They’re familiar, they’re convenient, and — surprise! — they’re having a sale right now. There are plenty of reasons you may be tempted to shop at mall jewellery stores. Here are 10 reasons why you deserve better.
1. Factory workers, not jewellers
Jewellery sold by large chain stores is mostly mass produced, and companies have a strong incentive to cut costs. They do this in a number of ways, including setting up factories in developing countries, where rings are machine-produced by semi-skilled workers, instead of trained jewellers.
2. Hollow bands
Another cost-cutting tactic of chain stores is to reduce the amount of precious metal they use by making hollow ring bands rather than solid ones. The end result of this obsession with saving money is lighter, lower quality, less durable rings. We believe that wedding jewellery should be made to last.
3. Low brilliance
There are two reasons why diamonds sparkle the way they do. One is their extraordinary natural clarity, and the other is the skill of the diamond cutter. When a diamond is flawless, beams of light shine straight through it, without being dulled by inclusions or cloudiness. But truly flawless diamonds are both rare and very expensive; most diamonds have at least a very slight inclusion and the further down the clarity scale you move, the less clear the diamond becomes. Leading jewellers like the Diamond Shop insist on a minimum of SI2 clarity and above, and the highest possible grade of cut (Triple Excellent), for a finished diamond with exceptional sparkle.
4. Low colour
The highest quality diamonds are colourless, which is a D rating on the diamond colour grade scale used by authorities like the Gemological Institute of America or GIA. Diamond colour progresses from D all the way down to Z, which is light yellow or brown. Mall jewellery stores tend to use cheaper diamonds, with low colour.
5. No independent certification
Diamonds are graded according to what experts call the Four C’s: carat, colour, clarity, and cut. Reputable jewellers sell diamonds that have been graded by an independent authority like GIA, and will provide a certificate with all GIA-graded diamonds you buy. Most mall jewellery shops don’t provide grading certificates with their diamonds, and those who do tend to use less reliable in-house assessors who may inflate the colour and clarity score, giving a misleading impression of the diamond’s true value. The Diamond Shop will provide a certificate, as well as a valuation for insurance purposes, with any GIA-graded diamond.
6. Mass produced designs
Your engagement ring means a lot, and it ought to feel unique. Nobody wants to see a clone of their ring on somebody else’s finger. But when you buy a mass produced ring from a chain store, you’re buying one of hundreds, if not thousands, of identical rings. Independent jewellers, like The Diamond Shop, produce in-house designs in very small numbers, meaning that your ring will stand out from the crowd.
7. No customisation
Mass produced rings arrive at the store pre-made, meaning that there is no option for buyers to customise their jewellery. Our customers always have the option of making design changes — in fact, we encourage it!
8. Fake sale prices
You may have noticed that chain jewellery stores seem to have a lot of sales. In fact, some of them are almost always offering spectacular discounts. The thing is, if something is always on sale, it’s actually never on sale. These stores deliberately mark up their prices, before applying a ‘discount’ that seems generous, but isn’t. We recommend shopping around, and being very wary of hefty discounts.
9. Jewellers or salespeople?
In a mall jewellery store, you may be served by a retail worker, not a jeweller. While some are excellent, salespeople typically have little, if any, gemological education, and will not be able to advise you on the finer points of selecting a diamond. The Diamond Shop is completely staffed by career jewellers, with years of experience and extensive training.
10. Higher overheads mean higher prices
We’ve talked a lot about the ways chain jewellery stores cut costs by skimping on materials and labour. However, this doesn’t necessarily translate to lower prices for you. Mall jewellery stores pay extremely high rent, and have to pay for an entire store’s worth of readymade stock. They also have large corporate structures behind the scenes, with executives, managerial teams, marketers and many more employees who need to be paid. Overheads that run well into the millions are reflected in prices that are higher than they should be, considering the quality of the jewellery.
While at first glance mall jewellery stores may seem to offer great value, they are often the wrong place to make a costly and emotional purchase like an engagement ring. Whatever your budget, buying independent means that you really do get what you pay for.