Diamond grading and certification.
When it comes to choosing the diamond grade, your budget is usually the key determining factor, although quite a few things need to be considered before arriving at a ﬁnal decision.
The very best diamond grades will of course be the most costly in any given weight, i.e D/IF ( D colour and Internally Flawless) , however with a sensible approach a nice balance can be achieved, hopefully without selling your soul and the box it came in.
I am a great believer in paying for what you can see when it comes to diamonds, so keeping the colour in the top 4 ( D/E/F/G), if its a white diamond you want, is preferable.
Cut, Polish and Symmetry should all be at the top end of the scale to get the most out of the diamond crystal’s reﬂective qualities. The best diamonds are graded at “EX” or “VG” (Excellent/ Very good ) in the areas of Cut, Polish and Symmetry.
Before deciding on any of the above, the certiﬁcation basis should always be understood, otherwise you cannot judge what the true grade, and therefore value, is. If you remember nothing else from this site, make sure you absorb this one thing as it is perhaps the most important part of the equation at the start. How can you compare the cost and assess the value if you have not been told or have not understood this simple fact: Certification standards from lab to lab are different.
Some years ago the diamond industry in different parts of the world, used differing grading terminology and standards to assess a diamond’s grade. Wording like “Top River” , “Fine White” and “Wesselton”, amongst others, were referred to.
To try to avoid confusion, the global industry decided to adopt the same grading terms ( as can be seen in the chart below ) BUT… and this is the nub of the matter, IT HAS NOT adopted the same standards across the board.
Different grading labs can apply differing criteria in the grading standards they use. This means that all is far from equal. For example, what one lab grades as an E colour, another lab may grade as a D. This makes it impossible to compare grading reports from lab to lab with any accuracy.
I look at it this way;
5 Basic levels of diamond grading and certiﬁcation,
The AGS ( American Gemological Society ) is generally regarded as the superior and most accurate diamond certification internationally.
This is a lab with a limited capacity to certify large amounts of diamond stock, so while very detailed and competent reports are issued, they are not a large enough entity service the whole jewellery industry. Mostly the biggest and best diamonds would be sent to AGS ( and often also to the GIA, to offer a second opinion ).
- The GIA ( Gemological Institute of America ).
A very large grading lab with many offices around the world. They have the capacity to grade great numbers of diamonds each year and are the most recognised grading lab in the jewellery trade. The GIA system and standard is basically considered to be the “Industry standard” by which all others are measured.
Some labs are very close to, or equal in the grading criteria to the GIA. So AGS, GIA, and to a lesser extent HRD and IGI ( among others ) would be considered “First Tier” international certiﬁcation.
- Second Tier Grading Labs.
Labs like EGL for example are often far wide of the mark in the colour and clarity grades, if compared to the ﬁrst tier labs – sometimes as much as two grades lower and more.
This is not that they are in fact necessarily incorrect, as far as it goes. It is more a case of the rules that they apply differ from the ﬁrst tier labs.
Diamond cutters and dealers do of course fully understand this, and know that a D or E in an EGL certified diamond, is not likely to be above E-F colour if the same diamond were sent to a higher standard of lab like GIA.
Clarity and Cut can also vary in the same way.
Cutters of diamonds sometimes use this to obtain a better certification on a average diamond.
It could be looked at it this way…..
If a diamond is a good clean stone of suitable standard, they will get the GIA certification, or equivalent. If, on the other hand the diamond is a borderline case, or not a great example of a particular grade level, it could be send it to EGL and the like.
This will get the diamond better looking paperwork, which may make the end customer who is not aware of the issues surrounding certification to think that they are getting a bargain, as the diamond will be priced according to what it is, not what the certification states. But in fact, what they are buying is a lower grade diamond – the certification makes it seem as if it is better than what it actually is.
On some diamonds a cutter may seek an assessment from two grading labs (GIA and EGL for example) to test the water to see which looks to be the better document.
- The mixed bag of certiﬁcation.
This is certiﬁcation that is not internationally recognised or is from smaller labs. Basically an individual who has the money to print a business card and get some accreditation can set up a grading lab.
There are no laws to prevent someone from grading diamonds and selling their services.
In the mixed bag of certiﬁcation, diamond graders may well be honest and adhere to the same standards as the GIA when they grade a stone. However, it is hard for the consumer to be sure of the standard, unless you are already an expert in diamonds.
In Australia, labs like AUSCERT / DCLA and BAUER are examples of options basically aligned with GIA standard. This is not to say that they cannot disagree on a particular grade of a stone, because after all, much about grading is an opinion. It is not a sworn statement of fact in many areas.
Diamond grading is part science and part subjective assessment. Some things can be measured, ( i.e weight ) whilst others need to be a judgment call, like colour and clarity. Not all diamonds fit well in to the designated categories.
- Diamonds that do not have certification of any kind.
You may be just given a verbal assurance from the seller. It does not mean the diamonds are not of a good standard, they are just what they are: some good some possibly not.
It is only that no one has sent them to a lab for independent verification.
It is difficult for the average person to know if the diamond is good or bad without certification of some sort. This is the reason certification exists… Third party verification of the correct sort is very important. Without it you are totally in the hands of the seller of the diamond, therefore you need to be in a position to trust what is being said.
There can be many reasons why a diamond has no certification. It could be the cost of the process, or the diamond is not suitably big enough. The most common reason is that diamond are in fact often sold in parcel lots, to people who know what it is they are dealing with, so certification in the jewellery trade is not as critical as it is to the end client. Of course it could also be that the certification on some diamonds is not going to be a positive - a bad report will not help the sale of the stone.
Many people seem to forget that no diamond is certified until someone sends it to the lab of choice. It is up to the dealer to decide.
Diamonds that are certified by the Gemological Institute of America are the most commonly traded diamond standard in the jewellery trade and therefore the one we deal with the most.
Some people think a GIA certified diamond is expensive, when compared to other certified diamonds from differing labs. However what they have failed to understand is that you cannot look at a cert from the GIA and match it with a cert from, say EGL and expect that just because both certs say F/SI1 that both diamonds are the same grade. The cost is different because the diamonds are, in actual fact, different grades. The difference in price reflects this.
The cost to the diamond dealer to have either certification carried out is roughly the same, around $150 depending on the type of grading report issued.
When trying to look at value, you must always ascertain, who and by what standard the information you are given is based.
One thing is for sure, sound advice is needed if you are to avoid a costly mistake.
Some people think they are diamond experts after surfing the web for a few hours… it is really just not that simple !
Getting a good diamond.
Many people ask me to “ﬁnd them a good diamond” which is, of course my job, but what is a good diamond? It depends on so many things.
One person’s diamond option will not suit the next. In the end its about working out which parts of the standards are the most important to you, then arriving at a nice balance in size and quality and putting it in a design you can afford.
This last point is the only thing that remains constant with diamond rings…. it has to be within budget.
It is very important to have a good understanding of the issues, and seek professional advice
In the end, it all comes back to the $$ that you have decided to spend. If you have a budget / diamond size in mind, that will help narrow down the best options.
Ian Murray / ellissi.