Home > Uncategorized > Blue Nile – not as easy as it seems

Blue Nile – not as easy as it seems

I live in Australia. I recently ordered a diamond ring from Blue Nile for my partner. I’ve always liked their brand, and it seems to make sense to make savings in jewellery by ordering from a big brand offline. To be perfectly honest, what’s the point of spending hours reading about diamond selection and poring over your choice in the stores, then selecting a local jeweller that you like, poring some more and making thoughtful sounds, hand-picking your diamond, then having a ring made to fit it… when you frankly probably wouldn’t recognise whether you were looking at a flawless diamond ring or a $10 accessory from Claire’s. Not to mention that the whole engagement ring thing is a mid-20th century invention by De Beers to sell more diamonds (and boy, did it work!). Whoever you use, you’re trusting the guy not to rip you off anyway, so why not just use a big brand that’s hopefully regulated in some way, place your order, and have the package arrive a few days later?

Well. For the engagement ring, I did go through the whole process above. But for this current ring, I just ordered online.

So… worth it? Did I make grrreat savings?

No. Jeez, no. I would have paid 50% more to NOT to have gone through this process.


Here’s what you expect:

  • Great selection on online storefront; everything looks fantastic
  • Save a lot of hassle
  • Easy online ordering
  • Arrives in the post a couple of weeks later


And here’s what I got:

Firstly, the credit card. I used a Jetstar Mastercard Platinum to pay my Blue Nile bill in Australian Dollars, to get a few extra Qantas points. Then I noticed a surcharge on my card statement.

In the small print – actually NOT in the main Terms and Conditions, but only in the small summary pamphlet they give you – it turns out that you pay 3% foreign transaction fee, on foreign currency transactions (extortionate, but fair enough), but also on AUD transactions to foreign companies! So even though Blue Nile charged me in AUD, Jetstar (Macquarie Bank) actually charged me another $40 for the transaction.

Grr! OK, perhaps I should have known (that Macquarie would rip me off wherever possible). I argued it, and I may get it back; we’ll see.


Secondly – the customs duty. Anything over $1000 (and this just about was), qualifies for GST and Customs Duty. So I get a call from Fedex saying my ring had arrived in the country, and they needed something north of $300 to release it. Again – I had kinda seen this in the delivery notes, but it really strikes home when you get the call! And Blue Nile doesn’t provide an ‘estimated total charge’, so it’s a semi-hidden extra charge, in effect.


Thirdly… The quality! Although the picture looked fantastic (not this one, btw), the ring turned out to be a lot narrower than I anticipated; I guess they show small diameter rings so that they look broader for the size. As a result, it was only around 2/3 of the width of my partner’s other rings, which looked a little wrong.

And this led to fourthly… the engraving. I had one written into the inside of the ring. A nice idea.. .but with the small size, I found it really, really difficult to actually see the letters! It was that small, that I physically couldn’t read it! The capital first letter and small following letters also led to a justification issue, so there seemed to be a gap in the word between the two.

Oh, and fifthly, it was two sizes too large. I had slightly overestimated for safety, and of course, I could easily send it back for a resize if needed… couldn’t I?


So – time to send it back. Easy?

Well….. no.

Because when you send it back, you pay postage. So – for my initial purchase price of (say) $1,200, plus the $30 credit card fee, plus the $300-odd customs fee, I now faced another $150 return courier fee! The way it works is this. They give you the details of a carrier insurance company (G4), who will provide insurance. And when shipping diamond rings, you really want to choose the insurance company recommended by the retailer. Now – the G4 insurance charge was very reasonable – something like $8, total, compared to $30-40 for insurance of that value with someone else, if they’ll insure jewellery in transit! However – the only options they gave for couriers, were Fedex Express, or Auspost.

Fedex Express wanted $150 for return shipping. There is a Fedex Economy service – $50 – but they’re not listed on the G4 options, so perhaps insurance would not be valid here.

So – how about Auspost?

Well… that depends if they’ll take it. It turns out there are a whole load of complicated provisos on which services will take the jewellery. The most logical – express courier service with tracking and insurance – refuse to take jewellery. In fact, on the advice of the Auspost call centre, the only option was standard Airmail with Tracking (and I added insurance there as well as the G4 insurance – belt and braces!). And then the local post office refused to take the package as they said the sorting office would refuse to take it, and I had to insist, and insist, and even give them the name of the Auspost call centre employee who had told me it was OK.

So, as you can imagine, it was with some trepidation that I finally gave them the package, and left the post shop.

A few days later, I checked the Auspost website for the tracking number. “No record found”. Oh s**t!

I left it a few days, and tried again. Not found. Again. Not found. Oh, jeez, what a ‘saving’ that was! I’d paid duty and double postage on a ring that had now been lost!

However – it turned out that I was worrying for the wrong reasons – I should have been tracking it on the USPS website, not the AusPost site. I tried the tracking number there, and sure enough, it was nearly at its destination. A few days later, I received an email confirmation that it had arrived. After ‘inspection’ by Blue Nile, I was told I would be reimbursed.


I have yet to check the refund arrived (that’s next). I’ve also yet to attempt again to talk to customs about how to fill out the refund form for the duty, which I’ve had two failed starts on. I’ve yet to see if the refund arrived on my credit card, since the MacBank call centre employee told me they need a ‘particular letter’ from the retailer. And whether they’ll refund the foreign currency charge (they said, after some discussion, that they would).

So, my $1,200 ring, has so far cost around $1,700, around 5-6 hours of chasing, and around 2-3 months in total process time. And I’ve ended up back where I started.

On a positive note, a few things worked faultlessly well:

  • The AusPOST international shipping clerk, who was faultlessly knowledgable and helpful
  • The Blue Nile Customer Services rep, who was unquestioningly helpful and offered a refund without argument
  • The USPS tracking site was great

It’s just that… well, some things, you need to touch and see before you buy them! And this is evidently one of them.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. damo
    February 9, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    I just checked my Credit Card Statement, and it seems Jetstar did credit me the foreign transaction fee after I called them to complain. I was pretty furious – so it seems it pays to be furious.

    It seems they also then credited me the fee again when they refunded the actual ring purchase, so I get double credit. Sch-wing!

  2. Stefan
    November 11, 2014 at 1:34 am

    Seems like you had a few things go wrong.
    I think that a bit of research and looking at physical rings etc. could have gone a long way into getting what you were after. Seems like you also had a bit of bad luck.

    I on the other hand just bought an engagement ring from Blue Nile. I went to physical jewelers first, looked at all the rings/diamonds i could, understood exactly what I wanted, then made my selection based on these opinions. Import GST etc. is a given if had read up on what it takes to import items. My item was perfect, no surprises in regards to customs calling for more cash as I had done a reasonable amount of research and I was happy.

    Moral of the story, know what you want before you buy it and do read up on the details of what the process entails.

    Blue Nile is a great service if you know what you are getting yourself into and the value that you get for a little bit of extra time spent organising will defiantly pay off.

    • damo
      November 11, 2014 at 3:04 am

      I agree it’s great if you’re prepared, as any cost-controlled service will be. The fact that you use the words “know what you’re getting yourself into” isn’t really the right phrase for personal, emotionally-charged purchases in the 4-5 figure price range. 🙂

      My point is that what I expected, and what I got, were different things – the product was below the standard expected, and there were some hidden costs, particularly for issues like return, that eroded the value of the service. There are companies where you’re unexpectedly surprised by the quality and service, and some where you’re unexpectedly disappointed; my experience with Blue Nile was more towards the latter.

    • Ruby
      March 31, 2016 at 2:47 pm

      My fiance purchased my Engagement ring from Blue Nile. Nervous experience for both of us thats for sure but he didn’t like anything we had locally. Requesting the Free Ring sizer helped get my size right. I have to say it was spot on it fit my finger perfectly. After reading up on their site we know customs would contact us as well a whopping $1250.80 to release it. OUCH! but soooo worth it. Very Happy.

  3. Ruben
    December 4, 2014 at 9:57 pm

    I have just purchased a diamond on Blue Nile and been stung with an unexpected Foreign Transaction fee from Westpac Earth. When I called the bank to discuss they said the fee went straight to the RBA and not to them and Blue Nile should have made me aware of this at the time of purchase. Has anyone else had this experience?

  4. Gino
    January 22, 2015 at 11:24 am

    Hi there,
    Can you please share the link for the insurer G4? Not sure if it’s the same one I found online and I’m in the same boat. This would be GREATLY appreciated.

    • damo
      January 24, 2015 at 6:13 am

      Hi Gino – turns out i still have a mail from them:

      Customer Service Representative
      G4S International
      Office – 800-401-7447 x11206
      Fax – 800-735-0472
      G4S International is part of the G4S group of companies.

  5. TT
    June 14, 2015 at 10:16 am

    Also got hit by foreign transaction fees ($50+) for using my Westpac Altitude Black MC credit card! Really annoying that it is considered “foreign” even though the purchase is in AUD, but the company is located overseas.

  6. Michael
    July 8, 2015 at 5:47 am

    Did you get the customs and GST back? I bought and returned to BlueNile and Im fighting with customs at the moment – they say the GST and customs are non-refundable on returns that are change of mind.

    • damo
      July 8, 2015 at 6:08 am

      I can’t remember. I think I did, on the basis that the item was not as described (smaller than expected), rather than call it a change of mind.

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