James Allen vs. Kay Jewelers

A thorough comparison of Kay and James Allen, to help you decide which is best for you

James Allen and Kay are two popular diamond retailers which are actually owned by the same parent company, but they operate in very different way.

Kay Jewelers mainly operates as a physical retailer with over 1,000 stores across the USA while James Allen primarily operates online.

James AllenKay
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Diamond Information
Number of settings657Doesn't specify
Number of natural diamonds166,23642,519
Number of lab-grown diamonds61,502285
Natural Diamond Price: Round 1 carat, Excellent Cut, VS1 round, G color$5,190/
Lab Diamond Price: Round 2 carat, Excellent Cut, VS1 round, G color$3,190/
Diamond imageryBest quality images of every single diamond360 interactive video for loose diamonds
Diamond labs: naturalMainly GIA, some IGIIndependent certification on some diamonds
Diamond labs: lab-grownIGIIndependent certification on some diamonds
Diamond searchVisit NowVisit Now
Company Information
Year founded20061916
Number of physical locations21,187
Owned bySignet JewelersSignet Jewelers
Service Policies (Click each to learn more)
Finance availableCredit card at 9.90%Yes
ShippingFree to you, but you will have to pay to returnFree shipping on orders above $50 and free returns
Resizing1 year, freeOnly resize two sizes up or two sizes down
Returns period30 days30-days
WarrantyLifetime, with some exclusionsLifetime guarantee
UpgradeCredit 100% of original price, if new diamond 2x price100% trade-in value of diamond
EngravingFreeAvailable for a fee
Customer service hours24/724/7
Ringspo Ratings
Diamond selection
Value for money
Service policies
Overall rating
Ringspo overall opinionExcellent imagery of diamonds, allows you to understand exactly what you’re buying, with competitive pricesBiggest plus is the high number of stores around the US is convenient. The negative is the high prices.
Ringspo ReviewJames Allen Reviewhttps://www.ringspo.com/reviews/kay-jewelers/
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James Allen was originally founded in 2006 and since then they have led many innovations  – the most significant being a complete with 360˚ video on every loose diamond in their large inventory – something that many competitors still can’t match.

This allows customers to see their diamonds up close at 40x magnification, which means that you can actually get a better view of the diamond even than you would if you were looking at it through a microscope in an actual retail store.

James Allen does have two physical locations: a headquarters in New York City and another store in Washington DC, but its huge strength is the quality of its online experience.

Signet Jewelers, the largest jewelry company in the world and which also owns Blue Nile, Kay Jewelers, Jared, Zales, and DiamondsDirect, bought James Allen in 2017.

Kay Jewelers is one of the oldest and most popular jewelry retailers in the US. Established in 1916, they mainly operate as a brick-and mortar jewelry store with many stores located all over the US. They also provide an online website to include additional jewelry not seen in their stores.

Kay is also owned by Signet Jewelers – the biggest jewelry company in the world – and although they have improved their online offering since Signet purchased James Allen, Kay’s strength is definitely still in-store rather than online.

Diamond Selection and Quality

Both James Allen and Kays offer a large selection of loose diamonds and engagement ring settings, as well as an extensive collection of fine jewelry.

In this section we’ll look at several factors:

  • Diamond choice
  • Diamond quality
  • Diamond imagery

Natural diamonds were once the only option to buying diamonds, and different retailers have taken different amounts of time to catch up with the fact that lab-diamonds are now a viable alternative to natural diamonds.

James Allen began offering lab-grown diamonds back in 2019, while Kay only started selling jewelry with lab-grown stones as recently as 2023.

Currently Kay carries about 72,169 natural diamonds and 12,648 lab created diamonds.

James Allen carries a much larger inventory of loose diamonds, allowing you more opportunities to find your perfect diamond. They carry 166,236 natural diamonds and 61,502 lab created diamonds.

Certifications and Ethical Sourcing

When buying diamonds from any retailer, it’s important to purchase one with a diamond certificate, also known as a diamond grading report. Grading reports are physical or digital documents that come with analysis of diamond quality and diamond weight, so you can be confident that you are actually getting what you are paying for..

My strong recommendation is that you should never purchase a diamond without an independent grading report, and I usually recommend only purchasing GIA, AGS, or IGI certified diamonds. These three labs are known for having the most consistent grading, ensuring you’re getting the right diamond grades being advertised. 

James Allen provides certifications for each and every one of their diamonds, primarily from GIA, AGS, and IGI. James Allen is also committed to ethical sourcing through the Kimberley Process, a standard for fine jewelry stores.

All the loose diamonds on Kay’s website do also have GIA, AGS, and IGI diamond certifications, and that’s likely because they are the same diamonds as those sold by James Allen due to the fact that they are both owned by Signet.

However, not all diamond engagement rings sold by Kays have certified center stones and a large number of center diamonds in ‘pre-set’ rings aren’t provided with an independent certification.

In fact, some of the GIA certified solitaire pre-set engagement rings are much more expensive than you’d find at most diamond retailers. One of their custom ring builders doesn’t specify if it’s certified and runs more expensive than if you were to select from their certified loose diamonds-something we’ll talk more about later.

Like James Allen, Kay also follows the standard for ethical sourcing through the Kimberley Process. In addition, is known for being heavily involved with the St. Jude’s Children Hospital. They have built a research facility there in addition to holding regular St Jude’s plush for sale during the holiday season.

Pricing and Value

Many people assume that price and value are synonymous when buying diamonds. A lower priced diamond doesn’t necessarily equate to a low quality diamond. Likewise, a higher price doesn’t guarantee high quality either.

There are many aspects of a diamond that goes into diamond pricing. The cut, clarity, color, and carat weight are a big part, but additional details like diamond shape, certifying lab, fluorescence, and brand can also impact cost on varying levels.

Up next, we’ll compare the pricing and value factors between James Allen and Kay Jewelers to see which might be better for your priorities.

You already know that there’s many factors when it comes to the price of diamonds. In the case of James Allen and Kay Jewelers, there’s one glaring factor that sums up the price difference.

James Allen has always been an online retailer, eliminating the need to keep inventory in-stock and in-store. Instead, they’re able to show loose diamonds directly from the manufacturer without having to purchase them.

Kay Jewelers primarily operates as a physical retailer, which results in more of a markup for their costs. They don’t keep loose diamonds in-store either. So, if you’re going to purchase a diamond from Kay, it’s better to create your own using the loose diamond finder online or request a loose diamond in-store. If you do that, you’ll have to wait for the loose diamond to come in as well as the ring setting. Then they have to ship it off to the repair shop to put it together.

A 1 carat loose diamond with G color, VS1 clarity, and Excellent cut quality costs around $5,170 at James Allen.

A similarly graded diamond from Kay Jewelers “Choose a Diamond and Setting” option costs around $5,640.

While there are different nuances between the two, Kay’s diamond is more expensive with little discernible difference.

If you prefer the shopping experience with Kay better despite the higher cost, make sure you build your engagement ring by choosing a diamond and a setting.

I advise you to skip the “Engagement Ring” option under the create your own tab. 

If you choose the Engagement Ring option, you’ll be given a limited selection of options for a much higher price than one at James Allen. It makes it easier to simply select from a range of grades for convenience, but you’ll end up paying more for a lesser quality diamond.

Take a look at this engagement ring I built with the Engagement Ring builder. It is a 1 carat solitaire ring in 14K white gold with the selection of I color and I1 clarity. The engagement ring has no branded quality and it is not specified to be excellent cut or have diamond certification.

The cost of this ring with these grades is around $6,731.

If you recall, the James Allen diamond I picked has excellent cut, G color and VS1 clarity, and GIA certification for just over $5,000.

It may be a diamond only, but a standard 4 prong solitaire setting like the one above costs less than $700. Our diamond engagement ring created with is much higher quality, lower priced, and a better value.

Value for Money

For that reason alone, I’ve given James Allen a score of 4.5/5 for value for money, while Kay Jewelers trails slightly behind with a score of 4/5.

Kay has a wide range of options to create an engagement ring or find the perfect jewelry gift in their broad selection of fine jewelry options. But when it comes to designing an engagement ring, they are less than transparent than I would like. Some selections are higher for no reason and they leave out details that new customers probably wouldn’t think to ask about, like why the ring builder cost more for less quality.

James Allen’s options aren’t always as flashy or obviously glamorous as Kay’s offerings, but they are much better priced. They eliminate the overhead costs to provide cheaper offerings, but it still doesn’t explain why the loose diamonds at Kay’s are still less expensive.

James Allen does a much better job of providing better imagery, information, and pricing than Kay Jewelers. Kay Jewelers seems to leave me with more questions than answers.

If you do know exactly what you’re looking for at Kay’s, you’ll have a much better experience than if you just go in with no pre-conceived idea.

Those who value an in-store shopping experience may prefer shopping at Kay than James Allen. If you’re wanting to go the Neil Lane route (which is very popular), I recommend using the Neil Lane builder online. Many in-store Neil Lane engagement rings have lower color grades seen easily.

My best advice in this scenario is to do your research on diamond quality factors because most Kay Jewelers in-store employees are not gemologists and have a limited knowledge of their own offerings.

Website and User Experience

Buying diamond jewelry is a big moment in your life, and one that you really do want to be as stress-free and enjoyable as possible.

With Kay primarily operating as a brick-and mortar store, I think it’s important to compare the online experience of both retailers.

It comes as no surprise that James Allen’s website is clean and straight to the point. People browsing the site can easily find what they’re looking for at the top menu, whether that’s starting with a natural diamond or a lab-grown or beginning with any one of the 10 most popular diamond shapes.

When you head to the Kay Jewelers website, there’s a lot more going on. Kay offers so many different options that it could get overwhelming for someone who isn’t tech-savvy. Like their stores, there’s a lot of fine jewelry packed into one place.

Whoever said “variety is the spice of life” did not see the Kay Jewelers website. If you’re looking to find fine jewelry like diamond bracelets, personalized jewelry, and wedding bands, the website is helpful.

But when building a ring, you’re faced with an overwhelming set of options. There’s many ways to create a ring with Kay and each of them are priced differently – it can be hard to know where to start and how to get the highest quality and the best value.

James Allen’s straightforward approach allows you to create a ring clearly and easily while Kay’s takes a little more work. When I measure the different offerings from both websites, I feel more confident purchasing with James Allen than on the Kay website.

On the flipside, I think Kay’s fine jewelry offerings could be viewed as superior to James Allen’s. Their selection of gemstone jewelry, diamond jewelry, and personalized jewelry is significantly more comprehensive, so Kay’s could be seen as the better choice when choosing a jewelry gift.

Customization and Design Options

As mentioned before, James Allen has a wide variety of options for creating a diamond ring. You can choose a natural diamond, lab grown diamond, fancy colored lab grown diamond, fancy colored diamond, or colored gemstone. Alternatively, you can choose your setting first and the center stone later.

Using James Allen’s excellent search tool (it is still the best in the biz IMHO), you can narrow your filters down to determine the quality you’re looking for. Most people do this by choosing the shape, cut, clarity, color, and desired carat weight. For more advanced options, you can narrow down the selections according to other details like fluorescence, grading lab (certificate) and length-to-width ratio.

You can quickly browse the selection of loose diamonds, identifying ones you like without having to click into it. When you do, the diamond is shown to you at 40x magnification. You can interact with the diamond, clicking and dragging it in 360˚motion.

As one of the first major online diamond retailers, James Allen was also the first to provide interactive 360˚ video at a time when they offered over 500,000 loose diamonds. Having this eliminates the need to go into a store and look at a diamond in-person. It’s a lot easier using 360˚ technology than it is trying to identify clarity characteristics through a microscope.

They have an expansive collection ring setting to accommodate your chosen center stone. Most of the 250 ring settings can be crafted in 14K or18K gold and platinum. White gold and yellow gold are available in both 14K and 18K. Most online diamond retailers have incorporated 360˚ video now, but some still haven’t managed to do the same with their ring settings. You can see your setting all the way around.

You can even switch out the center stone shape just to see if you like another shape better with your setting using a dropdown menu:

Kay Jewelers has a lot of options to create your engagement ring. They offer many preset engagement rings that already have diamonds with predetermined grades in the settings. This is the option most people choose when they enter a Kay Jewelers store, not knowing that most of them aren’t certified.

Aside from the preset engagement ring collections, you have the option to choose their Ring Builder, which I don’t recommend. The ring builder allows you to select from a range of pre-determined general grades. For example, you can choose from color and clarity grades categorized as Good (I, I1), Better (G/SI2), and Best (F/VS2).

This used to be the main way to create a ring online before Kay integrated the loose diamond inventory and ring settings. I don’t recommend it because it gives you limited options and overcharges for the quality. It makes selecting a ring easy, but it’s not the best value for your money. Those who aren’t keen to learn about diamonds often choose this way because of convenience.

Similar ring builders can be used to create Neil Lane and Vera Wang engagement rings, which come with a premium cost as designer engagement ring settings. However, these can be helpful to fans of the two brands. Vera Wang is most known for her wedding dresses while Neil Lane is famous for creating the engagement ring seen on the tv show, The Bachelor.

Most engagement ring settings in a Kay store are crafted in white gold, the most popular engagement ring metal. If it doesn’t come in your chosen metal, they’ll have to special order it. Fortunately the Kay website allows you to order your engagement ring in the exact metal you want with no additional waiting period.

They have a lot of preset engagement ring settings, but not as many to choose from when selecting from the loose diamond and setting customization. Kay carries about 73 settings, but the number is inflated by the different metal options. The selections and styles are limited, making it harder to find your setting if you prefer unique engagement ring settings. Like James Allen, Kay Jewelers also allows you to switch out the shape to see what it would look like. They don’t include a 360˚ view with the settings.

James Allen and Kay Jewelers allow you to create your own ring using loose diamonds and settings, but Kay has a larger variety of options.

\With that being said, the different ways can cost more than you would pay at James Allen and you have less control over the overall look of your diamond engagement ring.

Service: Both Before & After Purchase

Buying an engagement ring is a special purchase.

You want to have confidence that the retailer will not only treat you well while buying your ring, but also that they will stand behind their product after the purchase too.

This attitude can be boiled down to one term: customer experience – essentially how hard a business is trying to make sure that your interactions with them are smooth, friction-free and, ideally, delightful.

Both James Allen and Kay Jewelers have a range of customer services and support. Let’s compare the different policies and features each of them have for their customers.

As a physical retailer, you’re able to walk into any Kay Jewelers to ask questions about their rings during business hours. Alternatively, they have the customer care center to rectify any issues or you can speak with a jewelry expert. They also have the ability to text and use Whatsapp, which is useful for international customers.

The phone support hours are Monday to Friday 9AM-7 PM ET, Saturday 10 AM- 6:30 PM ET, with closings on Sunday. Chat support hours Monday to Friday: 8 AM-12 AM ET, Saturday 10 AM-10 PM ET, and Sunday 12 PM-9 PM ET.

James Allen offers 24/7 customer service. While they can’t assist you in-person like Kay Jewelers, you’re able to access live support and their diamond experts at any time. Contact James Allen through chat, live diamond inspection, phone, email, text, and WhatsApp.

Additional Services

Let’s explore and compare some of the other services offered at James Allen and Kay Jewelers.

James Allen:

  • Engraving: James Allen offers free engraving services done online before the time of purchase.
  • Financing: They provide financing options through the James Allen credit card with special interest plans.
  • Shipping: James Allen offers free shipping on all orders, but customers may have to pay return shipping.
  • Resizing: James Allen offers one free resizing within the first year of purchasing the ring.
  • Returns: James Allen has 30 day returns and they can be initiated on the website.
  • Warranty: James Allen provides lifetime warranty that covers selected repair services as well as manufacturer defects.
  • Upgrade: The diamond upgrade program allows you to upgrade your current diamond while picking a new one that is at least 2x the original price.
  • Physical Stores: James Allen has two physical locations, one of which is their headquarters in New York City. They primarily operate online, not in-store.


  • Engraving: Kay also offers engraving services for a cost after purchase of the ring through their stores.
  • Financing: Kay offers financing through Synchrony Bank via the Kay Jewelers credit card.
  • Shipping: Kay provides shipping services over $199.
  • Resizing: Resizing services are available, ensuring a perfect fit for rings.
  • Returns: Kay has a 30 day return policy to their store or online, 60 day exchange policy
  • Warranty: They offer a couple different warranties-one is free and the other costs depending on the item purchased.
  • Upgrade: Kay offers diamond upgrades at 2x the cost of the original diamond, but you have to do it in-store.
  • Physical Stores: Kay Jewelers has many physical locations throughout the US. They mainly operate physical stores, but still have an online store for those who like to shop online.

Though both jewelry stores have an online presence, many of Kay’s policies are best done in-person rather than online. James Allen has more of an established presence as an online retailer with all services able to be done online. Next, we’ll go through some of these policies more in-depth to compare the specifics.

Financing and Payment Options

James Allen and Kay Jewelers both offer a variety of ways to pay for and finance jewelry.

James Allen offers several flexible payment options – they accept all major credit cards or James Allen’s own branded credit card. For international orders, you have the option to pay via bank wire transfer and receive a 1.5% discount. Additionally, if you need to split your payment between two credit cards, you can arrange this over the phone.

For those who prefer to spread out payments, James Allen offers the SplitIt option, which allows you to divide your purchase into equal installments.

When it comes to financing, James Allen provides a 24-month payment plan with a 9.9% APR. There is also a plan available that allows for minimum monthly payments over six months, with no interest charged as long as you pay the balance in full by the end of the six-month period. These options give you the flexibility to manage your budget while making your purchase.

Similarly, Kay offers a variety of payment methods, including credit cards, debit cards, Apple Pay, PayPal, Venmo, and Google Pay.

If you prefer a non-credit option, Kay Jewelers provides a leasing plan through Progressive Leasing. This plan requires an initial payment of $79 plus tax, with the remaining payments divided into equal installments.

For in-store purchases, you can also take advantage of their layaway program. To keep an item on layaway, you need to make a minimum payment of $5 per month. Once the item is paid off, you can pick up your merchandise.

Kay Jewelers also offers a branded credit card with two types of plans. You can choose a financing plan with special financing options over 6, 12, or 36 months, or opt for a standard revolving account. The special financing plans require a minimum purchase of $300.

As with all financing, it’s important to consider your own personal circumstances when taking out any line of credit.

Shipping and Returns

In addition to free shipping, James Allen offers free shipping and return shipping to customers in the US with a max of three returns. For international shipping, the shipping is free but the return shipping cost $50. Their packaging is discreet, ensuring that your purchase remains a surprise if it’s meant to be.

Delivery is prompt and done through UPS, FedEx, or USPS when applicable. The items are fully insured during transit, so you can have peace of mind knowing your investment is protected.

US orders greater than $500 in value are shipped overnight. International orders over $500 in value are shipped via expedited shipping services. US orders under $500 in value are shipped using an accelerated two-day option. International orders under $500 in value are shipped with a trusted carrier. Order status and tracking information are available on JamesAllen.com website.

Kay Jewelers also offers free shipping over $199 to the US. They do not deliver to international locations, which limits their reach to potential international customers.

You can opt to have your Kay Jewelers purchase shipped to any Kay store near you. This can be convenient for those who don’t want jewelry delivered straight to their door or may be worried about someone intercepting their gift within the household.

Kay has a 30 day return policy and 60-day exchange policy when you exchange in-store. There are some exceptions and conditions to the return policy. If you return a cash purchase in-store, they only carry so much cash on-hand and will have to issue a check to you that takes up to 21 days to return. This can be difficult for customers who need the cash back immediately.

CriteriaJames AllenKay Jewelers
ShippingFree International ShippingFree Shipping, no international
DeliveryPrompt, often before the expected dateReliable, with in-store pickup option
Return Policy30 days with free return shipping for US, $50 return shipping for international shipping.30 days returns, 60 days exchange

So which is better, James Allen or Kay Jewelers?

Both James Allen and Kay Jewelers have their strengths, and the choice between them largely depends on individual preferences and priorities.

Those who like the experience of shopping in-store and have a better understanding when policies are explained may gravitate toward Kay. On the other hand, those who prefer to shop diamonds at their own pace without the pressure of a salesperson may prefer the James Allen experience more.

If you’re looking for more affordable diamond choices, I recommend choosing James Allen – they have a larger inventory of diamonds and ring settings.

However, if you are looking for fine jewelry for gifts, Kay may be the better option. Those who want a Neil Lane or Vera Wang will also want to choose Kays over James Allen.

The ultimate choice boils down to what you as a customer values most in your diamond buying experience.


Which retailer offers a wider selection of diamonds, James Allen or Kay Jewelers?

James Allen has a larger collection of loose diamonds, while Kay has a much larger selection of engagement rings already put together. However, customers have better quality control when picking out their own diamonds and settings rather than choosing an engagement ring that is already put together.

Do both James Allen and Kay Jewelers offer lab-grown diamonds?

Yes, both retailers offer lab-grown diamonds, but James Allen has a significantly larger selection compared to Kay Jewelers.

How do the prices compare between James Allen and Kay Jewelers?

Prices can vary based on specific diamonds and settings. Generally, James Allen tends to offer competitive prices due to their online business model, while Kay Jewelers might have higher prices, especially in their physical stores and with their online Engagement Ring creator, which I don’t recommend using.