Blue Nile History
Back in 1998, when mark c. Vandon was still a management officer at bain & company, the diamond market was largely offline. It was only while searching for a diamond engagement ring that he realized an untapped gap in online retail for diamonds. Looking further, mr. Vandon stumbled upon doug william’s website and was impressed by the small retailer’s website.
Vandon contacted the company’s owner and bought 85% of its shares aiming to revamp the entire website (later in 1999). The outcome of mr. Vandon’s overhaul gave birth to blue nile. Since then, the venture capital became one of the leading diamond wholesalers of online diamonds. They’re regarded as a reputable place to buy a diamond from.
In february 2017, after several announcements, blue nile finally completed its acquisition and was no longer a public trading company.
Three companies completed the $500m process and turned blue nile into a privately owned company. The investor groups consisted of bain capital, bow street and adam partners, and private equity.
Blue Nile Setting Selection and Quality
It’s kind of dizzying when you think of browsing through blue nile’s 180,000+ inventory. Luckily, the company categorizes its diamonds into different engagement ring setting and specifications. Blue nile’s diamond selection does include loose lab diamonds, unlike many of their competitors which we covered in our reviews prior to this one.
As we’ve explained in previous reviews, a lab grown diamond has the same properties as natural diamonds. Blue nile has a small collection of lab diamonds in preset jewelry, but you won’t find a loose lab diamond anywhere.
Blue nile’s diamonds come in 10 shapes: cushion, emerald, radiant, pear, marquise, oval, heart, pear, asscher, and princess cut diamonds.
If you’re looking for engagement rings, you’ll be impressed by the options to buy a diamond and setting from blue nile. The e-commerce retailer has a “build your own engagement ring” feature that allows customers to buy a diamond based on their preferred price, 4cs, shape, among other aspects you may fancy.
Interestingly, blue nile has also joined forces with some of the best designers to come up with pre-set diamond jewelry in its “designer rings” section. You can still tweak most of these bluenile pieces to your own liking in case you need to add a special touch. The pre-set diamond engagement rings come in affordable price ranges that don’t compromise the product’s brilliance.
Even though diamonds are the main products in blue nile’s extensive inventory, there are a little over five metals that the company offers; silver, platinum, white gold, rose gold, and yellow gold, with options 18k or 14k for the gold.
Bluenile also has a decent selection of men’s alternative wedding bands. An alternative wedding band might be made of tungsten carbide, cobalt, titanium, and even ceramic wedding rings.
In terms of non-diamond alternatives for prom and other occasions garnet amethyst and pearl are other honorable mentions if you are looking for a necklace, a ring or anything in between.
It would be fair to say that in all of our reviews blue nile diamonds have passed the quality test, even though a couple of complaints and reviews might stain this reputation. With so many loose diamonds available, it’s easy to question the quality of blue nile diamonds. Members at blue nile require wholesalers to provide proper reviews and certifications (gia and ags) prior to diamond listing on the company’s website.
You may have a hard time browsing through blue nile’s website, but it’s clear that products listed on the company’s website have acceptable qualities.
Blue Nile Price vs Value
As we mentioned earlier as well as in reviews made prior to this, blue nile’s dropshipping business model allows them to provide sharp margins as compared to physical retailers. None of the company’s products matched the prices of brick and mortar jewelry stores like jared or shane co. As you’ve probably read in other reviews you’ll certainly save a bit of money while shopping online for your next ring or other jewelry.
Looking at the statistics and reviews of competitors of blue nile jewelry that match up blue nile’s business model, product prices are nearly equal. Stores like james allen employ similar business models and have inventories well over 200,000. Despite ja matching up to blue nile’s inventory, a few rings might be slightly cheaper at blue nile. Both retailers offer pocket-friendly prices, according to the majority of reviews and customers. Buying a diamond ring at either would yield excellent results.
Another edge that the blue nile brand enjoys in comparisons and reviews over its competitors is the price match guarantee program, where they ascertain customers of matching up prices for similar diamonds sold by competitors.
Blue nile’s program, however, has a few reservations- you’ll need to provide the exact cut, carat weight, fluorescence, depth percentage, color, etc. A valid gia certificate and a link showing the actual price of the diamond is also required. Ags certified diamonds don’t have a price match guarantee.
Blue nile also warns that the program will not be eligible for diamonds already sold. But, you’ll have a 30-day return policy in case you’re disgruntled with the diamond.
Blue Nile Packaging
Blue nile isn’t that much of a show-off and its presentation of diamond engagement rings confirms my suspicions. When you buy a blue nile diamond ring online, it comes with a standard, nondescript blue box. Honestly, there’s nothing special about the ring box. It’s not shoddy either!
The engagement ring packaging is well crafted and you can accompany a free gift card with a personal message to the receiver. Your package includes the blue box, maintenance tips, the ring grading report, and other authenticity documents. As a high-end retailer, one would expect blue nile to have luxurious or elegant diamond ring presentations, but the bluenile company prefers more of a classy, laid-back approach.
Blue Nile Customer Service
Put competitive prices aside and blue nile still boasts its excellent customer service. They have a wide array of options in case you need some questions answered. There’s an faq section that covers common topics as well as a “help topics” area, giving out detailed information. If your query is a little bit specific, don’t fret, head over to the live chat section and you will be connected to one of their representatives.
I haven’t had the chance to speak to one, but from reviews that i’ve read online, customer representatives at bn are quick to respond.
For any online diamond store, customer service needs to be as good (if not better) than the website shopping experience. Online shoppers want to have an easy time choosing their ring or other products in the same way physical retailers would take time to arrange products on shelves. Since customer experience is part of the services required, let’s see how blue nile’s website bear upon customer review and customer experience.
For status, the website looks appealing and easy-to-navigate, even for the lay shopper. When you’re looking for specific loose diamonds, pearls or other metals, it’s easy to filter search options, saving you from exhaustive searching. But, the website is not all that. If you’re just aimlessly looking around to land that ring or eye-catching diamond, blue nile might let you down- at least a little bit.
Only until in august 2016, blue nile did not have visualization tools for its extensive range of products. Users had to rely on reviews and stock images of similar quality alone. Some products even had drawings! Bn later invested in visualization and now you can see most of its products in 360° hd display. At least it’s not entirely risky.
But with companies like james allen providing high-quality images for all of its products, bn might need to scale up.
The overall shopping experience at blue nile may pull in a great deal of customers but the company doesn’t provide high-quality ring and jewelry videos and images, customers may jump ship. Otherwise, no one would want to buy diamonds blindly.
Blue Nile Return Policy
As with most jewelry retailers, blue nile offers a 30-day hassle-free money back return policy. They start counting days once they ship the products to you. Their return policy is a no-fuss, especially for items under $500. However, if your ring or other purchase was well over $500, expect back and forth phone calls and instructions on how to proceed.
Summing it up, our review is that the refund process is somewhat easy.
All you need to do is contact the company and they’ll mail you a free shipping label. Remember to add insurance to your product while returning to blue nile.
The company will not be liable for any stolen or lost goods during the return process. If you’re expecting a refund, bn will have it processed in a matter of days. Luckily, you can check the progress of your returns once you ship back the item.
Blue Nile Warranty
Blue nile’s warranty is a lifetime guarantee and they’ll handle all repairs and replacements arising from manufacturing defects. Included in the warranty is a free lifetime cleaning and inspections, excluding shipping costs. If you encounter issues that are not manufacturing related, then blue nile will advise you on the expected costs of repair or replacement.
This means that white gold rings that need rhodium plating will have to be paid for out of pocket either to blue nile, or a local jeweler. Keep in mind that maintenance on your ring or any other piece performed outside bn will void the manufacturer warranty.
Other normal wear and tear repairs for an engagement ring usually need prong retipping and stone tightening. You do get a free ring resizing, just in case you didn’t get the right ring size. They also allow you to print a free ring sizer online or you can order a plastic engagement ring sizer to be delivered to your own door.
Similar to ja, blue nile offers a diamond upgrade program, which gives you the choice of upgrading to a new center diamond which must be selling twice as much as your initial loose diamond. Bn requires the diamond to be in its original condition, and with the original lab report provided.
The buyback program is a recent venture by blue nile, after collaborating with mondiamo as the main evaluator of the diamonds. So, if you were looking for a buyback offer from bn, you’ll have to head over to the mondiamo site, enter the diamond’s details, and wait for the site to re-evaluate your diamond.
Mondiamo reviews using algorithms based on blue nile’s prices and after their review their offer is usually 60-65% of the initial price of the diamond. Well, i’m not sure if you’d be comfortable with such margins, but it’s not an option i would easily jump on.
Blue Nile Compared To James Allen
Because james allen and blue nile are way ahead of other competitors, we’ll have bn’s first comparison against james allen. Both retailers have exclusive rights to over 100,000 products and are often praised in reviews by this large inventory. However, a few distinctions separate the two brands and may help you choose the right online retailer during your next ring or other fine jewelry purchase.
Even though reviews say that both websites may look appealing to customers, blue nile’s approach is more inclined to traditionalists, while james allen’s modern appeal is clear from the website’s lead colors (pink and white). Both sites have search filters with similar options and gia grading factors when looking for specific types of jewelry. James allen and blue nile both have 360-degree imaging reviews of diamonds. However, james allen is way ahead with this technology.
First, all of ja’s diamonds have 360-degree videos, which bn is clearly lacking. James allen also provides a unique “super-zoom” feature, providing up to 20x magnification for proper review and scrutiny
Blue Nile Compared To Brilliant Earth
In terms of reviews brilliant earth may not receive the gist of popular jewelry retailers, but they’re simply unique and their praises glow from the recent appraisal of ethically sourced diamonds. Will it stack up against the two-decade, blue nile?
Let’s weigh in the options and see how this one goes between blue nile vs brilliant earth.
Both vendors recently incorporated real high-quality images for their diamonds. The interactive 360-degree view is not only useful to review exactly what you’ll get, but also important in pointing out inclusions and defects that would otherwise not be detailed in the grading reports.
However, both retailers don’t have real-time imaging technology on all of their diamonds which means you’ll have to filter your search to diamonds with real-time videos. Leading vendors such as james allen flourish on this technology having aset maps, and ideal scope imaging on all diamonds. So, even though blue nile and brilliant earth have imaging for most of their diamonds, they still need a bit of improvement.
Our pick on imaging technology: It’s a tie!
Brilliant earth’s quest for ethically sourced diamonds may be a contributor to the company’s low inventory. Blue nile has a little over 190,000 products “in store” while brilliant earth inventory is barely 20,000. However, both companies have 10 diamond shapes including cushion, oval, emerald, and round diamonds. Not all fancy shape diamonds will have a ton of options.
Our pick on product inventory: Blue Nile
Even though the online diamond industry does not necessarily call for physical locations, traditionalists may be happy to visit a nearby store just to confirm what they saw online. Blue nile may need to work on their physical presence as the company is almost entirely online.
Even with a huge inventory, they’ll still need to work on the buying process. Honestly, i think it’s tricky to buy high-end products like diamond rings without proper imagery to review or at the least, physical showrooms..
That being said, it’s quite obvious that brilliant earth is invested in physical stores. In fact, it is one of the few online retailers that own a couple of stores spread across various states in u.S. Brilliant earth has showrooms situated in major cities of san diego, san francisco, los angeles, chicago, denver, and washington d.C. It’s a huge plus if you want to see samples beforehand or if you’re unsure of a certain product.