Tiffany & Co Engagement Rings: Our 2023 Review
How you can get an engagement ring of equal quality for a fraction of the price of Tiffany's
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How you can get an engagement ring of equal quality for a fraction of the price of Tiffany's
|Price:1||Selection:4||Customer Service: 5|
When people think of diamonds, they think of Tiffany. The pre-eminent luxury engagement ring retailer is first and foremost when we speak of options for purchasing an engagement ring. The iconic Tiffany solitaire setting is mimicked at every jewelry store. Tiffany and luxury have gone hand in hand for generations and that doesn’t look to change anytime soon.
The question we have is whether it is worthwhile to purchase our engagement ring at Tiffany. I’ll go through it in detail below, but there is no question that the quality is top-notch. But what about the value? What is the premium you pay for purchasing a Tiffany & Co ring? What are we getting for that premium?
I have secret-shopped Tiffany locations around the world at least a dozen times in the last 10 years. We have gone on the streets and compared a Tiffany & Co ring to that of other retailers and received feedback from hundreds of people. As far back as 2012, I purchased a diamond from Tiffany for comparison (I’ve done it another couple of times since then).
I most recently secret-shopped their locations in St Louis as well as their newly reimagined flagship store in Manhattan in May of 2023. In this review, I will discuss everything you need to know about Tiffany & Co. From the history to different setting styles, their quality, and, most importantly, their value, I’ve got you covered.
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Here’s what we’ll cover in this article:
Tiffany & Co ‘on the street’ video
History of Tiffany & Co
Tiffany Diamond Quality
The Tiffany Experience
Tiffany Packaging – The Little Blue Box
Is Tiffany Worth the Money?
Secret Shopping Tiffany & Co.
Comparing Tiffany & Co to James Allen
One of our most popular videos has been the video comparing a Tiffany ring to a similar ring from Blue Nile. As you can see from the video, people preferred the lower price and larger diamond from Blue Nile over the brand Tiffany.
I should stress one caveat. The people we asked were not people that usually spend on very high-end luxury brands. No one there was wearing Prada or Channel. If I did the same video at a Michelin-starred restaurant, the reaction may have been different.
Tiffany & Co. was founded in New York City in 1837 as a stationery and “fancy goods” store. In 1853, the company was taken over by partner Charles Tiffany, and they began to focus on jewelry.
The company has been a major force in shaping American culture in general. Aside from probably being the most famous jewelry store in the world, they also designed the Lombardi trophy (awarded to the winner of the Super Bowl), the MLS championship trophy, and a number of World Series rings over the years.
The original “NY” logo for the New York Yankees was designed by Tiffany designers. They also designed one version of the Medal of Honor for the Navy during WWI.
Lady Bird Johnson commissioned Tiffany to create their presidential China set for the White House. During the Civil War, Tiffany actually supplied the Union Army with swords, medical equipment, and flags.
And finally, Tiffany even helped redesign the Great Seal of the United States of America in 1885.
In that movie, Hepburn’s character “Holly Golightly” famously says about Tiffany, it’s “the best place in the world, where nothing bad can take place.”
Tiffany & Co. truly is a storied part of American History.
This brand cachet was built over a century and a half of more than just clever marketing—it was built through a single-minded dedication to their mission to be the classiest jewelry and high-end gifts store in the world.
Tiffany’s most iconic style is their classic solitaire setting (pictured on the left). It is so iconic, Tiffany calls it simply “The Tiffany Setting” in their catalog. It is elegant simplicity at its finest. But in truth, it is virtually indistinguishable from options that are available elsewhere, such as this gorgeous setting from Blue Nile.
Tiffany & Co is one of only a handful of stores in New York City that is in and of itself a destination just to see. It’s so well known, most people who have never set foot in the store are probably familiar at least with the first-floor layout.
Tiffany & Co has been looking to reimagine their brand. In many ways, Tiffany & Co has been an ‘entry level’ to the high-end luxury jewelry market. If comparing diamond retailers to cars, Tiffany would be similar to purchasing a Maserati. You have definitely moved up a notch from your standard luxury brands like Mercedes and BMW, but there is still a bit of a way to go before you get to the Rolls Royce and Ferrari level.
Well, that does not seem to be the case anymore. Since being acquired by LVMH, the flagship store in NYC has been under construction. It has recently re-opened and blown everyone away with The New York Times referring to the new Tiffany as being “Disruptive and Viral”.
I visited the new Tiffany three weeks after opening and was astounded. It felt more like going to a museum than shopping at a store. And even though it was overwhelmingly luxurious, they managed to avoid having a stuffy or snobby vibe. The new uniforms for the salespeople were very modern and chic, and the vibe was classy yet welcoming.
Of all the higher-end luxury jewelers, Tiffany & Co impresses me the most with their diamonds. Not because they are the highest quality. In fact, it is the opposite. Tiffany & Co recognizes the fact that you don’t need a D Flawless diamond to make the perfect engagement ring.
As we mention in our article on the 4 Cs of diamonds, you shouldn’t overpay for qualities that you do not see. Tiffany & Co agrees with that and they carry diamonds in the D – I color range and FL – VS2 clarity range. I could quibble with that a bit and say that there are times you can get an SI clarity or J color diamond, but that is subjective. (For reference, see our articles on diamond clarity and diamond color.)
The quality you need to focus on most is diamond cut. And that is where Tiffany shines (pun intended). Tiffany & Co has incredibly strict cut parameters which ensure their diamonds maximize their fire and brilliance.
This is where I give Tiffany a slightly below-average ranking. Not because of the quality or craftsmanship. Tiffany & Co is a world-class jeweler. Unfortunately, their selection is a bit limited. I understand their reasoning. Tiffany & Co wants their rings to be iconic. But that leaves you, the customer, with less creativity.
Aside from their classic solitaire setting, Tiffany has only four other setting styles. We discuss those in our Tiffany Setting article. There you can see what they have to offer and where to find similar settings. But let’s take the Novo pavé setting for example. Let’s say you prefer a more delicate pavé setting or a chunkier style with larger diamonds. Those aren’t available. Or you may prefer something more outside the box like a twisted pavé setting like this.
Having secret shopped Tiffany & Co many times over the last decade, I can comfortably say that there is no experience like the Tiffany experience. With one exception (Rodeo Drive, where they were incredibly stuffy and snobby), I have been delighted by the interaction with Tiffany employees. They are pretty knowledgeable and helpful.
As for the store ambiance, I would recommend avoiding their mall locations. They are obviously going to be in higher-end malls and have an upscale feel. But I have found the experience at their stand-alone stores (like in Chicago, Manhattan and London) to have a more immersive luxurious experience.
It’s not surprising that the packaging from Tiffany was the nicest I had ever seen to date.
This is a critical part of their branding mix (if not the critical part). After the purchase was finalized, my sales associate brought out the elegant black ring box.
He then wrapped the ring box in folded tissue wrapping paper, and then slid the wrapped box into the famous “little blue box.” He then ritually wrapped and tied the little blue box with an elegant white ribbon. It was clear that he went through serious training to perform this ritual to perfection.
The “little blue box” was then placed inside a Tiffany Blue tote bag. Along with the ring box, he placed an envelope containing a copy of Tiffany’s in-house certificate and two signature Tiffany jewelry pouches.
This is the toughest question to answer. Let’s get one thing out of the way: you can get a ring that is almost identical in quality and appearance to a Tiffany & Co ring for a fraction of the price. After all, diamond pricing is set on the wholesale market like a commodity. In my most recent secret shopping (more about the experience below), I looked at a 1.36ct G VS2 round diamond in the classic Tiffany solitaire setting. The cost was $23,500.
Here is a superbly cut 1.35ct G VS2 diamond from James Allen for $10,170. If you add it to this platinum solitaire setting, your total cost is half of what it will cost you at Tiffany. If you looked at our video above (similar comparison with a Blue Nile diamond), you’ll see that people could not tell the difference in quality at all.
So what are you getting for your extra money at Tiffany’s? Well, brand cachet for one. You can tell people you have a ring from Tiffany. And you will have a luxurious experience purchasing a ring that is hard to match by buying online. Lastly, there are many people that just get weak at the knees opening that Tiffany blue box.
None of those ‘extras’ are visible in the ring that is on your finger. I can’t tell you how much that Tiffany experience is worth. No one can answer that question but you.
Since our original secret shopping, we have visited several Tiffany stores around the world. In London, Belgium, New York, Los Angeles and others, we’ve experienced mixed results. Most notably, we were appalled at how apathetic and snobby the salesperson in LA was to us.
I have not written updates from every time we’ve been at a Tiffany & Co location. These are the ones where we had the most memorable experiences or that I feel would be the most informative for our readers. Here is a quick reaction video I shot outside the store.
I discuss the experience at the new Manhattan location above. I didn’t actually look at rings (pretending to be a customer), but the experience was one of the best I’ve ever had. And the people working there were inviting and really enhanced the experience.
Before I was back in NYC, I was secret shopping in St. Louis. I visited the Plaza Frontenac. Above I discuss the value of the engagement ring I looked at there. And here is a quick video about that interaction there.
We have a much longer description of our first secret shopping experience where we actually purchased a ring. But I first want to touch on our most recent secret shopping experiences. Annie and I visited Tiffany’s Chicago store in May of 2022.
Our experience in Chicago was exemplary of what your experience should be. The store itself oozed class and luxury. We were immediately greeted and shown around by Alika.
I normally don’t name the salesperson we worked with at a store, but Alika was an absolute delight. He was incredibly knowledgeable and was able to guide us through all the technical and fashion issues that you need to settle when purchasing an engagement ring.
We looked at several rings, all of which were stunning. With one exception (a 2.03ct D VS1 oval cut) all of the diamonds were in the GH color range. Alika noted how this is a sweet spot that offers the best combination of quality and value (which is close to what we recommend).
Each ring we saw would make someone very happy. The issue you have is value. The experience was luxurious and there is something special about that blue box. But is it worth the money? That is up to you to decide.
Let’s take one ring and compare it (this applies to all the rings we saw). We saw a 2.16ct H VS1 emerald cut in their novo setting for $52,000. It was beautiful but check out this 2.20ct F VS1 from Blue Nile. It is just as stunning and, if you pair it with this comparable engagement ring, it is 45% cheaper than the Tiffany ring.
On a short trip to New York City, I decided I wanted to test Tiffany on two accounts. Firstly, I wanted to see if the famed Tiffany & Co. experience was what I would have expected it to be.
Would I feel I was buying just any other product, or would I feel as if I was going through a true luxury buying experience? Would their salespeople be knowledgeable? Friendly? Pushy? Easy going? Would it be easy to return, or would I be given a difficult time?
Secondly, knowing Tiffany would be more expensive than buying online, I wanted to see just by how much. I wanted to put the best I could find online up against the best Tiffany had to offer (in terms of value, at least).
Diamonds Pro helped us pick a diamond, according to our budget and a few other criteria. We ended up buying a loose diamond from James Allen. We felt that we got very good value for money. The diamond was appraised by another jeweler where we live, confirming its characteristics and value. Finally, we had the diamond set in a ring by a local jeweler, and we’re very pleased with the result! Thank you Diamonds Pro 😊…see more
Engagement rings and bridal jewelry are on the 2nd floor which you get to from elevators in the back of the store. Each elevator is staffed by an elevator operator who greets you with a warm smile as he asks you where you’re headed.
When you leave, he warmly wishes you a great day and thanks you for visiting. Once I made it to the 2nd floor and was connected with a sales associate, things went very smoothly.
The only anomaly that caught my eye was that he continually referred to VVS clarity as “medium” quality and VS clarity as “lower” quality. Clearly, if you’ve read other articles on my site, you know that this goes directly against what I believe. To call a VVS “medium” quality is absurd.
The only other issue I would take was that Tiffany’s selection was quite poor. As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to buy a 1ct stone, hoping for a G/H VS (they don’t sell SI clarity) that I could buy for under $18,000.
But unfortunately, the cheapest 1 carat Novo they had in stock was over $22,000. I believe it was an E VVS2. He called another store in New York that thought that they might have a 1.15ct I VS2 in stock for about $16,000, but in the end, it turned out to be on hold for another customer. To contrast, here is a current list of 1.10-1.19ct cushion cuts you can find at James Allen.
My associate even mentioned that in their NY stores, the “lower” quality one carat stones were extremely popular. He said they sell out almost immediately as soon as they arrive in the stores.
After it became clear that I couldn’t afford a one carat Novo for this review, I had to quickly adjust my expectations. Tiffany doesn’t carry any 3/4ct Novo rings for some reason (perhaps that’s their policy across all styles—I don’t know), so I had to go down to a 1/2ct stone.
This worked out well in the end, however, as the price for the half carat ring ended up being relatively close to the price I paid for the 1 carat cushion cut ring from James Allen.
The price for the Novo from Tiffany & Co was $6,300 before tax and $6,859 including NY state sales tax. You might think it wouldn’t be fair to compare the after-tax price to what I paid from James Allen, but the truth is it most definitely is fair.
The ring I ordered from James Allen was made up of a 1.00ct H color SI1 clarity square cushion cut (click to see the diamond’s original page on James Allen) and the 18K White Gold 2.0mm Art-Nouveau Pavé Set Diamond Engagement Ring. Please don’t take our comparisons here as recommendations for what you should buy (though that is a great looking diamond). We are just trying to find similar diamonds so we compare apples to apples. If you are looking for help buying an engagement, contact us and we will make personal recommendations for you.
As with just about all of the other online diamond stores, this ring was created to offer an alternative to the very popular Tiffany Novo. James Allen has an excellent reputation for quality. You can read more in our James Allen Review.
The rings are similar enough that they offer great value as an alternative, but different enough that there are no trademark infringements. The diamond that I chose from James Allen cost $3,330 and the setting cost $1,150.
So to review, I was able to buy a full one carat ideal cut cushion cut from James Allen set in a very similar setting to the original Novo for just under $5000. At Tiffany & Co., I was only able to get a 0.53ct cushion cut for $6859 out-the-door.
I was curious how much their cheapest one carat would have cost me, so I just called their national customer support line and was told the cheapest possible one carat Novo I could buy would be a 1.00ct (1.16ct total weight including the side stones) I color VS2 clarity for $13,700.
According to the New York Times, “At the retail level, a 1-carat diamond ring at Tiffany’s starts at $8,800 and goes up to $33,200“
While its true that Tiffany’s diamond quality is very high and their craftsmanship on their jewelry is exquisite, you are still paying quite a bit for the brand name. You can find similar quality elsewhere, but there is only one Tiffany landmark store on Fifth ave overlooking central park. And you pay for that.
Tiffany diamonds are superb quality, but not always the best quality. And that’s a good thing. Tiffany sells diamonds that are I color and above and VS2 clarity and above. Those qualities are fantastic and you can not tell the difference. But if they only had the “best” quality that would D color and flawless clarity grades.
Tiffany & Co may well be the definition of luxury. Tiffany and luxury have been almost synonymous since they were founded in 1837. Their landmark location on Fifth Ave in Manhattan has recently been renovated and brought their level of luxury to new heights.
Tiffany & Co Engagement Rings are, of course, very high quality. But they are also extremely expensive. You can get a similar quality engagement ring for much less money at top online stores like James Allen or Blue Nile.
If you prefer a more personalized approach, don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll be happy to help you.
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