Kay Jewelers review
Should you buy your engagement ring or wedding ring from Kay Jewelers?
Kay Jewelers has a rich history; they opened their very first storefront in 1916 and have now grown to more than 1,000 stores across America.
For any retailer to have been around so much and to have become so prevalent, they must be doing something right.
In this Kay Jewelers review, we will primarily examine Kays from the point of view of buying a diamond engagement ring. However, the findings are equally relevant for any other type of jewellery.
Kay Jewelers ring selection
Kay Jewelers offers a total of 2,972 styles of diamond engagement ring to choose from:
This is a huge number – far more than most other jewelers!
What it means is that you are almost certain to be able to find a ring that suits what you are looking for.
Kay offers engagement rings in gold at various carats and platinum. They offer a range of styles, from bold halo settings to classic solitaires. And they offer a wide range of diamond shapes, although round diamonds are by far their most commonly offered shape:
Not only are round diamonds the most popular shape, but they are also the shape of diamond that sparkles the most, so they are a great choice for an engagement ring.
As well as their ‘off the shelf’ options, Kays Jewelers an excellent custom ring builder called “Create Your Own” where you can choose the setting, metal, diamond shape etc. First you pick a diamond shape:
Next you can pick a setting style to go with it:
Using the ‘create your own’ is a good experience, although it is much more limited than the custom ring builders offered by my recommended retailers, such as James Allen. While Kays offers just 36 setting styles to match with a round diamond, James Allen offers over 300 – check them out here.
Overall, there is an impressive range of engagement ring settings, styles and diamond shapes offered by Kays Jewelers, which means you should be able to find something that suits your taste.
Kay Jewelers diamond quality
Engagement rings are all about the diamond, and being able to choose a diamond that will sparkle brilliantly will make the difference between a truly stunning engagement ring and one that looks dull and unimpressive.
In this section of our Kay Jewelers review, we’ll examine the quality of diamonds they offer, as well as how transparent they are about the quality of the diamonds themselves.
Looking at the education section of Kays Jewelers website, they explain the importance of 4c’s of diamonds – cut, color, clarity, and carat weight. According to Kays Jewelers – cut, color, clarity and carat weight are the qualities that come together to define the unique beauty of your diamond. It also determines the value of your diamond and all of the 4c’s are important.
While acknowledging the importance of the 4Cs, Kay Jewelers do make it a little tricky to narrow your search if you have specific quality grades that you are looking for. Kays don’t allow you to choose or see the clarity and color in their product filter, although they do include it in the product detail section of their rings.
As we discussed, Kay Jewelers has good custom ring builder called “Create Your Own” where you can choose clarity and color grade and here you are guided through choosing quality, although we would take some dispute with some of the terminology used.
Diamond clarity is a measure of the number of inclusions, or flaws, that a diamond has. At the top is ‘Flawless’, while at the bottom is ‘included’, where flaws are easy to see.
In the Kays ring builder, they allow you to choose only three options: ‘good’, ‘better’, ‘best’:
The ‘best’ option here is I color and VS2 clarity. While these are OK grades, they are certainly not the best specs available.
VS2 clarity diamonds are actually a great choice (but nowhere near the ‘best’ clarity), while I colour is a little yellower than I would usually recommend. H color is the lowest I would normally recommend to ensure your diamond looks white in all lighting conditions.
For the ‘good’ option they have in the ring builder, Kay Jewelers are using an I1 clarity diamond. I1 clarity diamonds are very low on the clarity scale and most will have inclusions that are easy to see with the naked eye, like the diamond below with an obvious mark across the center:
We therefore wouldn’t recommend an I1 clarity diamond, but would recommend that you seek out an eye clean SI1 clarity diamond like the one below:
As we’ll see later, a diamond like this can actually be found for the same price, or even lower, than a diamond with obvious flaws if you visit my recommended retailer and buy smart.
While it is a diamond’s carat weight that is the biggest determinant of price, the factor that determines how much a diamond sparkles is diamond ‘cut’. Diamond cut is a measure of how well the diamond has been formed and it is essential that a diamond has good proportions to reflect light, otherwise it will be dull, lifeless and unimpressive.
If a diamond is too tall or too shallow, it won’t reflect much light:
Diamond is too shallow:
Light passes through the diamond and is lost, meaning the diamond looks dull and sparkles less than it should.
Diamond is too deep:
Light is bounced off the bottom facets at the wrong angle and is lost out of the side of the diamond, reducing sparkle.
Excellent / Ideal cut:
Light is reflected off the bottom facets and back through the table to your eye, meaning the diamond sparkles beautifully.
Understanding the cut quality of a diamond is absolutely essential to be able to understand whether it will sparkle. If you don’t know the cut quality then you may very well be wasting your money.
In their 4C’s section, Kays Jewelers acknowledge the importance of cut:
Kays Jewelers says: “A diamond’s Cut directly correlates to its overall beauty. When correctly cut, its ability to reflect and refract light is immensely enhanced” and “Cut is considered the most important of the 4Cs. It’s also the most difficult to grade”.
Despite this, Kay Jewelers don’t show diamond cut grade for the diamonds on their website.
This means that despite knowing that diamond cut is the most important factor in determining how much a diamond sparkles, they don’t give customers this information!
When I asked Kays Jewelers about this on their livechat, they said: “It might be because most of our diamonds aren’t certified by GIA, IGI or GSI”
The lack of information on cut quality is a huge red flag for Kays Jewelers. Many other jewelers do include diamond cut quality on their websites – some of which make it one of the filters on their search tool to allow you to choose diamonds that are more likely to sparkle.
Kay Jewelers diamond grading labs
Diamonds are graded on four key factors – carat, color, clarity and cut – and a host of smaller factors too. Diamonds which score higher are generally more expensive – an F color diamond will be pricier than an H color, if everything is the same.
It’s important therefore that diamond grading levels can be trusted – you don’t want to pay more for an F color diamond if it is actually an H. This is why independent diamond testing labs are important. An independent testing lab doesn’t have any incentive to say that a diamond is higher quality than it is, as they don’t make any more money if they do. In fact, if they bump up diamond quality grades, it may mean people trust them less, which might mean they make less money.
Retailers do have an incentive to increase diamond quality scores, as it will mean that they can sell a diamond for a higher price. For this reason, I recommend that you always look for a diamond which has been graded by an independent authority – my usually recommendation is the GIA, although there are other good diamonds ‘labs’ too.
Kays Jewelers don’t show any information about certification of the diamond in their website when I asked them about this through live chat, they said; “most of our diamonds aren’t certified by GIA, IGI or GSI – the cost of independently certifying diamonds drives up the cost of the diamonds”
This is another red flag for me for Kay Jewelers – when buying a diamond it’s essential that you can trust that the specifications you are being told about a diamond’s quality are correct, and the best way to do this is through independent certification.
Kay Jewelers service
Buying an engagement ring is a special purchase, and 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.
Kays Jewelers have a large number of stores, which means that visiting a store to choose a ring, or talk to staff, is very easy.
They offer free ring cleans after you purchase, which is a good service.
Returns-wise, if you feel the ring isn’t right for you they will give you a full refund within 30 days and 60 days if you’d rather exchange your purchase for something new, which is better than a lot of jewelers. Looking at online reviews, Google reviews are split out by individual store. The Kay Jewelers outlet in Carlsbad, California scores 3.6 from 41 reviews, which seems to be about typical for Kays stores:
It’s always worth taking online reviews with a bit of a pinch of salt, but as an average, 3.6 would indicate that people are reasonably happy with the service they have received, but hardly ecstatic.
Kay Jewelers value for money
Buying a diamond ring is a big commitment – both financially and emotionally. So it’s important that you ensure sure that you are getting good value for money and aren’t spending more than you need to.
After all, if you’re buying an engagement ring, it’s likely that you will have a wedding to pay for soon.
To see how Kays Jewelers value for money compares, we’ll compare it to one of my recommended retailers – James Allen. James Allen is an online bridal jewellery retailer who I have helped hundreds of people buy from over the last 10 years.
When comparing, we’ll keep the ring style, diamond clarity, colour, carat as similar as possible. A good way to compare is looking at Solitaire diamond rings as they are simple and timeless, without an ornate setting to make the comparison more complicated.
Looking at Kays Jewelers, they offer a solitaire ‘Diamond Bridal Ring’ with a 1 carat center stone and 18k white gold setting for $9,434.58:
This diamond has been graded I color and VS2 clarity, although we aren’t told the cut grade unfortunately, which means we can’t judge whether it will sparkle beautifully, or look dull and disappointing.
If we look at this price compared to my recommended retailer, a 1 carat diamond with I color and VS2 clarity, the same as Kays Jewelers, the cost is just $5,610:
The James Allen ring also has an ‘Excellent’ cut diamond, so we know it will sparkle beautifully, and has been graded by the GIA – an independent grading lab which has no incentive to bump up the grading score.
This is a huge difference in price – the Kays Jewelers engagement ring with unknown cut quality is 68% more expensive as an excellent cut diamond from James Allen:
While you may not be looking for a diamond of this size or price, it is indicative of the high prices Kays Jewelers are charging – over $3,800 more for what may an equivalent quality diamond, but may actually be lower quality (we don’t know because we don’t know the cut quality).
Of course, this is just an example, and the you are looking for may be very different to this. However, it’s worth noting that with the money you would save by buying from James Allen instead of Kays, you could:
- Increase the carat weight of the diamond
- Increase the quality of the diamond
- Spend it on a really special proposal
- Put it towards your wedding cost
Or possibly all of this!
The prices at James Allen may be different on the day you look – maybe higher, maybe lower – it’s worth clicking through to see today’s prices for exactly what you’re looking for.
Kay Jewelers review
Value for money
Do we recommend Kays Jewelers?
Kays Jewelers offer a huge range of diamond ring styles and settings, plus the ability to visit them in one of their 1,000 plus stores is a big benefit. While it may be tempting to go to a Kays Jewelers because of the convenience, by reviewing their online store, we can see that the expensive real estate in shopping malls has resulted in high prices.
Despite the number of setting styles available, the actual diamond quality choice is limited. Kays offers limited choices for color and clarity, while also offering I1/12/13 diamonds which will have very obvious flaws and which I would not recommend you choose.
The lack of transparency over the cut grading of their diamonds (which is the biggest factor that determines a diamond’s sparkle) and the lack of independent grading for many of their diamonds are other red flags.
But it’s the lack of value that really seals the deal – you can save significant amounts of money when buying your ring from my recommended retailer. It just makes sense.
- Over 1,000 stores in America
- Huge number of ring styles
- Good returns policy
- Limited choices for clarity and color
- No cut grading information
- Offers low quality clarity
- No independent grading
- Very expensive