Expert Advice: Shopping for Engagement Rings Online vs. In Store

With Mervis Diamond Importers chief growth officer Jonathan Mervis.

Image via Shutterstock/Syda Productions.

The Mervis Diamond Importers brand has a long history in Washington, with roots in South Africa that go back to the 1930s. Jonathan Mervis has grown up with the brand and now serves as the chief growth officer for the family business’s three area locations. But after his years experiencing the Mervis method for selecting high-quality stones, he has seen first-hand the dangers of thinking purchases from giant online retailers and in-store diamond purchases are one and the same.

Every diamond in a Mervis Diamond store has been hand-picked.

“We go overseas, and we’ll look at hundreds of diamonds to pick ten that we like. We invest millions of dollars into product that we think is the best and that we can be proud of,” says Mervis.

Buying a diamond online leaves it up to your own discretion—buying in a store leaves it up to the experts.

“Many shoppers are buying a diamond for the first time,” says Mervis. “You can do your own surgery, or you can get a doctor to help you. Take advantage of the guidance of an expert that has done this for 20 or 30 years that can teach you to get the most bang for your buck—or as we joke, the most bling for your buck.”

Even if two diamonds online have the same grading, the certificates don’t tell all.

“Having hundreds of options that look good on a computer screen because they have the same color and clarity lettering grades is fool’s gold,” says Mervis. “In our industry those that are knowledgeable know that certificate is legitimate—they’re not lying when they say something is a G color or SI quality—but even if it’s a GSI, not all GSI are the same. There are the intangibles of the sparkle and brilliance, and ultimately what you derive value from is the sparkle and the brilliance and everybody saying, ‘Wow!'”

Treat your diamond buying experience like a relationship.

“If you met someone online, you wouldn’t just agree to marry them without ever meeting. That’s sort of what it’s like if you buy a diamond online,” says Mervis. “The certificate tells you the color and clarity, and like a driver’s license will tell you the hair color, eye color, and height, but it doesn’t tell you everything about the person. It doesn’t tell you if they’ve got a sparkling personality or if they’re a little bit dull. And even if you see a picture of them, it doesn’t tell you if they’re fun to hang out with or if you couldn’t stand them after a week.”

Shopping for a ring is supposed to be an emotional experience, not just the click of a mouse.

“It’s a romantic endeavor and part of the journey—it’s not just about delivering the product,” says Mervis. “It’s the experience that is so important to us, which is why I sometimes put out chocolates or champagne—I want people to feel comfortable and excited.”

Mervis Diamond Importers:

1900 Mervis Way, Tysons; (703) 448-9000

1700 K St., NW; (202) 293-0600

1775 Rockville Pike, Rockville; (301) 231-0030

We are always thankful for the support of our sponsors! Thank you to Mervis Diamond Importers for sponsoring this content.

Associate Editor

Caroline Cunningham joined Washingtonian in 2014 after moving to the DC area from Cincinnati, where she interned and freelanced for Cincinnati Magazine and worked in content marketing. She currently resides in College Park.