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Brilliant Earth and James Allen are two of the most popular online jewelry retailers.
I bought my wife’s engagement ring from James Allen (a round-cut diamond in this setting) and her wedding ring from Brilliant Earth (this design in white gold).
Both vendors exceeded my expectations across each aspect of the purchase and earn my full recommendation.
We’ll compare Brilliant Earth versus James Allen in the areas most important to buying jewelry, including an overview of each company, their diamonds and settings, prices, and more.
Overview of Brilliant Earth
Brilliant Earth’s selling point is that its jewelry is “Beyond Conflict-Free.”
In 2005, the founders ventured to create a new type of jewelry company.
They wanted to dodge the negative reputation many others in the industry had earned in regard to how their products impacted the countries where diamonds were mined, including the workers and environment.
These standards vow that Brilliant Earth’s diamonds:
- Don’t finance rebel movements
- Protect against abuses of human rights
- Minimize environmental impact
- Uphold responsible and safe labor practices
The company provides examples of these standards in action.
Its packaging uses responsibly sourced wood that helps protect forests, and gold jewelry is often created with recycled precious materials.
Brilliant Earth’s suppliers are required to select diamonds mined from specific operations and countries that follow the company’s protocols.
Known for their online experience, Brilliant Earth has also opened 31 showrooms across the United States.
They’ve branded themselves as a jewelry company offering much of the same selection as leading competitors but geared toward buyers with higher standards around the impact their pieces have on the environment and local communities.
If you want all the details on the company, read my full review of Brilliant Earth.
Overview of James Allen
James Allen is a leading online jewelry retailer that sells diamond rings, gemstones, fine jewelry, and more. Founded in 2006, it pioneered the use of images and video technology to aid in buying jewelry online.
One of the reasons this trend was slow to catch on was buyers were hesitant to commit to such an expensive purchase without seeing the piece in person.
But James Allen providing 360-degree video gave them confidence to buy without the in-person experience.
As an example, check out the high-resolution video of this round-cut engagement ring with pave.
When you rotate the video, you can view it from every angle. It’s as close as you can hope to replicating the in-store experience.
As a result of these advancements and the tremendous value they offer, they boast more than 150,000 couples have become engaged using their jewelry.
Today, the company competes with other online retailers and also vendors known for their in-store experience like Kay, Jared, and Zales.
But the company was bought by Signet Jewelers in 2017, who owns the latter three brands.
Similar to Brilliant Earth, they’ve expanded their online presence to now include two physical showrooms.
James Allen abides by the Kimberley Process, which means its diamonds aren’t used to finance civil wars against legitimate governments.
This is an internationally-recognized standard adhered to by almost all the most popular vendors.
What are the Differences Between Brilliant Earth and James Allen?
Diamonds and Settings
James Allen and Brilliant Earth both have a huge selection of natural and lab-grown diamonds across 10 cuts, including round, marquise, oval, and cushion cuts.
Nrrow your selection by filters such as:
- Carat weight
- Cut grade
- Diamond lab
For example, you might explore earth-created pear cuts from James Allen. You’d have more than 19,000 options available across every carat, cut, color, and clarity.
If you’re searching for a one-carat, eye-clean diamond that appears colorless to the naked eye, you might land on this one.
At Brilliant Earth, there are close to 100 pear-cuts that fit this description, like this one that earned E color and VS2 clarity grades.
But don’t ignore the impact a quality setting has on the overall performance of a diamond ring.
James Allen and Brilliant Earth both have stunning designs to pair with your diamond.
One of my favorite lines of settings from James Allen is their halo settings, such as this stunning design with gems down the shank as well.
They feature a small circle of diamonds around the main gem.
This halo engagement ring includes 36 additional diamonds with a total carat weight of 0.23.
It creates the illusion of a larger diamond in the middle, and the pave diamonds add brilliance.
Brilliant Earth’s halo settings are equally exceptional, but you should also consider their three-stone designs.
One popular option is tapered baguettes surrounding the center gem.
The shape of the baguette diamonds contrast the round-cut to provide a unique aesthetic. It’s a sleek style that avoids the problems associated with dozens of accents on the shank.
By pairing James Allen’s and Brilliant Earth’s diamonds with their variety of settings, you can customize the right diamond ring for you.
Gemstones & Fine Jewelry
Brilliant Earth sells a wider range of gemstones compared to James Allen. While the latter sells sapphire, emeralds, and rubies, Brilliant Earth also offers:
On both websites, you can build your own gemstone ring by first selecting the gem and then combining it with any of their settings or pendants.
I chose a natural blue sapphire from James Allen and placed it on a knife edge solitaire ring.
On Brilliant Earth’s site, I chose a topaz gemstone and paired it with a petite twisted vine setting.
You can see the final design here.
Their gemstones are a far less expensive choice compared to diamonds and still provide the same level of customization you won’t find at an in-person jewelry store.
The two companies sell similar lines of fine jewelry like earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and anniversary rings.
I recommend exploring anniversary rings from James Allen.
There are 11 primary styles, and you can select from a range of carat weights for each.
This shared prong diamond ring uses a scalloped setting to hold nine diamonds.
It’s available in 0.5-2.0 carats and is the perfect complement to an engagement and wedding ring.
Brilliant Earth’s fine jewelry category excels with diamond stud earrings. Whether your choice is a basket or martini setting or emerald- or round-cut diamonds, you can discover the style that fits your taste.
Quality of Selection
While it’s always recommended you purchase diamond jewelry from a reputable brand, don’t solely judge its quality based on the company behind it.
Instead, decide whether a diamond meets your standards by choosing one that’s been graded by an objective third-party.
Two of the most regarded institutions are the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and the American Gem Society (AGS), and the International Gemological Institute (IGI) grades many retailers’ diamonds as well.
At James Allen, Brilliant Earth, and many of their competitors, you can filter diamonds by which lab graded them.
It used to be that James Allen required you to request the GIA or IGI report. This was an unnecessary extra step that stalled the smooth experience they offer otherwise.
Now, the report is available directly on the site by clicking the logo of the lab on the product page.
For example, you might decide on an IGI diamond.
I selected this round-cut and can view its report by clicking on the image below its details.
The IGI report asserts its clarity, cut, and cut grade.
By viewing a high-resolution image and examining the report, you can have confidence in what to expect from the diamond’s quality and appearance.
The quality of the designs for the rest of James Allen’s and Brilliant Earth’s jewelry is also exceptional. Many of their pieces are handcrafted.
Brilliant Earth offers an exclusive line of Tacori engagement rings and wedding bands.
Their intricate details include pavé bands and a crescent of diamonds on the inner face of the ring, like this petite crescent bloom design.
My wife’s wedding ring from Brilliant Earth is a half-eternity band. The small diamonds lining half the shank add brilliance to the piece in a way that complements her solitaire engagement ring from James Allen.
James Allen’s lines of jewelry are also high-quality.
Not only do they have nearly every style of setting across white, rose, and yellow gold and platinum, I’m also impressed by the designs of their fine jewelry.
As an example, this tennis bracelet distinguishes itself from the traditional style by holding diamonds in a three-prong basket and closing the loop with a flower clasp.
This idea plays out across many of James Allen’s quality pieces. You can opt for the classic style or choose an alternative that stands on its own.
Brilliant Earth generally has higher prices than James Allen because they charge a premium for their eco-friendly, socially-conscious standards.
The rationale is that those criteria raise their costs of sourcing and selling diamonds, and it’s passed on to the customer.
But the best way to understand prices for James Allen versus Brilliant Earth is to assess costs for diamonds that earned the same grades from the GIA.
We examined 75 round-cut diamonds that earned the following grades:
- Carat weight: 0.90
- Cut: Very good
- Color: H
- Clarity: VS1
At James Allen, the average price was $5,318, with a range of $4,670-$6,290.
Brilliant Earth’s were priced at an average of $5,545. The range was $4,820-6,200.
That’s a four percent premium for Brilliant Earth.
But there are plenty of exceptions. Prices for diamonds that earn the same grades across the four Cs can vary based on other traits like its fluorescence, proportions, and the types of inclusions present.
So you can find examples where Brilliant Earth beats James Allen on price.
Prices for their engagement ring settings are generally comparable, but you can find similar designs where one is priced higher than the other.
This platinum comfort fit solitaire setting from James Allen costs $900.
This similar ring from Brilliant Earth costs $590.
The same is true for wedding rings. Prices for classic designs start around $250. If you add diamonds, the costs can reach more than $1,000.
Overall, you’ll save on the cost of jewelry by choosing James Allen over Brilliant Earth in most cases. But they aren’t always the least expensive, and the price differences are typically less than 10 percent.
Online Buying Experience
Brilliant Earth and James Allen both excel with their online buying experience. It’s part of what makes them two of the best online diamond retailers.
They’ve made the process of purchasing jewelry through their websites easy for customers who are used to selecting their piece at the guidance of an in-store consultant.
You’ll notice the sites have similar layouts. The product categories are included in the main navigation. Once you’ve chosen a line of jewelry, you’ll have the option to filter for specific criteria.
Our favorite feature on both sites is the ability to create your own engagement ring. It’s perfect for someone unsure of what cut and setting they want.
For example, you might wonder how princess cuts pair with bezel settings. Or you could be interested in the different ways to hold a marquise cut.
Choose “start with a diamond” or “start with a setting.”
Using the filters, narrow down your choices. Once you’ve chosen each, James Allen and Brilliant Earth will pair the two together so you can view how it looks.
We created this engagement ring through James Allen.
The 360-degree video showcases the ring at every angle, so we can see how the setting twists around itself.
This engagement ring I created through Brilliant Earth has a hidden halo under the main gem.
The combination of an intuitive website, high-quality images, and customizing your own diamond ring help James Allen and Brilliant Earth offer one of the best online experiences for buying jewelry.
Though they’re primarily known for their online experience, Brilliant Earth and James Allen have expanded their footprint into the real world.
And they appear to remain in direct competition in the traditional brick-and-mortar model as well.
One of James Allen’s two locations is in Georgetown, a neighborhood in Washington, D.C.
Brilliant Earth also opened a location there to capture a market full of young professionals, an audience engagement ring stores are desperate to reach.
I’ve visited the James Allen location in Washington, D.C. and found it an exceptional experience. There are display cases of jewelry, and the representative I spoke with about my wife’s engagement ring was helpful.
From what I can tell, Brilliant Earth’s locations are a similar style. There’s plenty of room to walk around and view jewelry.
They’ve opened locations in places such as:
- Miami, Florida
- Dallas, Texas
- San Diego, California
- Denver, Colorado
So while both have led the way in selling jewelry online, it’s clear they’re trying to take some of the ground from traditional sellers as well.
I have experience connecting with the James Allen and Brilliant Earth teams. Each time we’ve interacted, they’ve been responsive and helpful.
They provide 24/7 customer service, where you can call, chat, or email their team. Not only are they available to connect about a specific order, you can set up a virtual appointment with their experts to walk through a real-time diamond inspection.
If you’re buying a diamond for the first time, I encourage you to review the grading certificate with the James Allen customer service team.
They’ll explain each part of the certificate, so you’ll have the confidence to buy it without needing to view it in person.
Brilliant Earth’s team of experts are available 24/7, where you can call, email, or chat about your order or a piece that interests you.
Like James Allen, they offer one-on-one video consultations to let you explore diamonds, engagement rings, gemstones, and more.
Shipping, Returns, and Warranties
You should also understand the logistical aspects of your order like shipping, returns, and warranties.
James Allen’s and Brilliant Earth’s policies in these areas generally align with competitors like Blue Nile.
Brilliant Earth provides free FedEx shipping on every order to the United States, Canada, the UK, and Australia.
But because they create most of their pieces once it’s ordered, shipping times vary. They don’t provide an exact timeline of when to expect the jewelry before you order it, but the delivery date is shown on the order confirmation.
James Allen also promotes free shipping to 23 countries, regardless of the order amount. For a US order over $500, it’s shipped FedEx Priority Overnight.
Orders under $500 are shipped through FedEx Two Day Saver.
The two companies also have generous return policies. If you aren’t satisfied with your jewelry, you can return it within 30 days for a full refund.
There are exceptions to this policy, such as how it must be in unworn condition. You can read James Allen’s full return policy here and Brilliant Earth’s here.
This policy matches most competitors, but some run as high as 90 days.
James Allen’s warranty is similar to Brilliant Earth’s warranty. It applies to manufacturing defects.
So if the order arrived scratched, the diamond is loose, or it’s missing a prong, it may be covered under the warranty.
It’s important to understand exclusions. For example, it doesn’t cover natural wear and tear over time. Before you buy, read the full warranties so you understand what qualifies.
One advantage James Allen has over Brilliant Earth is their partnership with Jared. You can bring your James Allen jewelry to a Jared location for in-person cleaning and resizing.
We needed to get my wife’s ring resized, so we dropped it off at Jared. They fixed it quickly without the hassle of shipping back and forth.
Reviews from Customers
Read reviews from other customers before buying from either of these vendors.
Taken in aggregate, it gives you a sense of how satisfied customers are if they chose Brilliant Earth or James Allen.
The online sentiment from customers toward both brands is positive.
For example, 487 customers on WeddingWire gave Brilliant Earth 4.5 out of five stars. They earned high regards for:
- Quality of service
- Average response time
Reviews commend the company’s designs, including their gemstones like moissanite and sapphire.
Brilliant Earth also holds an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), which means they consistently address customer issues in a timely manner.
James Allen earned the same from the BBB.
On WeddingWire, they received 4.8 out of five stars from more than 1,300 reviews.
This includes WeddingWire’s Couples’ Choice Award twice in the last five years.
Reviewers note the durability of their jewelry, the price, and helpful customer service.
But like any jeweler, not all customers have had a positive experience with these companies.
For example, some James Allen reviewers describe frustration over shipping times or confusion about what qualifies as a repair under the warranty.
Some who have bought from Brilliant Earth complained about an order not arriving on time or not understanding whether a diamond was available.
But the vast majority of reviews from customers are positive, and both vendors have proven to regularly address problems that do arise.
Should You Buy Jewelry from James Allen or Brilliant Earth?
Brilliant Earth and James Allen have earned reputations as two the leading diamond retailers.
They’ve perfected the online experience and offer customers a wider selection than most in-person vendors, who often charge higher prices to compensate for overhead costs.
I’ve personally bought jewelry from James Allen and Brilliant Earth and was satisfied with the process from start to finish.
Each time I’ve interacted with their team, they’ve answered my questions in a way that demonstrates their jewelry knowledge.
Whether you’re interested in customizing an engagement ring, creating a gemstone pendant, or finding the right piece of fine jewelry, you can have confidence in your experience with Brilliant Earth and James Allen.