What I am suggesting is that that you set reasonable expectations based on your budget and desires. The best way to ensure your satisfaction with any product is to have a clear understanding of what you're buying.
With that in mind, you shouldn't expect anything less than VS-2 in clarity to face-up eye clean. IN the first place, you shouldn't expect a standard ideal cut diamond to perform like a super ideal hearts and arrows cut diamond.
After all, it can take up to 4X longer to polish a diamond to exhibit a crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows. At the same time, you shouldn't expect a J-color diamond to face-up white in a platinum setting. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.
Look at this 1.21 carat, J-color, SI-1 clarity, GIA Excellent cut round diamond from James Allen from a side-profile and you can see that it is warmer in hue and saturation. There is no way that this diamond is going to face-up white in a platinum or white gold setting. At the same time, the color of the white metal is likely to improve your perception of diamond color and make it seem whiter.
People frequently confuse the brilliance of a diamond with the brightness. Which might explain why people assume that a diamond is going to look better because it is higher in color. After all, whiter is supposed to be brighter, right? Isn't that what all of those Tide and Clorox commercials taught us to believe?
I'm going to let you in on a little secret that might save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars. People tend to put far too much importance on diamond color grades. The difference between color grades is difficult for most people to distinguish beyond a few inches. But you'll be able to see the difference in light performance and sparkle factor from across the room!
Which is why this 1.21 carat, J-color, SI-1 clarity, GIA Excellent cut round diamond from James Allen might still be a good choice. The 40.8 degree pavilion angle should produce a high volume of light return.
At the same time, the 34.5 degree crown angle produces a virtual balance of brilliance and dispersion. The 75% lower girdle facet length should produce sparkle that is larger in size and bolder in appearance.
However the diamond is exhibiting a hint of obstruction under the table facet between the arrows. Which means that this diamond could exhibit brighter, bolder sparkle if it were cut to a higher degree of optical precision. James Allen True Hearts diamonds are cut to exhibit a higher degree of optical precision, that's the next step up in light performance.
The higher degree of optical precision exhibited by James Allen True Hearts diamonds makes them sparkle more than standard ideal cut diamonds.
Take a good look at this 1.20 carat, J-color, VS-2 clarity, James Allen True Hearts diamond. Notice how crisp and even the arrows pattern looks and how much brighter the table facet appears compared with the standard ideal cut diamond above. The difference is the degree of optical precision which is also what creates the hearts pattern.
Optical precision is the consistency of facet size and shape, as well as the consistency the facets are indexed on the surface of the diamond.
It takes about four times longer to polish an ideal cut diamond to exhibit a crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows. Thus, true hearts and arrows diamonds cost more than standard ideal cut diamonds. At the same time, the higher degree of optical precision creates more virtual facets. The higher number of virtual facets creates more sparkle and it will be brighter, bolder, larger, and more intense than what standard ideal cut diamonds tend to exhibit.
Remember that every classification of diamond cut grade represents a range or spectrum of possibility. With that in mind, you will begin to notice varying degrees of precision within the patterns of hearts and arrows. To that end, remember that these diamonds are turned on the polishing wheel by hand. Thus, I've never seen a perfect pattern of hearts and arrows, there will always be slight differences.
With that in mind, take a closer look at the hearts patterns exhibited by these James Allen True Hearts diamonds. The 1.20 carat, J-color, VS-2 clarity, JA True Hearts diamond that we've been discussing is on the left. The diamond on the right is a 1.22 carat, J-color, SI-1 clarity, James Allen True Hearts diamond.
The first thing you are likely to notice when you compare these two diamonds is that the hearts pattern on the left looks brighter and whiter. Don't spend more than a second thinking about that because it has nothing to do with the diamonds. Slight differences in degrees of hue and saturation are the result of camera settings and nothing more.
Although this may be true, the James Allen diamond on the left does appear to exhibit a more consistent hearts pattern. The shape of the hearts looks more uniform than the diamond on the left. The spacing around the hearts seems to be more even. The tips of the hearts do not appear to be bending to the left or the right. There don't appear to be any splits in the clefts of the hearts. This is a good example of the type of pattern that a hearts and arrows diamond should exhibit.
The James Allen True Hearts diamond on the right appears to exhibit more variation in the hearts pattern. There is a little more variation in the size and shape of the hearts. The spacing around the hearts appears to be more uneven. The tips of some of the hearts appear to be bending slightly, which might indicate a difference in the length of the lower girdle facets.
Or it might just be that the diamond is slightly off kilter on the platform and the camera lens is not aligned with the diamond. Did you notice that there is more black around the left edge of the diamond than there is on the right? And the inclusions within the diamond have a tendency to interfere with our perception of the pattern.
As you can see, there are several things you'll want to keep in mind when comparing hearts and arrows diamonds. From my perspective, the goal is to select the diamond that exhibits the highest degree of optical precision.
I tend not to waste time trying to figure out what the pattern would look like if the diamond had been properly positioned on the platform. I'm more likely to just pick the better of the two options in this case and buy the 1.20 carat, J-color, VS-2 clarity, James Allen True Hearts diamond on the left.
Not only does that diamond appear to offer a higher degree of optical precision, I also have the peace of mind of knowing that it's going to face-up eye clean because of the VS-2 clarity grade. After all, if you're going to choose to shine, you might as well do it as brightly as possible.
I know that you've heard people talk about SI-2 and SI-1 clarity diamonds that are eye clean, but I've never run across one in 30+ years of diamond grading. I've always been able to locate the inclusions within SI-2 and SI-1 clarity diamonds with just my eyes, especially when I know where and what to look for. Which is why I put eye clean semi-included diamonds in the same class as mythical unicorns.
(I'm not saying that they don't exist, I've just never seen one).
The industry standard for determining whether a diamond is "eye clean" is to simply glance at the diamond from 9-12 inches. The diamond is deemed to be "eye clean" if the inclusions are not "readily and immediately visible" to a trained grader.
Now tell me something and be perfectly honest. Is it likely that you and your fiancé are merely going to glance at your diamond from 9-12 inches? Or are you more likely to scrutinize the hell out of it? That's right, you're going to scrutinize the diamond while studying it from every angle possible.
Which is why I recommend buying a diamond with a minimum clarity of VS-2 if you want it to face-up eye clean. Which is not to say that there is anything wrong with being able to see the inclusions within your diamond with just your eyes. The diamond I selected for my own wedding ring was a 2.25 carat, I-color, SI-2 clarity, super ideal cut diamond.
I could find the primary inclusion within my diamond readily and immediately with just my eyes, thus it was not eye clean. At the same time, I was perfectly fine with the SI-2 clarity grade because it enabled me to buy a larger diamond.
Which brings us back to the original point about having reasonable expectations. Remember the equation about:
Happiness = Reality / Expectations.
I only had so much money to spend on the diamond for my wedding ring. I didn't want to sacrifice on cut quality because that dictates the volume of light return and sparkle factor.
I purchased an SI-2 clarity diamond, but I had no illusions about it being eye clean. At the same time, I didn't expect an I-color diamond to face-up like a G-color diamond or anything like that.
As a result, I was incredibly happy with my 2.25 carat diamond and the incredible sparkle was the only thing that anybody else ever seemed to notice.
Although this may be true, it is also important to realize that everybody sees things differently. As a skilled diamond grader, it's likely that I'm going to see the inclusions within a diamond easier than you will. In addition, we all have different degrees of vision. Thus, one person might deem an SI-1 or SI-2 clarity diamond to be "eye clean" while another person might be able to identify the inclusions more easily.
You might be wondering what all of this has to do with James Allen. After all, you came here to learn more about James Allen and I've gone off on some rant about happiness, reality, and expectations. In addition, I threw in an unexpected tutorial on diamond cut quality, hearts and arrows, diamond color, clarity, and a bunch more.
That's right. Because over the years I've discovered that providing my clients with in-depth diamond grading tutorials increases their level of satisfaction dramatically. Being aware of the pros and cons of the diamond you buy from James Allen, ensures your complete satisfaction.
Look. I don't always buy the very best, highest quality, most expensive option when I set out to buy something. But I do want to know the differences between the options, so that I can make an informed decision. This is one of the reasons why James Allen is a good fit for me and my clients.
James Allen offers an extensive inventory of diamonds in a broad range of qualities. We all know that the majority of those diamonds are not going to meet my selection criteria. That's not important because a small percentage of diamonds will meet my selection criteria and those are the ones we'll focus on.
What is more important than the percentage of diamonds that meet my selection criteria is the wealth of information that James Allen provides on their diamond details pages. Which brings us to the next point...
The innovative technological approach that the company takes towards marketing diamonds makes them a popular choice for millennials. James Allen offers:
With that in mind, you can buy your diamond engagement ring from James Allen with confidence. Of course, it goes without saying that James Allen offers a broad selection of diamonds in different qualities. Thus, you'll want to know how to set the search criteria to find the best diamond from James Allen.
If you're anything like most people buying an engagement ring, you want to buy the best diamond available for your money. The challenge of course is that the superlative "best diamond" as used in this example is undefined. The best diamond (what) according to whom, as compared to what?
In an effort to provide you with the best diamond buying advice possible, I'm going to suggest that we search for diamonds that offer the best light performance. Specifically, diamonds that offer the highest volume of light return and a virtual balance of brilliance (white sparkle) and dispersion (colored sparkle/fire) in the form of broad-spectrum sparkle.
With that in mind, you're going to want to set the Advanced Options on James Allen like this:
After you set the basic search criteria on James Allen, you'll want to set the Advanced Options to maximize performance. The reason is because the cut grades of GIA Excellent and AGS Ideal-0 represent a broad range of potential.
Diamonds with proportions in the middle of the spectrum tend to deliver the best light return. You generally want to avoid diamonds with proportions on the outer edge of the scale.
Click on "Advanced Options" to set the following criteria for round diamonds:
Since I'm a huge fan of blue fluorescent diamonds, I'm going to leave that range wide open. I consider blue fluorescence in diamonds within the range of medium to strong blue to be a positive trait. The presence of blue fluorescence is likely to improve your perception of diamond color.
The reason why the proportions range for the AGS Ideal-0 and GIA Excellent cut grades is so broad is an attempt to appeal to the masses. Put another way, it's probably an attempt to appease the diamond cutters who might otherwise send their sloppily cut ideal production to a more lenient laboratory.
With that in mind, you must decide what level of light performance you want from your ideal cut diamond. If you want a diamond that is going to perform like a Porsche 911 Turbo, then I suggest the following:
The crown angle primarily dictates the balance of brilliance (white sparkle) and dispersion (colored sparkle/fire). A crown angle between 34.3 - 35.0 degrees tends to produce a virtual balance of brilliance and dispersion.
A crown angle shallower than 34.2 degrees is likely to create a higher amount of brilliance, but it may be at the expense of dispersion.
A crown angle steeper than 35.5 degrees is likely to produce more dispersion, but it may be at the expense of brilliance. I've noticed that most round diamonds with a crown angle of 36 degrees (or a crown height of sixteen percent) tend to look amazing when viewed under the pin-fire type halogen lighting used by most jewelry stores.
Unfortunately the steeper crown height tends to make the diamonds look dead and dark in the middle when viewed under the diffused lighting conditions most of us live and work under in this modern age.
A pavilion angle between 40.6 - 40.9 degrees creates the highest volume of light return in a round brilliant cut diamond. Any deviation from a pavilion angle between 40.6 - 40.9 degrees tends to reduce the volume of light return.
People frequently ask me whether a pavilion angle of 41.0 degrees is close enough. After all, we're only talking about the difference of one tenth of a degree. After all, how much of a difference can one tenth of a degree possibly make? Suffice to say, it's enough of a difference that I drew the line at 40.9 degrees.
Make sure that the pavilion depth measurement is between 42.5 - 43.3 percent. I find that light begins not to strike fully off the pavilion facets when the depth is 43.5% and deeper. From my perspective, a pavilion depth of 43.5% is the kiss of death as it applies to light return.
As a pioneer of the online diamond industry, there is immense satisfaction in seeing how much things have advanced. "Back in the day" (less than twenty years ago!) we thought we were "all that and a bag of chips!" because we figured out how to provide our clients with a few photographs.
Fast forward twenty years and you're able to evaluate diamonds on James Allen from every angle in high definition video. State-of-the-art 3D imaging technology enables you to see diamonds like this 1.581 carat, F-color, VS-1 clarity, James Allen True Hearts diamond from every vantage point.
Left click your mouse over the video and hold it down to drag the diamond left or right. Not only can you see the inclusions, but you can see how how well the diamond reflects light.
Using 3D images to judge light return and sparkle factor takes practice, but you'll get the hang of it quickly. You can use the hearts image to judge optical precision. Just look for a hearts pattern that is consistent in size and shape like the one above. Minor variances are acceptable because these diamonds are turned on the wheel by hand.
You want to avoid diamonds with hearts that vary dramatically in size and shape, or which exhibit twisting in the tips of the hearts. These characteristics of hearts and arrows diamond grading indicate a difference in the length of the lower girdle facets.
The Ideal Scope image in the lower right corner of the frame enables you to determine the degree to which a diamond is leaking light. All diamonds leak light to some extent, but we're looking for the ones that are reflecting most of the light back up towards the observer.
It goes without saying that buying a diamond engagement ring sight-unseen off the internet can seem a daunting experience. At the same time, the technology available on James Allen makes it possible for you to evaluate a diamond like never before.
You're able to see the characteristics of diamonds in 3D high definition video. You can move the diamond with your mouse and evaluate it facet-by-facet. Reflector scope images enable you to judge the degree of perfection exhibited by James Allen True Hearts diamonds.
Very little is left to chance, but in the event that you don't absolutely love the diamond you buy from James Allen, they offer a 30 day money back guarantee.
Which means that you can order a diamond from James Allen and inspect it in the comfort of your own home. Walk it around in all different types of lighting conditions.
Show it to your friends, your neighbors, your dog, whomever. With the peace of mind of knowing that you can return the diamond for a full refund if you don't like it for any reason. Will your local brick and mortar jeweler do that? Probably not.
Can you trust James Allen to honor the terms of their 30 day return policy? You're kidding me, right? Do you really think that a company that sells upwards of $200 million dollars worth of jewelry a year is going to hassle you about your return? The whole premise of their success is built upon the foundation of you being another satisfied customer of James Allen.
By now you know that James Allen is a great place to buy an engagement ring. With more than 150,000 diamonds to choose from, the odds are that you'll be able to find exactly what you're looking for. It's simply a matter of deciding on the best combination of carat weight, color, and clarity.
By now you know that James Allen is a great place to buy an engagement ring. With more than 150,000 diamonds to choose from, the odds are that you'll be able to find exactly what you're looking for. It's simply a matter of deciding on the best combination of carat weight, color, and clarity.
Obviously, I'm going to encourage you to focus on diamonds that are cut to the highest standards. After all, it is the cut quality of a diamond that dictates the light performance. Characteristics like carat weight, color, and clarity are less noticeable than cut quality and sparkle factor.
If you're looking for a good middle ground, I suggest limiting your search to diamonds that are VS-2 and higher in clarity within the range of I-color and higher. Remember that diamonds that exhibit medium to strong blue fluorescence may look slightly whiter and brighter than diamonds without fluorescence. At the same time, the effect of fluorescence is so subtle that most people are not apt to see it without some coaching.
If you've made it to the end of this James Allen review, then you know more about buying a diamond than most people. You're going to be able to buy a diamond engagement ring from James Allen with confidence and peace of mind.
All you really need to do to be successful is to set the search parameters as outlined above. Be sure that the crown and pavilion angle offsets are within my preferred range. Look at the diamond in the 3D high definition video and see that light is reflecting evenly throughout the facets.
You'll also want to make sure that the arrows pattern is exhibiting high contrast brilliance and that there isn't a lot of obstruction under the table facet.Then you just click the link to put the diamond in the shopping cart and set off to select the perfect engagement ring.
Of course, you might still have some questions about the diamonds you are considering from James Allen. That's all right, I would be surprised if you weren't a little hesitant to buy a diamond sight-unseen off the internet without some professional insight. Which is why I want to invite you to take advantage of our free diamond concierge service.
Just click the blue button below and fill out the form. Be sure to send us links to any diamonds that you are considering, or you can just tell us what you are looking for and the price range you are working with.
We'll be happy to search James Allen for diamonds that meet our selection criteria and provide you with an in-depth analysis for free.
The only thing we ask in exchange, is that you use the links provided when ordering your diamond from James Allen.
Clicking on the links provided will not affect your purchase price, but it will ensure that we are credited for helping you select the best diamonds from James Allen. You benefit from being able to see the diamond through the eyes of our experience. James Allen benefits from knowing that you are more likely to be another satisfied customer.
It's the Classic Win/Win Scenario where everybody benefits by working together. Speaking of which, I look forward to working with you and helping you select the diamond of her dreams! I do hope that you'll send me a picture of the ring and that you'll tag us on social media like Facebook or Instagram @NiceIceDiamonds.