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Local Independent Jewelry Stores vs Big Box Chain Stores | Which is Better?

There was a time when people thought that the independent jewelry store was a dying business. Big box chain jewelry stores were bound to completely take over the industry, leaving local jewelry stores in the dust. However, and fortunately, it turns out that was far from the truth. 

So, today, we want to do a comparison of local independent jewelry stores vs big box chain jewelry stores to see why local jewelry stores are flourishing more than ever, and why bigger is not better when it comes to the jewelry industry. 

We will be comparing local jewelry stores and jewelry chain stores based on the following criteria…

Local Jewelry Stores vs Big Box Chain Stores:

  • Expertise 
  • Quality
  • Price & Value
  • Experience & Atmosphere 
  • Service 
  • Product Selection
  • Warranty
  • Community

EXPERTISE:

At a big box jewelry store, you are likely going to be dealing with a sales associate who has limited knowledge of the products. If you are lucky, you will get a sales associate who is very passionate about the jewelry and brand, and they will know a good amount about the items at hand. However, most are only trained to provide basic information and they are there to simply process transactions. Even their recommendations will be generalized, not personalized to each customer. 

When it comes to local independent jewelry stores, they have a greater understanding of their products as this is their life. You will likely be dealing with an owner, manager, or jewelry and diamond expert who knows all the ins and outs of the jewelry and diamond industry. This is their business so they specialize in it, which is much different than entry-level sales associates that you find at most big box jewelry stores.

Put simply, a local jewelry store often comprises actual jewelers and appraisers, and jewelry chain stores do NOT. This makes all the difference when it comes to expertise and true understanding of the industry.

At Diamonds By Raymond Lee, all of our staff are experts. They specialize in GIA diamonds, appraisals, jewelry customizations, Swiss watches, and so on, so any in-depth information that you want will be provided. 

You will always be fully informed at Diamonds By Raymond Lee. When you ask any questions about jewelry of interest, you will get factual information and good advice. Moreover, we can recommend you the best options and value for your budget.

QUALITY:

Jewelry store chains buy products in bulk. They source jewelry that is mass-produced to keep their cost of goods as low as possible. Then they often mark up their products at exorbitant prices. It’s the only way they can maintain such a massive overhead. 

In general, “bulk” means the quality isn’t as great. What’s more each piece of jewelry and diamond can’t be inspected by an expert at store level. 

Furthermore, their products are not unique. Nothing is hand-crafted or even hand-selected. What you are buying, thousands of others have already bought before and the vast majority of diamonds and gemstones are not going to be excellent cuts. Excellent cut diamonds and bulk purchases don’t mix.

So, overall, their presentation of the jewelry may be nice, but the actual quality likely isn’t that of a local independent jeweler, and here’s why…

Independent jewelry stores have jewelers who hand-select diamonds and jewelry from reputable sources that take immense pride in their craft. Not only is every piece of jewelry special, every customer is special too. So providing good quality is of the utmost importance. Each customer and each piece of jewelry is accounted for, it’s not just a number among a huge database. 

What’s more, a lot of the jewelry at an independent jeweler is hand-crafted and one-of-a-kind. This means you are buying a piece of jewelry that no one else has. 

Price vs Appraisal Value

Most people end up getting their jewelry appraised at some point down the road, and we can almost guarantee your chain store jewelry will be appraised for a significantly lower value than what you paid for it.

And it’s not as if big box chain stores are trying to scam people, it’s just that their products are overpriced when looking at the intrinsic value. It’s common knowledge among those who have experience purchasing a lot of jewelry.

Independent jewelers know the value of all their jewelry at an intrinsic level. They want to make sure the value matches the price and that your jewelry holds its value down the road. This is how a place like Diamonds By Raymond Lee maintains such a great reputation. 

Tip: If you are buying diamond jewelry, especially an engagement ring or jewelry with larger diamonds, make sure the diamonds have a GIA certificate and that you understand what the grading report means. Ask questions. Be intuitive. There should be no facade. Transparency is vital. Every diamond’s grade should be clear…

PRICE:

In our experience and understanding, prices at a big box jewelry store will be much higher for the quality received. We are talking around 20-30% higher, and when it comes to a thousands-of-dollar purchase, that can be a significant amount of money

That said, a lot of independent jewelers will have more expensive pieces, because the quality is greater and the pieces are special, hand-crafted and/or have a story behind them.

On average, though, you will find the most competitive prices at an independent jeweler. And when you compare value, you are getting much better quality for the price you pay with a local independent jewelry store. 

Moreover, the price you pay at an independent jeweler gets you far more than just the item you are buying. You get a warranty that you can count on, cleanings, resizing if needed, insurance appraisals, customizations, and tons of knowledge. 

On top of that, an independent local jeweler will work with your budget. They will want to find you the best piece of jewelry for your money. Conversely, most chain stores simply want to upsell you so they can get a higher commission. It sounds harsh but this is a resounding truth. 

Note: You may find that some jewelry chain stores have lower prices. This is because the products you are looking at are bought in bulk. They are massed produced. So, the price can be cheaper. However, when it comes to diamond jewelry, we find that chain stores inflate the prices of diamonds, as there is no MSRP price on diamonds so these chain stores can make any price they want. The best thing you can do is shop around and make sure you are looking at an authentic diamond grading report from GIA or AGS.

EXPERIENCE & ATMOSPHERE:

Largely speaking, you get a much more intimate experience at a local independent jeweler. They will treat you like a king or queen, providing you with the whole nine. If you come in with your wife or girlfriend, you will find it to be very romantic and you will not be pressured. These pressure tactics don’t exist in mom and pop shops like they do at jewelry chain stores.

As soon as you walk in, you will be greeted with a smile and asked if you need help. You will get special assistance if desired, drinks and so on. You can try on any piece you like, get information on it, and unadulterated pricing. 

After purchase experience

What’s more, if you end up purchasing, the after purchase experience is just as great. You will have a trustworthy warranty, cleanings and polishing, resizing if needed, and everything else you could ask for and expect. This is why people who buy a lot of jewelry typically stick to one local store in their area that they trust. They love the experience and know they will be treated well. 

With most chain stores, their goal is to get you to spend as much money as possible, so they can receive the highest commission possible. You are simply a dollar sign, and the experience will feel as such. Of course, they will be polite, at least most times, but they won’t take into consideration your personality, your style, your budget, etc. They have standard practices, and they aren’t very appealing to most people in terms of experience and atmosphere.  It’s almost robotic when it comes to chain stores. It has to be this way, as they need to maintain the same standards across the board and they have to be efficient with their time to get as many people in and out of their store. Again, to maintain a profit with such a large overhead. 

In terms of the after purchase experience, you can really forget about anything special.  If they have a warranty, you should be fine for any issues with your item, but they will take a long time to handle these issues because it’s not handled in-house. 

Once you come to them with an issue with something you bought, won’t be treated as a client anymore. At that point, you are simply taking time and not providing them with a chance to sell more…

It’s almost like going to a nice restaurant to eat (independent local jewelry store) vs a fast food restaurant (big box chain jewelry store). 

SERVICE:

Service isn’t comparable between the two. The vast majority of independent jewelers offer a wide range of services, such as:

Most importantly, a good independent jeweler like Diamonds By Raymond Lee handles everything in-house. This makes the process SO MUCH quicker.

At Diamonds By Raymond Lee, we make jewelry like Engagement Rings from scratch (based on exactly what you want), and handle appraisals, engravings, polishing, resizing, and everything else in-house. We have a state of the art jewelry and watch workshop right here at our store.

When it comes to jewelry chain stores, some offer repairs, simple customizations like engravings (they won’t create a piece from scratch), resizing, polishing, and cleaning. However, they don’t do it in-house. They send it to a third-party service. This means your piece is one of MANY, and the process takes much, MUCH longer. 

As for appraisals, you can’t bring in a piece of jewelry to have it appraised at a jewelry chain store. You need to go to a local jewelry store, as they actually have JEWELERS and APPRAISERS there. Jewelry chain stores will only have sales associates who can’t appraise a piece of jewelry. They only know what their selling price is.

PRODUCT SELECTION:

As you’ve gathered thus far, a jewelry chain store simply sells mass-produced jewelry. They will have a very limited selection of jewelry to choose from. It will change somewhat with the seasons and year, but they will be exactly the same across the board. So if you are fine with getting piece of jewelry from (insert brand here), that many people have, then a chain store is fine.

At a local jeweler, you will find a lot of exquisite and exclusive jewelry. One-of-a-kind jewelry and engagement rings at all different price points. You will also find highly-coveted Swiss watches, new and used. 

Local jewelers will have both private label (made by an independent jeweler) and brand name items. Everything is hand-selected and added to their collection based on an understanding of the industry, trends, and timelessness. 

All in all, you will find a far greater selection at a Local Jewelry Store, both new and used. 

At Diamonds By Raymond Lee, we have one of the most exclusive and extensive collections of jewelry and Swiss watches in all of Florida. You may find this overwhelming, but with the help we provide in terms of budget and style, the process for choosing your dream piece of jewelry will be fun, enjoyable, and seamless. 

So, if you like special and unique, definitely go to a local jewelry store.

Watch and Jewelry Customizations

Independent Jewelry Stores like Diamonds By Raymond Lee also do full customizations from scratch. So you can create a piece of jewelry exactly to your desire. You will be involved every step of the way to ensure you love the final result.

Diamonds By Raymond Lee also does customizations for watches. We can create pieces like a diamond bezel from scratch, and we can set diamonds in any luxury watch – dials, cases, bracelets, bezels. Our master jeweler and watchmaker will finish the job to perfection. 

WARRANTY:

This depends on the local jewelry store and chain store. 

Both typically offer warranties. However, the main difference is, the local jewelry stores handle product issues in-house and chain stores service it out to a third party. So, you can’t expect a piece of jewelry back quickly with a jewelry chain store. With a local jewelry store, they will handle the repairs based on how quick you need it back. If you are not in a rush, it may take a week or so. But if you are in a rush, they can get it done quickly. A jewelry chain store will always take a long time.

Note: If you are planning to move, a local jewelry store’s warranty is something you need to consider. You will have to ship your item to them and from them to you (fully insured shipping service) or you will have to travel back to the store. With chain stores, you can simply find one in your new area. That said, they will likely end up shipping your jewelry off to their third part service, so is it really different?

COMMUNITY:

If your community means a lot to you, supporting a local jewelry store is the only way to go. 

You will be supporting your local economy, small business entrepreneurship, and jobs. 

Also, local jewelry stores like Diamonds By Raymond Lee are very active in the community, so you will be part of that community support.

Diamonds By Raymond Lee throws monthly car shows and other events like “Food Truck Night”, which not only support and promote other local businesses, but all of the proceeds go to local charities, such as the Boys and Girls Club.

With chain stores, it is completely different. You will be feeding ultra-rich board members who have no idea who you are. This is much different than an owner of a local jewelry store who is there every day, working hard with his staff. The passion for jewelry is completely different when comparing the two. For one, it is all numbers, to the other, it is art. 

Conclusion on Local Jewelry Stores vs Chain Stores

It may seem we are biased towards local jewelers, being that we are one. But the fact of the matter is, we came at you with this comparison completely unbiased. Everything stated above is common knowledge, and only generally speaking. You can see this by doing more research on the topic, and by going to local and chain jewelry stores to see for yourself. Moreover, it really depends on what local jewelry store you are dealing with. Make sure to check reviews and the reputation of a jewelry store before choosing them. 

To sum it up, if you appreciate a good experience, great quality, unique jewelry, and full services, then go for a local independent jewelry store. It will be a place you can trust and go back to time and time again…

But, if you want to go for an unpersonalized in-and-out experience, and you aren’t worried about something unique, you just want a brand name that looks good, a chain store is fine…

So, all in all, to us, it is clear that bigger is not better when it comes to the jewelry industry. Jewelry and watches are a form of art, so it makes perfect sense that local jewelry stores who truly care about the art form are succeeding. 

Want to see what kind of jewelry and watches a local jewelry store offers?

View Diamonds By Raymond Lee’s collection of jewelry and Swiss watches

Let us know which you prefer, local independent jewelry stores vs big box chain jewelry stores, in the comments below.

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