3 Reasons Why Engagement Ring Shopping Is Way Better Now

Is online shopping the new feminist frontier?

by Maddie Eisenhart, Chief Revenue Officer

apw x james allen

A dozen engagement rings on a hand with red fingernails

If there were a feminism litmus test (and boy am I glad we are not into litmus test feminists here at APW), one area where I would decidedly fail is engagement ring shopping. When I got engaged, I wanted to be surprised not only by the proposal, but by the jewelry too. Except, like anyone you hate to buy gifts for, I wanted to be surprised by a ring that was so me I would have picked it out for myself.

And that logic is why the traditional proposal is possibly one of the most absurd parts of the modern wedding tradition. Because in what other world would you ever consent to receiving an expensive gift that you are presumably going to wear for the rest of your life, without any say in the matter? Never, that’s when. And yet. Maybe you want it anyway. Or maybe your partner wants it. I get that. Because feminism and tradition are strange bedfellows. But also? It’s a roll of the dice. You know what happens to people who like to be surprised by their gifts? They end up disappointed. A lot.

Vintage inspired engagement ring on floral paper

So when we had the opportunity to work with James Allen, an online company that specializes in customizable engagement rings, I had a sudden moment of clarity. Online engagement ring shopping kind of evens the playing field, encouraging both the surprise element and getting to have a damn say in your own jewelry. Here’s how:

1. Online shopping is more casual. Want to know my least favorite part of shopping in stores? Feedback. Because I’m a people pleaser. So positive or negative, it gets all up in my head, whether it’s coming from the sales person or my partner. But online shopping? That’s all about me, and what I’m into. So even if your partner is ultimately buying your engagement ring (which, for the record, is not a requirement, and you can tell them I said so), online engagement ring shopping lets you figure out what you like first, without any comments from the peanut gallery. Or the person you love the most and want to spend the rest of your life with.

Rose gold emerald engagement ring with diamond halo on glitter backdrop

2. You get prices in real time. So much of the wedding industry is predicated on the idea that if they don’t show you prices, you’ll end up falling so in love with something that your wallet will magically expand to be able to afford. But with online engagement ring retailers like James Allen, you get prices in real time, as you build your ring. So if you only want to see settings that cost less than $500 and you think you might prefer another gemstone over a diamond, you can totally do that (and since online retailers often offer a much larger inventory than you can find in store, you’ll actually have options to choose from). Basically, you’re in control the whole time, and there’s no danger of an upsell.

Stack of wedding rings on a blue background

3. The technology is so much better. OMG the technology is so much better than it was just a few years ago. Like, good enough that we should all stop pretending that online shopping isn’t acceptable for engagement rings. Sure, a few years ago it was a totally different (kind of a little sketchy) ballgame. How were you supposed to know if what you were paying for was worth what you paid? Where did the jewelry come from? What if it got lost in the mail? But with online jewelry companies like James Allen, you get way more robust technology. Like the option to take a picture of your hand, for example, and virtually try on jewelry from the comfort of your couch. Or super HD images that show every detail of your ring way more up close and personal than you probably ever wanted. Plus you can sort by where your jewelry is sourced (including Canadian certified diamonds), and the return policy and guarantee is probably better than what you’d get in store.

Large halo diamond engagement ring on bright pattern backdrop

There are a lot of ways the wedding industry uses the emotional significance of tradition to remove your agency in the planning process while making money at the same time. And engagement rings are no exception. If there’s a stigma attached to shopping for engagement rings online, I think it begs the question: Why? Because especially when it means you have more knowledge and control in the situation (not to mention a thirty-day refund)… well, GET IT.


This post was sponsored by James Allen. If you’re thinking about engagement rings right now and don’t know where to start, it doesn’t get much more up-close and personal than James Allen’s exclusive Diamond Display Technology, which allows you to interact with diamonds in 360°, from the comfort of your home. James Allen has hundreds of engagement ring settings and over 70,000 diamonds to choose from, all of which are certified conflict-free (you even have the option of selecting Canadian-sourced diamonds for extra measure) and personally inspected by the James Allen team before they ever end up online. Plus all James Allen jewelry comes with a risk-free 30-day guarantee and a lifetime warrantee. Need extra help? James Allen’s 24/7 non-commissioned customer service team will hook you up with all their best knowledge, and never pressure you into something you don’t need. Click here to learn more about James Allen and start building your engagement ring today!

Maddie Eisenhart

Maddie is APW’s Chief Revenue Officer. She’s been writing stories about boys, crushes, and relationships since she was old enough to form shapes into words, but received her formal training (and a BS) from NYU in Entertainment and Mass Media in 2008. She now spends a significant amount of time thinking about trends on the internet and whether flower crowns will be out next year. A Maine native, Maddie currently lives on a pony farm in the Bay Area with her husband, Michael and their mastiff puppy. Current hair color: Purple(ish).

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  • Wow those rings are gorgeous! I love the idea of being able to “try on” rings at home and getting the real time pricing.

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      It was legitimately cool to this kid who used to spend too much time playing virtual makeover on the computer. :)

    • Alina

      Shopping online was still stressful because i wanted to see how the ring looked on my hand before committing to it- like in real life not virtually. I found the only company that actually does this and for free- like the warby parker of engagement rings. They’re called fourmine and they send customer a set of 3 replica rings for free- and the best part is that they look just like a real diamond ring. You can get an opinion and keep them for three days- after which you can choose if you want to buy from them or not. Such a cool concept that made shopping online easy. Check them out.

  • Sabela

    Great post! <3


  • Katy

    My ring is from James Allen!!! We found them around this time last year and my fiance loved that he wasn’t pressured or felt weird going into a store, and he could see the exact ring at all angles. And they have great customer service! My ring is beautiful and I’m absolutely in love with it! I was initially icky about a diamond bc of all the bad press (cartels, conflict, etc etc) but after finding this ring from James Allen, we both felt a lot better about going down the diamond route. I also used the virtual hand thing, it was so fun! Pic is one of our engagement photos!

    • Katy

      (photo cred to Alicia Lacey Photography)

    • Shannon Delany

      Hi Katy – Shannon here from James Allen. So happy to hear you and your fiance loved the ring and had a great experience with us! We’d love to hear more of your story – if you’d like to share it with us to be featured on our social media, please email Melissa at media@jamesallen.com with your story (how you met, the proposal, the ring) and any pictures that you’d like to share. Don’t forget to include your James Allen order number!

  • Lauren Cheak

    I got my ring through Brillian Earth, and it allowed me to really customize, shop with a budget in mind and then send lots of links to my best friend who did a much better job at guiding My now husband :)

  • Maggie Dragon

    My fiance ended up purchasing my ring online (through AMAZON, of all places) and still managed to hit that “totally a surprise but absolutely what I would have picked on my own” sweet spot. I think what helped was that he had bought me jewelry before and noticed what I wore on a day-to-day basis, so he was already looking for “blue stone, white gold, curvy, with some accents).

    The seller was Houston Diamond District and the ring is beautiful (and their follow-up email three weeks later going “hey, we sell matching wedding bands” was hilarious.) The photo (below) is from our engagement shoot so you can see it!

  • Lauren

    We managed the best of both worlds: we talked ahead of time about the possibility of getting married and we went to a jeweler and talked with her about what I would love… and then they went away with that information and I didn’t see the ring until he proposed (I knew it would be simple, yellow gold, and already in my size, but that certainly didn’t ruin the surprise). I knew the proposal was coming, but for all I knew he could have waited another six months to do it, so the timing was also a surprise. :)

    • laddibugg

      That’s the sweet spot I wanted to hit…but didn’t. I ended up choosing my ring…well, actually a friend of his picked it out and I happened to really like it. I really didn’t want to have to make a choice (I don’t care that his friend helped him–that’s what they’re for–just that I had more of a say than I wanted to have)

      • Lauren

        Yeah we got really lucky in that we had a diamond offered to us that had been in the family, but it was in a huge, ornate men’s ring that nobody expected me to wear, so having a ring made was the only option there… but I knew, basically, what I was getting. The proposal details and timing being a surprise were more important to me than the overall ring surprise, though.

  • the cupboard under the stairs

    My fiance knew my mom was keeping two family-heirloom engagement rings intended for me. Before he proposed, he called and asked her for them…and then after the proposal, we took the two rings to a jeweler so I could decide how I wanted to salvage the diamonds and make my own ring. Curious if anyone else has done something similar!

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  • Jonathan

    What me and my wife found was that she knew I was going to propose, but didn’t know when – So this gave me the opportunity to browse online and in store an engagement ring. I think it’s great if a jewellers has an online store as well as a physical store.

  • Mea Rice

    We are definitely heading towards a digital world! What I found really useful – is using the online store to select the right product and then visiting the physical store to try it on. We went to the jewellery quarter.

  • Alina

    I was really intent on having a say on my engagement ring too- but I didn’t want to go through the uncomfortable experience of shopping for an engagement ring with my boyfriend in stores- online seemed like a good route- but how could i be sure that the ring was going to look good on my hands. After a little research, we found fourmine – on their website we selected 3 styles that we loved and then they sent us free replica styles that looked just like the real diamond ring. I tried them on, showed my mom(she didn’t realize they weren’t real lol). And found my favorite- there really is no replacement for trying something on your hand. would highly recommend this site to someone looking for an easy way to shop together for an engagement ring.

  • Audrey Kinley

    I never knew that you could actually buy a ring online. I thought that you could only buy them in stores. I guess it would be more useful for guys though. It gives them a way to sneak and find a ring without their girlfriends knowing. I’m so excited to get engaged someday, yet I’m nervous about it as well. http://www.highglowjewellers.ca

  • Gary Johnson

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  • Janene Goad

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  • Donamika Anaimka

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  • Jay

    It’s changed massively! I know my mates have recently been shopping online for engagement rings, as they have found that you can tailor make engagement rings on a number of websites. You can really personalise a diamond, metal, design & shape online, which you couldn’t really do before. It seems a lot less hassle than going into a number of jewellers and picking out a ring.

  • I once attended a Jewish friend’s wedding ceremony. While talking to the couple I caught a glimpse of their wedding rings and out of my curiosity I asked them on the stage, from where they purchased their rings. Those rings were very beautiful and has something printed in Jewish on it. I searched the same rings online and ended my search at this website- https://hebrings.com/. And the inscribed quote is “Ani Le Dodi”, which mean “I am my beloveds”. Beautiful, isn’t it?

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