This is a super in-depth review of Kay Jewelers.
In this up-to-date review I’ll break down:
- Who Kay is
- What makes Kay unique
- Key features
- Things I like
- Thing I don’t like
- Whether or not their diamonds are worth the price tag
- And lots more
Let's get started!
Who Is Kay Jewelers?
Kay Jewelers is one of the first companies people think about when thinking about engagement rings, wedding bands or fine jewelry.
The company is owned by the world’s largest corporate jewelry store, Signet.
Signet is a UK based company, but operates in America under their subsidiary company, Sterling Jewelers. Signet is the parent company of Jared the Galleria of Jewelry, Kay Jewelers, and most recently, Zales.
They also own many other stores, including our favorite online diamond retailer, James Allen.
Kay as a company has been around for over 100 years. The first Kay Jewelers store opened in Pennsylvania in 1916. However, Kay’s headquarters is Signet Jewelers, whose home office is in Akron, Ohio.
Kay claims the title of the number one jewelry store in the United States and has over 1,000 stores. They sell many different name brands in their stores and on their website such as The Bachelorette ring designer Neil Lane, Vera Wang, Le Vian, Leo Schacter, Tolkowsky, and the father of cultured pearls himself, Mikimoto.
Today, Kay's remains ever-popular in high end jewelry, but Signet has begun to focus more on their online store and less on their presence in shopping malls in America since the times of CoVid 19. If you want to get a better perspective on the shift towards online stores you might want to see our take on the best online diamond stores.
What Makes Kay Jewelers Stand Out?
Even though Kay has both their website www.kay.com and brick and mortar locations all over the USA, they are widely more successful in stores than online. The mission of Kay Jewelers as a company is to “Celebrate Life and Express Love.”
When you go to Kay, it’s a personal experience.
You are treated like family when you begin your ring search with Kay. But you don't get this experience shopping online. This is also referred to as a clicks and bricks business model, which proves to be very successful in online diamond retailers.
Kay has a wide range of inventory, both in-store and online. They carry bridal jewelry, colored gemstone jewelry, charms and charm bracelets, blue diamonds, black diamonds, and gold chains. Online you can create mother’s necklaces with all different birthstones and actually simulate what it would look like online.
And if that many items still weren’t enough for you, next time you go into a Kay, ask for a mountings book. Behind the jewelry counter, they have many books full of random jewelry designs for those with more particular tastes.
The mountings book contains many empty ring settings. You can actually custom order in stones or diamonds and have their shops do it. If you want a full custom design, they can do that as well.
Kay has a world of options when it comes to buying jewelry. Customers become lifelong friends with their consultants and having a long-standing reputation with their jewelry consultants.
Kay Jewelers Dedication To Customer Service
Typically, when we review a diamond retailer, we take their online chat and go from there. We’ll talk to an online rep a little down the way, but let’s talk a little about their instore service. Because Kays is a mega corp., you’re going to run into many different managers and associates with different attitudes and outlooks.
No one is required to have any kind of jewelry education, other than basic brand training for new employees. Store managers don’t even have any training with the Gemological Institute of America. Only managers and assistant managers are required even receive the Diamontology Course with Jewelers of America.
The online customer service team has even less training in diamonds and gemstones. They are simply taught to solve problems rather than educate in diamonds. You can book an appointment with a jewelry consultant but it has to be over the phone.
As promised, I struck up a conversation. Since James Allen’s our favorite diamond retailer online, I want to ask Kays about their build a ring process online.
I figured I’d be on a long wait online because of how big the company is, but it didn’t take long. I did notice that for some reason my estimated waiting time increased instead of decreased, so that was strange. Today I’ve been connected to Jody.
When I was adding my ring I built to the cart, I noticed that there weren’t any options for the Extended Service Plan. All of Kay’s bridal jewelry has this warranty, and it’s solely dependent on cost of the item. So, I asked if Jody if I was missing anything. Here’s how our conversation went.
When I was adding my ring I built to the cart, I noticed that there weren’t any options for the Extended Service Plan. All of Kay’s bridal jewelry has this warranty, and it’s solely dependent on cost of the item. So, I asked Jody if I was missing anything.
Here’s how our conversation went...
Jody was very nice though and she did answer my questions. Unfortunately, if you want to use the build a ring service and purchase the Extended Service Plan lifetime warranty that covers resizing, rhodium plating, prong retipping, and stone tightening, you’ll have to do it in store.
Kay Jewelers Shopping Experience?
So, what can you expect when shopping with Kay Jewelers? Here's the general rundown on how the average process should go. It CAN be as easy as 1, 2, 3, 4. Note that different items may take longer than others.
1. Picking Your Diamond
Before 2020, there was really only one way to create engagements on Kay's website. Now, there are multiple ways, including searching for loose diamonds online. This was one of the biggest pitfalls about Kay that has now evened out to mention the competition.
They still have the Ring Builder that allows you to choose from preselected diamond grades of uncertified stones.
You have no clue what your diamond actually look like, or where it's being placed. They also have a Neil Lane engagement ring builder, which I'm sure is a huge hit and also hugely overpriced for uncertified diamonds.
But we're going to check out their collection of loose diamonds and match them up with our recommended retailer, James Allen. Let's see how they compare.
Kay's Design-A-Ring build is like other online diamond retailers.
It's minimal and clean, perfect for the older crowd that tends to shop at brick and mortar retailers. Currently they offer more than 33,000 loose diamonds, which really isn't a bad selection. You can also choose from general 4Cs filter to more complicated filters like diamonds from grading labs and fluorescence.
Majority of Kay's loose diamonds online are actually AGS or GIA certified, which is the only certified diamonds we recommend. I find this strange since most of Kay's in-store engagement rings are uncertified and they carried very few GIA certified preset engagement rings.
I do notice when I choose a carat weight selection of 1 carat to 1.5 carat diamonds, my selection is narrowed to around 8,000. Which, is still a lot, but a heavy drop from 33,000. Since these days the average carat weight for a diamond ring is 1.2, I'd expect them to have more.
Their diamonds can be seen on a crystal clear 360˚ viewer just like James Allen's. You can control the movement as well. This princess cut diamond from Kay has an H color grade, VS1 clarity, and a GIA grading report and goes for $5,190.
2. Choosing Your Setting
It's cool they let you either buy the loose diamond by itself or choose a ring setting. They should anyway, because I'm only given two ring setting options when I select it.
Seeing as princess cut diamonds are the second most popular choice diamond shape, only having two options is a bit ridiculous. The only reason I could see it working for them is because you'd have to purchase a setting or have their shops put it together and charge more.
I mean sure, you could have a local jeweler have it done in a ring setting, but what's the point of buying this particular diamond online when there's so many other options? Maybe there's plans to add more since it's a newer feature. Either way, Kay still has a long way to go to match online retailers like James Allen or Brilliant Earth.
Furthermore, this extremely limited selection of ring setting options are expensive. Adding the second ring setting to my diamond above puts my total cost at around $8,300, before tax and warranty.
3. Purchase Process
Before we add our engagement ring to our shopping bag, a summary of all the details we’ve chosen is listed below the matching band options. You’ll also notice it takes 12 business days for processing in addition to your shipping choice. Signatures are required.
Everything looks good, so let’s add it to the cart. For some reason, it won’t allow my ring to go into the shopping bag on Google Chrome. I had to open my Safari browser to add it. Keep that in mind if you have any issues.
We can see our ring in the cart below:
There doesn’t look like there’s any way to add an Extended Service Plan, which is Kays warranty that covers all metalwork. After talking it over with online chat, I discovered that you can't add the Extended Service Plan unless you go to a store.
You have just two options when purchasing this ring, debit/credit card or Kay Jewelers Credit Card called the LONG LIVE LOVE card. You do have the option of leasing, but it can only be done through live chat since many stores are closed.
The Long Live Love Card is usable at both Kay Jewelers and Jared for purchases.
Unfortunately, you can’t apply from the checkout page, so if you’re interested in looking at the financing plans for the LLL card, you’ll have to apply here, before you click checkout.
Here are the financing plans you can choose from:
4. Return Policy
Kay Jewelers has a return policy that’s both convenient and easy for customers. You have a choice of returning merchandise either at a store or online. Even if you’ve purchased it online, you can still bring it to the store for a hassle-free return. But if you don’t have a store near you or would simply rather mail it, you can start the process online.
The return policy allows you to return your Kay purchase within 30 days (from ship date) for a full refund to the original form of payment. If on an LLL card, it’ll reverse. If you paid in cash, you’ll more than likely have to wait 7-10 business days for a check from Home Office.
If you pay debit/credit card, it needs to go back to that card. Be aware of card cutoffs and expirations when purchasing because it can be a big pain to get that refund. If you’re planning on exchanging your purchase for something different, they have a 60 day exchange policy.
You can only do exchanges in store. Watches have to be returned 30 days. Note that custom designed merchandise or engraved can’t be returned at all
What Did I Like About Kay Jewelers?
Kay offers a few different warranties for their jewelry, dependent on the product you get. The best warranty Kay has to offer is there Lifetime Diamond Commitment. This warranty is a free lifetime warranty given to those purchasing jewelry with diamonds, sapphires, rubies, or emeralds.
The downside to this warranty is that you must maintain it by visiting the store every 6 months to get your ring inspected and cleaned. But if you can do that, it’s well worth it.
If you lose one of the stones mentioned above, Kay will replace the stone with the same or better quality stone as long as you’re up to date with inspections. I like this warranty because none of our online diamond retailers offer any type of protection with the stone itself.
Keep in mind though that you are still unable to choose your own stone, so if you had an eye clean I diamond, the replacement may not be eye clean.
The other warranties offered are the Extended Service Plan and the Jewelry Replacement Plan. The ESP is offered with most of the jewelry, but when it’s not, the JRP is usually offered. Some items have no warranty offered, but not many. Additionally, there is a Watch Plan that can be added with watch purchases.
For engagement rings and wedding bands, you’re offered the ESP. It covers all your metalwork to include rhodium plating white gold, tightening stones, prong retipping, and resizing for life.
In addition to regular maintenance, the ESP covers chain breaking, straightening earring posts, fixing damaged channels, reshaping ring shanks, and other minor damages. Anything extensive may result in a charge. And unlike our online retailers, you can resize with Kay’s more than just once, and it’s for life, not just the first year.
The price of the ESP will be dependent upon the cost of the item you’re purchasing.
Here are approximate prices:
The Jewelry Replacement plan is for items such as hollow gold jewelry, Pandora charms, men’s alternative metal wedding bands and mother’s rings. This plan allows one free replacement within 3 years.
You are also offered a new JRP when you receive your one replacement. The JRP is also significantly less than Extended Service Plans. Here is the prices for the JRP:
While James Allen offers a free warranty, I personally like the idea of offering a paid option. The ESP also covers a lot more than James Allen’s free lifetime warranty. But, there are also reasons why I wouldn’t use my warranty if I were to purchase jewelry from there. I’ll explain those reasons why a little later.
Like most retailers, Kay allows you to upgrade your ring. Unlike any of our online retailers, you can upgrade any piece of diamond jewelry (not lab created diamonds) you maybe don’t wear anymore, or just looking for something new.
However, if you want to take advantage of this trade-in service, you have to do it at a store. But, you do have a ton of options in Kay’s vast inventory.
All trade-ins get the full price in which they paid for it, They don’t take into account your setting, so the policy is diamond for diamonds. They do have a gold exchange that you can read about on their website. You can’t trade for colored stone jewelry unless it also contains diamonds.
Your upgraded piece of jewelry must be at least 2x what you paid for the old piece of jewelry. You are able to get up to 50% off your new piece of jewelry.
What Didn't I Like About Kay Jewelers?
Like every jewelry store, there are things we find that we’re not too excited about. Kay Jewelers is no different. Here are the things we don’t like about Kay.
There's so many different ways to design a ring online at Kay's, it can be a bit confusing to keep them straight. Never mind the fact that finding their loose diamonds is pretty difficult.
I looked around their menu, got frustrated and then just searched "loose diamonds". Somehow that brought me to the page. Makes me think they don't really want people to get them. They're also priced better than ones in-store, at least the diamond itself is.
One thing you can’t ignore when looking for a diamond retailer to trust, is their reputation and customer reviews. Being a mega corporation, there is going to be a lot of things said about Kay. There are also a ton of negative Kay Jewelers reviews on platforms like Facebook, Reddit, and the Better Business Bureau.
Kay has been surrounded with a lot of rumors, lawsuits, and articles for both employees and customers. The biggest issue I’ve come to find that people have with Kay is the repair shops. And as a former employee, I don’t blame them.
Signet Jewelers has had quite the few scandals over the years, both internal in management and when dealing with customers. Some people claim Kay and other related stores like Jared and Zales are scams.
The biggest media hit Kay took was when this Buzzfeed article was released in 2016. It details the awful experience of a customer who bought a $5,000 engagement ring for his fiance.
She went to get it sent out for repair and it came back with a different stone in it: moissanite, a diamond simulant. Yet, at both Kay and Zales, it tested diamond. The customer had it tested at two jewelry stores outside of the company and they confirmed it was not diamond.
At least 7 more women came out with similar stories.
It doesn't instill a whole lot of confidence within me to purchase from Kay knowing how many of these stories are running rampant on the web. Let’s put it this way, my own engagement ring and wedding band was purchased from Kay.
I don’t have an ESP, but even if I did, I wouldn’t send my own jewelry to their repair shops, so I can’t in good conscience recommend that too. If you buy jewelry from Kay, you’re better off getting it serviced by a local jeweler.
How's Kay Jeweler's Pricing?
I took the same loose diamond I picked out above and compared the pricing to fellow competitor/family member, James Allen. Even though Signet owns both companies, they are priced very differently.
Here's the diamond I picked out earlier- a 1.01 carat princess cut diamond with H color and VS1 clarity. And it also has a GIA certificate.
I've chosen a similar diamond from fellow competitor James Allen. It also has the same diamond grades and a GIA grading report. Check out the difference between prices:
James Allen's diamond ring is $3830 at full price. That's a $1360 difference. And not to mention the fact that James Allen has over 200 settings for a diamond like this, and Kay has less than 20 settings for all the diamond shapes in their inventory for 1 carat diamonds.
More than that, even if Kay did have simple solitaire setting to compare to one of James Allen's, Kay would still be more expensive.
You'd have to pay for the Extended Service Plan if you wanted maintenance. James Allen's ring settings come with full maintenance warranty for free.
You shouldn't have to pay high prices for less value So save yourself the headache and don't.
Kay Jewelers Bottom Line: Largest Jewelry Inventory
If you’re ordering online or purchasing jewelry from Kay Jewelers, I don’t recommend purchasing bridal jewelry like diamond engagement rings and wedding bands. Based on our analysis, there are many reasons why you shouldn’t purchase these items at Kays.
The main reason is that you will be paying a high price for sub-par quality diamonds.
You have no control on which diamond you get, no assurance that your diamond grades are actually what they claim to be, and no real visual of what your ring will look like before it comes in the mail.
Why would you want to make that big of a gamble, when you could shop with an online retailer that offers transparency and less expensive prices like James Allen?
This is why most people that buy from Kay’s buy in-store instead of online.
What keeps Kays in booming business is the many jewelry pieces they have all over their stores. Many people still prefer to purchase jewelry that they can physically touch and decide if it’s what they like. And if you’re looking for a brick and mortar store with a ton of choices in jewelry, Kay will have the largest inventory.
Kay has a ton of affordable lab created gemstone jewelry with many items under $100 that are perfect for birthstone gifts or high school graduation gifts. Even online, you get can lost in the pages of colored gemstone jewelry as well as creating your own mothers jewelry with different birthstones.
There are so many unique choices for fashion jewelry at Kays that why it’s our pick for largest inventory.