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Spence Diamonds Reviews: High Prices, Poor Service

By Mike Fried,
Overall Score:22 Rating2 Rating
Spence Diamonds
Price:1.51.5 Rating1.5 Rating Selection:3.53.5 Rating3.5 Rating Customer Service: 11 Rating1 Rating
  • Beautiful store
  • Great showcase concept

  • Poor service
  • Unimpressive diamonds
  • Terrible pricing
Other Recommended Retailers

The History

Spence Diamonds is one of the more well known retailers in Canada. Starting in Vancouver 30 years ago by Sean Jones and Doug Spence, Spence established a strong reputation in the BC area and grew to 9 stores. In 2009, Spence made a foray into the US market, but backed out fairly quickly. A few years ago (back in 2015), Spence was bought out by Lion Capital. Their plan was to significantly increase the locations to 40 or more. Those plans seemed to have been put on hold, as they currently have eight locations across Canada.

Despite their strong marketing campaigns, Spence’s reputation has not always been top notch. A few years ago, CBC News ran a brutal piece that exposed certain business practices. We also had quite a few emails from people considering diamonds from Spence. It seemed like Spence wouldn’t use proper certification, instead banking on their own personal reputation. Fortunately, that seems to have changed as we were only shown GIA certified diamonds on our visit.

The Experience

Let’s start with the ambiance, a high note. I’m not going to lie. This was, hands down, the coolest store we walked into. I do a lot of secret shopping. Usually walking into a store the first words that run through my head are stuffy, antiquated, drab, over-the top etc. You’ll see those words sprinkled around most of my reviews.

Not at Spence. We dropped into the Mississauga location (the standalone store, not the mall location) and the words that popped in my head were “Cool, sophisticated and unique.” You often see stores trying to mimic the Apple Store experience, with terrible results. Spence seemed to mate the modern minimalist with luxury and elegance superbly. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures, but the store was truly fantastic.

Unfortunately, the service left a lot to be desired. We were a little confused by how things worked there. Despite our best efforts, it took almost 20 minutes to get anyone’s attention. Finally a saleswoman who clearly wasn’t interested in being there sauntered over. She filled us in on how it works.

All the showcases are actually open on the sides. The rings are samples (made of silver with cubic zarconia centers). They hand you a jewelry case and you can pick the rings you like on your own. When you are ready, you can then sit down in a diamond room and look at diamonds to match to the ring.

Fantastic concept, but having terrible sales staff ruins the whole experience. We took about ten minutes to pick out the settings followed by another 15 minutes of waiting. We finally had a chance to sit with someone, but it was painful how disinterested she was. Let me stress that the store was not particularly busy and it wasn’t right before closing. In other words, there was no excuse for this apathy.

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.
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The Product

While it was nice to see that they were showing GIA certified diamonds (most of the emails we would get regarding Spence would have non-certified diamonds), just having a GIA certificate does not make it a nice diamond. We were shown only one diamond (I guess we were lucky they bothered to show anything at all) and it left a lot to be desired.

The diamond we were shown was a Very Good cut (read: deeply cut) 0.70ct I SI2. The cut was not very nice at all and the inclusion was quite visible. This was to be paired with a 14kt pave rose gold pave setting (0.23ct). The diamond itself was $4,705.

The Value

Not only was the diamond a poor choice, it was incredibly overpriced. Take a look at this identical I SI2 (same cut specs as well) from Blue Nile  for a whopping 60% cheaper. Better yet, look at this far superior 0.72 I VS2 from Blue Nile for $2,743. It is better cut, has a higher clarity grade and is larger, while still coming in almost 40% cheaper.

Any way you cut it, Spence offers terrible value.

Bottom Line

Its truly a shame. Spence is one of the few stores that really gets the “Ambiance” right. Service generally should be a given, but this was the worst service we experienced at any store. But the real disappointment was the quality and value of their product.

Buying online from a company like Blue Nile will always be cheaper. But Spence fails in two ways. First, their pricing isn’t even in the same ballpark. Second, for the premiums they charge they should be offering a good product with excellent service. They offer neither.

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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