Kay Jewelers Review

Kay Jewelers Rating★★★★

Go to most major malls across the United States and inside you will find a Kay Jewelers. Kay is a national mall-based specialty retail store, and is the second largest of the chain jewelry stores in the United States, behind Zales, its recently acquired sister company.

Putting Kay and Zales under the same corporate umbrella has given them economies of scale, better customer information and greater pricing power on its buyers inside the Mall environment. Kay’s jewelry is generally purchased by first time store visitors who do little price or quality comparison before purchasing.  If you’re reading this article those shoppers are probably the opposite of you!

Not Diamond District NYC Jeweler Training

In our article, Jewelers of New York’s Diamond District, you’ll note that there are approximately 2500 people who work in the jewelry trade on 47th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenue. Inside many stores, you will see dozens of Jewelers in one location. These folks live and die by their trade and have longstanding, deep, multi-generational, private diamond connections across the globe. Many, perhaps even most, are certified jewelers by well-known institutions such as Gemological Institute of America (“GIA”) in specialties such as Gemology, Diamonds, Colored Stones and Pearls.

As a generalization, a Kays Jeweler is not trained in the same way as many of the experts listed in this directory. Most receive some basic training, far fewer are certified, and almost none receive their sales because they “get the customer.” Instead they rely on foot traffic and impulse buying, rather than by meeting the demands of an educated consumer who carefully balances the three key elements of price, quality and design, to come to a landing on what’s best for their personal situation.

Price Comparison

We estimate that Kay’s Jewelers is about 30-40% higher than a fairly priced, efficiently run, jewelry store with a knowledgeable staff. Why is this? One word, overhead. Walk into Kay Jewelers and you find a beautiful, inviting, jewelry-purchasing environment complete with wood paneling, well lit “interview tables,” and polished glass cabinets filled with the most commonly purchased designs. There is very little customization and absolutely no negotiation – it costs a lot to run an operation such as this, so one can’t haggle and still stay in business! Why are buyers willing to blindly walk in and just pay the asking price? This is a deep question, but we think most of the time, it’s because they don’t know any better. When you walk into a car dealership, you generally know you’re in for a negotiation – you’re prepared for it. Buying a house is the ultimate negotiation and most people have done extensive research before making an offer; however, when you walk into a mall jewelry store your brain thinks, “I don’t negotiate for the price of coffee at Starbucks; I don’t negotiate for the price of flatware at Crate and Barrel; why would I be able to negotiate for the price of a Kays engagement ring?”

Vs. NYC Jewelers

Walk into a NYC Jewelry store and you will find something completely different. Many jewelers, particularly those listed here, need throughput. The diamond district alone is accountable for nearly $100b+ (that’s one hundred billion!) of diamond product flowing through its doors every year, and these people are here to deal!  90% of our country’s diamonds start here and find their way to places like Des Moines Iowa, Biloxi Mississippi and San Francisco California! Volumes are high and margins are, well negotiated… but hopefully low (sign up for our free 5 day mini e-course below, Diamonds 101, to learn how to negotiate the price of your diamond).

Vs. Online Jewelers

Companies such as James Allen and Zoara have given great price transparency to what has historically been a secretive market. When comparing the price of a middle ground diamond: 1 carat, round, VS2 clarity, very good cut, F color, we discovered the following:


James Allen Kay Jewelers
Price $6810 $9999.00
Link James Allen Kay Jewelers


James Allen’s stone was certified by GIA, Kay Jewelers, by IGI. Virtually all buyers prefer GIA and recognize it as the market-leading lab. GIA is not “loose” with its view of grading. Ignoring that for a moment, the James Allen diamond was 32% less than Kay, assuming the IGI diamond even stood up to GIA diamond (more on that below).

Quality of Product

In addition to the 4C’s of color, cut, clarity and carat, there is much more that goes into diamond selection. In our article, What Makes a Diamond Beautiful, we also identify shape, brilliance and good vs. bad imperfections. This is why it is important that you start with a beautiful diamond and “assemble” the ring from there. This is easy to do at a specialty jeweler, with hundreds of loose diamonds in inventory, but difficult to do at Kay Jewelers.

Certifications – Primarily IGI (Looser)

There are 5 labs that grade diamonds in the market (ranked in order of prominence below). The first, Gemological Institute of America (GIA), is the most well-respected by both buyer and Jeweler. This is followed by AGS and HRD, both of whom are viewed as “respectable enough,” followed by IGI, which is less-so, and then EGL which is the least respected of the group:

  1. Gemological Institute of America (GIA),
  2. American Gem Society (AGS),
  3. Hoge Raad voor Diamant (HRD),
  4. International Gemological Institute (IGI), and
  5. European Gemological Laboratory (EGL)

There is a direct correlation between the prominence of the grading lab and the value of the stone. Many of Kay diamonds are graded by IGI, number four out of five on the list above. Rankings are fairly common knowledge so we ask ourselves the question, “with GIA grading so readily available and common (and frankly quite desired because of their accuracy), why would a dominant chain like Kay Jewelers choose anything else???”

We give Kay Jewelers three stars.