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I was very unimpressed with Brownlee Jewelers. The in store experience was very disappointing, the rings were poor quality and the prices were way too high. You are far better off buying a ring from a reputable online retailer like Blue Nile or James Allen. Read below our in-store experience and contact us if you’re looking for a diamond at a better quality and price.
Brownlee is one of the oldest jewelers in the United States. More than 80 years ago, back in 1936, Brownlee opened their first store in the Carolinas. They currently have eight stores scattered around North and South Carolina.
Charlotte, North Carolina was our first stop as Annie and I made it to the East Coast on this trip. The first store we secret shopped was Brownlee Jewelers. It was a blistering hot summer day, with temperatures north of 100 degrees. That made the “Spring Sale! 40-60% Off!!!” sign when we first walked in seem like a cruel joke.
The store was nestled into a shopping center not far from the airport. We walked in and were underwhelmed by the ambiance of the store. Lots of signs and showcases, but it did not feel like a luxury store experience. When the average item you are looking at is in the thousands of dollars range, I would expect a better feel than a Payless Shoes.
The saleswoman was friendly, but cheer only takes you so far. There was very little information provided about the products and there was no helpful guidance there to narrow down our choices.
If the experience felt sub-par, the product was downright dreadful. The first diamond we looked at was a 1.30ct “EF I1” round diamond. I put those grades in quotation marks because they didn’t use one of the more reputable certifying labs, such as the GIA.
Instead, they used EGL, which is not known for its strict grading. As we’ve discussed elsewhere, diamonds certified by EGL are often over-graded for color and clarity, making them seem more appealing and higher in quality than they really are. As National Jeweler has reported, some diamond trading networks, such as RapNet, have stopped listing EGL diamonds as a result of this inconsistent, unreliable grading.
Through the showcase glass, I could see a garish white inclusion running through the whole diamond. Back when I was working on the manufacturing side of the business, we would refer to diamonds like this as “frozen spit”.
The second diamond was slightly better. It was pretty bad, but at least it was within striking distance of what we would consider acceptable quality. It was a 0.90ct “EF SI2” round diamond for $4,488. Again the diamond had a very noticeable inclusion (I would say a typical quality for I1 clarity), and the color wasn’t too bad (I’d estimate a G color), but it was a far more pleasing diamond to look at.
Diamonds Pro helped us pick a diamond, according to our budget and a few other criteria. We ended up buying a loose diamond from James Allen. We felt that we got very good value for money. The diamond was appraised by another jeweler where we live, confirming its characteristics and value. Finally, we had the diamond set in a ring by a local jeweler, and we’re very pleased with the result! Thank you Diamonds Pro 😊…see more
I stumbled upon this company while asking diamond buying questions on Google. The information was very extensive so I took many notes. The company stated that they could answer any questions I had so I sent them an email. The response was swift with a personal touch. I had the pleasure of talking with Veronika whom was quick to respond with answers to my MANY questions. I found a few diamonds that met her criteria and mine, she looked them over and gave me some solid advice. I ended up with a gorgeous diamond ring at a great price thanks greatly to Veronika and her expert advice!…see more
It’s not even possible for us to compare the first choice we looked at. The quality was too far below anything a reputable website would offer. So we’ll focus on the second diamond.
As we mentioned above, there is no way that diamond was actually an F SI2. It was more like a G color, I1 quality. Here is a 0.91ct G color, I1 clarity GIA certified diamond from James Allen for $2,760. If you look at the diamond, you’ll see it’s very bright, and the inclusion is pretty good for an I1. I personally wouldn’t recommend the diamond, but I think it is superior to the one we saw at Brownlee. Adding this elegant setting to the diamond from James Allen and you have a similar (if not superior) ring for a total of $3,260. So the Brownlee Jewelers ring is almost 40% more expensive.
You can take another tack in comparing value. Even if you choose to ignore the major issues with their certification, here is a 0.90ct E color, SI2 clarity GIA certified excellent cut diamond from Blue Nile for $3,327. This diamond is superior in every way to the diamond offered by Brownlee. You can add this solitaire setting and the total cost would be $3,687 for the ring. You would be getting a far superior product and it would be almost 20% less out of your pocket.
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