Looking for a detailed comparison between James Allen and Kay Jewelers?
You have come to the right place!
We shall look at:
- Which of these two has the best shopping experience?
- From which store can you grab the best quality jewelry for the price?
- Which company has the best warranty?
- What do current and previous customers say about these two jewelry retailers?
In the past, most people shopped for jewelry from physical stores to get an engagement ring, wedding band, earrings, pendants, or any other jewelry. This norm has just changed recently where people have turned to online stores to buy jewelry.
Other companies have shops online giving customers a completely different shopping experience.
Kay Jewelers still maintains tradition by being one of the corporate jewelers to have a brick and mortar store.
But when compared side by side with James Allen, most people prefer to shop for jewelry online.
So, who is better between the rookie tech-savvy James Allen and legendary Kay Jewelry. We shall find out in no time.
In this Guide
James Allen vs Kay Jewelers
James Allen boasts of being a diamond seller that cares for its customers. Their goal is to provide affordable prices for their jewelry and making the purchasing process hassle-free so that customers do not get afraid of their money being stolen.
Kay Jewelers have been in the jewelry industry for more than a decade and have gained a good reputation over the years. It is one of the jewelry stores under Signet Jewelers.
At Kay Jewelers, customers get a more personable and informational experience when looking around for preferred jewelry.
Let me start by saying that when you walk into Kay’s store and you want to but, all the staff is nice but if you are going in with a complaint or a negative situation, the mood is different.
Read the post below to know how bad an experience Victoria had when she tried to get her money back from Kay for a ring she had ordered. This post was gotten from the Better Business Bureau.
Kay provides its customers with a 60-day return policy and you must have the credit card that you used at the time of buying jewelry.
If you paid using cash, you will have to be patient for about 7-10 working days for payment to come from the mother office, unless the store you are in has enough cash at hand, although this is rare. There have been several complaints about Kay’s refund policy.
At Kay, you will also get the chance to design your ring from scratch. You can also order loose diamonds and settings from Stuller.
Below is a narration from Dana on the Consumer affairs site, who dealt with a customer that wanted a custom ring.
A whole six months! Really! Getting a custom ring done at Kay Jewelers should only take a month provided you do not modify anything once the design process has started.
There is no reason for it to take six whole months.
And by the way, Kay Jewelers start their jewelry designs with a drawing made by hand by one of their associates. However, there is no way to know who exactly is drawing your design or what kind of qualifications they have.
All in all, the shopping experience at Kay is not consistent: the good reviews are as many as the bad reviews.
With only two locations in New York and Washington DC, James Allen’s shopping experience will only be online. The question of salespeople pushing you to purchase what you do not like is left to companies owned by Signet Jewelers, such as Kay.
On the James Allen website, you are free to take all the time while shopping, after all this is crucial given the kind of purchase you are about to make.
Brand names like Jeff Cooper and Veraggio are some of the jewelry you will find at James Allen, although you will still get to choose your preferred center stone. Unlike what Kay offers, you will not find any ready-made items here. You can only get the setting and select the kind of diamond you want.
RECOMMENDED: Can You Design Your Ring at James Allen?
Shopping for jewelry at James Allen allows you control over the diamonds and thus determining the final price. If you order brand names like Vera Wang or Neil Lane, you will get the diamond that comes with it.
One big advantage of James Allen is their high level of transparency. They provide you with a 360-degree view of every diamond available on their site.
This way when the delivery arrives, you know you are receiving exactly what you saw on their site.
What about the process of customizing jewelry? Here is what David says about ordering a personalized ring during the busy Christmas time:
Jana, another customer also had a good experience with customized jewelry design at James Allen.
Some customers have complained about the ring settings, especially those with pave stones. Only minute prongs can hold pave stones in place since they are very delicate.
The more pave stones in a piece of jewelry, the higher the likelihood of them falling off. Although pave is a fashionable design, it is almost impossible to clean.
At Kay collection, you will find many Neil Lane collections that have pave design bands. I have come across more Neil Pane rings being fixed than any other kind of ring from Kay Jewelers.
Aside from the pave settings, the overall shopping experience in James Allen is great. On the downside, James Allen doesn’t take care of the stones’ cost but if the problem persists they may look at it as a manufacturer’s flaw and replace it at no cost.
Customer care is a big deal especially when you are about to make such a crucial decision of buying precious jewelry. Shopping is easy when the whole process is smooth and the customer service staff is friendly, but what happens when you have issues with your purchase?
That is when you get to see the true attitude of customer service.
Go to Kay with a piece of jewelry that you need to repair or when asking for a refund and count the number of excuses you are going to get not to mention how you will run around.
A sneak preview into customer review websites like Consumer Affairs, Yelp, and Better Business Bureau will show you that many customers have negatives things to say about customer service at Kay. The experience below was extracted from consumeraffairs.com.
From the above post, I wish to come to the defense of the jeweler. It is the Christmas season, a time when most people are trying to buy something nice for their loved ones. It is hard to answer all phone calls promptly when there are a lot of customers.
Kay has several ways of contacting their customer services. Unfortunately, this particular customer tried all the available channels but none came through.
It is very natural for a customer to feel bad and even think they have been scammed when you do not respond to the issues they have that are related to your products.
Almost at the same time, Fred also got a similar experience of Kay not addressing his concerns via any means.
Kay is pushing its customers off to their online chat since the staff that answers the chats handles customer support complaints only. The customer care lines get calls from their sister stores and other customers too.
I can imagine the disappointment after being put on standby for a long time only to be pushed to online chat.
Kay still has a lot of improvements to do with regards to their customer care systems. There is no reason why one out of their several channels should not work.
Customer care at James Allen is the complete opposite of the experience at Kay Jeweler. James Allen addresses their customer issues through a live chat, a direct phone call, email, or any of the two physical stores.
Furthermore, you get the luxury of reaching James Allen customer service all day every day, something which is not found at Kay, or any other Signet Jeweler’s Stores.
To many customers, the customer service at James Allen is above average. Stephen in the post below was not impressed with the ring he bought but would not mind shopping at this store again.
It’s not every day that you come across someone ready to shop at the same online store where they did not love what they ordered at first.
James Allen does so much more than just talk to their customers in the traditional ways, they also provide live diamond inspection for their customers.
In the loose diamonds inventory, there is a function for “Diamond Inspection”. When you select this, you get a direct connection to a real-time James Allen associate.
The associate will give you details of diamond grades, show you all the blemishes and inclusions in the stone, and also answer other questions that you may have.
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The associates at James Allen are skilled gemologists who know what they are talking about. They can fully compare and contrast diamonds.
During the live inspection, you can feel that you are acquiring reliable and authentic information.
On Wedding Wire, a widely known wedding resource site, James Allen has a good standing. Take a look at the amazing reviews and the number of awards they have gotten.
With such great customer service such as this, why would you not shop from a shop like James Allen?
Most people think that if a ring is a high quality, it should last and therefore there is no need for a warranty.
This is a false line of thought.
All jewelry including rings need some degree of care including routing prong re-tipping, rhodium plating, cleaning, polishing, and stone tightening? The metal used to construct the jewelry is not meant to last long. To increase its durability and retain quality, you need regular maintenance.
There are two kinds of warranties that Kay Jewelers offers for their gold and silver jewelry: Extended Service Plan and the Lifetime Diamond $ Gemstone Guarantee.
The Lifetime Diamond & Gemstone Guarantee takes care of replacing missing or lost diamond, sapphires, rubies, or emerald stones provided you take the jewelry physically to Kay or any of its sister shop, Jared to be inspected and cleaned.
Provided you bring your jewelry for inspection every six months, Kay will cover the cost of replacing any of the stones mentioned above if you lose them. The warranty takes care of the stone only and not any metalwork that must be done for the new stone to be set.
The Extended Service Plan is meant to cover the additional charges for setting a new diamond or gemstone. If you do not buy this plan, the shops that Kay uses to complete the setting will charge you a higher amount than if you would have bought the plan.
Kay’s ESP is a lifetime plan and its price is determined by the cost of the jewelry it is supposed to cover.
The lifetime warranty covers routine repairs like polishing, cleaning, prong re-tipping, and rhodium plating.
The lifetime plan also covers costs incurred when repairing prongs that are broken or bent, any repairable dents, soldering and unsoldering bands, repairing breaks in the shank, broken chains, and clasps,
If you require any other extra modifications like additional clasps, adding gold to the shank when resizing, you will need to pay extra fees.
But you will be charged for the modifications, the metal works will be covered by ESP.
One of the great advantages of online jewelry retailing is the kind of warranty that customers get. James Allen provides their customers with a lifetime warranty for any kind of jewelry that is bought.
James Allen offers you the lifetime warranty for free, not like Kay, Jared, and other Signet Jeweler stores that sell the warrant to you to make money.
By offering their warranty free of charge, James Allen assures its customers of the quality of its products. When you buy a quality engagement or wedding ring online, you lay back knowing that if the product has any manufacturing flaws, they will fix it for free.
This warranty also covers all routine works like prong re-tipping, rhodium plating, tightening of loose stones, and steam cleaning.
James Allen has an agreement with chosen Jared stores that allows James Allen’s customers to bring in their jewelry for repair. This is not a must, but you get that option nonetheless.
If this is not a favorable repair route for you, you can send the jewelry directly to James Allen only that you will pay $30 for FedEx label for returning or use your means of return.
The repair will be covered under the warranty or James Allen can contact you with information about the cost of repairing. Once repaired, the store pays the shipping fees back to your address.
No warranty covers loss of gemstones in James Allen. This is because they have confidence in the quality of their jewelry. If you inspect the jewelry often, you should not lose any stone. They also offer one whole year to resize your ring after purchasing.
RECOMMENDED: How Good is the Customer Service At James Allen?
Price vs Value
The moment you decide to buy jewelry, the next thing you want to know is the price and whether your budget can accommodate. This is the most crucial part of jewelry shopping.
Favorable warranties and excellent customer care are good aspects but not everyone is able to buy a highly-priced piece. All jewelry shoppers are looking for jewelry that will provide value for their money.
Kay only has pre-set rings that have clarity grades already determined in their stores; they do not have an inventory of gemstones or loose diamond stones..
As at the time I was a staff at Kay, there was no jewelry with clarity above SI2. They had just started having additional clarities on pieces that were not certified.
They have pre-designed jewelry pieces but no information about exact clarity grades for the melee stone and centerpiece. What I know is that the clarity grades are different.
If you are looking for a diamond stone that is high-quality or diamond that has a carat weight above 1 carat, you will wait for the store to order it. This always requires you to pay a down payment that will be refunded.
Kay jeweler does not have many diamonds that are IGI, GIA, or AGS certified. The rings with such certifications bear the highest price tags in the store.
Similar to other corporate jewelry stores, Kay attaches a very high price tag to their products. Look at the price of this 14K 1carat oval solitaire diamond engagement ring in white gold.
It has one of the lowest diamond clarity grades at I1, which has inclusions that are very visible with the naked eye. A closeup view of an I1 diamond looks like this:
Not pretty, right? Kay Jewelers can sell you high-quality diamonds only if you ask them. However, you should ready to pay a high price for that whether in Kay or any other physical jewelry store. You will also pay a high price for low-quality diamonds like an I1 diamond.
When you purchase diamond jewelry from an online jeweler like James Allen you overcome the problem of overpricing that is experienced in physical stores.
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The I1 oval diamond solitaire ring from Kay we mentioned above is sold at $5,299 on the website but the price is $5,800.
An identically graded diamond piece from James Allen, though minus the setting costs only $2,130. And, this is just a 1 carat oval with I1 clarity grade and I color grade.
Kay deliberately left out crucial information like the stone’s cut grade. This may not be a big deal since Kay only has Leo diamonds and Tolkowsky diamonds that have ideal cuts in their stores.
The oval ring from Kay has nothing special about its settings; it is a flat 14K band in white gold.
I found the same setting in James Allen that we can put the 1-carat oval ring in and it goes for $2490 as the sale price while the price is $2370.
The diamond is almost similar but there is a huge price difference. Let’s look at this a little further to convince you more.
If you have $5899 as your budget (roughly the same amount you will need to shop for an oval diamond engagement ring from Kay). If you decide to use the same amount and similar settings in 14k white gold from James Allen, what kind of diamond grades would you get?
I went to the James Allen website in search of oval diamonds and got a hold of one that is budget-friendly. I have managed to put together a diamond piece with similar settings from earlier.
Let us now compare James Allen to Kay in terms of price and quality.
James Allen does not have the same settings like Kay’s. But I picked a higher quality oval diamond piece for a lower price than listed on Kay’s.
You can get this diamond quality at James Allen for the same amount or less.
From James Allen, you will get a diamond stone that is the best color grade (6 grades better than color grade I) and 5 clarity grades above.
If you have not noticed it yet, James Allen has far much better prices for quality jewelry than Kay Jewelers. It does not sit right with you to pay so much for lesser quality jewelry in a physical store.
Considering this and other factors I mentioned earlier about the diamond prices and values, there is no doubt that James Allen is the store for you, not just is it budget-friendly but also offers the best quality of diamonds. This online store gives you proof that you do not need to forego quality for you to get fairly priced jewelry.
Redditors on James Allen vs. Kay
Reddit.com is one of the popular places where people flood to give their experiences about products and their experiences with retailers. Kay enjoys quite a reputation in this space, which is not good just to mention.
Here is one biggest complaint a customer raised about Kay.
Is this true about Kay? Well, every customer gets a different experience.
I have come across people who send back their rings to stores and are returned just fine. I have also had customers who send the rings back to the store only to return looking worse than before.
It is too bad that no one from the Kay stores is able to control how the ring or any other jewelry looks when it comes back to you. However, I am not sure about allegations of diamonds being exchanged.
A few times I was able to tell which diamond pieces were swapped but most of the time I wasn’t. I can’t remember seeing a centerpiece being replaced.
If you are really worried about a center stone being exchanged, I advise you to select a laser-inscribed diamond. Kay normally notes down the serial number of the girdle of the diamond on the repair slip.
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As soon as the diamond is delivered back to you, you can compare the serial number against the one on the repair slip. This is a sure way to protect against diamond swapping and makes it hard for anyone to pawn the stone without your knowledge.
You also do not need to buy a laser-inscribed diamond to get this benefit.
You can have your James Allen diamond laser inscribed at AGS or any other place that has this service.
When searching for the perfect diamond engagement ring or other jewelry for that matter, you must consider online diamond shops such as James Allen.
When you compare James Allen with Kay or any other jewelry store, James Allen wins the battle without so many struggles.
When shopping from James Allen, you rest assured of getting what you want, with full information, no pressure, no annoying salespeople.
Unlike Kay Jewelers where salespeople work off commissions, James Allen does not have salespeople who will tell you anything (even what is not true) just so you buy their products. You will get detailed and authentic information and advice suited for what you want and your budget status. There is no external influence.
You also get the rare opportunity to view the diamonds (natural or manmade) in stock before buying. This way you know the item you are buying before paying. James Allen enjoys full trust from their customers, prides in selling high-quality jewelry, and having the best prices in the jewelry market.