Blue Nile brands itself as the world’s largest online diamond retailer, while Costco’s reputation extends far beyond jewelry.
I’ve shopped for jewelry at both locations, both online and in person.
My experience is Blue Nile is the superior choice for buying a diamond because of its wide selection, image technology on its website, GIA certifications, and overall value.
But let’s compare Blue Nile versus Costco diamonds across these areas and more, so you’ll know which is best for you.
Overview of Blue Nile
Blue Nile is an online retailer known for engagement and wedding rings, but it also sells fine jewelry in the form of necklaces, earrings, and bracelets.
It was founded in 1999 by Mark Vadon, who bought a website that sold diamonds and revamped it into what Blue Nile is today.
The company pioneered selling diamonds online. The model has since given birth to competitors such as James Allen, which is where I bought my wife’s engagement ring.
Blue Nile lists diamonds directly from the manufacturer and wholesalers.
By cutting out the in-store experience and focusing on providing the lowest price, they found a niche that sets them apart from high-cost retailers that champion a personalized buying experience and coveted brand name.
Like most popular jewelry stores today, they sell only conflict-free diamonds with ethical sourcing methods, which abide by the Kimberly Process.
Overview of Costco Diamonds
Costco’s place in the retail industry isn’t limited to diamonds.
The membership-only wholesaler sells a variety of goods, and many consumers aren’t aware of their selection of engagement rings.
In most stores, the case full of diamond rings is on the right of left aisle when you walk in the store. At the location I visit, it’s placed close to the front door, so it’s difficult to miss.
Costco is known for its quality, value and low prices, so it’s worth considering whether those traits apply to its diamonds.
Diamond rings are often a high-dollar purchase, so if the same discounts Costco offers on its other items apply to its diamonds, why wouldn’t it be worth considering?
Similar to Blue Nile, Costco offers an array of jewelry that include necklaces, watches, and bracelets.
They’re available online and in-person.
Costco diamonds are also conflict-free, abiding by the Kimberley Process of evaluating its sourcing methods.
What’s the Difference Between Blue Nile and Costco?
Size of Selection
If you’re starting the search for a diamond ring, you want a retailer with plenty of options.
One advantage of Blue Nile’s online model is it holds a significant amount of inventory at a lower price compared to brick-and-mortar stores. In fact, Blue Nile has more than 400,000 round-cut diamonds available across all carat weights.
Here’s a sample of their selection, where you can see several diamonds with similar qualities.
In addition, it offers more than 15,000 princess cuts, close to 2,000 Asscher cuts, and more than 18,000 oval cuts.
Whether you want a one-carat diamond, one with an I1 or SI2 clarity grade, or a very good cut, Blue Nile’s selection far exceeds Costco’s for every cut.
Costco sells rings with all these types of cuts, but often only has a few options for each.
In fact, Costco doesn’t sell loose diamonds. They only sell as finished pieces of jewelry.
Blue Nile’s options of engagement ring settings are also superior. Almost all of Blue Nile’s diamonds can be placed in an array of settings from solitaire and halos to vintage and three-stone settings.
For example, here’s a cushion cut diamond paired with a hidden halo setting.
Many of these settings are available in rose or yellow gold or platinum.
Costco, on the other hand, only has four different styles of settings on its website:
When comparing the inventory size of Blue Nile diamonds versus Costco, Blue Nile is the clear winner. Not only do they have more diamonds and settings, their selection of fine jewelry surpasses Costco.
The quality of a diamond isn’t determined by the retailer that sells it. In fact, there are many online and in-store retailers that sell quality diamonds.
On the other hand, buying from an established brand doesn’t guarantee high quality.
Instead, you should determine the quality of a diamond through a third-party certification.
But not all grading certificates are equal. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) has the reputation of reliable, consistent, and rigorous grading standards.
While this does result in a premium charge on the diamond, it gives you confidence in its carat weight, color, clarity, and cut.
All Blue Nile diamonds are graded by the GIA, so you can be assured of its reliability.
For example, this diamond earned the following grades from the GIA.
- Carat: 1.00
- Cut: Excellent
- Clarity: VS1
- Color: F
That information is found on the attached report, which I’ve posted below.
Other grading labs such as the IGI might give a different a slightly higher mark. A diamond with an I color grade from the GIA may earn an H from either of those labs.
Costco’s relationship with the GIA is more complicated. The company states, “All items with a 1.00 carat or larger diamond center stone will include a GIA Diamond Grading Report detailing the center diamond.”
Other diamonds are graded by GIA-trained gemologists, but this isn’t the same as a GIA certificate.
They’ll come with a “detailed article of description” from these gemologists, but this significantly reduces its value because the grading isn’t as reliable.
My recommendation is to not rely on these gemologists but instead buy a diamond based on the GIA grading report.
Price and Value
The way you get the most value is by focusing on the quality of the diamond and not the brand. In most cases, you’re charged a premium for a household names like Tacori, Tiffany’s, Jared, or Zales diamonds.
When you buy a diamond from those retailers, you aren’t just paying for the stone but also the association with that brand.
This is why buying from Costco or Blue Nile can be the right choice for shoppers focused on value.
There isn’t the same level of prestige associated with the diamonds from these brands, so you avoid the price premium.
In comparing Costco versus Blue Nile, it’s difficult to make a one-to-one comparison because Costco doesn’t sell loose diamonds.
The best way to compare price is to create an equivalent engagement ring from Blue Nile and place it next to Costo’s piece.
For example, Costco sells this 1.10-carat platinum engagement ring for $8,999.99.
On Blue Nile’s website, we created a similar ring with a 1.10-carat diamond and a platinum setting.
It costs $6,590.
There are plenty of exceptions, but this example shows Blue Nile diamonds are generally less expensive than Costco.
Finding the right engagement ring isn’t only about the end product. Evaluate retailers based on the overall buying experience.
Blue Nile has perfected the online buying experience, which is what makes them one of the best places to buy diamonds online.
As a primarily online vendor, they don’t have the personalized service of in-store retailers. But they offer extensive educational information on their website about diamonds, settings, and other jewelry.
My favorite feature on their site for engagement ring shopping is the ability to “start with a setting” or “start with a diamond”, which is found in the dropdown of the main navigation.
Below, I’ve posted an image of where you can find that section of their site.
Start by exploring the more than 600 unique settings and filter by price, metal, material, or ring style.
Whether you’re looking for platinum, rose gold, cathedral, or non-cathedral setting, Blue Nile has plenty to offer.
For example, I created this engagement ring with a marquise cut and solitaire setting using that tool.
It features a 14K yellow gold setting and one-carat diamond.
The same process is available for other fine jewelry at Blue Nile.
The Costco online buying experience is more traditional.
Instead of the ability to build your own engagement ring, you choose from engagement rings that already include both a diamond and ring shank.
The images of diamonds are also aren’t as high of quality versus Blue Nile.
There’s no option to view it at multiple angles or rotate the image 360 degrees.
There are usually a couple hundred rings available, and that selection drops significantly as you begin filtering for price, metal color, ring style, and stone shape.
On the positive side, both the in-store and online experience aren’t complex.
If you find the engagement ring that’s right for you, there are options available for you to pick it up in store or have it shipped.
Costco doesn’t ship jewelry to its warehouses for you to view before you buy.
If you’re considering the overall buying experience in your choice of jewelry retailer, I recommend Blue Nile.
It’s a user-friendly, fast process from start to finish where you can build an engagement ring that’s right for you.
Many of Blue Nile’s physical locations are small.
I visited one in a Tysons, Virginia mall and was impressed with the elegant display cases. But the options available are underwhelming compared to their vast selection online.
It’s helpful to view their jewelry in person to get a grasp for style, but unless you know they have your chosen piece on site, I recommend taking the online route.
A benefit of Blue Nile’s in-store experience is there are trained jewelry professionals available on site. They’re knowledgable about the pieces available and can walk you through the GIA report for any diamonds in stock.
If you discuss a piece that’s right for you, but it isn’t available in store, they’ll ship it to you.
By choosing the in-store route at Costco, don’t expect the diamond expertise you’ll find at jewelry stores. There won’t always be trained gemologists on site to answer your questions.
When I went to Costco to shop for my wife’s engagement ring, it was a short trip. I examined a few rings through the glass, but none jumped out at me as the right fit.
Returns and Warranty
Blue Nile and Costco offer free returns.
You can return your diamond to Costco for a full refund, but for diamonds that weigh more than one carat, the IGI or GIA report are required.
It’s sent to their fulfillment center for verification before they issue your refund.
The same idea is true for Blue Nile. If you aren’t satisfied with your purchase within 30 days, you can return your jewelry for a full refund. They’ll even pay shipping costs.
You can learn more about Blue Nile’s 30-day money back guarantee here.
Costco doesn’t include information about a warranty on its website. In fact, they recommend you purchase jewelry insurance.
Unless it’s shipped with a defect or there’s a clear manufacturer error, it doesn’t appear Costco’s jewelry warranty expands past its return policy.
Blue Nile offers a lifetime warranty on its diamonds and jewelry.
They state that if your item has a manufacturing defect, you can return it for an inspection. They’ll either repair or replace it.
It’s important to note this warranty doesn’t include “slight irregularities and variations in craftsmanship or natural characteristics”, which also includes inclusions.
Blue Nile says it’s part of the character of the piece and isn’t considered a defect.
Its warranty and 30-day return policy means Blue Nile is the winner in this category as well.
You can read all the details on their website here.
As with any company, there are positive and negative customer reviews about Costco and Blue Nile.
Let’s start with Blue Nile’s reviews.
They’ve earned an A+ from the Better Business Bureau.
It doesn’t mean they’ve never had a complaint. Instead, they have a reputation of addressing customer concerns in a productive way.
Overall, they hold 3.84 out of five stars. In reading some of the complaints, they involve topics such as slow refunds, issues with ring sizes, and the item not matching the description.
But in each case, a member of the Blue Nile customer service team has addressed the complaint and reached out to the customer.
This is indicative of strong customer service and should give you confidence in the company.
On TrustPilot, Blue Nile has 3.9 out of five stars from more than 500 reviews.
There’s also positive sentiment about Costco engagement rings online.
For example, one customer documenting their experience wrote, “Costco is awesome! They have a great policy and reputation for all their goods including jewelry. Take the guesswork out, and if you don’t love it, take it back.”
Another buyer also wrote highly of their return policy, saying, “I have a couple of their pieces [and] love them! The return policy is great. The “I” color seems brighter, maybe because the cuts are so nice they have a lot of sparkle.”
These customer reviews reiterate the importance of buying from a trusted brand and relying on a grading report to determine its quality.
How to Decide Between Blue Nile and Costco
I recommend buying a diamond ring from Blue Nile instead of Costco.
They’ve perfected the online jewelry-buying experience over more than 20 years.
With low prices and quality diamonds, and you can’t go wrong choosing Blue Nile as your vendor.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t diamonds and jewelry at Costco that could be the right fit for you. You should assess their inventory in person so you aren’t only relying on stock images from their website.
By exploring a variety of diamonds and rings from Blue Nile, Costco, and other vendors, you can find the one that’s right for you.