I’ve been seeing commercials for Jewelry Exchange back in Chicago, years ago. They had them in Florida, too, and when this weekend it kept airing late Saturday night for the Southern California Tustin location, I decided I had to go see it.
Plainly, I thought they must just give diamonds away. Their commercials more or less suggest that for a few hundreds dollars you’re walking away knee deep in carats. I mean, they don’t say it outright, but it’s there subliminally. Basically, I figured it would be like the Los Angeles Jewelry District. Messy, cheap, good. Give or take a couple street vendor hot dog carts.
First of all, to start off a chain of disappointments, there were no hot dog carts.
It ain’t messy. They have a post office ‘take a number’ system. Though, Jesse and I hung out around counters and sales people would ask at random if we needed help. When you get around to it, they introduce you to a 'diamond consultant', who can sign out ONE diamond at a time. So, if you wanted to look at a couple side by side, you can’t – unless they get a second sales person to come in. It takes forever, between the items. This is the case for loose diamonds, anyway. The salesperson goes back to the “vault’, signs 80 clipboards, talks to a ‘manager’, signs a few more clipboards. Repeat for taking a stone back and getting a new one.
It wasn’t cheap. It was comparable to other retailers. Yes, you would pay more and have a much smaller selection of you went to Kay, Zales, or another mall establishment. But the variety of other ‘wholesale diamond retailers’ have the same prices. Our salesperson did mention they would work with you on the price. I don’t know to what extent, since we weren’t making an offer.
As for being good – I guess it ought be broken down into the product and the service.
If you know what you’re looking for, they have good quality diamonds. From our experience, you have to be pretty specific in what you want. I asked to see only GIA/EGL certified stones with specific parameters. He wanted “the stone to speak to us, before he presented its credentials”. When I pointed out I can see the inclusion pretty easily, he ignored me amd pressed on about the beauty of the stone. He then broke out a loupe so we can see the 'almost invisible inclusions'. Twice, we did this, with two different stones.
When I asked to see an I-J colour and a high clarity grade, he became visibly frustrated and came back with a heavily included G colour, that was the cheapest stone we had seen. Then he asked us if we were buying that day. The inference was, that if were aren’t to buy that day, what’s the point of dealing with us.
Our particular salesman was not rude. He was actually really nice, and once set on track, he would stay there. He expressed the hope that “the stones made a bigger impression than their representation" and that we would be back. In the background, though, two people were being pressured for a non refundable deposit. When one of them said no, a sales lady threw a fit. Literally. Doesn't do much for a warm fuzzy feeling.
They push strongly for this deposit. Jesse heard a sales lady say, "What, are you going to drag her in here?" because a young man was getting ready to leave. I heard a, “You want to make sure this diamond is still here”. Because a 'wholesale’ place that specializes in buying heaps of diamonds can't come up with another diamond for you? That’s assuming hoards of people shop there, and a majority of them after your particular diamond. Yeah, right.
I have since read online that their terms of agreement on said deposit are abhorrent, and are a sole reason to walk away. I have also read their reviews from various locations across the country, and 90% of them are terrible. Not bad. Terrible. Their terms of agreement also states they are not responsible for damage to a stone while in their care, and will only recut/repolish it. Umm. Re-cutting a stone? Oh, and “they are not responsible for loss of weight and stone value”. Of course not. I read about consistent refusals to work with previous customers on fixing their errors.
I guess by itself, it wouldn’t be a huge issue, had not 80% of reviews talked about damaged jewelry. These 80 and another 15% talked about the quality of their jewelry, all made in-house, as per their website. All terrible. Well. All 95%, but I'm all about statistics and probability.
Our salesperson told us it should be the last place we come. Because having seen all the other places, we will be ‘illuminated’ by the quality and diversity they offer, and their “lowest in California” prices. I was ‘illuminated’ by the fact that they can get some people to put down a deposit.
Having said that, they have a selection that you can see in person, which is a plus over shopping online, as he pointed out. Armed with the specs of a diamond you need, down to the table/girdle/culet measurements, and a price you’re willing to pay, you can go in there and be confident they will have a loose stone that matches your needs. We saw a beautiful .9 carat J colour VS2 Cushion Cut. He quoted us 3,300. Mondera.com offers identical in description stones for $2,300.
But, if you don’t mind the car dealership – manager – salesperson – back-and forth, you can work with them on a price. Judging from 100’s of online reviews though, I would definitely have it set elsewhere. And I definitely wouldn’t go there, hoping to be “illuminated”.
Don't let the waving commerical people fool you. It is a bit disappointing. They can be downright mean, if you don’t buy anything. And it might be a little scary if you do.