Bill Doddridge, CEO and founder of Jewelry Factory and The Jewelry Exchange, started these companies from the humblest of beginnings. In fact, he entered into the jewelry world by working in a pawn shop owned by his stepfather. After spending time running the pawn shop for his family, Bill took it upon himself to begin designing jewelry.
It was in the early 1990s when Bill decided to change business models. He began focusing on traditional jewelry and transitioned out of the pawn shop business. After closing the pawn shop, he decided to open his very own jewelry store.
Bill recognized the power of globalization and took full advantage of it. Many even consider him a visionary in this line of work. Besides the big retail stores, Bill saw an opportunity to buy directly from the manufacturer of companies operating overseas. This gave him a distinct advantage over his competitors and allowed him to lower prices by as much as 30%. In fact, the biggest diamond distributors in Israel regard Bill fondly and still do to this day.
Throughout the United States, you’ll find 15 separate stores either named Jewelry Factory or Jewelry Exchange that are under Bill’s watchful eye. These businesses fall under the parent company named Goldenwest Diamond Corporation.
What to Expect in the Jewelry Exchange
When you look at a Jewelry Exchange store from the outside, it looks like any regular jewelry store located inside of a strip mall. In fact, when stepping inside the store it will seem very typical and almost dated looking. But then as you walk around, you’ll notice that this store is definitely unique in many ways.
For starters, let’s take the security guard as an example. The store had a security guard on staff and he walked me and my friend over to a ticket dispenser, just like the kind you’d find at the supermarket deli counter.
After taking a number, we spoke to a man behind the counter who is very friendly and polite. He wanted to know why we were there and he asked us what we wanted to see.
We answered that we were looking for engagement rings. He pointed in the direction of the engagement ring section so we started to walk over. That’s when things got really interesting.
You see, the gentleman behind the counter didn’t just let us walk away. No, he boomed across the store and announced our presence. He had a megaphone behind the counter that he used to get everyone’s attention. When you aren’t expecting this, it is downright frightening. We nearly jumped out of our shoes!
It was a much more settling experience after the megaphone incident. At that point, it started to feel like we were being helped in a typical jewelry store. But you have to give them points for the megaphone introduction. Or not if you don’t like to be in the spotlight. And some find this unsettling when making a meaningful purchase like buying an engagement ring.
Jewelry Exchange Products
As far as the overall product went, meaning the engagement ring, we stumbled upon a few new surprises here to boot.
In the past, I had visited a New Jersey Jewelry Exchange location and to say that I was unimpressed is an understatement. But this is going back a long time and obviously things have changed since then. The diamonds shown back in the day were ones that I couldn’t recommend in good conscience.
Actually, these diamonds came with the EGL certificate which is even worse. Why? The European Gemological Laboratory has a tendency to inflate the value and quality of the gems that they certify. Not good.
I had a much better experience with Jewelry Exchange this time around. My friend and I got immediate help from a knowledgeable and friendly member of the staff.
Even more important, the quality of the diamonds was a lot better. And this time around, they were certified with GIA certificates, which are way more trustworthy. I still feel that the quality was lacking so I am not going to recommend their diamonds anytime soon, but the improvement is there so that’s saying something.
It’s also important to note that diamonds that were EGL certified were also on display. The salesman stayed away from those because they knew better.
The first diamond we looked at was 1.09 karat with color grade G and clarity grade I1. This ring retailed for $4875. For such an expensive diamond ring, it was quite low quality and definitely didn’t match the price. It had visible inclusions and the symmetry wasn’t there because when looking at the diamond you can tell that it was crooked.
The next diamond we looked at was better. It was a 1.15 karat color grade F and clarity grade SI2. This ring retailed for $7233. It had a much nicer diamond cut but it also had noticeable inclusions. Plus the strong blue florescent grade wasn’t very impressive either. In fact, we would typically steer clear of this grade.
Evaluating the Value of Jewelry Exchange Diamond Rings
- Diamond Ring 1: it retailed for $4875. A similar diamond ring from James Allen is a much better and much cheaper choice. Their 1.14 karat color grade G clarity grade I1 diamond ring retails for $3410. This is a 30% savings and the cut is much nicer than the more expensive diamond anyway.
- Diamond Ring 2: it retailed for $7233. James Allen has a far superior option at a much lower cost. Their ring is 1.18 karat color grade F clarity grade SI2 and the cut is phenomenal. With the James Allen diamond, the inclusions aren’t readily noticeable and the florescent grade is actually much better. Plus the price is a heck of a lot better at $5600, which saves the buyer about 25% when compared to the Jewelry Exchange engagement ring price.
The Jewelry Exchange Locations
On the positive side, they do have many locations. Here is a list of where I can confirm there are physical stores:
- Los Angeles
- San Francisco
- New York
- Washington DC
Our Final Recommendation
When it comes to the Jewelry Exchange, I was bothered about a few different things besides the high prices. First, it’s hard for a physical store to compete with companies like James Allen and Blue Nile. But if you prefer buying in a physical store and don’t mind spending a 30% premium, that’s your prerogative.
On the other hand, I’m willing to avoid the Jewelry Exchange because of the quality of the products. As an educated diamond consumer, I know how to spot the visible inclusions and other flaws and blemishes that the average person might not see. It’s fine to pay extra for diamonds if you’re willing to do so, but the diamond better be worth the investment is all I’m saying.
Paying extra for an experience inside a retail store is certainly your choice. Just try to avoid sacrificing quality because that is an unfortunate mistake to say the least.