Zales vs Kay Jewelers: The Tell-All Comparison Guide of 2022

Wondering who's better, Zales or Kay Jewelers?

Perfect, you're in the right place! 

In this expert Learning Jewelry guide, you'll learn:

  • 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 kay

Shopping Experience

Since Zales and Kay are both subsidiaries of Signet Jewelers, these two stores are going to have some of the same protocols when it comes to shopping online and in-store for that matter. 

Zales

Known as the Diamond Store, Zales is one of most known jewelry stores in the industry. Even though Zales mostly relies on its in-store services, there are a few different ways to shop through them without having to go sit through a sales presentation. 

They've got a wide selection of preset diamond engagement rings, which a lot of online jewelers don't offer. 

However, the diamonds in preset jewelry don't usually come with a grading report unless specified, and they have general minimum clarity and color grades. Nothing about them is specific. 

There's two ways to create your own ring on Zales' website. You have the option to create your own Vera Wang engagement ring, or you can go to their interactive design suite. Vera Wang is a popular designer of wedding dresses, not a diamond cutter. 

You can opt for a different center stone like various sapphire colors, emeralds, or my personal favorite, tanzanite. The stone you choose will determine your diamond or gemstone shape options.

You choose from set sizes for your diamond and don't get to see what diamond will be put in there. Your clarity options are only SI2 or VS2. There are no color options, so I'm assuming minimum color is going to be I. 

You get to style the head of your engagement ring by selecting from a set of options and the same goes for the setting styles. 

The standard Design Suite is pretty much the same set up as the Vera Wang Suite. You still select from a set of choices and don't get to actually pick your diamond. You get less options in diamond shape, and you can choose I clarity if you really want it.

It's cheaper, but more of a risk since you can't see what diamond will be put in the setting. 

You can also choose 10K gold for your ring. Yellow gold won't see as bright in 10K because there's less gold in it. But it's cheaper and more sturdy. If you have sensitive skin, I don't recommend buying 10K gold jewelry. You won't get this option with most online diamond retailers. 

If you don't like your engagement ring from Zales online, they have a 30 day return policy and 60 days exchange. Returns can be done in-store or online and exchanges must be done in-store. 

Kay

When you shop online at Kay's website, you're pretty much seeing a repeat of Zales' setup. Instead of the Vera Wang Design Suite, you have the Neil Lane Engagement Ring Designer Neil Lane is famous in Hollywood for designing all the diamond engagement rings for the Bachelor franchise. But it's a name brand, not a diamond cutter. 

You get a choice of 5 different diamond shapes: round, princess, cushion, oval, and pear cut. Customers are also given a choice of clarity between I1, SI2, or VS2. The color grade is I. 

You also get to choose between 5 different ring settings, choice of three setting variations, and three ring heads. Only one of them is a solitaire head. You can choose to have it in all colors of gold or platinum. 

Kay's Create Your Own engagement ring builder is the exact same as Zales. They have the same choices and options in every category, right down to the dollars and cents. The return policy is also the same with 30 day free returns to the store or online and 60 days to exchange at the store. 

Customer Service

Since Zales and Kay are both under the large corporate umbrella of Signet Jewelers to Sterling Jewelers down to their individual stores, their customer service is almost identical, like many of their policies. 

The customer service at Zales and Kay are both open via online chat, booking in-store appointment, virtual appointment, phone and email. The hours are the same with customer service open Monday-Friday: 9am-10pm, Saturday: 12pm-10pm, and Sunday 12pm-9pm ET. These are most shopping malls' schedules. 

The key thing to remember about Zales and Kay is that their main income doesn't come from online shoppers. They are banking on trying to get you to come in-store. In-store sales associates have to meet their sales goals.

That's why most diamond buyers are buying online these days. They don't want pressure. It's not the salespeople's fault, but this kind of aggressive sales isn't working too well with the new generation of buyers

If you search the internet for Zales and Kay reviews, you're going to find a lot of a bad reviews as well as a good deal of bad press. From company boss scandals to possible switched diamonds at the repair shop, neither of these companies come off looking great. 

Personally, I find both of these companies a little self-serving. I don't see how they actually help the customer buy an affordable and high quality ring. 

Considering they don't let you choose your own stones and overcharge hundreds by for an uncertified diamond engagement ring, I just feel like they're out to boost their sales, not help customers save. 

The big saving grace for jewelry retailers like these is that many people still feel nervous purchasing online and would rather go where they can see and hold the ring. They can walk out with it the same day the card is charged. 

Brick-and-mortar store associates are also real people, meant to engage and entertain while trying to meet a sales goal. It's highly likely you'll come across some really amazing people that will connect with you. 

When I worked at Kay, there were customers I really built relationships. 

My problem was, I focused more on them as people and less as a sales number. That's why I wasn't a great salesperson. 

They both offer diamond upgrade policies to spend at least double the original piece of diamond jewelry you're trading in. It can be diamond rings, necklaces, bracelets, or earrings purchased at their respective stores. The policy is diamonds for diamonds. You must do this in-store. 

Majority of their best jewelry services are in-store, like special events and sales. Is it better quality than what you could find at an online retailer? Probably not. And if it is a quality diamond, they're probably charging the customer 2x more than an online diamond retailer would. 

Warranty

Zales

At Zales, they give a free warranty called the Lifetime Diamond Commitment. It states that as long as you come into a Zales location to have your engagement ring cleaned, inspected, and recorded, they'll replace your diamond if it's damaged or missing.  The diamond will be the same grade or better than the one it's replacing.

This only covers the cost of the diamond itself, not the metalwork that needs to be done to set it, or prongs that will need to be fixed.

Remember, precious metals like gold are soft and still vulnerable to damage despite quality.  

Kay

The same general policy works at Kay, but they include other precious stones as well. They call it the Lifetime Diamond and Gemstone Guarantee. All sapphires, rubies, and emeralds are covered under this guarantee. 

You won't find a policy like this at most online diamond retailers. There's a reason for this: diamond grading. 

Say you bought an 1.5 carat diamond with I1 clarity and J Color grades. It could have white cloud inclusions like the diamond below. 

The other diamond next to is the same carat weight, clarity, and H color grades. This diamond would be considered a "better diamond" price wise. But do you think it is? 

If you lost your diamond, Kay and Zales both say, "No worries, we'll give you the same or better." 

In this case, the more better and more expensive diamond would be the one on the right. How would you feel if you had the left diamond replaced by the right?

You're probably going to raise hell. I wouldn't blame you. 

Just because the clarity grade is the same, doesn't mean the inclusions are the same.

And to add insult to injury, it takes a month for them install their diamond. Imagine waiting a month to get a new center stone put in and being returned that diamond? That's why other online retailers don't do that. 

Other warranty is the Extended Service Plan, which both companies offer. It covers most gold and silver pieces. Services like rhodium plating white gold, multiple resizing, prong retipping, reshaping, and other metal services are covered under these plans. 

It's a lifetime warranty, but you have to pay for it. You don't have to do anything to uphold it; once you pay for it, it's for life. The cost is based on the piece. You can check the ranges out below. 

Price vs Value

While the general inventory at Kay and Zales will vary, you'll find that their prices and values are pretty much neck and neck. In both general Ring Designer suites, the prices are the same. 

I'd say Kay has the upper hand on Zales because they also cover some colored gemstones too, but that doesn't really affect the people only interested in diamond engagement rings and wedding bands. 

I've stated a few times that these stores sell simple engagement rings for way more than they're worth. Let's see just how much. A standard 1 carat round diamond with VS2 clarity, I color, and a simple knife-edge solitaire setting will cost you $8687 at both Zales and Kay. 

At an online retailer like James Allen, you could be paying $4-$6 thousand for the same grades on your diamond. For a simple solitaire setting, you can tack on an extra $5100. Even at $4,930, you are saving over $3000. 

And if the price tag isn't enough to convince (which it shouldn't be), Kay and Zales design studio rings aren't certified by any lab. 

You shouldn't buy an uncertified diamond. We recommend only buying diamonds with GIA or AGS grading reports. The Gemological Institute of America and the American Gem Society are the most value grading labs. We don't recommend buying IGI certified diamonds unless they're lab grown diamonds. 

The last thing I want to point out in value is the fact that if you're going to buy the ESP from Zales or Kay, that's tacking on an addition $499 with this cost. James Allen gives you a similar warranty for free, increasing the value more by buying with them. 

On Reddit 

Truth be told, you don't need to go to Reddit to find customer reviews on either Zales or Kay. The reviews for both stores are all over the web, considering how many retail stores they have across the company. 

But Reddit is a popular place where ring buyers congregate in the subreddits to either brag or complain. They also come to ask advice. 

You'll find that most Redditors in the engagement ring subreddits describe Kay, Zales, and Jared as low quality sold for higher prices. The general recommendation instead of going to these stores is to buy from an online retailer like James Allen or Blue Nile. The other option is going to see a local jeweler in your own area. 

Conclusion

In the battle of Zales vs Kay Jewelers, I'm recommending you don't choose either one of these places, which shouldn't really surprise you.

Here's why you shouldn't shop at either one of these popular stores:

  • The Create-Your-Own design suites on their websites don't actually let you choose what you want. 
  • The in-store diamonds are 30%-50% more expensive than a diamond of the same grade at an online retailer
  • Their best features are in-store
  • The employees in-store are sales driven 
  • You have to pay for a lifetime service warranty
  • Neither of these retailers sell loose diamonds online

So, if neither of these popular fine jewelry retailers is a great choice to buy a high quality engagement ring from, who should you buy from? 

You might be surprised to know that under the same parent company of Signet, we recommend buying loose diamonds and engagement rings online at James Allen.

jamesallendiamonds

Signet acquired James Allen a couple years back, but it remains the same lower price points without the markup costs their other brands use. Not only do they have better prices, they also offer a free lifetime warranty to cover maintenance. 


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