The search function for loose diamonds and settings are intuitive, and you can use the cursor to create a custom a range of filters. Choose the shape, cut, color, clarity, and carat weight you want, as well as budget, and then go through each result and inspect it until your eyes glaze over.
Images of each diamond are taken in-house with 30 to 50x zoom, and there's a 360-viewing option. That's both a blessing and a curse because you'll see every tiny speck and will obsess over whether it'll actually show up when you wear the ring in real life. What I've learned after making myself cross-eyed is that unless the blemish is black in the zoom view, it most likely won't be visible to your eyes.
If you're not convinced though, you'll also have the stone report from the Gemological Institute of America and access to customer service with a handy 24/7 chat box. My fiancé and I used this religiously when looking at stones and settings, and when the customer service rep couldn't answer a question, they would reach out to the in-house jeweler or gemologist.
But regardless of how confident you are that you chose the absolute best ring and how excited you might be after going through checkout, an engagement ring is still an investment. Blue Nile has your wallet covered with a 30-day free return policy in case the ring isn't what you or your partner expect. It makes the online experience a little less stressful honestly, because you know that you're not wasting a mortgage on something you haven't even seen in real life.
The company, unfortunately, doesn't have a showroom in which you can view the specific stones you want to purchase, so until you see the final ring on your hands, you don't know what it'll really look like.
Pros: Large selection of stones and settings, knowledgeable 24/7 customer service, 30 to 50x zoom view, 360-degree view, free shipping and returns, lifetime warranty, financing options, diamond upgrade, free ring resizing within 30 days
Cons: No physical showroom to view your specific stone, process can seem impersonal
The best for at-home try on
With Clarity gives you the opportunity to wear a replica of the ring you want for a few days before you commit.
After you create a ring from the large inventory of loose stones and settings, With Clarity will send you up to two replica rings to wear around for three days. Once you've gotten a feel for the rings, return the fake ones and get the real deal. You can contact customer service if you need a few extra days, otherwise, you'll be charged $100 per unreturned ring.
This is a great try-on experience that I haven't seen with other online shops and one that indecisive people like myself can definitely appreciate.
Founder and CMO Slisha Kankariya tells me that the stone and metal used in the replica ring mimic all the properties of the real stuff, and when I wore one for a few weeks in place of my real one, it truly didn't look any different. The brilliance of the stones and shine of the metal could've passed for the real deal, and if I didn't tell my fiancé, he seriously wouldn't have realized any difference.
As for the stone-shopping experience, With Clarity's search function is easy to use and has a 30x to 50x zoomed-in view.
Pros: Authentic at-home try-on experience, curated selection of stones and settings, free shipping and returns, lifetime warranty, financing options
Cons: Selection might be limiting for people who want all the options
The best for untraditional styles
For unique rings that don't look like engagement rings at all, Mejuri is a great spot for the alternative couple.
If you're looking for a really modern, unique ring that doesn't look like an engagement ring at all, check out Mejuri.
There are 14 ring styles, but they're all variations of the same overall design with different stones and metals. There are no solitaires or halos, but instead a hybrid design with a large center stone (a peach-colored morganite or a blue sapphire, and in yellow or white gold) and a cluster of small diamonds around it, and one style that's just a cluster of small diamonds also available in yellow or white gold.
Shopping at Mejuri for an engagement ring feels more like your usual online shopping experience for clothing or shoes than one specifically for an engagement ring. You don't need to choose your center stone, and there's no zoomed-in view, 360-degree viewing, or lifetime warranty. That might be great for a chill couple who doesn't want all the fuss and stress that comes with shopping for a big purchase.
And speaking of purchases, Mejuri's prices are really reasonable for something you'd plan on wearing forever. Prices start at $650 and max out at $2,000, and since there's no customization aspect where you can select your center stone, there are no surprises at checkout either.
Pros: Inexpensive for such a big purchase, curated selection is less overwhelming, modern styles for untraditional brides, inexpensive base prices, free expedited shipping and returns, 2-year warranty
Cons: Ultra-curated styles can feel limited to some, no lifetime warranty, no physical store to preview rings
The best for lab-grown diamonds
If you're looking for a more ethical ring, Vrai has a great selection of conflict-free lab-grown stones, and unique settings.
While every diamond engagement company we've listed so far uses natural stones, Vrai only uses lab-grown diamonds in its engagement rings, and in all its other fine jewelry too.
The stones come from The Diamond Foundry, a Leonardo DiCaprio-backed company that creates conflict-free, lab-grown diamonds with solar energy. Diamonds aren't always mined humanely, and while the retailers we've highlighted so far are committed to the Kimberly Process, an organization that actively prevents blood or conflict diamonds from being sold, there still isn't enough transparency in how your diamond gets mined. Vrai & Oro avoids the whole issue by only using lab-grown stones.
Stones look, feel, and shine the same as natural stones but are just made in a lab, and in some cases, can be a lot cheaper too. For example, a 1.10 carat brilliant with an excellent cut, I color, and VS1 clarity can start at $3,366, while a natural stone with the same specs can start at $6,114.
That being said, one con to consider with lab-grown stones is that there's no inherent value. Visually, natural and lab-grown stones with the same specs will look the same, but there's inherent resell value in a natural stone due to limited resources. Obviously, this isn't something you and your partner would want to think about as you're shopping for rings, but it's definitely something to consider, or at least be aware of if you're deciding between natural or lab-grown stones.
As for the ring styles themselves, Vrai & Oro's engagement pieces are very much like its regular pieces — unique yet wearable everyday jewelry. It has the most curated selection of settings than the other brands in this guide with just eight styles, but they're all thoughtfully designed. There are the classic solitaire and halo styles, as well as a bezel style for someone who frequently uses their hands like nurses or doctors, and a "hover"style in which the stone looks like it's hanging off the side of the ring.
Pros: Ethical stones, curated styles, potentially cheaper base prices, lifetime warranty on the diamond, pre-paid returns
Cons: Selection can be limited for some shoppers, only one-year guarantee against defects on the ring, can't buy diamond and setting separately, only non-engraved rings can be returned and restocking fees from $75-$200 apply, can only return an engagement ring once and your second one is considered final sale
With Ritani, you can make your ring online and then head to one of the brand's jewelry store partners to try it on — the best of both worlds.
One way a lot of online retailers (not just engagement ring stores) keep costs down is by not having a physical store. This might be great for something like shoes, but not for engagement rings where the process is much more involved and the item much more meaningful than a pair of shoes.
Ritani solves this issue with free in-store previews of your actual ring. Unlike With Clarity, which sends you a replica ring, you can try the ring you designed online at a local Ritani store or one of its jewelry store partners around the US. There's no pressure to buy the ring, though the company does put a hold on your credit card as insurance. I think this option is the best mix of online and in-person shopping — you can make your ring online, see it in person, and then decide.
In theory, you could get one or two different rings to save yourself the trouble of going back to the jewelry store to preview a ring, but that'll depend on your line of credit, I guess.
In case you're just starting your engagement ring search and don't know what shape or style you like, Ritani has an interesting "ring recommender" feature. You put in your budget, shape, and setting, and it'll recommend a ring that fits within those parameters. You only get one result each time but you can change the setting and diamond specs after you get the results. I think it's a good way to get some inspiration if you don't really know what style you're looking for.
Pros: Free in-store previews around the US, helpful ring recommendation feature, can just buy loose diamonds, free shipping and returns, lifetime warranty and cleanings at local jewelry store partner, diamond upgrade, free ring resizing within one year of purchase (with some exceptions)
Cons: Ring recommendation feature only gives one result each time