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Is Signet a Sparkly Empire or a Finance Company?

  • Signet, parent of Kay and Jared, boosts reliance on financing
  • Method for counting past-due accounts questioned by critics
Diamond rings are displayed at a Zales in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2009.
Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

No one would ever mistake Zales for Tiffany. 

Zales started out in the Texas oil patch, in the 1920s, with one jewelry store and a tempting pitch: go ahead, America, buy your bijoux on credit. “A penny down and a dollar a week” -- that was the line.