BRAND REVIEWS

Zales

Do they live up to their own standard?🤔Should you shop here?🛒
Selection
Quality
Price and Value
Shopping Experience
Services and Warranty

A Zales review...

When shopping online or in-store for jewelry, many couples’ first thought is Zales.🤔 The company has actually been around for nearly a century, with the first store opening its doors in Wichita Falls, TX, in 1924! Founders Ben Lipshy, as well as Morris and William Zale, had a goal of offering high-quality merchandise for the best price possible, selling small appliances, cookware, and even cameras alongside jewelry.

The company continued to grow independently until Signet Jewelers bought the brand in 2014, making it a sibling of other jewelry giants like Jared, Kay, and James Allen. Today, Zales sticks to engagement, special occasion and casual jewelry with over 700 brick-and-mortar locations as well as a strong online presence.

Whether you’re looking for something unique or a daily wear piece, Zales’ mission is still the same as it was in 1924: to sell you quality products for a fair price. But do they live up to their own standard? Let’s take a closer look at Zales as a jewelry retailer.

Zales Review

The Zales shopping experience

To start off our Zales review, let’s look at a few pros and cons in case you don’t have time to read the entire article right now:

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Heavy online AND brick and mortar presence for easy access to their inventory✅
  • Access to Zales Outlet for even better deals on Zales clearance
  • Large selection, including bridal sets, special occasion pieces, gemstone jewelry, chains, and more
  • Customizable pieces like charm bracelets and mother’s necklaces available
  • Build-a-ring platform for limited ability to create your own ring🎠

Cons

  • Only preset diamonds are certified by GIA or IGI (and not all of them)
  • The build-a-ring platform pales in comparison to those of competitors😢
  • Customer service reps are NOT trained gemologists and are more like your typical customer support
  • Lots of rules around customer service offerings and which policies apply to which items
  • Cannot return Zales jewelry to Kay or Jared (even though these three stores are under the same brand and these two can switch off between them)

What does Zales offer customers?

So what kinds of products can you expect when shopping at Zales? Their selection is surprisingly large with a little something for everyone, so let’s dive into their inventory:

Diamonds and engagement rings

Would this even be a Zales jewelry review if we didn’t start with diamonds?

Zales actually doesn't sell loose diamonds unlike competitors, so this is a bit of a drawback in their platform.🙂They have plenty of shapes to choose from for your center stone (including some lesser-seen ones like heart-shaped diamonds), but you can’t search by quality which is another major drawback. That being said, you do have some wiggle room to change your diamond of choice in the ring builder platform (but more on that later!), and Zales offers lab-created diamonds for eco-conscious buyers. Overall, you can find Zales diamond earrings, rings, necklaces, and bracelets among their stock.

When it comes to Zales engagement rings, this retailer offers over 9,000 options for the discerning couple! This includes simple solitaire styles as well as more ornate, three-stone, halo, two-tone, vintage-inspired styles and more. You can also find matching Zales wedding rings for most listings. Zales rings come with a “total weight” listing for carat weight, which means the combined weight of all diamonds.💡As such, you’re left to assume the center stone is 1 carat on its own, but it’s honestly never confirmed.

This is because not all of Zales’ diamonds are certified. Preset diamonds may be certified by either the GIA or the IGI, but only one of those grading facilities is considered wholly reliable. The IGI isn’t an ideal grader because they used relatively lower grading restrictions than the GIA and AGS, so sometimes you may be getting a lower-quality diamond for a higher price. However, many of the diamonds do have certification, and you can always open up the “Product Specs” to find out if your diamond is certified or not.

Gemstones, metal, and more

Where Zales excels is in its vast collection of gemstone jewelry. Here is a list of the gemstones you can typically expect at Zales:

  • Morganite
  • Sapphire
  • Emerald
  • Opal
  • Pearl
  • Amethyst
  • Topaz
  • Ruby
  • Garnet
  • Cubic Zirconia
  • Aquamarine
  • Peridot
  • Tanzanite
  • Citrine
  • Quartz
  • Onyx
  • Spinel

As you can see, Zales gives you plenty of stones to choose from!🎇There are also entirely metal pieces if you’re more into the polished look as well, available in white, yellow, and rose gold, silver, and mixed metal styles. The website allows you to filter by your desired gemstone or metal, and you can find bracelets, necklaces, earrings, and rings to match your tastes in any color. There’s also a collection of roughly 1,200 watches, including previously owned Rolex options.

There’s also a pretty nifty jewelry creator for personalized pieces that feature gemstones, initials, monograms, and more, but we’ll get to that a little later!

Designer brands

Like any major jewelry retailer, Zales carries a few designer brands for couples looking for a piece that stands out among the crowd. We won’t bore you with a description of each one, but here are just a few names you can expect to see as you peruse Zales’ inventory:

  • PDPAOLA
  • Enchanted by Disney
  • Vera Wang
  • Kleinfeld X Zales
  • Triton
  • Rembrandt Charms
  • Olivia Burton
  • Enso Silicone Bands

Zales Outlet

If you’re really looking for a steal, you can always head over to the Zales Outlet for even more deals! That’s right, the Zales Outlet is full of pieces with even steeper discounts than the regular store, whether they’re items that are discontinued, out of season, or for any other reason. Here, you can find similar items to the general Zales store page, including rings, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and watches, and there are even some designer brands floating about among the stock! The best part: you can still return these items—unworn and with the original packaging—up to 30 days after purchase, just in case you need to see it before you commit.

Shopping at Zales

After inventory, the next big thing to think about is the customer shopping experience. The Zales website is pretty straightforward, although it’s lacking some of the refinements that make other retailers a great pick.

Website navigation

While there’s enough product on Zales’ page to make your head spin, the categories and tabs can easily lead you to the items you’re looking for. Each category has its own search criteria too, ranging from pickup/delivery options to price and gender to all manner of gemstone qualities you may be searching for, making it easy to narrow down the large inventory. This makes navigation a breeze, and there’s even a handy mobile shopping app if you’d rather search for items on your phone instead (the layout is very similar).

The only major drawback to the search criteria is that diamond rings can be found by shape, setting, and metal type but NOT by quality.❌Zales doesn’t actually let you pick the quality of your diamond, but instead operates within “ranges” of grades for color and other quality factors. We’ll talk more about this when discussing the build-a-ring platform.

Images and videos

If you’re searching for a bracelet, necklace, or earrings, you may be lucky enough to find products that have images showing the product being worn or even videos that give you a 360° view of the item itself. These images can be very helpful in understanding how the piece will lay on your arm, neck, etc. or give you a more detailed look at the surface of the metal and prongs for a better understanding of how secure it is.

However, this really doesn’t seem to apply to engagement and bridal jewelry, which is a major shame. ⚠️This is the category that needs these images and videos the most, as it’s important to get up close and personal with your potential engagement ring to make sure it’s something you like. The images look like stock photos as well, so there’s no zooming in, highlighting details, or seeing all the way around the setting. Overall, this is a pretty serious drawback to buying any bridal jewelry at Zales.😐

Helpful tools

Zales offers two designer studios for helping customers build the item they want: a build-a-ring platform and a personalized gemstone jewelry creator.

Starting with the build-a-ring studio, this design tool helps you customize an engagement ring to your specifications. And the customization isn’t bad: you can choose a diamond or gemstone center stone, its shape and size, your ring head and mounting, any band details, metal color, and ring size without issue. You can even opt for a matching band from the list provided to keep it simple without having to shop separately for one.

Zales Generic Diamond Quality Grades

It’s a great tool if you want a custom engagement ring with little worry about diamond quality. But, if you actually want to choose your diamond, the build-a-ring studio may not be for you. You can choose a generic quality for your diamond—Good (I/I1), Better (I/SI2), or Best (I/VS2)—but you’ll be buying your diamond blind and won’t get to see it in person.

What’s more, there’s no real guarantee you’ll get a certified diamond, and stones within these grades should be inspected before purchase to avoid any inclusions that may be seen with the naked eye. Overall, if you’re looking for a ring studio that lets you view several diamonds and pick your favorite, this isn’t the tool for you.

Zales ‘Build a Ring’ Platform

Next up is the personalized jewelry creator, which has way more benefits and is the better tool among these two. Where you start depends on the type of piece you choose, and you can peruse the stock of personalized items to find gemstone pieces, jewelry sporting your name or initials, monograms, and even photo jewelry. Name pieces are a little more straightforward: you just type your name into the personalization platform and the image will quickly change to a sample of how your name will look for that particular item. Easy enough!

For gemstone pieces, your options are a bit more complex. This is because the studio is so personalized: you can choose how many gemstones you want, a different gemstone for every available slot, metal type, chain length, and engraving if the piece comes with that option. These items make perfect gifts for that special mother or wife who absolutely adores her children, and the customization options can even pile beyond just 1-3 names up to 4-10 names for some pieces!

Zales Personalized Jewelry Creator

Checkout and payment options

The checkout process at Zales is very straightforward and user-friendly, so most shoppers shouldn’t have much trouble making their purchases. You’re given a chance to enter promo codes as well as a defined list of payment options for your order. In addition to all major credit cards, Zales takes PayPal, Apple Pay, and gift cards. You can even sign up for a Zales credit card or join a payment plan to pay off your purchase in installments: not bad!

Checking out just requires your details and payment information, and you’re given members points if you want to sign up for their rewards program. Not all companies let you apply your first purchase towards rewards, so that’s a nice bonus.😄

How is Zales' pricing?

Time to talk about money: how does Zales stand up to the competition when it comes to their prices? Although the retailer promises the best prices for quality goods, their actual pricing system isn’t that simple. If you were to use the Zales ring builder to create your ideal engagement ring and compare it to a competitor’s platform (James Allen offers an excellent one!) you’ll find yourself paying up to double the price for the Zales ring. Yet, Zales doesn’t verify any of their diamonds used in the ring builder, and the setting style is often very similar to that of competitors. Where does this extra cost come from?

To tell you the truth, we’re not really sure! It could have to do with Zales’ supplier or the process by which they go about making custom rings, but at the end of the day you could practically buy another ring with the price difference in many instances. Add to that the nearly $500 for a lifetime warranty—a service most notable online jewelers provide for free—and you’re looking at a costly difference.

Pro Tip

Prices at Zales can be tricky, and it’s best to compare with competitors while you shop. If they have a ring builder, even better! You can compare the ring you built with a similar style in real time, and you’ll probably have more style options and control over the quality of the diamond you choose when it comes to competitors.

While you may end up paying more for a lower-quality engagement ring at Zales, gemstone jewelry can be much more affordable and customizable on their platform. Their online jewelry creator offers much more flexibility compared to the engagement ring builder, and prices are often much better than you’d find at a competitor’s site. As such, Zales may not offer much in the way of custom engagement rings, but if you’re looking for the perfect gift for mom, your wife, sister, etc. for Mother’s Day you’ve come to the right place with Zales.🙌🏻

Zales' Customer Service

Another big thing to look for when shopping around for a jewelry store is solid customer service. Zales offers some industry-standard perks to customers as well as some interesting rules regarding certain policies.

Return policy

Zales Returns and Exchanges

The return and exchange policy at Zales is pretty standard with a few rules to note. All qualifying purchases can be returned within 30 days of purchase or exchanged within 60 days of purchase. This exchange policy excluded watches, though, as you only have 30 days to exchange them. However, you can complete a return online, but all exchanges must be done at a Zales store location, which can be a pain if you don’t live very close to one. And for the record, if you purchase online you’ll only get a credit of the item’s value without delivery charges…Zales keeps those.✍🏻

All items must return in good condition with all original certificates and packaging, so make sure you don’t throw anything away before you’re certain you want to keep your new piece! We also mentioned that only qualifying items can be returned or exchanged, so here’s what you can’t send back: special order watches, custom orders, gift cards, and any jewelry received via the Jewelry Replacement Program.

Warranties

Zales does provide a host of warranties to cover most pieces, but you have to be careful: only one of them is complimentary. The Lifetime Diamond Commitment insures your stone in its entirety, offering free cleanings and inspections as well as a host of other services. But, it’s the only one that’s free, and the Forever Cherished Lifetime Protection Plan for wedding jewelry as well as the Lifetime Protection Plan for every other piece cost money to add on. Zales is a bit sketchy when it comes to the price of each service, and a lot of the perks are things that other retailers offer willingly with purchase.

So, while you can protect a diamond for free, you can’t protect the setting around it or your colored gemstone accents without paying an additional fee to do so.

Free shipping

Zales offers free shipping on orders over $50, which is a pretty good deal considering most transactions will probably be closer to the $100 mark. They also require a signature upon delivery for any order over $1,000, meaning they value the safety of your purchase. And, if you order before 1 PM local time, you can even get same-day shipping (does not apply to all locations, though). For anyone who doesn’t want to wait, Pick Up in Store and Curbside Pick-up are available if you live near a Zales location.

Customer service representative

Offering customer service with extended business hours, Zales does its best to accommodate most schedules. Here’s what the week of a customer service rep looks like:

  • Monday to Friday: 7am — 1am ET
  • Saturday: 9am — 10pm ET
  • Sunday: 10am — 9pm ET

You can reach a customer service representative via chat, call, or text for whatever is convenient for you, and there’s a handy FAQ for any frequent questions that may cover your inquiry anyway.

Overall, the customer service team at Zales is fairly accessible, but it’s important to note that they’re not jewelry experts. Many other jewelry retailers pride themselves on having trained gemologists or trained diamond experts as customer service professionals, but Zales’ employees are trained in de-escalation, problem solving, etc. There is an option to talk to a diamond expert for advice, but it’s mostly for deciding between pieces and not actual issues. As such, it’s a bit of a drawback if you run into an actual problem, as can sometimes happen with a retailer that doesn’t let you see images or videos of your chosen diamond before purchase.

Social media presence

In addition to the many ways you can contact support on Zales’ website, they’re also active on Facebook and Twitter! This can be handy when you want to interact with the company on a social level, peruse any sales they’re promoting, or just see what the company values as a whole. It won’t mean much to many customers, but to those who like to engage with companies online it’s a fun little detail!

Upgrade program

Bored of your old diamond jewelry from Zales? You can actually trade it in for a new jewelry piece! You just have to bring your item to a Zales location for a consultation to assess the item’s value and trade it in. Only Zales diamond jewelry is eligible for this service, and while you get back the full price of your item you then have to spend double that price on a new piece. What’s more, items with lab diamonds, pearls, and gemstones do not qualify for an upgrade. But, it’s a nice perk if you’re looking to upgrade your first engagement ring for something a little bit bigger!

While this doesn’t qualify as an upgrade per se, it can certainly help you on your way to your next jewelry piece: Zales also offers a Gold Exchange program for any gold or platinum you don’t want anymore! It’s pretty straightforward, you just make an account, send them your gold and/or platinum, and then it’ll be weighed and assessed for its total value which will be sent to you via check. And just like that, you’ve started a nice little savings for your next jewelry purchase!

Ethical sourcing

For anyone interested in ethically sourced diamonds, Zales has a section on their website devoted to “The Signet Promise” or their code of conduct around ethically sourced diamonds and metals. Admittedly, it’s a thorough page that even allows customers to look at their official protocol for a better understanding of how Signet—and, therefore, Zales—operates when seeking ethically sourced materials. Sounds great, right?

There’s just one problem: while the company’s dedication to ethical sourcing and environmentally-safe practices may be very real, it’s hard to tell what the company actually does to promote these good business habits. Most companies with a commitment to ethical sourcing explain how they work with Kimberley certified mines and distributors, use recycled gold, or put money back into programs that fund initiatives in the areas that are hit the hardest by poor mining practices. Zales/Signet doesn’t really say what they do, just that they’re committed to it, so it may be reasonable to take their words with a healthy dose of skepticism. Overall, there’s no way to guarantee Zales diamonds are conflict free, and this may be seen as a problem for many shoppers.

Comparing Zales to the competition

Time to round up some of Zales’ biggest competitors so you can compare and make an educated decision regarding where you want to start your jewelry search. Zales is a great place to start for most pieces, but for diamond or engagement jewelry, you might want to consider a different retailer.⚖️

Zales vs. Other Major Online Diamond Retailers

ZalesKay JewelersBrilliant EarthBlue NileJames Allen
SelectionLarge inventory (undisclosed) of preset engagement rings, wedding bands, customizable jewelry, and various rings, bracelets necklaces, watches, and earringsLarge inventory (undisclosed) of preset engagement rings, wedding bands, customizable jewelry, and various rings, bracelets necklaces, watches, and earrings100,000+ loose diamonds plus colored gemstones, lab-created diamonds, recycled stones, vintage pieces, and various rings, bracelets, necklaces, and earrings150,000+ loose diamonds plus colored gemstones, lab-created diamonds, bridal settings, and various rings, bracelets, necklaces, and earrings300,000+ loose diamonds plus colored gemstones, lab-created diamonds, bridal settings, and various rings, bracelets, necklaces, and earrings
Photos/VideosStock photos for most items with some 360° images for some piecesStock photos for most items with some 360° images for some pieces360° images and videos for MOST diamonds360° images and videos for SOME diamonds; others have a stock photo360° images and videos for ALL diamonds
ASET ImagesNoNoFor SOME diamondsFor SOME diamondsFor SOME diamonds
Lab CertificationGIA, IGIAGS, GIAGIA, IGI, HRDGIAGIA, AGS, IGS
Customer ServiceExtended hours for customer service but NOT 24/7; via email, chat, phone, and text, reps are NOT diamond certifiedExtended hours for customer service but NOT 24/7; via email, chat, phone, and text, reps are NOT diamond certified24/7 customer service via email, chat, and phone; 1-on-1 virtual sessions by appointment only24/7 customer service via email, chat, and phone; free chats with non-commissioned diamond professionals available24/7 customer service via email, chat, and phone; Real-Time Diamond Inspections by professionals available
Return Policy30-day return policy; all original packaging and documentation must be included and item must return in original condition; Zales keeps delivery charge if item was originally online order30-day hassle free return policy; can ship your item back or bring it to any Kay location for refund; extended return window around holidays30-day money back guarantee with prepaid shipping label; all original packaging and documentation must be included and item must return in original condition30-day money back guarantee with prepaid shipping label; all documentation must be included and item must return in original condition30-day money back guarantee with free shipping in U.S. ONLY; U.S. residents can enjoy this service only three times, and item must return in original condition
ResizingNot notedNot notedComplimentary within 60 days of purchaseComplimentary within 1 year of purchaseComplimentary within 1 year of purchase
WarrantyLifetime Diamond commitment for diamonds, but all other policies are add-ons and require additional purchaseLifetime policy for diamonds and gemstones that covers remounting, replacement, and trade ins, but ONLY if you bring your item to a Kay store every 6 monthsLifetime manufacturer’s warrantyLifetime manufacturer’s warrantyLifetime warranty that covers routine maintenance and cleaning
ServicingOnly diamond servicing is freeFree servicing for diamonds and gemstones if you bring your item in every 6 monthsExtend protection plans available for additional feeComplimentary yearly maintenance and cleaningMaintenance and cleaning covered by lifetime warranty
PackagingGray box with velvet lining, delivery packaging is standard, all documentation includedBlack box with velvet lining, delivery packaging is standard, all documentation includedPlain, discreet packaging with FSC-certified wooden box that is recyclable; non-toxic cleaning kit with orders over $1,000; all documentation includedSilver-gray box containing soft, light gray ring box and all documentation includedSilver “presentation” box with drawers that open to store documentation; red lacquer ring box
Buyback ProgramNoneNoneNoneDiamond Buyback Program via CIRCANone
Upgrade ProgramTrade-in program for diamond pieces (new product must be worth twice the value of original)Trade-in program for diamond pieces (new product must be worth twice the value of original)Will credit 100% of diamond’s original price (assuming no damage) for the purchase of a diamond valued at least 50% more than the original stoneWill credit 100% of diamond’s original price (assuming no damage) for the purchase of a diamond at least 2x the stone’s valueWill credit 100% of diamond’s original price (assuming no damage) for the purchase of a diamond at least 2x the stone’s value
Price MatchNot notedNot notedNoneDiamond Price Match GuaranteeWill match price under certain situations and new price will be honored for 48 hours
Social ResponsibilityExpresses a commitment to ethically sourced diamonds and metals but does not detail the ways in which they promote conflict-free sourcing, so somewhat unclearExpresses a commitment to ethically sourced diamonds and metals but does not detail the ways in which they promote conflict-free sourcing, so somewhat unclearBeyond Conflict-Free: Blockchain protected diamonds from ethical mines, lab-created diamonds, recycled metals, community giveback programs, and moreConflict-free diamond supply, diamonds from ethical mines, working on increasing recycled gold supplyConflict-free diamond supply from ethical mines
Custom OrdersBuild-a-ring platform and personalized jewelry design studioBuild-a-ring platform and personalized jewelry design studioSpecial orders and custom modifications available upon requestSpecial orders and custom modifications available upon requestCustom orders available with option to use James Allen Ring Studio to create your own ring

Zales review: Wrapping Up

👉🏻Zales is a giant of the jewelry industry much like the other companies under the Signet umbrella, and their large inventory and customizable products are huge pulls for many customers. However, where Zales falls a bit flat is in their engagement ring builder and diamond quality overall, two important areas for couples looking to start their lives together. They also have some sketchy pricing, so it’s crucial that you compare any finds at Zales to similar products at competitors’ sites to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible.

Overall, Zales is a good place to start your shopping journey, but don’t be surprised if you feel the need to move on to another retailer as you learn more about what you really want out of your new piece of jewelry!👊🏻

JewelryTalk Rating: 3.5
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