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|Michael Fried||Overall Score:3.17||Price:2.5||Selection:3||Customer Service:4||Pros||Cons||Other Recommended Retailers|
Robbins Bros is one of the better physical retailers I’ve had the opportunity to secret shop. Their in-store experience is superior to all but the high end luxury retailers. They have excellent salespeople and an incredible selection of engagement ring settings.
Unfortunately their diamond quality is inconsistent. In their store they have many diamonds without GIA or AGS certificates (a big no-no). Many of the diamonds we looked at were poorly cut. On the other hand, we did manage to see some gorgeous diamonds there.
You can get a stunning diamond at Robbins Bros, but you need to be a discriminating consumer. Feel free to contact us with questions about any diamond while purchasing. Just be sure to write down the certificate number.
The first time we secret shopped Robbins Bros, we found that you can save 50% by purchasing online from a reputable retailer like Blue Nile or James Allen. The second time secret shopping, we found that you can save about 35%. That is a far more reasonable number.
There is no way a physical retailer can compete with an online retailer when it comes to price (as we explain here). That said, Robbins Bros does offer a superior in-store experience. Personally I don’t think that is worth 35% premiums. But most physical retailers have similar (or higher premiums) without offering anything in return. At least at Robbins Bros you are getting something in return for that premium.
Robbins Brothers has a long, storied history on the west coast of the US. They have expanded successfully in Texas and had a brief, unsuccessful, foray into the Chicago market. They have also re-entered the Seattle market and opened a new store in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area.
While its roots are embedded in the family operated independent jeweler, calling them this now is a bit of a stretch. The Robbins family has long ago ceded control of the company to investment firms after their bankruptcy in 2009.
You can see from our other reviews (ie, Shane Co.), that we are quite unimpressed with most store experiences (with the exception of high-end retailers like Tiffany & Co). Walking into their Houston store was quite refreshing. The employees were friendly and the ambiance was not overpowering. There was no aggressive salesmanship and I felt comfortable the whole time.
We had a chance to visit one of their other locations on a recent secret shopping trip. Annie and I went to Robbins Bros in Fullerton, California. While the Houston location had a very modern vibe, the California location had a more traditional feel (though they still had some of their edgy aspects, like the cute signs in the bathrooms). The salesperson was, once again, very helpful and friendly.
One suggestion I would make is not to fall in love with what you find in the display. By all means check out all of their setting styles. But we found that the diamonds in those settings were far less impressive than the diamonds we saw loose (which they can then mount in any setting they have). The diamonds in the display case had notable flaws and we did not see any with GIA certification. The loose diamonds we were shown were a vast improvement.
Unfortunately, the diamonds they showed me were a huge letdown. They started off by showing me several “Echo” diamonds. These are typical gimmick cuts with IGI certificates. The saleswoman was not pushy at all and switched to GIAs when I mentioned my preference.
Alas, GIA merely grades the diamond — they can’t make an ugly diamond look any better.
Every diamond I saw from them was more disapointing than the last. After seeing six different versions of poorly cut diamonds, I settled on the “best” option of the lot; a 0.69ct, good cut, E SI1 round diamond.
“Good” cut is a bit of a misnomer, as more than 90% of GIA diamonds receive an Excellent or Very Good cut grade.
This diamond was the bottom of the barrel. The most egregiously out of bounds parameter on this diamond was the 64.3% depth — way outside acceptable norms.
To be fair, the settings they had were very nice and were not insanely overpriced. I can see someone having their interest piqued by the settings. Unfortunately, I could not recommend a diamond from them.
The sticker price is what sent this train wreck off the rails.
If the product is sub-par quality, the price should be in line with that reality. I paid $3,783 for that diamond and a simple 14kt white gold solitaire setting. There is simply no justification for that price.
They may offer a nice in-store experience, but I can’t see how that experience alone is worth a 50% premium. If I were buying a diamond, I would rather spend that money on an actual ring that will be worn for many years to come than on the store experience.
I was visiting their Houston store, so I decided to compare this ring to one from Brian Gavin Diamonds. They had a 0.64ct G SI1 Signature Hearts and Arrows in a beautiful 18kt solitaire setting that came out to $3,371.
I was able to compare the two diamonds side by side and the BGD diamond blew the E SI1 from Robbins Brothers out of the water. As a consumer, you would be getting a far superior product and you’d still save 10%.
While the service is pretty good at Robbins Brothers, their diamonds don’t stand up to the test. If you are someone who is dead set on buying in person, I understand being willing to pay a premium for that service. But it shouldn’t come at the expense of the final product.
The second time we had a chance to visit them, we had a somewhat improved experience. The first diamond we looked at was a stunningly cut 1.01ct F color, SI2 clarity princess cut diamond. The diamond’s proportions were fantastic and it was bright and brilliant. The inclusion was noticeable (SI2 clarity inclusions usually are) but only to a very sharp eye. The price for the diamond was $5,895.
Here is a comparable 1.06ct E color, SI1 clarity princess cut diamond from Blue Nile. This diamond has superior specifications (weight, color and clarity) and is just as well cut as the diamond from Robbins Brothers. This diamond costs $3,864, 35% less than the diamond from Robbins Bros.
The next diamond we looked at was a 0.90ct H color, VS1 clarity round cut. Unfortunately this diamond was not as impressive. The cut was too deep (64.4%) which made the diamond look dark and lacking of brilliance. This diamond was priced at $5,795.
Here is a similar 0.90ct H color, VS1 clarity round diamond from Blue Nile for $3,630. I would not recommend this diamond to a reader, but it is a good choice to compare ‘apples to apples’ to the Robbins Bros diamond. The diamond is 37% cheaper than the one from Robbins Bros.
The last diamond we looked was a 1.01ct I color, SI2 clarity round diamond for $6,595. This diamond was fantastic. It was well cut and eye-clean. This is the exact type of diamond we try to recommend to our readers.
This 1.01ct I color, SI2 clarity excellent cut round diamond from Blue Nile is a great comparison to the Robbins Bros diamond. This diamond is just as stunning as the Robbins Bros selection for $4,162, a savings of 36%
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