So, on Saturday Crysta and I went out to look at engagement rings. Our mission was simple: to go to several jewelers in Eau Claire, WI, find a ring that Crysta would want, and get a solid understanding of price. Since I had already proposed to her (sans ring) whatever we ended up liking the most within our price range I would likely end up coming back and purchasing. No matter what though, we wanted to make sure we knew our options before agreeing to buy anything.
This was, as previously stated, the plan. And oddly enough, we actually stuck to it.
Lasker's had been recommended to both Crysta and I by separate people, so it was the logical place to start. Neither one of us had really spent a lot of time jewelery shopping in general, so we really didn't know what to expect from the experience. First and foremost, it was surprisingly comfortable. The saleswoman was polite, and actually investigated what sort of styles Crysta liked and investigated our budget. In fact, one of the nice things about the place was that prices were actually visible and readable -- and honestly this helped me feel much more relaxed while we shopped.
This was apparently a rare quality for a jeweler.
We narrowed it down to a ring Crysta liked there, and took down it's information. We knew we liked it, but we wanted to make sure that we knew what all of our options were prior to making a big ticket purchase. Afterward, we went on to the next stop in our shopping extravaganza.
We went to Rogers & Hollands next. At first we were helped by a nice, younger saleswoman. While she did try and find things in a style Crysta liked, never once did she really try and make a connection. It was also at Rogers & Hollands that I discovered one irritating part of the jewelry industry: no one ever shows you the damned price.
I'm not a rich man, I don't make a huge amount of money, and I don't like doing things on credit. I'm working in a specific budget here, and while we're not going super cheap, there is a definite ceiling to which we want to actually pay for.
We also made it quite clear that we were just looking that day fairly early in our talks with the salesperson. When it was clear we weren't going to be convinced to bite that day though, she feigned a sore throat and called over a different sales person to try and "close" the deal.
This is where they totally screwed up.
Crysta actually liked the ring there. Finding things she likes is rare, and she actually liked it. The first thing the older salesman did though when he approached us... was send Crysta away. They never bothered to find out that Crysta and I were already engaged (and we share finances), and whoo boy did he offend her. He also tried to futilely hard sell me (which never works with me, as I spent three years of my life in full service sales.. and I know every trick). Let me tell you a secret, Rogers & Hollands, when you offend my fiancee you've totally killed any chance that I'm going to buy her engagement ring there.
After that, we went over to Kay Jewelers. The experience there was fairly bizarre. If Rogers & Hollands obscures prices, Kay Jewelers downright hides them. The saleswoman was nice enough, and actually made an effort to understand us as consumers. However she never once tried to consider our price range, and completely ignored Crysta's taste in ring styles. Crysta is 5'2" and has a size 4 finger. She is tiny, and small stones actually look fairly large on her finger. When a customer expresses a desire to look at a smaller diamond, maybe you shouldn't tell her that it isn't good enough. In the end, we found ourselves wanting to escape as nothing in the store actually fit her taste, and we felt a little condescended to.
From there we went to Helzberg Diamonds. The staff there was very polite, and nice -- and that's saying something. While they still hid prices a bit, they did actually gauge our price range fairly well based on our reactions. The biggest problem we had there was just that they only had a limited selection of rings that they could get in her size, and only one was really something we liked. I will say, that out of the big chains, this was the only one where I felt like the sales staff actually treated us like people. The manager tried to hard sell us for a few moments, but we were firm, and they were respectful.
Honestly, the Helzberg Diamonds in Eau Claire wasn't a bad place, but it suffered from the same problem all of the chain jewelers did when it comes to what we were looking for: limited selection.
In the end we're going to go back to Lasker's though, and pick up the ring we saw there. The experience at Helzberg Diamonds wasn't bad, but honestly Lasker's was light years beyond it. The ring we found there was significantly more ideal than anything else we saw on Saturday as well. In truth, we found ourselves wishing Lasker's was open later than it was so we could have bought it before going home.
So, I guess the lesson is when several local people all have a good experience with a local business... that they're all probably right.
--advice solicited= "false"-- We got ours there as well. Laskers was definitely #1 in my book. Rogers and Holland's was truly awful and very pushy to us.
My main tip, though it may be too late, is learn how to effetively use a loupe (hand lens) and a microscope to identify imperfections in the stones and insist on seeing the stones before you buy. This is particularly true of smaller stones. When you go small on the karat weight, you'll want to go big on the clarity.
That said, Laskers offered that to us up front without me even requesting and their diamonds didn't even really need my scrutiny. They were, with rare exception, better than what the AGS ratings suggested, in my opinion. That's a very good sign.
As a contrast, drop by a department store jewelry counter. They'll have some big stones at low prices and generally their salespeople will be nice, friendly and accommodating. Just try not to laugh when you see enough carbon to fill in a scantron floating around in the coal they pass off as diamonds. The only exception to this rule is Macy's, which actually has some good quality stuff. It may be worth a look if there's even a Macy's in EC, though Lasker's will still probably be your option.