In this guide, we're comparing James Allen and... Costco?
It's the battle of the unconventional jewelry stores: an online giant vs. a retailer that sells jewelry on the side.
We'll compare things like:
- Who Has The Best Selection For Rings?
- Which Company Has The Best Customer Service?
- What Are Redditors Saying About James Allen vs. Costco?
- Who Has The Best Value For The Price?
Costco is a wholesale retailer that sells most of their items in bulk, while also selling fresh seafood, barbecue grills, toothbrushes, and diamond engagement rings in their warehouses.
On the other hand, James Allen is an online diamond retailer that specializes in loose diamonds and ring settings in order to create your perfect ring.
But which if these unique retailers has the better bridal jewelry? Let's find out as we pit Costco and James Allen against each other to find out where you can get the better deal.
Bottom Line Up Front: James Allen is a better online retailer of diamonds and fine jewelry. They even let you custom build your ring so it can be one of a kind. Their 360° HD images of every diamond, 24/7 customer service, and hassle free return policy enhances the shopping experience.
James Allen delivers a better quality product at a lower price compared to big box retail stores like Costco. They are are changing the jewelry industry for the better, and we are proud to recommend them to you.
Shopping Experience Comparison
A great shopping experience includes a very easy buying experience, and a great return policy if needed. Positive shopping experiences are one of the reasons why a customer might return to the store, or recommend the store.
Even though there are very few reviews on the web that are directly related to the process of purchasing Costco engagement rings, I've managed to find a couple shopping experiences from people who have purchased a Costco ring.
If you shop at a Costco warehouse, you have to be a member. But if you shop at Costco online, you can purchase from there without being a member. Unfortunately, if you aren't a member, you get a 5% surcharge added to your purchases.
If you're a Costco member, you have the option of getting your diamond rings sent to a Costco location, but if not, you only have the choice of two to three day shipping. While I can't find too many specifics about shopping in-store, the online shopping experience is pretty easy and straightforward.
All Costco diamond jewelry is already pre-made. They don't have any custom diamond engagement rings, loose diamonds, or empty ring settings. They also use a stock picture for each of their items. so you don't actually know what your diamond looks like.
Most of Costco's engagement rings and bridal sets are I colored, which is the lowest near colorless grade. There are just a few diamond rings that have better color. Similarly, most of them have a VS1 or VS2 clarity as well. These are pretty good quality as far as diamonds go. On the other hand, it's unfortunate if you are looking for VVS clarity and you might want to take a look at other VVS diamond jewelers instead.
But if you purchase a Costco engagement ring and don't like it, you may have a fight on your hands. Check out this experience a Costco customer had trying to return a ring on Trustpilot:
This is interesting to me because on the Costco website, it says that the gemologist should review and get back to you within 24-48 hours, and this doesn't sound nearly as hassle-free.
While I can't speak for his experience, I definitely with agree with one thing: You should only buy diamond wedding bands or engagement rings at a jewelry store, not one that sells "quality diamonds" right next to the batteries.
Unlike Costco, James Allen specializes in buying diamonds. They have a library of loose diamonds of varying diamond grades. You get to select your diamond and your setting.
I prefer this option to Costco because buying a premade ring really just takes the magic out of it.
James Allen may not have the biggest selection of ring settings, but they do have the option of going full-custom. James Allen offers you multiple ways of creating your very own ring piece by piece.
At Costco, you get to just add a ring to your cart and check out.
Buying wedding rings and engagement rings is both a personal and emotional experience. James Allen wants to make sure that you pour that emotion and personal touch into picking out a diamond and crafting a beautiful engagement ring for the love of your life.
They also offer ease of mind with their 360° technology, which allows customers to be able to survey their center stone.
The problem with a lot of large corporate diamond retailers is that they become more concerned with making money, and less with the actual humans buying their product.
When most people think of customer service, they don't realize it's not only limited to the purchase. You can only really tell how great a company's customer service is when you have an issue with the merchandise.
How a company addresses inevitable complaints will show you what true customer service is about.
Because I've had a hard time finding any testimonials specifically related to diamond buying from Costco, I decided to take a chance with their online chat in order to gather research for this very article. I noticed under their description, they have "graduate gemologists" in order to help with jewelry questions.
I also wanted to know about warranty information, but we can talk about that later. In this screenshot, I ask both of these questions:
The reason I ask about where their gemologists graduated from is because I want to know if they are graduated Gemological Institute of America (GIA). The GIA is the best of the best and most prestigious degree in Gemology.
Knowing this would ease the comfort of buying diamond jewelry from a retailer that is not a jeweler. With how long it took for Michael to respond to me, I could tell he knew about as much information as I did.
In total, it took about 15-20 minutes for him to answer both of my questions and he didn't have any answers. Instead of answering my question, he chose to tell me about the GIA & IGI certifications.
Just in my own encounter with Costco customer service, I find the whole experience uncomfortable. When you buy diamonds at Costco, you are buying blindly.
You can't view the diamond to make sure it's eye-clean, or ensure that you are picking the best diamond for your budget, because they don't know anything about diamonds.
Because the truth is, the customer service representatives are not jewelers, just ordinary retailers that are selling jewelry.
There are so many more people who have purchased from James Allen to be able to talk about their customer service, so I didn't need to. I will say though, anytime I've needed information, I always have all my questions answered thoroughly.
But don't just take my word for it. Check out what Ryan had to say on Wedding Wire:
Shipping is the most cringe-worthy aspect of the diamond business for an online retailer like James Allen. It is the only part of the process where they do not have control.
They can make sure you get a one carat, excellent cut, round diamond in a high quality ring setting, but they can't control the weather or FedEx. But with Ryan, they made sure it got there.
In one customer complaint from the Better Business Bureau, a woman purchases a pair of 14k white gold wire basket earrings under the advertised price of $250. Customer service contacts her and tells her there's a glitch in the system and that's not the right price.
She wants them to honor the price she purchased them, but customer service informs her that the price is significantly different, so they can't do that. I did a quick search on jamesallen.com and pulled up the earring setting she was talking about. Check out the actual price of these:
To be honest, I can see why James Allen didn't want to honor that price either. Those over $1000 more than what she purchased them for. It was a very expensive mistake.
After complaining on the BBB, James Allen responded to her and resolved the issue, giving her exactly what she wanted. I guarantee that if you had the same problem with Costco, Kay Jewelers, or Jared, they would not honor that price.
But James Allen does their best to take care of unhappy customers too.
A common misconception about warranties is that they aren't needed if the piece has excellent craftsmanship. But when it comes to jewelry, especially diamond jewelry worn on the hand, you need a warranty.
Rings are constantly being bumped into things all day long as you go about your day.
Over time, a prong might start catching, or your white gold solitaire starts needing rhodium plating. A good warranty will make sure you aren't continuously have to pay to keep your ring in good condition.
Finding warranty information for Costco diamond rings was an adventure. When I clicked on warranty information on one of their bridal sets, I was redirected to their refunds page.
I talked to online chat to ask about it, at the same time I asked about their graduate gemologists.
It took a while for Michael to continue to find information about the warranty, then he proceeded to tell me the same thing I've already discovered. I really expected him to have a little more information than I did, rather than just tell me what I've already knew.
It turns out, they do not have any kind of warranty with their diamond jewelry, but they have a 100% return policy. But after doing further research on Costco's return policy, Costco is allowed to approve or deny any refunds.
Aside from that, Michael also mentioned that they do repairs. Interestingly enough, if you look under Costco's Jewelry FAQs, they say that they don't do sizing or maintenance.
According to Michael, they don't size but they do repairs. The repairs are free, but if you lose a stone, you have to get it replaced by your insurance or a local jeweler.
It seems pretty inconvenient to have to bounce between both Costco and another jeweler to get repairs or change ring size.
And I did find out that their graduate gemologists supposedly come from the GIA, but apparently no one else in customer service knew that.
This customer said she had to pay to have her 3/4 carat diamond tightened and sized, but according to customer service, she could have had it repaired at Costco, but only if she was a Costco member. Otherwise, all repairs are completely out of pocket.
Unlike Costco, James Allen offers a lifetime warranty for free. This warranty covers loose stones, rhodium plating, cleaning, and polishing.
You can either ship them your ring for $35, or they also have the option of taking it to a Jared location.
In addition to the warranty, their policy on resizing offer one free resizing within the first year. After that first year they charge you $25 for gold & $50 for platinum resizing.
Price vs Value
While you want a great deal, you also probably want to know you're getting a great deal on a high quality piece, not something that has a lower price, but lesser quality as well.
Is it possible to get high quality diamonds for lower prices?
To compare the price and value of both Costco and James Allen rings, I've pulled two different rings from each website. Here we have a marquise diamond with 1.53 carat weight, G-color, VVS2 clarity grade in a platinum solitaire setting.
Read Also: What are the different diamond cuts?
It also comes with a GIA certification. The total of this ring is $13,999.99.
I couldn't find a James Allen diamond with identical specifications, but here is a 1.51 carat marquise cut with the exact same color and clarity grades in a platinum setting for $699 less! Because James Allen allows you to choose your own diamond and ring setting, you have plenty of options to customize your ring. The total of this ring is $13,300.00.
Both of the companies have free shipping too, so any additional cost would be sales tax.
Unless you're not a Costco member.
Remember, for non-members purchasing off of Costco's website, they add a 5% surcharge. That puts the price of Costco's ring at $14,694.95.
That makes James Allen's marquise diamond ring is $1394.95 less expensive than the ring at Costco. Not only are you getting the same quality for better diamond prices, you're getting a lifetime warranty, and purchasing from an online jeweler that lets you pick out your diamond and setting.
Let's round Costco's marquise ring to the price of $14,700. Keeping the platinum setting the same, I'm going to browse James Allen's library of loose marquise diamonds and see how great of quality I could get for the same price or close to that of the Costco marquise ring.
I couldn't exactly find the exact same price, but I found a great diamond at James Allen for less than our $14,700 budget. Check out the specs on this ring:
This ring from James Allen features a 1.74 carat weight, VS1 clarity, and F color grade diamond. While the clarity is technically less than the Costco ring, with marquise cut this slight difference won't really matter.
Read Also: What are diamond colors?
The color grade goes up by one and we added 0.23 carats to the carat weight - all for a price that is still less than the Costco ring.
The bottom line is, James Allen will give you more control and customization to make your engagement ring purchase an intimate and personal experience with high quality diamonds for the best price.
So what does the wildly popular website Reddit think about Costco and James Allen rings? Well, there aren't a ton of posts about Costco's jewelry, but there are far more than any other review sites.
From most of what I've gathered, it would seems that the Reddit world believes that Costco sells quality diamonds for lower prices than your average jewelry stores.
And this is true. Costco's diamond rings are better quality and better priced than most large brick and mortar retail jewelers like Zales, Jared, or Kay Jewelers.
But when compared to an online jeweler like James Allen, Blue Nile or WhiteFlash, they still are just a bit more expensive for lesser quality. The following response to a Reddit post sums it up quite well:
Costco jewelry rings are fine. The prices are good if you're just trying to find a good deal. If you don't care about seeing the diamond or getting the same piece that 400 other people have bought, then you should buy from Costco.
But if you're wanting to be involved in the crafting of the diamond ring you've chosen and hand-picked, then you should buy from James Allen. You can give it that personal touch, and get a free engraving as well to give it even more sentimentality.
James Allen has many posts and comments throughout the world of Reddit. Not only are people recommending them, but the actual company is on Reddit as well.
I've seen them congratulate couples, give diamond information, and address customer complaints on the site. I really admire their attitude on Reddit as it isn't an official channel to address such issues.
Most companies only have the time for their own social media pages or customer service requests. James Allen addresses issues to Reddit, the Better Business Bureau, and Yelp, as well as all of their social media pages.
Check out this post on Reddit asking about the reputation of online jewelers like Brilliant Earth, James Allen, and Blue Nile.
While most of the comments on the post are specifically telling the original poster to go with a local jeweler or opinion on why you shouldn't purchase online, the only actual customer experiences on the post are all James Allen customers.
Four raving reviews from people who bought both a diamond and a setting, or just the loose diamond itself. The amount of positive reviews on Reddit about James Allen rings far outweigh the number of negative reviews, at least from people who have actually purchased from the company.
Our Verdict: James Allen
When it comes to engagement rings and bridal sets, you can get higher diamond grades with lower prices at Costco than most popular corporate jewelry stores like Kay, Zales shop, or Jared.
But compared to an online diamond retailer like James Allen, Costco just doesn't measure up.
James Allen gives you a free warranty that covers routine care and Costco doesn't give you any type of warranty. Costco does allow you to return the ring at any point, but if you've had it sized or if they deem it unreturnable, you're out of luck.
If you buy from Costco, you'll have to pay another jeweler to size it. But if you buy from James Allen, you get 1 year of resizing and you can have repairs done through select Jared stores or James Allen directly.
The biggest reason I advocate for James Allen against Costco is because of the knowledge they possess.
Wouldn't you feel more comfortable buying from a retailer who allows you to see every detail of your diamond before you buy it?
Would you feel more comfortable buying from a company's customer service who can't answer your questions about buying diamonds than one with top of line diamond experts that can review your selected diamond with you and answer all your questions?
James Allen specializes in diamonds, which means their employees also specialize in diamonds. Costco does not.
Costco is not a jewelry store, which means they just don't know jewelry. Plain and simple. Because if they did, they'd have the same transparency that James Allen offers their customers.
Clearly, James Allen is a much better place to purchase diamond engagement rings.