Costco may not be the first store that comes to mind when you think about shopping for a diamond ring. But the sparkly jewelry case often positioned near the wholesale club store entrance is enough to make many shoppers curious about the wisdom of buying fine jewelry there.
Here are some things you should know before you buy a diamond ring from Costco or anywhere else.
- Many big box stores like Costo sell diamond jewelry.
- Costco does not offer cleaning or repair services for its jewelry.
- The most expensive ring as of January 2021 is over $360,000 but there are much more affordable prices.
- Unlike a store like Tiffany, you cannot have a ring sized to fit, as they are pre-made items.
Understanding the 4Cs
Most jewelry retailers use the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) color, clarity, cut, and carat weight standards, also known as the 4Cs, to set stones' prices. The rating for these characteristics determines the quality of a diamond. The cut is a matter of personal taste, but the quality of the cut matters to its brilliance.
Clarity is a measure of the stone's purity, with designations like VVS1, or very, very slightly included, and VS1, for very slightly included. Color is rated on a scale of D to Z, with D being the best, or colorless, quality.
Costco guarantees that the diamonds it sells are at least VS2 in clarity and grade I in color. Its diamond rings with a center stone that is 1.00-carat or larger come with a GIA Diamond Grading Report. Diamonds over one carat come with an International Gemological Institute (IGI) appraisal that can be used to ensure the fine jewelry investment.
Shoppers who go to Tiffany & Co. don't have to make sense of technical reports independently.
Tiffany offers consultations during the shopping process with diamond experts in-store, by phone, or by email.
Diamond Price Ranges
A one-carat diamond ring can sell for anywhere between $3,500 and $27,000, depending on those 4Cs, the setting's quality, and the retailer.
As of December 2020, the Costco website lists rings starting at $249.99 for a simple stackable band set in 14k gold with a 0.08-carat VS2 diamond. The priciest offering at this writing is a $364,999.99 ring set in platinum with a 7.45-carat diamond rated with VS1 clarity.
Tiffany does not use the 4Cs to describe its rings, relying on proprietary processes to handcraft jewelry set with stones. Many of the rings displayed on its website are embellished with diamonds, often clustered with other stones. A solitaire diamond ring starts at about $13,000, with many customizable options for size, color, and setting.
Online diamond retailer Blue Nile Inc. sells loose diamonds and pre-set diamond rings and lists one-carat stones starting at about $2,400. Blue Nile shoppers can choose from several setting styles for the diamond that they select at an additional cost. It uses the GIA rating system.
Customization and Service
Old-fashioned jewelry stores allow customers to customize their purchases. If you like a stone in one ring but the setting of another, many jewelers will make a custom version for you. Some even allow you to design your own ring and will work with you to produce a one-of-a-kind ring based on your description.
When you purchase a ring from a traditional jeweler, you can generally take it back when it needs cleaning or repairs or even have a gemstone reset in a new piece of jewelry.
All Costco diamond rings are pre-made, and buyers don't have the option to customize them. The specifications on the Costco website list ring sizes, but you will have to take your ring to a jeweler if you need to have it sized to fit.
Costco does not offer cleaning or repairs for its jewelry.
Tiffany vs. Costco
In August 2017, a federal judge ruled Costco owed Tiffany at least $19.4 million in damages, lost sales, and interest for selling rings falsely advertised as Tiffany jewelry. The trial followed a 2015 verdict against Costco in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan. A jury determined the company was guilty of trademark infringement for using Tiffany to describe rings in its jewelry cases. Costco had argued that Tiffany was a generic term used to describe a style of ring setting.
If nothing else, that notorious case suggests that a consumer considering fine jewelry should know the basics before buying fine jewelry.