Lee Michaels Fine Jewelry Reviews: High Prices, Average Service

By Michael Fried

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Lee Michaels Fine Jewelry
Overall Score:1.83
Price:1.5Selection:2Customer Service:2
Pros
  • Beautiful store

Cons
  • Poorly cut diamonds
  • High prices
  • Underwhelming service
Other Recommended Retailers

Bottom Line Recommendation

Given the luxurious ambiance at Lee Michaels, there are expectations that the service and products will be top notch. That was far from the case. Maybe it was a bad day for the sales people, and we can let that slide. But there is no excuse for such a nice store to have such low standards in quality for their diamonds.

I genuinely couldn’t recommend their diamonds at any price. You can get far more bang for your buck buying from a reputable online retailer like James Allen or Blue Nile. Even if you don’t go the online route, find a retailer that values quality diamonds.

The History

Lee Michaels story began in 1978 with their first store in Baton Rouge by Lee and and Brenda Berg. With the second generation of the family joining the ranks, Lee Michaels has grown to eight stores in three states.

The Experience

Annie and I were wandering around The Shops at La Cantera (in San Antonio) after secret shopping another location. Amazingly enough, we stumbled upon Lee Michaels. We were planning on visiting another location later in San Antonio. This gave us more time to enjoy San Antonio style chili.

The store fit into the upscale shopping center perfectly. It certainly had an upscale feel, but it also managed to give off a comfortable vibe. The salespeople seemed to be very busy on the phones, so we perused on our own for a solid 10 minutes.

Finally a saleswoman made her way over to us. To be honest, I have never seen such a disinterested salesperson. She kept checking her watch and was not helpful at all. After repeated requests, she indicated that it may be possible to see certificates, but she needs to figure that out. So we came back 20 minutes later.

I think I should clarify. I know how hard it is to work in retail. It’s frustrating people treat you poorly and customer expectations are often divorced from reality. I also have vast experience secret shopping. This was not your typical level of salesperson apathy. The very next day we were in a different store where the salesperson couldn’t find the certificates. But he was a fantastic salesperson who happened to be facing everyday work frustrations. That’s perfectly fine.

Why does this bother me so much? Because physical retailers are behind the eight ball to begin with. As we explain here, there is simply no way they can match the reputable online retailers when it comes to price and selection. They need to offer an amazing in store experience to compete. Lee Michaels didn’t do that.

Lee Michaels Jewelry Diamonds

The products were underwhelming to say the least. About the only saving grace was the GIA certification. It was all downhill from there. Specifically when it came to diamond cut. The first diamond we looked at was a 1.03ct Round H SI2 Good cut diamond for $4,950. Annie was looking at the diamond first as I was writing down the details and I was initially surprised at the price (more about that later). Then I got to see the diamond and realized why it was so cheap. The diamond was as deep as can be. I rarely see such poorly cut diamonds. It was devoid of brilliance entirely, looked tiny, had very noticeable inclusions and had zero appeal.

The second diamond diamond wasn’t much better. This one was a 1.00ct F SI1 good cut diamond for $6,450. A “Good cut” is a bit of a misnomer. You might think it sounds like a decent grade and it’s the middle grade out of five that GIA uses. But in reality, about 93% of all GIA certified round diamonds are Excellent or Very Good cut grades. So this is truly the bottom of the barrel.

Comparing Lee Michaels Jewelry Rings

In this section, I am doing an apples to apples comparison so you can see how overpriced these diamonds are. These diamonds are so poorly cut and I wouldn’t recommend them (or the diamonds I compare them to) at any price. The diamonds I will be using for comparison are poorly cut as well. I would never recommend these diamonds. I’m just highlighting the value you are getting (or lack thereof) from Lee Michaels.

So here is a Blue Nile diamond that is virtually identical to the H SI2 from Lee Michaels. This is a 1.01ct H color, SI2 clarity good cut diamond for $3,412. So you would be getting the same (underwhelming) diamond for 30% less. For the second diamond (the F SI1) I selected a diamond from James Allen for comparison. Here is a 1.00 D color, SI1 clarity good cut diamond for $4,500. That would be a savings of 30% compared to the Lee Michaels diamond as well.

So what would we recommend? For those prices, you can get far superior choices without a problem. Here is a stunning 1.05ct H color, SI1 clarity excellent cut from Blue Nile for $4,881. It is superior to the Lee Michaels diamond in every way, yet its still cheaper. The same can be said for this diamond. Here is a gorgeous 1.00ct F color SI1 clarity excellent diamond from James Allen for $5,910. Again, this diamond blows away the Lee Michaels diamond in the brilliance department, yet it’s 10% cheaper.

About the author
Mike learned the diamond business from the ground-up at Leo Schachter Diamonds - one of the world's top diamond manufacturers. He has been recognized as a diamond industry expert by Time, PeopleMoney, The Daily Mirror, NerdWallet, The Times Herald, Yahoo Finance Australia, The Art of Charm, The Washington Diplomat, The Next Web, and more. See more
Top Recommended Vendors
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James Allen James Allen is the leader in online diamond sales. Their imaging technology is at the point where it's almost the same as inspecting a diamond with a jeweler's loupe. Their customer experience is best in class, and they have recently upgraded their non-engagement jewelry inventory as well. Take advantage of their ongoing 25% Off Holiday Sale.
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.
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