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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.
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.
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.
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.
As someone who likes to do extensive research before making a decision, I found The Diamond Pro website to be a very valuable resource. In addition to the many great articles and reviews they have, the ability to email specific questions about products/companies they did not review was very helpful. I would definitely recommend to a friend.…see more
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.
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