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Our Review of The Jewelry Exchange

By Mike Fried,
Overall Score:2.172 Rating2 Rating
The Jewelry Exchange
Price:33 Rating3 Rating Selection:1.51.5 Rating1.5 Rating Customer Service: 22 Rating2 Rating
Other Recommended Retailers

History of The Jewelry Exchange

The Jewelry Exchange and Jewelry Factory comes from humble beginnings. Bill Doddridge, founder and CEO, cut his teeth by working in his stepfather’s pawnshop. After running his own pawnshop, Bill started designing his own jewelry.

In the early 90s Bill transitioned into a more traditional jewelry business model, closing his pawnshop and opening a traditional jewelry store. In many ways Bill was a visionary, taking advantage of globalization. Other than the huge retail chains, Bill was one of the first retailers to go directly to the manufacturing companies overseas, allowing him to undercut the competition by 30%. I remember how fondly Bill was regarded by the major diamond companies in Tel Aviv (at the time, Israel was the largest exporter of polished diamonds).

Under the parent company of Goldenwest Diamond Corporation, they now operate 15 stores sprinkled around the United States. I’m not sure why, but some of the stores use the name Jewelry Exchange while others use Jewelry Factory.

Secret Shopping Experience (May 2022)

We go into more depth on our previous shopping experiences below, but Annie visited The Jewelry Exchange in Renton, WA and Chicago, IL on our latest shopping trip. 

Weirdly, The Jewelry Exchange demands to see ID in order for you to look at engagement rings. We have secret shopped hundreds (probably thousands at this point) of retail locations all over the world. This is the first time anyone has ever asked for that. It is not a good way to start off a luxurious experience.

To help you with the diamond buying process we lean on our expertise and experience. The author of this article, our CEO, Mike Fried has over 20 years of experience in the diamond industry. Mike started from the bottom, sorting and evaluating hundreds of thousands of diamonds to learn every facet (pun intended) of diamond quality and value. Mike followed that up by spending years buying and selling diamonds on the wholesale market as well as selling tens of millions of dollars worth of diamonds to diamond retailers.
The Jewelry Exchange in Chicago, IL
The Jewelry Exchange in Chicago, IL

The diamond quality has not changed and we would not recommend purchasing from them. Annie looked at an EGL certified 1.80ct L color, I1 clarity, and a 2.70ct Q-R color, I1 clarity. I’m not even going to bother making comparisons to these diamonds. The quality is so far below what any reputable jeweler would sell, it’s not worth talking about.

If you have read much on our site, you’ll know that we suggest purchasing from a reputable online dealer like James Allen or Blue Nile. Even if you don’t want to go that route, you are better off going to pretty much any jeweler over this. In the Seattle area, we had superior experiences at Robbins Bros and Shane Co. In Chicago, we had better experiences on Jewelers Row and Jared.

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Most Recent Secret Shopping at The Jewelry Exchange (2023)

The Experience at The Jewelry Exchange, Tustin

This was a new one for me. From the outside, the Jewelry Exchange in Tustin, CA looks to me like your typical strip mall store. Walking in, you notice a typical, if somewhat dated, store look. But then you start to notice some, how do I say this politely, unique aspects of the store.

A security guard ushered us over to an old school ticket dispenser. The last time I saw one of those was in an old school Hungarian bakery in Brooklyn. And that was 15 years ago as well.

The Jewelry Exchange in Tustin, CA
The Jewelry Exchange in Tustin, CA

Once we took a number, the gentleman asked what we would like to see today. After saying we are looking for engagement rings, he gestured towards that section. As we turned our backs on him to head to the display, we had the crap scared out of us. Apparently they feel it’s necessary to announce our presence. He did so by shouting into a megaphone right behind us. An honest to goodness megaphone.

After that, the experience settled down into a more normal jewelry store experience. The introduction surely stands out, but I’m not so sure that’s exactly what you want when making such a meaningful purchase.

The Diamond Quality

Things were a little surprising here as well. A few years ago, when I first joined Ira on this site, I made an unplanned visit to a different Jewelry Exchange location (in Hackensack, NJ). This was before I was writing reviews, so I didn’t take great notes about the experience. But every diamond I was shown was not one I would recommend and, even worse, came with an EGL certificate.

The diamond ring selection at The Jewelry Exchange

If you’ve read our diamond certification guides before, you’ll know that we typically recommend avoiding EGL certified diamonds. Our experience is that, when compared to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) or American Gem Society (AGS) grading systems, EGL consistently inflates their quality claims, meaning a diamond that’s mediocre in reality can look like a good deal on paper.

This time, the experience was markedly better. We were promptly helped by someone who seemed friendly and knowledgeable.

This time around, the diamonds were definitely more to my liking and thankfully they had GIA certificates. They still weren’t at the point where I would recommend them (quality-wise), but it was a definite improvement.

They did have EGL certified diamonds proudly displayed, but the saleswoman shied away from them. The first one we looked at was a 1.09 G color I1 clarity for $4,785. We’ll get to the price in a minute, but in my opinion the quality was very low. The inclusions were readily visible, and you can notice the symmetry was off (looking at the diamond, you feel like your eye-sight is crooked).

A round cut diamond from The Jewerly Exchange

The second diamond was a bit of an improvement. It was a 1.15ct F SI2 excellent cut round diamond for $7,233. This diamond was better cut, but once again the inclusion was quite noticeable. Another major concern was the strong blue fluorescence grade. This is a big no-no when buying a colorless diamond. Read more in our guide to fluorescence in diamonds.

Are Jewelry Exchange Diamonds a Good Buy?

So what did I think of The Jewelry Exhchange’s prices? Let’s compare and see.

The first diamond came in at $4,875 on its own (we were looking at it loose). Here is a comparable 1.14ct G I1 very good cut from James Allen. Let me be clear that I do not like this diamond, but it has the same problems the Jewelry Exchange diamond had. This one will run you $3,410. That saves you about 30%.

The second diamond was a little nicer, but still had some major flaws while clocking in at $7,233. Here is a superior 1.20ct E SI2 excellent cut from James Allen. As you can see, the inclusions are not readily visible on the James Allen diamond (it will be eye-clean) and the fluorescence grade is better. I would still be hesitant to recommend it (we don’t like medium fluorescence on E colors either), but it’s certainly a better choice. The James Allen choice will cost you $5,600, a savings of about 25%. This is ignoring the fact that you will save even more because the online purchase is tax free if sent to certain states. If you are curious about JA’s reputation you can read more in our review of James Allen Diamonds.

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Bottom Line Recommendation

It’s not the high prices that bothered me at The Jewelry Exchange. As we explain (in our Should You Buy Online article), no physical store can compete with major online retailers like Blue Nile and James Allen. I understand (while not agreeing) with a consumer who is willing to spend a 30% premium for buying in a physical store. But usually the best place to buy an engagement ring is from a top-tier online retailer.

What made me shy away from The Jewelry Exchange was the fact that had we not been educated diamond consumers, we might have ended up with a stone with eye-visible inclusions, noticing them only when it’s too late. By all means, pay a premium for your diamonds. But at least make sure the diamond is worth your money.

Paying a premium for the in-store experience (something you feel for a few hours of your life) while sacrificing on the quality of the ring you (or your partner) will wear the rest of your life doesn’t add up to me.

James Allen James Allen is the leader in online diamond sales. Their imaging technology is the same as inspecting a diamond with a jeweler's loupe. They have the largest exclusive loose diamond inventory online and fantastic prices. They also have the nicest collection of lab-created diamonds online.
What we love about them:
  • No questions asked returns within 30 days of shipment. James Allen will send you a paid shipping label to return the ring.
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Free International Shipping
  • Free prong tightening, repolishing, rhodium plating and cleaning every 6 months
  • Provide insurance appraisals
  • One free resizing within 60 days of purchase
  • Free ring inscriptions
  • Best-in-class high quality imagery of all diamonds in stock
  • 24/7 Customer Service
  • Best-in-class packaging
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Blue Nile Blue Nile is the largest and most well-known internet jewelry seller. They have a very large exclusive online inventory. Their high-quality images are catching up to James Allens' and their prices are amazing. 
What we love about them:
  • No questions asked returns within 30 days of shipment. Blue Nile will send you a paid shipping label to return the ring.
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Free Shipping
  • Free prong tightening, repolishing, rhodium plating and cleaning every 6 months
  • Provide insurance appraisal
  • One free resizing within the first year of purchase
  • High quality images of about half of their diamonds
  • 24/7 Customer Service
  • 100% credit towards future upgrades (must be at least double in value)
  • Best in class fulfillment
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About the author

Mike Fried Mike Fried Mike Fried has over 25 years experience in the diamond industry working with Leo Schachter Diamonds, Moshe Namdar Diamonds, and joining The Diamond Pro in 2007. He is recognized as an industry expert and has been quoted in publications such as Us, People, Page Six, The Next Web and more.

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