James Allen vs Zales (Which is Better)?

Wondering who's better... James Allen or Zales?

Good news, in this LearningJewerly.com guide, you'll find answers like:

  • Who Has The Best Shopping Experience?
  • Which Company Has The Better Warranty?
  • Where Can You Get The Best Value For The Price?
  • What Are Customer Reviews Saying?
Zales vs James Allen review

Bottom Line Up Front: James Allen comes out on top in pretty much every category. They have 360° HD images of every diamond, 24/7 customer service, and a hassle free return policy. They also have better prices than Zales and offer a far better warranty.

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 Zales. 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.

Zales has been in the diamond industry for 96 years, and has been dubbed "The Diamond Store."

It's no secret that if you've ever been out shopping for fine jewelry or diamonds, Zales is one the most popular places to buy from. 

And while many people are nervous about making such an expensive, important, and emotional purchase online, more and more people are buying from online jewelers such as James Allen. 

James Allen is slowly changing the name of the game when it comes to diamond shopping. But how does it measure up against Zales' reputation? Let's find out.

Shopping Experience Comparison

Shopping experience doesn't just cover the purchasing process, but also the return policy process. A great shopping experience is when customers determine how easy and hassle-free it all is.

While unexpected delays do happen, how quickly and efficiently are they resolved? 

Zales

Zales has two types of experiences: on their website and in-store. If you're shopping at Zales, you're more likely to go to an actual store. 

But if pushy salespeople isn't your thing, you might prefer their website. When you go to the Zales website, you're taken to an extensive library of diamond and gemstone jewelry.

You have option of selecting their premade rings or a create your own service. 

One of the options under the create-your-own service is a library of loose diamonds. You customize your diamond grade criteria to fit what you're looking for and then add it to the setting. However, they have no way for you to see the diamond. 

Not all same grade diamonds have the same appearance. These diamonds are both SI1, but one is more appealing than the other.

diamond inclusions
diamond inclusions

Funny enough, the one with the obvious inclusion on the front is actually more expensive. This is why you need to be able to see what diamond you are ordering.

Read Also: What is diamond clarity?  

Here is someone's experience with Zales ordering off of their website on resellerratings.com

Zales bad review

If I had that same shopping experience, I definitely wouldn't order there again. Especially when there are many hassle-free ways.

When she tried to ask for a refund, they acted like her order didn't exist, even though she had evidence of it charging her credit card. 

Not only is that a bad shopping experience, but a very bad display of customer service. The two go hand-in-hand, complementing each other. But in the case of Zales, both are working against them.

Zales' return policy is 60 days for most jewelry and 30 days for watches. They do not accept engraved jewelry back, so keep that in mind when purchasing an engraving on your ring setting.

James Allen

When you start your shopping experience on JamesAllen.com, you are given extensive information about the loose diamond you are buying. 

Like Zales, James Allen also has a library of loose diamonds. They do not offer any premade rings, but allow you to select diamonds, lab-created diamonds, gemstones, and colored diamonds.

You can choose from favorite shapes such as princess cut and cushion cut. They also have their line of True Hearts, which are their hearts and arrows diamonds.

After you select your diamond, you can select your setting and piece it together. James Allen rings usually take around 3 weeks to design, unless the setting is a little more complicated. They will let you know if it's going to take longer. 

I prefer James Allen's loose diamonds because they have a 360 viewer, which allows you to see the diamond from almost every angle. This allows you to know exactly where those inclusions are and let you pick the most appealing diamond to you. 

You also get to view the ring setting easier too with the 360 viewer. James Allen wants to make sure that you are in control of your own ring. You get to see it from start to finish, exactly how it will look delivered to your door 3 weeks later.

So, what do customers say about the shopping experience at James Allen? Check this review by Cassie on Trustpilot.com

James Allen positive review

Customer Service

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. Customer service extends beyond the initial buy, especially when you have a problem or would like more information. 

Zales

Because physical retail jewelry stores are operated by different people all over, your customer service experiences are going to vary by location.

All of the companies under Signet Jewelers lack consistency. Each manager runs their store differently than others. 

Some may look up your receipt for you on the computer for a return, and others will deny you a refund without the receipt. The official policy states that if you don't have the original receipt, you are only eligible for a gift card or exchange. 

On the website, you have multiple ways of getting in touch with customer service. There is a 1-800 number to customer care, an email, and online chat. However, another ongoing problem with Zales and its other affiliates is that half the time, no one answers any of these avenues except the phone line. 

Here's what one customer had to say about trying to get ahold of Zales' customer service team on Zales' facebook page

Facebook bad Zales review

It has to be incredibly frustrating for customers to have all these different ways of contacting customer service and still not being able to reach them.

A lax customer service does not leave customers feeling as if their money is in good hands.

James Allen

Customer service at James Allen is actually pretty straightforward. They don't work off of a commission and they are not salespeople. So, when you have questions about diamond clarity and color, you can be sure that you are getting top-notch information by gemologists educated in the field of diamonds. 

Their customer service is both prompt and helpful. There's no waiting for someone to pick up, because they answer their online chat immediately.

Check out what a customer had to say about James Allen on Trustpilot: 

James Allen good review

This is a perfect example of a mistake made right by a company. Every company is going to mess up at one point or another.

The best way to fix a mistake is to accept and address it head-on and that's exactly what James Allen did. Even with issues, customer service can save the reputation of the company.

Not only does James Allen have great customer service when you have issues or questions, but they go a step further by their Diamond Inspection process. 

real time diamond inspection

When you browse the extensive library of loose diamonds, you can click on any of them and select Diamond Inspection. You will be briskly connected to a live James Allen gemologist who will share their screen with you and scrutinize every detail of the diamond, from the inclusions to the thickness of the girdle

How's that for going above and beyond? Unlike other retailers, James Allen wants to provide you all accurate information and help you pick out an engagement ring online that is truly what you want and also fits your budget. 

Warranty

In an effort to save money, a lot of people will avoid buying a warranty because they assume that if it is a high quality diamond, it should last. But precious metals aren't made to last forever. 

In fact, all gold metals--be it yellow gold, white gold, or rose gold are soft metals naturally. The higher karat weight of gold, the less durable the piece will be.

James Allen vs Zales

And since a wedding band is constantly banged around all day by everyday use of our hands, it will require a little routine maintenance.

Zales

Even though Zales is owned by Signet Jewelers, it is not a sister store to Kay Jewelers or Jared. It's more of a cousin store, really.

Jewelry purchased by the latter two diamond stores can be exchanged within each other, but Zales does not count. The same goes with their service plans.

Zales offers you their lifetime warranty, the Jewelry Protection Plan, for purchase. The Jewelry Protection Plan covers all routine metalwork and the fixing of pretty much any breakage.

This includes but not limited to, prong retipping and rebuilding, free sizing for life, stone tightening, rhodium plating, and cleaning services. 

Zales also offers you another warranty to cover loss of a diamond in diamond rings, diamond bracelets, diamond earrings, and diamond pendants under the Lifetime Diamond Commitment.

Unlike their cousins Kay and Jared, they do not cover any colored gemstone and diamond jewelry purchased from the clearance section does not receive coverage.

Read Also: Which is better: James Allen or Kay Jewelers? 

But similar to Zales' cousins, they require you to come in store and get your diamond jewelry inspected every six months to upkeep the Lifetime Diamond Commitment. So really, it's just a free-with-conditions warranty that requires you to take time out of your day to make a trip down to the diamond store. 

James Allen

James Allen offers a free lifetime warranty. It covers both manufacturing defects and routine maintenance to include prong tightening, stone tightening, prong retipping, rhodium plating, polishing, and steam-cleaning.

They do not cover replacement of diamonds, but they do allow you to return jewelry even if it is engraved. (If you do return an engraved piece, they charge $25 for a repolishing fee.)

To use the warranty, you pay a $30 shipping fee ($50 for countries other than the U.S. or Canada). You also get one free resizing within the first year.

If the resizing is needed outside the first year, they charge $25 for rose, white, and yellow gold. If it's platinum, it'll be $50. 

Price vs Value

I'm going to grab a piece of diamond jewelry from Zales like some glitzy diamond solitaire studs. Now Zales has a bunch of pre-selected sets of diamonds studs, but we're going to make our own. 

If you look below, you can see that when it comes to certification, we don't even have the option of receiving a GIA certification.

Read Also: What's the difference between GIA and IGI?

GIA certifications are top standard in the jewelry world and will give your jewelry the most value, but they're more expensive than an IGI certification. 

Zales earring selection

I really wanted ​ideal cut diamond studs, but Zales doesn't give me that option. In fact, there is no cut grade option at all.

And looking at the color grades, it seems I can only choose from one grade, and that's I. An I color grade is almost the lowest grade of near colorless grade sets.

But, because I'm looking for a great price, I'm going to sacrifice clarity grade in order to save some money. Plus, they're earrings, so no one is really seeing them up close. 

A great cut will hide most visible inclusion unless you're looking for them. So let's go with an SI2 clarity grade. And let's set in 18K yellow gold 4 prong earring settings. 

And for carat weight, let's go for 2 carats total (one in each ear). The total of these earrings are $23,687.92, before taxes and warranty. 

Zales diamond earrings

Now let's change that perspective. Say I already purchased those earrings from Zales. Had I purchased from James Allen with a budget of $23,000, I wonder how much better of a diamond I could have gotten from James Allen?

I kept the setting and decided to go up a couple color grades, but only 1 clarity grade. I could have gone up more, but since these are earrings, I'd rather go up in carat weight.

Read Also: What are the best settings for diamond earrings?

I found a pair of diamonds weighing 1.33 and 1.40. Even though they are different carat weights, the sizes look the same visibly. Here are the diamonds studs I came up with under the budget of $23,000.

james allen earrings

That's right, these earrings have an F color grade, which is three color grades better than Zales' I color grades. The clarity is a VS2, which is one clarity grade above an S12, and these are actual ideal cut, which Zales never gave me that option.

Read Also: What is diamond color?

Did I mention that James Allen diamonds come with GIA or AGS certifications? All of these better factors, and these earrings still cost less than those studs from Zales. 

Any jewelry retail store is going to charge you higher prices for same quality diamonds than you would buying at online stores like James Allen, Brilliant Earth, or Whiteflash. 

James Allen lets diamond customers know that you can save money and purchase the best and most perfect diamond online at jamesallen.com

On Reddit 

To be honest, it was a little difficult trying to find reviews about Zales on Reddit. It took a little searching and filter-changing, but I found a few. The fact that I couldn't find much about Zales on the site at all, should let you know that it's not as much of a contender any more. 

Here, we have a perfect example of how Zales can overcharge you for a much lesser quality diamond than you could receive if you purchase with James Allen: 

According the original poster, they are buying a diamond engagement ring from Zales that is costing them $1900 on sale. They're wanting to know if it's a good deal. 

Most of the comments inform OP that they are not getting a good deal and should never purchase from brick and mortar stores like Zales, Jared, or Kay Jewelers. Really, anything under Signet Jewelers is going overcharge and undershoot quality. 

Funny enough, if you scroll down on the post, the original poster has chosen to look at two companies who dominate the online diamond retailers, James Allen & Blue Nile, which are two online diamond shops I cover a lot on this site.

James Allen on reddit

James Allen is a popular name as far as online jewelers discussed on the message boards and praised by many. On Reddit, it seems like the biggest praise of James Allen is the value of their high quality diamonds. 

According to this post on Reddit, one original poster received an appraisal on a ring she purchased for $6500 and got it appraised at another jeweler for $11,500. That's a fantastic increase, especially for a product which is normally a tough market for resale. 

James Allen ring on reddit

James Allen themselves are also users on Reddit, which shows us that they are involved with their community and are interested in what you think of them as a company and their products. 

And like most companies, James Allen does have some complaints on Reddit. Check out this post here of a customer not getting the ring on time. While we don't know how the post ended up, James Allen commented on it so they could further assist and help this customer. 

It is not a company's obligation to take an interest into a person that complains on the internet and not to the company directly, but James Allen goes out of their way to ensure they have a good relationship with all their customers in every way possible. 

James Allen reddit complaint

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. 

Our Verdict: James Allen

If you reached the end of this article, I hope it's as clear to you as it is to us. You will reap more benefits and savings by purchasing a diamond at jamesallen.com than you would receive if you opted to buy the same diamond from Zales. 

If the diamond prices weren't enough, James Allen also gives you a free lifetime warranty that is good for all the routine care you'll need to keep your jewelry in its best shape.

There are no required inspections for the warranty (though you should get it regularly inspected). It's 100% free, with no strings attached. 

James Allen has a great reputation on many review sites and if it's a complaint, they are quick to address it and rectify this issue. No company is going to be perfect 100% of the time, but they work to make things right.

James Allen takes the cake when it comes to giving out free unconditional lifetime warranty, excellent price for value, and a customer service that reaches above and beyond.

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