What are Virtual Diamonds?

I have been asked a question which I am sure other people are also wondering about. What are Virtual Diamonds? If you have no idea what the term Virtual diamonds means you could easily start wondering if these are some sort of imaginary diamonds. Are the diamonds really there? What the heck are virtual diamonds? Have no fear. This article should clear  up any confusion surrounding virtual diamonds.

In a sense virtual diamonds are not there, so in a way you’d be right. But the good news is that they are somewhere. They do exist. They just aren’t being physically kept by the jeweler that is retailing them. Virtual diamonds are the diamonds which are still held by  manufacturers, ie siteholders. These diamonds may be listed by a number of jewelers as virtual inventory by permission from the siteholder. Some online jewelers’ inventory is entirely virtual. This is how James Allen and Blue Nile began.

Jewelers who own their own inventory such as Brian Gavin Diamonds, Victor Canera, Leibish & Co. , Asteria Diamonds and Whiteflash all vet the diamonds they have on offer. They have essentially had to put their money where their mouth is: They have invested in the diamonds and their vast experience means that they know what people want. The diamonds they present to you represent their brand and the quality they represent.

Some of these jewelers do also list virtual diamonds, but they draw on their gemologists’ expertise when deciding which virtual diamonds to include in their inventory. The virtual diamonds in their database are still going to be a reflection on their company and the aforementioned jewelers work very hard to maintain the good reputation they have built up over the years.


On of the advantages of being able to access a virtual inventory is that  you have access to a wide selection of diamonds. The ability to compare many different diamonds allows you to select for whatever attributes you want. Some people select size over quality of cut, others (who do their research, and know that a poorly cut diamond is not going to sparkle) make their selection based on the quality of the diamond’s cut. But the choices are there and much of this is made possible through virtual stock. Jewelry retailers can list diamonds without having to arrange and maintain secure storage not to speak of investing untold millions of dollars in the precious cut stones themselves. The wide variety of stones available through virtual stock is great for those who like to research and narrow their search down to within specific parameters.

Disadvantages of buying from Virtual Inventory

One disadvantage of browsing through virtual stock is that not all listings include a photo of the specific diamond. Often listings only show a stock photo, or none at all. This is not always the case, but it is understandably quite a logistical challenge for a jeweler to photograph inventory they do not have possession of. Which is why James Allen’s amazing feat of photographing tens of thousands of diamonds is all the more impressive. One disadvantage to buying from a virtual selection that has given rise to complaints on more than one occasion is that in rare circumstances the diamond someone wants may already be in the process of being sold to another jeweler. If this were to happen to you most likely your jeweler would be happy to suggest some alternative stones. However you may have thought long and hard about a particular diamond and will understandably not be too happy at being told that it’s no longer available. Another disadvantage of buying from virtual selections is that all the best signature cuts are generally not included in virtual listings. Signature cuts are best bought directly from the cutter for the best deals anyway.

So as you can see there is a downside to shopping the virtual market. Virtual diamonds are typically listed on multiple websites. It often happens that the diamond you so carefully chose turns out to be unavailable.
Vendors then have to talk you into another diamond making it seem like they are trying a bait-and-switch. When in fact they are simply trying to hang on to the sale that has just slipped out of their hands due to the diamond having been sold by another retailer.
This kind of prior sale or even logistic and delivery delays undoubtedly cause disappointment and frustration.
Another disadvantage is that the diamonds are not pre-vetted by the merchant. This opens up a slew of unforeseen issues that could be a risk.
Diamonds listed with old certificates, with limited objective data, with mismatched data, with minimal return options, or by sellers with questionable or unproven reputations, are all red flags that should be taken very seriously by consumers.
Virtual diamonds coming from overseas are difficult and expensive to return, thereby creating an incentive for the merchant to fulfill the order even if an issue is discovered. In this way, problems are sometimes passed along undermining the protections a consumer would expect the merchant to provide.
Because there has been a massive trend in the industry toward the virtual model, the value of in-stock, fully vetted diamonds available for immediate sale is sometimes under-estimated.
The opportunity to see a comprehensive set of diagnostics on the diamond and the option of having a gemologist answer questions with the diamond in hand, or provide additional information such as comparison images, can be very valuable for such a special purchase. This also makes it possible for a consumer to visit the vendor to see the diamond in person and get to know the merchant and the operation face to face. On large dollar purchases, many smart shoppers do exactly that.

Virtual diamonds present us with an opportunity to browse many more diamonds than would be possible if jewelers had to own all their stock.

While the highest grade diamonds are usually purchased from those who specialize in such items and are often hard to find in virtual listings, every inventory will have better and lower quality diamonds. One simply has to choose in which areas they are willing to compromise: size, cut, color, or clarity.