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James Allen vs. Costco: Which is better?

In this article, we are going to look at a detailed comparison between James Allen and Costco. Yes, you got that right, Costco.

This is a battle between unconventional jewelry shops: a giant online retailer vs., a retailer that has jewelry sales as a side business.

We shall compare these two stores in terms of:

  • Ring selections
  • Customer service
  • Customer opinions on Reddit
  • Price and value
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When you think about a place to buy engagement or wedding rings, Costco is the last store that will cross your mind.

Costco is a wholesale retail shop that sells its products in huge quantities. They sell barbecue grills, fresh seafood, and toothbrushes. They also have diamond engagement rings for sale stocked in their warehouses.

James Allen as you already might know is an online jewelry shop that specializes in selling loose diamonds and ring settings that you can use to design your ring from scratch.

The question is which of these two retailers has a better selection of bridal jewelry? Let’s find out as they go head to head.

Bottom Line: James Allen is the better seller of diamonds and fine jewelry.

Their library of loose diamonds is comprehensive and you can view your selection in 360-degree high-definition images. They allow you to create your unique ring too. Their customer service is available 24/7 and the return policy is convenient, giving you a smooth shopping experience.

The quality and prices of jewelry on James Allen are far much better than other retailers, Costco included. This online retailer is doing more good than harm to the jewelry industry and we are glad to advise you to purchase your jewelry from them

Check here for ongoing promotions at James Allen.

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James Allen Vs, Costco: Shopping Experience

Customers define a great shopping experience to be one that has an easy purchasing process and convenient return policy when the need arises. There is a high likelihood that the customer will come to the store again or recommend to other interested buyers if the shopping experience was great.

Costco

There are a handful of reviews on the internet about shopping for engagement rings from Costco. However, I managed to get a few reviews from previous Costco customers who bought engagement rings.

The shopping experience at Costco is two-way, either you are a member or not. The rings in the warehouses can only be bought by members while non-members are free to buy rings from their website. The disadvantage of not being a member is that the retailer charges you an extra 5% on your purchase.

Costco members get the option of their orders being shipped to a Costco location whereas non-members have to wait for two to three days for their orders to be shipped. Many customers seem to appreciate the online shopping experience; it is smooth and straightforward, although, I was not able to find any specific information about shopping from the warehouses.

Costco does not carry any loose diamonds, ring settings, or custom made diamond rings, all their jewelry is premade. The only option you get before buying the diamond is a stock picture, there is no way of knowing what clarity, carat weight, color, or cut of diamond you are buying.

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Most of their engagement rings and other bridal jewelry falls in the I color grade, which is almost colorless. The diamond rings with better colors are countable ad most of them have VS1 or VS2 clarity grades. Such diamonds are good quality if I may say.

If you purchase an engagement ring from Costco and it so happens that you have to return it for some reason, prepare for a battle ahead. This customer’s experience was gotten from Trustpilot, the customer attempted to return a ring:

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This is funny: on the website, Costco clearly states that one of their gemologists will review and get in touch with the customer in 24-48 hours. This is not hassle-free to me.

I cannot speak for this customer’s experience but agree with a point he puts across. Please buy any jewelry from a store that sells high-quality diamonds and not where the diamonds are close to the batteries!

James Allen

James Allen is widely known as the best online diamond seller. There is a full library of loose diamonds each with different diamond grades. You are at liberty to pick a loose diamond and a setting too.

Like you, you probably prefer this option because buying premade rings just don’t have a feeling in it.

The selection of ring settings is not that wide, but James Allen allows you to go fully custom. They offer several ways for you to create your ring piece by piece.

At Costco, the only thing you can add is the ring to your cart and check out the website.

Buying a wedding or engagement ring is a personal process that comes with emotions. James Allen allows you to pour out all the emotions and add a personal touch to the process of picking loose diamonds and designing a ring that the person you love will with no doubt like.

Read Here: The Best way To Buy Jewelry Online in 2021

James Allen makes the shopping experience easier with their 360-degree technique of viewing diamonds; this allows customers the chance to look at the stone before buying.

Unlike Costco, what you see on the James Allen website is exactly what will be delivered to you. There are no blanket clarity ranges and of course, the diamond colors are much more than just the I grade. The buying process is completely transparent.

Each of the diamonds depending on the type you pick comes with a GIA, IGI, or AGs grading report. You rest assured that the diamond you are buying measures up to what is stated in the certificate.

Read Here: Difference between GIA, IGI, and AGS

When it comes to the return policy, James Allen allows its customers 30 days to return any jewelry that has flaws. They will send you a free shipping label and send the jewelry back to you after repair. Josh had this to say about James Allen’s refund experience of Trustpilot:

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The disadvantage with most physical jewelry stores is that they are so interested in making money that they disregard the actual customers who buy their products.

James Allen vs. Costco: Customer Service

Customer service is not only limited to the process of purchasing, it goes further to how you are handled when the merchandise you bought has issues.

The way a retailer handles your complaints regarding their products will show you the true colors of their customer service.

Costco

I tried so hard to get people’s experience of buying Costco jewelry to no avail, so I decided to try out their live chat to bring you reliable information. A description stating “graduate gemologists” meant to answer and jewelry questions caught my eye.

I also wanted information about the warranty they have but that will come later. Here is a screenshot of the chat where I ask both questions:

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The reason I inquired about the Alma Mata of their gemologist is I wanted to know whether he or she graduated from GIA (Gemological Institute of America). GIA is the best and most prestigious place that you can get a degree in Gemology.

Get this piece of information makes a customer comfortable when buying from a retailer who is not a jeweler. Depending on the duration that Michael took to answer my questions, I can tell he does not know more than I know.

It took a total of about 20 minutes for him to respond to the two questions that I asked and you can see he did not answer any of them. He chose to tell me about IGI and GIA certificates instead of answering what I had asked.

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This is my experience with customer service at Costco. The entire process is uncomfortable and I feel that when you buy rings from Costco, you are buying with zero knowledge about diamonds.

Furthermore, you cannot view the diamond beforehand to determine if it is eye-clean and if it can fit your budget. I mean this is the least they can offer since they have zero knowledge about diamonds.

Truth is told, the customer service representatives at Costco are just salespeople looking to make sales and not jewelers.

James Allen

Many people have shopped from James Allen and the reviews are so many so there was no need for me to get a firsthand experience. I have to say that every time I need reliable information about this store, I get the answers right away.

However, you can also read what Ryan had to say on Wedding Wire:

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Diamond shipping is the most important- an aspect worth mentioning when it comes to a diamond shop like James Allen. This is the only part of the buying process that James Allen does not have control over.

James Allen can assure you of getting a diamond that is one carat with an excellent round cut sitting in a high-quality ring setting, but they cannot be sure about FedEx or how the weather will be during shipment. With Ryan, James Allen made sure he got the jewelry.

One customer complained to the Better Business Bureau about buying a set of 14K white gold wire basket earrings costing $250 on the advertisement. However, the customer service staff reaches out to her saying there is a system malfunction and that this is not the right price.

She wants James Allen to acknowledge the price at which she purchases them but she is told there is a big difference between the actual price and that stated in the advertisement. I went to jamesallen.com and searched for the earrings she was talking about. Here is the retail price:

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I honestly see why this online jewelry retailer was not ready to honor the indicated price. There is more than a $1000 price difference. This was a very expensive mistake on the part of James Allen.

After raising her complaint via the Better Business Bureau, James Allen was quick to respond and resolve the issue and gave her what she wanted. If you had the same problem at Costco, Kay, or Jared, trust me they wouldn’t honor the price.

However, James Allen goes out of their way to address the concerns of angry customers too.

James Allen vs. Costco: Warranty

Most people think that if you buy pieces that are high quality, you do not need a warranty at all. This is not true, especially for jewelry, a warranty is inevitable.

As long as you will go about your activities, as usual, diamond rings are bound to get knocked.

As time goes by the white gold on your rings starts to lose the silvery appearance and will need rhodium plating and the prongs may start to catch on fabric necessitating re-tipping. A warranty will ensure that you do not have to pay for all this metalwork and will keep the ring as good as new.

Costco

It is quite an adventure looking for product warranties at Costco. I clicked on warranty information pinned to one of their bridal jewelry and I was redirected to a page that talks about refunds.

Remember when I had an online chat with them and asked about the qualifications of gemologists? I took the same opportunity to ask about their warranty too.

It took some considerable time for Michael to find warranty information, he went ahead to tell me what I have already established. I expected Michael to have more detailed information than I did, but that was not the case.

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It turns out Costco does not provide any jewelry warranty for their customers; they only have a 100% return policy. After researching further on the said policy, I found out that Costco can approve or reject refunds.

There seems to be some kind of contradictory information: Michael stated in the live chat they repair diamonds. However, in Costco’s FAQs section, the retailer says they do not do any maintenance or ring resizing.

Michaels’ narrative is that they do not resize but they do repairs for free. He also says that if you lose a stone, your insurance takes care of replacing it or a local jeweler can do that too.

It is quite frustrating to buy a Costco ring only to move around looking for a jeweler to repair any defects or change the size of the ring.

I also found out that the gemologists they have are GIA graduates but no customer service representative knows that.

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This particular customer says she had to incur a cost to have her ¾ carat diamond to be tightened and resized. According to Costco customer service, this customer could have had the repairs done at the store if she was a member. Otherwise, non-members get all the repairs done out of their pocket.

James Allen

While Costco does not have a warranty for their jewelry, James Allen offers a lifetime warranty completely free. The warranty takes care of all metal works on loose diamonds including rhodium plating, jewelry polishing, stone tightening, cleaning, and prong re-tipping.

For any of these services, you have the option of taking the jewelry to a selected Jared store or ship the ring back to them on your own for $35.

Read Here: The warranty and Return Policy at James Allen

On top of the warranty, you also get a free resizing within the first year of purchase. After the year ends, James Allen charges $25 to resize gold rings and $50 to resize platinum rings.

James Allen vs. Costco: Price and Value

As much as you want a good jewelry deal, it is good to get a deal on jewelry that is high quality, not a jewelry piece that is affordable and poor quality at the same time.

You may be wondering if it is possible to get high-quality jewelry at a lower price. Yes, you can. To help us compare the price and value of Costco jewelry with those of James Allen, I have selected two different kinds of rings from their websites. We have here a 1.53-carat marquise diamond with VVS2 clarity grade and color grade G in a platinum solitaire setting.

Read Here: Diamond Cuts Explained

This ring comes with a GIA grading report and costs a total of $13,999.99.

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I was not able to find a similar piece at James Allen but I found this marquise cut 1.51 carat with the similar carat weight and color grades also in platinum setting but costing $699 less at $13,300. There are several options to customize your ring at James Allen.

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Both Costco and James Allen shop their products for free, if you will incur any additional charges that would be sales tax unless you are not a member of Costco.

Remember the 5% surcharge on a purchase, if you are not a member of Costco, the above ring would cost you $14,694.95.

This makes the James Allen ring less expensive by $1394.95. You will get the same quality of diamond at a less price, a lifetime warranty for the same piece, and buy from James Allen that allows you to piece together the ring you want.

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Let’s see what we can get from James Allen if we round off the Costco marquise ring to $14,700 while retaining the same platinum setting. I looked through the online jewelry’s loose diamond collection for a marquise diamond.

There was no jewelry with the same price but there is a great piece at James Allen for less than the $14,700. Look at the specifications of this ring:

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This ring from James Allen is 1.74 carat, VS1 clarity, and color grade F. the clarity grade is slightly lower than that of Costco but this does not make much of a difference.

Read Here: Diamond Color explained

You notice the price is still less than the Costco ring even when there was an addition of 0.23 carats on the weight and the color grade went up by one.

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In general, James Allen gives you control of the buying process and a chance to customize your engagement ring. This makes the purchasing process personal and intimate leading to high-quality diamonds bought at an affordable price being delivered at your doorstep.

James Allen vs. Costco: Reddit Reviews

Redditors have a lot to say about different jewelry retailers and the merchandise they sell. There are just a handful of reviews about Costco on Reddit but far much more than you can find in any other review site.

From the reviews I have read, I can conclude that most Redditors believe that you can buy high-quality diamonds cheaply from Costco that you can from an average jewelry retailer.

This is true since the diamond prices at Costco are far much less than those at Zales, Kay, or Jared.

But if we compare their prices to online jewelry shops like James Allen, Whiteflash, and Blue Nile, they are still very high for less quality diamonds.

The post below from Reddit says it all:

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There is no doubt the jewelry sold at Costco is fine and the prices are great if you are looking for a good deal. If you are not interested in seeing the diamond before you buy it, then Costco is the store for you.

However, if you want to be fully involved in designing the ring you have chosen, then James Allen should be your number one shop. Here, you give the ring a personal touch, get engraving for free, and give the ring more sentimentality.

There are plenty of posts about James Allen on Reddit. Many people are advising others to buy jewelry from them. James Allen is also on Reddit and is very active.

I have seen posts where James Allen gives customers information about diamonds, congratulate couples, and also address customer concerns. This is great for them considering that Reddit is not an official site where they can address such issues.

Most jewelry stores and other companies address customer issues raised through their websites, customer service staff, or official social media pages. James Allen steps a little out of the comfort zone and addresses issues on BBB, Reddit, Yelp as well as their social media pages.

Below is a post where a Reddit user was asking about the reputation of online jewelry shops like Blue Nile, James Allen, and Brilliant Earth.

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Most people commenting on the post advise the original poster to buy jewelry from a local jeweler. Others give their opinion on why the user should not shop online. However, actual customer stories are narrated by James Allen customers.

The number of customers ranting about loose diamonds, a diamond they bought, or setting is small. The positive James Allen reviews on Reddit outweigh the negatives. This can be seen from actual James Allen customers.

Our Final Verdict: James Allen

If you are looking for an engagement ring or any other bridal set, you will get the best quality at great prices from Costco compared to Zales, Jared, or Kay.

But if we compare it to online jewelry shop James Allen, Costco cannot stand against it.

James Allen gives a free warranty to cover all loose stone metal work whereas Costco has no warranty at all. Although Costco allows you to return a ring, you may be up for a disappointment if you have resized it or if they just don’t feel like accepting it back.

Buying Costco jewelry attracts other forms of payment including paying a local jeweler to resize the ring, but James Allen resizes the ring for you once in the first year free of charge. Also, James Allen repairs the ring for you or gives you the option of sending it to a Jared shop.

I choose James Allen over and over because they have extensive diamond knowledge. You most likely will feel more comfortable buying jewelry from a seller who allows you to craft the diamond you choose and also allow you to see its details before buying.

I know you will also feel very uncomfortable purchasing diamonds from a company whose customer care ignores customers. A shop that has diamond experts who are good at reviewing the diamond of your choice and answer any questions you may have is worth considering.

Unlike Costco, James Allen specializes in selling diamonds and their employees are knowledgeable about diamonds.

Costco is just a shop that sells jewelry among other things, they are not jewelry experts. If they knew about diamonds, they would have as much or even more transparency as James Allen has.

With no fear of contradiction, I can finally say that James Allen is a better place to buy diamond wedding or engagement rings.

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