While the title says it all (that is unless you want to overpay for junk diamonds), lets look into WHY you should avoid KAY Jewelers, as well as other big mall jewelry chains. I personally went to KAY in Natick Mall ( Natick, MA) and looked at their engagement diamond rings, wrote down the specs, and examined the rings under 10x magnification of a microscope (not a loope).
What I discovered in my research is that KAY overcharges anywhere from $270 to $3236 for their diamond rings, with an average difference being $1300 (compared to real RETAIL value of those rings / diamonds)!
Comparison guidelines used for this investigation:
1) I only looked at solitaire rings with a single center diamond. I did this to rule out any small diamonds found in fancier rings, which are included in TOTAL CARAT WEIGHT, so that I could compare a KAY diamond directly with the Rapaport Diamond Price list.
2) I compared prices only for CERTIFIED diamonds, sold by KAY. I wrote down ALL the specs, including: Carat Weight, Clarity, Color and Cut.
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3) Because KAY does not sell loose diamonds, I also priced a typical 4 or 6 prong solitaire setting (ring) made out of 14K white gold. These rings range between $350 and $500. I will use the high end pricing ($500), which I will subtract from the total cost of a KAY ring, to get the approximate cost of the diamond.
4) All diamonds at KAY (those that I saw on display) carry a GSI (GEMEX) certification. I will compare this to a de-facto standard in the jewelry world – GIA certification, which is considered by far the best and most accurate representation of real diamond quality.
It is my opinion, that values presented by GSI should be discounted by at least one grading point on both COLOR and CLARITY. However, for comparison, I will use the face value of each, and will run them through a RAPAPORT diamond price list.
KAY’s prices below include the setting. As mentioned above, I will add $500 for the setting, to the RAP Sheet price. Additionally, all KAY prices are AFTER sale discount.
KAY Diamonds vs Rapaport “True Retail Diamond Value”
Stone 1) – generic 3/4 CT
Specs: 0.70 CT, F Color, I1 Clarity, Good Cut.
KAY Price: $2800
RAP Price: $2030 + $500 (setting) = $2530
Conclusion: KAY loses by ONLY $270. Not so bad. But, not so fast!
This is a GENERIC ring / stone (no special branding like Tolkowsky or Leo added), and the color WAS NOT F (F is colorless) since this stone was clearly with a tint of yellow. Lets discount it by 1 grade on each color and clarity. What do we get? G, I2 stone, worth $1190. Ooops …
Let’s move on – it only gets better.
Stone 2 – 3/4 CT Tolkowsky line (Best diamonds from KAY)
Specs: 0.71 CT, I Color, SI2 Clarity, Very Good cut.
KAY Price: $4999
RAP Price: $2201 + $500 (setting) = $2701
Conclusion: KAY loses by $2298. This is an 85% premium over what this ring should cost, IF Kay’s diamond was GIA certified.
See for yourself here.
Stone 3 – 1 CT Tolkowsky line
Specs: 1.01 CT, G color, SI2 clarity, Very Good cut.
KAY Price: $8499
RAP Price: $6363 + $500 = $7263
Conclusion: KAY loses by $1236. Percentage wise, this is a “better” deal than the 3/4 CT ring. However, you would still be overpaying by 1,200 bucks. Moreover, after carefully examining the stone under a microscope, I found that it had a LOT of inclusions. Much more than a GIA SI2 stone would have. To me, it looks more like an I1 stone, which would drop the price by (WAIT WHAAAT???) $2000.
As mentioned before, the GSI certification of KAY diamonds, should really be considered at least one grade below its nominal (face) value for BOTH color and clarity. That is correct. A difference between an SI2 and I1 clarity stones for 1 CT, would be 2K! And we don’t even discount the color.
This means that you would be overpaying $3236 if you bought this ring at KAY vs a reputable Independent Jewelry Store.
See for yourself here.
Stone 4 – 3/4 CT LEO line (Second Best diamonds from KAY)
Specs: 0.71 CT, I, SI2, Good Cut.
KAY Price: $4500
RAP Price: $2201 + $500 (setting) = $2701
Conclusion: KAY loses by $1798. This stone is (specs wise) identical to Tolkowsky, but it is a completely different cut, with additional facets put in, for better sparkle and shine. I’m not a gemology expert, so I will leave it to the KAY sales person: “Tolkowsky diamonds are much better than Leo”. Still, you are overpaying about 60% for this ring.
Stone 5 – 1 CT LEO line
Specs: 1.00 CT, H color, SI2 clarity, good cut.
KAY Price: $6499
RAP Price: $6000 + $500 (setting) = $6500
Conclusion: KAY loses by $-1.00 – that is correct. We might have a winner here, as on this stone, you actually save a whole 1 dollar if you buy from KAY. But wait – order in the next 24 hours … just kidding. Lets look into this deeper.
If we consider that this is NOT an H / SI2 stone, but rather an I / I1, which it most likely is (if it was graded by GIA), this stone drops in price from $6000 to $3700, which is a $2300 difference. Also, the GOOD cut, should add another 5-10% discount vs. VERY GOOD cut.
So there you have it. If you buy a generic ring with 3/4 CT, you “only” overpay by $270. However, after analysing these rings, I concluded that on these 5 stones you overpay by $1200-$3236. Of course you can go for a smaller 1/2 CT ring and then you would overpay by about $500, but percentage wise, it is still huge. Besides, who’s got $500 to waste?
Also, the KAY’s business model of selling you grossly “overvalued” diamonds at a premium, is just unethical! However there is nothing illegal in doing this, as there are no laws guiding the process of diamond appraising and certification.
Bottom line – if you don’t want to waste you money, shop at a large local Diamond / Jewelry store. There you will still pay retail or close to retail, but you will get a MUCH better stone, you will see a variety of diamonds and settings, and as our survey of 5 large to medium size stores shows, most will sell at Rapaport Price.
PS. While doing this research, I realized that big mall brands are very successful at marketing themselves as rock-bottom retailers for diamond jewelry and convince many folks that they have the best prices. Next stop for us is Zales!
Also we will soon publish a Diamond Buying Guide, which will help you understand how to buy a diamond / ring, and how to bargain with jewelry stores.
Use our Diamond Calculator to estimate TRUE value of the diamond. You can even do it on your iPhone / Android.
Coming soon: We are now in the process of making a Diamond Calculator mobile app for iPhone and Android. It is almost complete, so stay tuned.