The jewelry business in the US in 2017 did a whopping $63.8 billion in sales, and most of those sales took place at one of three basic types of jewelry operations:
- Corporate retail stores, or “Big Box” stores
- Independent jewelers
- Private jewelers
But what are the differences among these three? How does each rate in terms of service, quality, available options and price? From one side of the jewelry case, the differences can be very difficult to detect, but each type of jeweler has a unique set of pros and cons that can make it either a great choice or a poor choice, depending on your unique needs. Let’s dive in to learn more.
- CORPORATE RETAIL JEWELRY STORES
The corporate retail jewelry “Big Box” stores are the ones you have heard about for decades. Many show multi-million dollar commercials during the Super Bowl, others flood the radio airwaves, and some are well known for their blue jewelry box.
High-end, mid-sized and cut-rate
Each retail jewelry store has its own niche. You’ve got high-end stores such as Graff Jewelers, Harry Winston, Cartier, and Tiffany and Company. Then there are mid-sized stores – in regard to size, price and quality – such as Jared and Diamonds Direct. And finally there are cut-rate stores, such as Kays, Zales and Helzberg, where you get a diamond that can look decent and you sometimes get a lower price, but the quality can be average or below average. For some, the biggest benefit of the cut-rate stores is they are conveniently located in shopping malls and can offer (sometimes ruthless) credit options. Some are owned by larger conglomerates, such as Sterling, Inc.
- INDEPENDENT JEWELERS
The independent or family-owned jewelry store sometimes can give you a much more personalized experience than a corporate retail store. Yes, the sales people are paid by commission like the sales associates in cut-rate stores, but you might see an upgrade in the level of experience and professionalism, which can mean you get a better education and can be better armed to make an informed decision.
Big showrooms are expensive
The overhead of an independent store often is lower than the Big-Box jewelry chains, but that’s not always the case as they still have to maintain a decent-sized showroom. Often the independent stores carry many of the high-end bridal designers, such as Tacori and Verragio. They also can provide more custom jewelry because their bench jewelers and CAD designers tend to be of a higher caliber and more experienced.
- PRIVATE JEWELERS
Because private jewelers don’t have mass-marketed ad campaigns or highly visible storefronts, many people don’t know they exist. Private jewelers are exclusive and typically available only by appointment. And because they sometimes keep inconvenient hours, getting an appointment can be difficult.
Prepare to be pampered
However, once you meet with a private jeweler, the experience is unlike any other. As with an independent jeweler, the education you receive will be greatly enhanced. However, a private jeweler tends to spend an extended amount of time with each customer, offering a much more customized experience and a broader education of all the critical variables of the diamond industry. These private jewelers often are the owners of the business, and they understand the value of impeccable customer service and developing a customer relationship that can extend for generations. Their clientele tend to be very loyal customers who return to them to acquire earrings, necklaces and watches, long after an engagement ring purchase.
Private jewelers pass on savings from low overhead
Not surprisingly, the price you pay for jewelry is influenced largely by the cost of overhead. But private jewelers tend to offer extremely competitive prices and excellent quality because they don’t have to rent large retail spaces or spend a lot on advertising.
It’s all about what’s important to you
You have many options when it comes to buying jewelry. Each type of jewelry company has benefits and drawbacks. If you like quick and easy and need to consider some credit options, retail Big-Box stores might be a fit. The independent/family-owned jewelry stores will give you a bit more personal experience, access to some decent custom options, and better expertise than the Big-Box stores. And if you’re looking for an extremely personal and private experience, premium custom work and the best value overall, then find a private jeweler who can take care of all your jewelry needs for the rest of your life.