What started out in 1998 as dirtcheapdiamonds.com grew into one of the premier diamond e-retailers on the web today, James Allen. James Allen Schultz and his wife Michele founded their website back in the very beginning of when people starting buying high-end products online. They built a reputation for offering a virtual inventory of AGS and GIA ideal cut certified diamonds at competitive prices, as well as top-notch customer service. By 2005 the company changed its name to James Allen, thus steering clear of any “dirt cheap” associations with its products’ quality or shopping experience.
What makes James Allen stand out from other online diamond vendors today?
First of all, JA is a privately owned, family-operated business that insists on high standards. Though it has a virtual inventory of diamonds that are actually owned by other diamond vendors, JA has actual (not virtual) access to these diamonds and can send messengers to bring diamonds back to their offices for gemologists to physically inspect them. This is a crucial part of its quality control system and why JA will only work in collaboration with diamond vendors in the New York area, which is where JA is headquartered.
Second, because JA understands the importance of seeing the diamond before purchase, it allows you to see magnified photos of each and every diamond for sale on its site by using the revolutionary application called “the virtual loupe.” This allows you to judge the stone’s clarity, see the cut quality, and various other aspects that are not possible to glean from the diamond’s certificate alone, such as if a marquise-cut diamond will have a “bow-tie effect,” whether a cushion-cut diamond has a “crushed ice” or “chunky” look, and whether or not a pear-shaped diamond has the proportions that you find appealing.
Third, JA prides itself on the quality of its diamonds, not the quantity. Whereas Blue Nile has over 100,000 diamonds (without pictures and without BN gemologist inspection), JA offers its shoppers over 20,000 icy rocks — a number that is still massive but not as overwhelming and daunting for you, the consumer, to sift through and make sense of when you’re trying to find just that one special rock.
As you can see, Weissman’s experience with JA was overwhelmingly positive. I would agree, based on the photos in the review, that the diamond was eye-clean, well-cut, and sparkly, and that the packaging of the ring was classy and professional. The reason Weissman was so happy with the diamond is because he was able to sift through the diamonds carefully with JA’s virtual loupe and thereby find the best deal of high quality and low price.
My one criticism of JA is its lack of selection of ring settings. Readers often write to ask for my advice about what to do when they want to buy the diamond on JA but can’t find the ring setting they want. What they often end up doing is having JA make them a custom ring setting, but I understand that that’s not the best or easiest way to order. Hopefully JA will expand its selection of settings to match customer tastes, but I can’t guarantee that.
But would I still recommend ordering from JA to my readers? For sure. James Allen is in a league of its own when it comes to quality control of its virtual inventory, ease of using the virtual loupe, smaller inventory size, and most important of all — your peace of mind as a customer spending a small fortune, often for the first time, on diamond jewelry.