James Allen vs Kay Jewelers (Which Is Actually Better?)

Last Updated on September 25, 2022 by Juli "Jewels" Church

Looking for a James Allen and Kay Jewelers comparison?

You're in the right spot!

I'll cover topics like:

  • Which Company Offers The Best Customer Experience?
  • Where Can You Get The Best Quality For The Price?
  • Who Has The Best Warranty Policies?
  • What Are Customers Saying About James Allen vs Kay's?
Kay Jewelers vs James Allen review

Until recently, almost everyone shopped at jewelry stores to find an engagement ring or other diamond jewelry. 

Now, some companies have opened an entirely different way to shop for diamonds and other gemstones: shopping online. 

Kay Jewelers is one of biggest brick-and-mortar jewelry stores in the industry. 

But when pitted against online retailer, James Allen, the jewelry store industry is seeing more and more people opt for shopping online. 

So, who's better? You be the judge. Get ready for an all-out smackdown between the underdog, James Allen, and veteran jewelry store, Kay Jewelers. 

Read Also: Best Places to Buy VVS Diamonds

Bottom Line Up Front: James Allen is a better online retailer of jewelry in terms of customer experience, quality, and price. As an online jeweler, they specialize in online sales with their 360° HD Images of every diamond, 24/7 customer service, and hassle free return policy.

Since they are an online only shop, James Allen can deliver a better quality product at a lower price compared to brand name brick and mortar shops like Kay Jewelers. They are are changing the jewelry industry for the better, and we are proud to recommend them to you. 

Click here to see the current promotions James Allen is offering.

Shopping Experience Comparison

James Allen prides themselves on being a company that looks out the for customer. They aim to provide honest and affordable prices, making it easy to make a purchase without fear of being duped. 

Kay Jewelers has a great reputation, being in the jewelry business for over 100 years. They are one of the many companies owned by Signet Jewelers.

They offer their customers the ability to have a personable and educational experience when shopping for jewelry pieces.


When you're buying, everyone is nice. If you come in with a problem or a bad situation, it is much different.

For instance, poor Victoria here had a terrible experience with Kay trying to get a refund for a ring she ordered. Check out her story on the Better Business Bureau below. 

Kay BBB bad customer service

Kay's has 60 day return policy and you need to have the same credit card you used to purchase.

If you paid cash, you'll have to wait 7-10 business days for a check from the home office, unless they have enough cash in the drawer. But, it's unlikely. And there have been plenty complaints about the refund process.

Kay's also allows you to do custom rings, completely from the ground up. They also have options to order a loose diamond and settings from Stuller

Here's a story from Dana on Consumer Affairs, who dealt with a custom ring:

Kay bad shopping experience

Six months? That's crazy. A custom ring with Kay Jewelers is supposed to take about a month, as long as there are no modifications being made past the first design.

But there's no way it should take six months. 

And it's true, they do start out with a handmade drawing by an associate. There are no credentials for the person that draws up your design. 

Overall, the shopping experience with Kay seems very inconsistent, with a high amount of good reviews and an equally high amount of bad reviews.

It's worth calling out that people tend to post negative reviews, so take these responses with a grain of salt.

James Allen

Because James Allen is an online store with only a couple locations in Washington DC and New York, pushy salesman are better left to the companies of Signet Jewelers, like Kay. 

When you shop at James Allen, you can take your time. This is key to making such an important decision and making the right decision for you. 

James Allen carries name brands like Veraggio, and Jeff Cooper, but you still get to choose the center stone. There are no fully premade items like you can buy in Kay. You always have a setting, and you get to pick your diamond. 

Read Also: Does James Allen let you build your own ring?

At James Allen, you have much more control in the diamond, which gives more control over the price. At Kay, if you buy their name brands like Neil Lane or Vera Wang, you get the diamond it comes with. 

A big positive for James Allen is transparency of the company. They allow you to get a 360 view of each diamond they have on their website.

You can know you are definitely getting the same diamond you saw on the website. 

So, how is the custom process with James Allen? Check out what David had to say about ordering a custom ring in a Christmas time crunch: 

James Allen yelp positive review

Jana also had a great experience with using custom designs with James Allen. 

James Allen yelp shopping review

Now, James Allen does have some complaints about the settings, but from what I can tell, these customers are complaining about settings with pavé stones. Pavé stones are extremely delicate, because only tiny prongs hold them in place. 

The more there are, the more likely they are to fall out. Pavé is such a popular design, but overall, it's impractical and difficult to clean.

Kay's Neil Lane collection has a ton of pavé style bands and I have seen more Neil Lane rings repaired than any other type of ring at Kay. 

The shopping experience is great at James Allen, with the exception of pavé settings. Unfortunately, James Allen does not cover the cost of stones, but if it's a continuous problem, they may decide it's a manufacturing defect and replace free of charge.

Customer Service Comparison

Customer service is huge, especially when making such an important decision. It's easy when everything goes perfectly, but what about when you have an issue?

That's when the true colors of customer service show.

Kay Jewelers

When it comes to an issue with a repair or refund with Kay Jewelers, you're more likely to be met with excuses and the runaround. 

Throughout various company review sites like the Better Business Bureau, Consumer Affairs, and Yelp, there are many complaints regarding customer service. Check out this person's experience as told on consumeraffairs.com:

Kay poor review

First, you do have to understand it is right around Christmas time. It's hard for stores to continuously answer phones when swarmed with guests. 

However, Kay has a few different ways to contact their customer care services or ask about orders. This customer tried multiple avenues of contact with the company and all of them failed.

How do you expect customer to not feel as if they're getting scammed if you never talk to them?

But the absolute worst thing about Kay's customer service is how uneducated they are about the industry. Most Kay employees don't know more than the bare basics we have to study in a fact book less than 100 pages. 

And when you talk to their customer service, most of them have never actually set foot in a Kay store. It's just like every other contracted care center. Most of them will have never seen the piece you're talking about in person. 

I learned more about all aspects of jewelry after I left Kay, and also the many many things they taught me wrong. 

James Allen

Customer service at James Allen is quite different than what you'd experience at Kay Jewelers. You can contact James Allen via phone number, live chat, and email, or at their physical locations.

Customer service is available to you 24/7, which is unlike any of Signet Jewelers' companies. 

To customers, James Allen's customer service is positive. Stephen here didn't even like his ring, but will definitely shop with them again. 

James Allen excellent service

It's not too often you see someone willing to buy online again if they didn't like the first thing they ordered. 

James Allen goes above and beyond the traditional ways of customer service by surpassing live chat. Not only do they do live chat, but they do live diamond inspections as well. 

James Allen diamond inspection

In James Allen's library of loose diamonds, you can select "Diamond Inspection". When you do that, you'll be connected to a live James Allen associate.

They will explain to you in detail the different grades of your diamond, plot the inclusions and blemishes on the stone, and answer any questions you might have about that diamond. 

Read Also: What should you know about diamond color?

They can compare and contrast with other diamonds. And unlike most Kay employees, James Allen's associates are trained gemologists and know exactly what they're talking about. 

You can feel confident that you are getting correct and educated information with James Allen. 

On one of the biggest wedding resource sites, Wedding Wire, James Allen has a phenomenal reputation. Just look at how many reviews and awards they have won:

James Allen Wedding Wire awards

With customer service like that, why wouldn't you want to shop James Allen?

Warranties Compared

A lot of people think a ring shouldn't need a warranty because if it's quality craftsmanship, it will last.


Jewelry needs routine care such as prong retipping, tightening, rhodium plating, polishing, and of course, cleaning. These metals are not made to last forever and do need upkeep to retain their durability and quality.

Kay Jewelers

Kay Jewelers offers you two types of warranties for your silver and gold jewelry, the Lifetime Diamond & Gemstone Guarantee, and the Extended Service Plan.

With all diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds, the Lifetime Diamond & Gemstone Guarantee covers replacement of a lost or missing stone as long as you bring it in to Kay's or to their sister store, Jared, every six months for cleaning and inspection. 

As long as you're up to date with your inspections, if you lose a stone (one of the ones covered) Kay Jewelers will pay for replacement of the stone. Note that this only covers the cost of the stone, not the metalwork needed to be done to actually set a new stone. 

When you set a new diamond or precious gemstone, there's additional metalwork that has to be done. And if you don't purchase the Extended Service Plan, the shops the company uses will charge you way more in the end than if you were to just buy the ESP. 

The ESP is a lifetime warranty and priced based on the cost of the item you are covering. 

Kay Jewelers ESP pricing
Kay's ESP pricing

It covers all of the routine repairs such as prong retipping, polishing, rhodium plating, and deep cleanings.

Not only does it cover the routine care, Kay's ESP covers additional repairs like broken prongs, bent prongs, dents (if able to be repaired), breaks in the shank, soldering wedding bands, unsoldering them, broken clasps, and broken chains.

They will charge you for additional modifications, such adding different clasps, or needing to add gold to a shank when sizing more than two sizes.

But you are charged solely for that modification, all the work and labor is actually covered by the ESP.

James Allen

James Allen warranty

With any purchase of diamond jewelry, James Allen gives all of their customers a free lifetime warranty. That's the great thing about online retailers.

While companies like Jared and Kay Jewelers have to sell you a warranty in order to make their store goals and make Signet Jewelers more money, an online diamond store like James Allen can give it away free. 

That's right. FREE. James Allen wants their customers to know that they stand behind their products. When you receive a high quality engagement ring online, they want you to know that you can rest assured that if there are any manufacturing defects, they will fix them free of charge. 

Remember that routine care I talked about? The Lifetime Warranty from James Allen covers retipping of prongs, tightening of stones, rhodium plating on white gold, and steam cleaning. 

And James Allen even has a deal with Jared to allow James Allen customers to bring their jewelry to select Jared stores for repair. You don't have to do that, but James Allen gives you that choice.

If you opt to go a different route, you can send it to James Allen directly, but you'll need to either pay your own shipping or pay $30 for the FedEx label.

James Allen will either repair it under warranty, or contact you and tell you a price. They will pay return shipping. 

James Allen doesn't offer a warranty to cover loss of stones, but their products are high quality and as long as you're checking your jewelry regularly, you shouldn't loose any diamonds. Lastly, they do offer a year of free resizing as well.

Read Also: How good is James Allen's customer service?

Price Vs. Value Comparison

This section is probably the most important section to most jewelry buyers. Everybody wants to know prices.

While a great warranty or excellent customer service is awesome, not everyone can afford the higher cost, so everyone's looking for a great deal.

James Allen has the best value for diamonds


In-store, Kay's does not carry loose diamonds or gemstones. They only have pre-set rings with pre-determined clarity grades.

When I worked at Kay's, there was nothing over an SI2 clarity. They had only just started adding clarity grades on anything that was uncertified. 

In their premade pieces, they don't even give you the exact clarity grade for both the center stone and the melee stones. But I can assure you, they are not the same.

If you want to order a higher quality diamond or a carat weight bigger than 1 carat, you will have to wait for them to order it, and it often costs a refundable down payment.

And if you are looking for a certified diamond, such as one with a GIA, IGI, or AGS, certification, they won't have many of them in store. They will also be one of the most expensive rings in the store. 

Kay's, like many other corporate diamond retailers, is a price-gouger. For instance, check out the price of this 14K white gold one carat oval solitaire diamond engagement ring.

The clarity grade is an I1, which is one of the lowest respectable clarity grades. An I1 means that there are visible inclusions to the eye. Here's a close-up example of what an I1 diamond looks like:

Kay diamond with inclusions

Not very pretty, is it? The truth is, Kay Jeweler's will sell you high quality diamonds, if you ask for them.

But be prepared to pay higher prices at Kay's or any other corporate jewelry retailer, and you'll pay more for lesser quality, like that I1 diamond. 

When you buy a diamond ring from an online diamond retailer like www.jamesallen.com, you rectify the price issues that the corporate retailers have.

Read Also: What is diamond clarity?

You know how we were just talking about that I1 oval diamond solitaire ring from Kay's? As of now, the price for that ring on Kay's website is on sale for $5,299. The retail price is $5,899

diamond ring details

The very same graded diamond from James Allen, without the setting, is $2,130. And that's just the one carat oval with an I1 clarity and an I in color.

Kay's never even mentioned what kind of cut grade the stone has, but I know it's not ideal because only Tolkowsky diamond rings and Leo diamonds have ideal cut grades at Kay's (in-store). 

There is nothing special about the setting on the oval ring from Kay's. It's a plain 14K white gold band.

I found a similar setting to place our James Allen 1 carat oval in, for a total of $2490 as a sale price, and $2370 as the original retail price. 

Almost the exact same diamond and that much of a price difference? Let me convince you further. 

Say you have a budget of exactly how much the oval diamond engagement ring costs from Kay's ($5899). If you were to shop with that same budget and same setting in 14k white gold, what sort of diamond grades are we looking at with James Allen?

I did a little diamond searching through James Allen's oval diamonds, and have found a perfect one within the budget. I've pieced together another diamond with the same setting from before.

Let's compare Kay's to James Allen for price and quality: 

Kay Jewelers diamond

Give or take a couple hundred because James Allen doesn't seem to carry that same setting as the one on Kay's, I've picked out a much higher quality oval diamond for less than the price on Kay's. 

At James Allen, for the same price or less, you can get this diamond quality:

James Allen diamond

James Allen- 1.03 carat, VVS2 clarity, D color grade. 

James Allen offers you a diamond that is 5 clarity grades better and the best color grade on the grading scale which is also 6 grades better than an I color grade

If you haven't figured out already, when it comes to value and price, James Allen embarrasses Kay Jewelers. It just doesn't make sense to pay more for lesser quality diamonds at a brick and mortar store.

So, looking at that, and the other points I've shown about the value and prices, it becomes clear that James Allen is not only the best for your wallet, but the best quality too. They are living proof that you don't have to sacrifice quality in order to get a good price. 

James Allen Vs Kay On Reddit

Kay Jewelers has quite the reputation on one of our favorite place to talk about products, Reddit.com. And I must say, it definitely isn't the best reputation.

One of the biggest alleged complaints associated with Kay Jeweler's is pointed out here: 

Kay bbb bad review

So, how much of this is true about Kay's? Well, I can say that each experience is different.

I've had thousands of customers send their ring off to the shops, and come back completely fine. But, I've also seen rings be sent off to the shop and come back looking quite bad. 

Unfortunately, no one in the Kay's building can control how your ring comes back from the shop. And to address the rumors about diamond swapping, I'm really not sure.

Sometimes, I could tell which was the replaced diamond, and other times I couldn't. Did I ever notice a center stone being swapped out? No, I can't say that have. 

But if you are truly concerned about center stone swapping, you should look into a laser-inscribed diamond. On the repair slips, Kay's has to write down the serial number on the girdle of the diamond. 

Read Also: How to buy ethically sourced diamonds?

When the diamond comes back, you can verify that it is indeed your diamond by matching the serial numbers. This also protects against thefts and makes it difficult to pawn off without your knowledge.

You do not have to purchase a laser inscribed diamond from Kay's to utilize these benefits. 

In fact, you can have a laser inscription done on a James Allen diamond from the American Gem Society or any place that offers laser inscription services.

laser inscription tip

Our Verdict: James Allen

When it comes to places to shop when looking for engagement rings or any other type of diamond jewelry, you need to seriously consider an online diamond retailer like James Allen. 

Because when compared to Kay Jewelers, and many other corporate jewelry retailers, it is obvious that James Allen comes out on top. 

If you shop with James Allen, you can be assured you're buying from a reputable online company. You receive full disclosure and transparency. No pushing, no convincing. 

James Allen associates do not work off commission or have to meet sales goals like Kay Jewelers. You can be assured the advice you're getting is meant to suit you and your situation only, without outside influences.

You can view each natural diamond or lab created diamond they have in stock and know without a doubt what you are purchasing. James Allen is a company built on customer trust, higher quality, and competitive prices that outweigh any jewelry store like Kay's. 

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