The Secret 5th C of Diamonds: Diamond Certification
A comprehensive guide to diamond certificates and how they compare
When you walk into a jewelry store and are about to make the purchase of a lifetime, you are faced with a ton of questions. What is the best color for my diamond? Is Clarity really important? What diamond shape does she like best? And then one question gets thrown in there almost unnoticed, do you want a diamond certificate? It may seem like a unimportant question but the answer can radically change the value of the diamond you’re buying and how much you’ll be able to get when selling your diamond in the future.
When buying or selling a diamond, certification plays a huge role in the valuation of the diamond. By the end of this article, you will have the knowledge that will help you either buy or sell your diamond with confidence and make sure that you get your money’s worth and can make you or save you hundreds and thousands of dollars. We will be examining all the top labs and in-store diamond certificates, what their differences are and who to go with.
The Quick facts about Diamond certificates
- Any credible certificate will include all 4 C’s
- The most credible certificates will not state a value
- Getting the right certificate can save you thousands when you buy or sell a diamond
There are multiple sources more than willing to provide a certificate of authenticity and a grading for color and clarity as it’s a great business to be in. Where you have your diamond certified makes a great deal of difference in value as every difference in grade can mean a minimum of 10% difference in valuation costing you hundreds or thousands of dollars.
For example, if one lab says that your diamond has a color grade of F and a clarity grade of SI1 and another more reputable lab with more stringent standards says that its actually a color grade of G and a clarity grade of SI2 it can lose a great deal of value. This unexpected loss in value can be the difference between getting a good deal when buying or selling your diamond and losing a good amount of money with what could have been an investment grade diamond. That difference in value is why it is important to pay attention to the diamond certification.
The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) is considered to be the gold standard of the diamond grading world. It was the first lab for gemological grading in the US and has grown to be the industry leader in gem grading. Any grade that GIA hands down is considered to be fact and the final verdict on its grading – the only lab that can refute a GIA grading is GIA. They grade based on the toughest industry standards and have been very consistent in their grading over the years. In fact the most recent time they changed their master set of diamonds, the diamonds which they compare color to, was in the early 2000’s. The grading standards are strictly held between all their labs with labs using the same interior paint and carpeting to ensure the most sterile of environments for grading. They invented the modern diamond grading scale for both color and clarity back in the 1950’s and every lab grades based on this scale. Any reputable appraiser will have done a course at GIA to get their Graduate Gemologist Degree or GG as it’s referred to in the jewelry industry. All diamond grading leads back to GIA in the end. If you have a GIA number but have lost the certificate you can verify your report here.
The European Gemological Laboratory (EGL)
The European Gemological Laboratory is a group of gem grading labs across the world who are run independently but operate under a common name. As a result, their gradings are inconsistent between labs and have different levels of grading meaning a diamond graded one color at EGL Canada may be another color at EGL Hong Kong. They are one of the most popular certificates you can find as an alternative to a GIA certificate making them important to know about. The majority of EGL Labs are not considered to be reputable but there is one exception, EGL USA.
EGL USA is considered a strong #2 to GIA in popularity. It uses the same scale as GIA but generally gives slight upgrades on color, clarity and fluorescence. This means, for example, that if you have a GIA certificate that says your diamond is F color and VS2 clarity they may make it an E color and VS1 clarity. While this upgrade may seem nice, you may be paying extra for the same diamond just because another lab gave it an extra upgrade or two, which can increase the wholesale price by 25%-40%. The amount of upgrades is common in the diamond certifying industry as they want to differentiate themselves from GIA but it is common knowledge within the jewelry industry that these upgrades are a means to charge more money for the same diamond.
Although EGL may seem all bad, it’s not the case. They made an important impact on the diamond industry when they created the grade of “SI3”. This grade which they created to sit between SI2 and I1 was created in order to help bridge the pricing gap between SI2 and I1, which is about 30-40%, and helping consumers identify what would be considered by GIA to be a I1 of the highest quality.
EGL International & Platinum
EGL International is a group of affiliated labs in the diamond grading industry. They have labs all around the world from India to Belgium to South Africa and all have one thing in common. They give very liberal upgrades when grading diamonds. These diamonds can stray so far that one Tennessee man filed a lawsuit against his jeweler for supplying him with a set of $135,000 dollar cufflinks with EGL International Certification that ended up appraising for $22,500. Shortly after, another man filed a suit against the same store with the same issue: his $45,000 ring turned out to be only worth $18,000. EGL International did not take these claims laying down, instead claiming that they grade differently than other labs in a more “practical and realistic” way which also happened to upgrade the color significantly.
How can I tell which EGL Lab my Diamond is from?
There are two levels for verification. First is the report itself which will have a certificate number. This numbering convention changes between labs and is rather easy to tell what certificate is from which lab.
- EGL USA: Starts with “US” and ends with D
- EGL Israel: Starts with a 2 most of the time
- EGL India: Starts with any letter from D to J ( up to 9 characters)
- EGL South Africa: Starts with “SA”
- EGL Antwerp: Starts with A and uses both numbers and letters
The second level of verification is online. You can verify your report by clicking on the corresponding EGL Lab names above and it will take you to the proper site for verification. Please note that not all certificates will be on the website, especially if they are older certificates
Now why trust EGLUS? Isn’t it the same as EGL International? Well yes and no. It used to be part of the same network but became independent in 1986. Since then they have tightened their standards and set themselves apart even going so far as to sue EGL International over trademarks, attempting to ban them from US stores. They claim that EGL International is hurting their brand, and rightfully so. EGL US gives less upgrades than EGL International giving them a higher standard of quality in their diamond grading.
American Gem Society is a society of jewelers formed in 1934 who were looking to create an organization to promote both consumer and seller protection from the then unregulated diamond industry. In 1996 AGS Laboratories was created in order to have a lab to create reports matching AGS standards. AGS is unique in that they use numbers to grade color instead of the standard D-Z scale (see the graphic below for a more in depth explanation.) AGS uses the same scale for clarity as the rest of the diamond industry making for an easier comparison for the end customer. AGS is also the only lab to have a “Cut” Grade for fancy shapes including Princess, Oval and Emerald cuts, giving another quantifiable way to measure how perfectly your diamond was cut. AGS certification tends to work on a less strict basis than EGL US, sometimes giving slightly better color or clarity grades than EGL US would assign. If you have a AGS report and would like to verify it click here.
The International Gemological Institute or IGI is a gemological laboratory in Antwerp, Belgium. Founded in 1975, it was the first diamond grading lab in Antwerp and the first lab to issue reports on whole pieces of jewelry. IGI Certification is popular at many chain retail stores and is very common if you are buying your jewelry at Zales, Costco, Walmart or the like, churning out 200,000-300,000 certificates for these clients. The diamond certificate they provide applies the same system of diamond grading providing D-Z color grades for diamonds and clarity grades spanning from Internally Flawless to I3. They are more lax than AGS, offering some upgrades in both color and clarity when comparing the two certificates. IGI is good as they offer packaging for your diamond, adding extra assurance that the diamond was not switched while grading the certificate. If you have a report you would like to verify click here.
HRD, which stands for Hoge Raad voor Diamant, was founded in 1973 in Antwerp, Belgium. They provide a large amount of certificates for european retail customers and use the standard grading scale for grading diamonds. While in the past they had more lax standards for grading they have placed themselves in the ranks of IGI and AGS by making their standards more stringent. They have brand recognition in Europe but the certificates do not hold much water elsewhere. If you have a certificate you would like to verify click here.
Store Appraisals are the most common form of diamond grading and have the least recognition and reliability. Grading can change from store to store, even within the same chain of stores. There is no standard set for stores. It is very misleading as they use the standard grading scales of the jewelry industry but may not adhere to them as strictly as a lab. Why would they inflate the grades? To make more money. Most consumers will not double check them and will not request a lab graded certificate. While you may trust them, they don’t necessarily operate by an industry standard. Further down the line, if you are looking to trade in your diamond or are trying to sell your diamond, the store appraisal could likely be worthless. The values are often inflated in order to provide you with an insurance replacement value so if you lose your ring it can be replaced. These multipliers can be anywhere from 4-12x the actual value of the diamond. The reason these values are inflated is so that once you file a claim, the insurance company has a point of reference for negotiation. Unless the buyer knows them well they will likely need to regrade it, giving it its own valuation or have it sent to GIA. No one in the jewelry industry can argue with a GIA grading.
We recommend GIA. The Gemological institute of America gives the most credible gradings and are the most consistent with their gradings. While many may argue that grading diamonds is subjective and more of an art than a science, it is a more antiquated line of thinking as diamond grading has made significant progress in the last 100 years. When selling your diamond or when you buy a diamond, a GIA certificate can save you thousands of dollars or make you thousands more when you sell a diamond. The bottom line is GIA gradings are the common language of reliability and trust in the jewelry industry and a diamond certificate by GIA, in most cases, is worth its weight in gold.
Vasco Assets believes that a knowledgeable consumer is a better consumer. We are proud to present the straight-talk about luxury commodity assets of all types, including diamonds. If you have any questions or would like more information about anything you’ve read, please reach out to us.
About Vasco Assets:
Vasco Assets is a private licensed, fully insured, and bonded financial firm with business interests worldwide, specializing in luxury commodity assets. Located in Newport Beach, CA, Vasco Assets provides Financial Flexibility and Security by buying and lending against luxury assets, unlocking the inherent value and converting the assets to funds, offering a variety of innovative collateral loan programs to both individuals and businesses. Vasco also provides Access to Luxury by making luxury available to their clients well below wholesale and manufacturing by virtue of diamond production in India and Israel, jewelry manufacturing in Los Angeles and worldwide networks. Vasco offers programs to Build and Maintain Wealth, through diamond commodity investment programs, taking advantage of the hedge opportunities inherent in commodities. By virtue of their diamond production, these investment grade stones are offered at commodity pricing, eliminating the mark-ups of wholesale and retail pricing.
For more information or to inquire about any of Vasco Assets’ high-value services, please call 855.285.7059 or email firstname.lastname@example.org