In this section I’ll compare the various gemological certification labs. In specific, the GIA, AGS, EGL, and IGI. You probably hear about these reports as you shop for diamonds online, so it’s important you know what their various differences and similarities are.
While shopping around for diamond rings, checking the grading report (certificate) is a very important part of the shopping process. The grading report provides essential, documented information concerning the quality of the diamond in question. Grading reports give consumers a better idea of what they will be buying and the justification for much of the price attached to a given diamond. Consumers should only trust grading reports from neutral third parties so as to not be taken in by biased grading and to avoid any potential conflict of interests.
A grading report or certificate from a legitimate gemological lab can function as a screening process of sorts, protecting consumers from synthetic or treated diamonds. Gemological labs can identify evidence of artificial clarity or color treatments during their grading processes.
Thus, grading reports both exhaustive provide details on a diamond’s properties and serve as proof of the diamond’s legitimacy.
This article will compare and contrast several gemological labs and provide information on the grading reports that appear in the diamond ring and diamond markets. The differences between diamond certification labs will be discussed, as well as which labs are best to be left alone.
Gemological Certification Labs
One of the most important things to note for consumers of the diamond business is that not all certification labs are equal in quality and reputation. Especially while seeking out diamond engagement rings, it’s vitally important to research the numerous diamond certification labs and the grading reports that exist.
Each lab administers its own special grading systems and diamond-related nomenclature. Some labs are inconsistent with their diamond testing methods and have flimsy standards. Others possess truly scientific levels of consistency, strict adherence to procedure and standards, and they have the highest levels of efficiency with their testing methods. This means that the very same diamond may have wildly different reporting results that are issued by two different certification labs.
Sloppy assessments of a diamond’s quality will impact its value and ultimately the price that the consumer pays for it. This can result in the consumer overpaying for an inferior diamond whose properties and certification grade were overblown by a shady or unprofessional certification lab.
These days, the most trusted of the gemological certification labs globally are GIA, AGS, EGL and IGI. The following is an in-depth survey of the differences between these labs.
GIA stands for the Gemological Institute of America, known as the world’s leading diamond certification lab. In the diamond industry, it is the most trusted and used lab. GIA has over 1,400 educators, certified diamond graders and scientists. It is centrally located in Carlsbad, California, with offices that are spread out around the world.
GIA principally performs gem grading and certification processes. Additionally, the institute provides gem and jewelry professional certifications and conducts state-of-the-art research to keep abreast of the newest innovations in the field of gemology.
GIA is a fully independent, non-profit organization. Jewelers source the diamonds and then send them to one of several GIA labs from around the world. Each diamond is put under the strictest of inspection methods by four expertly-trained gemologists. Some weeks later, the diamonds are returned with their respective grading certificates.
This intensive inspection process takes time, and some jewelers opt for other certification labs whose waiting times are not as long. Despite this, GIA’s diamond reports are globally recognized in terms of their consistency and their severe grading standards. Customers who buy engagement rings with GIA grading reports can go home knowing that the diamond’s quality has been fairly and objectively evaluated and documented.
AGS, the American Gemological Society is an institute with a US-based lab. This lab is well-known and well-respected for scientific character and its cutting-edge research in the field of diamond cut grading. Rather than using an alphabetical diamond grading system, AGS decided to grade their diamonds’ characteristics on a scale of 0–10: 0 is the best score, while 10 is the worst.
AGS is similar to GIA in that they are both well-regarded for the adherence to strict ethical and grading standards in their diamond certification processes. In terms of US markets, AGS is second only to GIA when it comes to the amount of business that it receives each year. AGS also has a global reach, with offices in Hong Kong, Belgium, Israel, mainland China and India.
AGS is a certification lab with high-quality and reliable diamond grading standards. One area that AGS has even GIA beat is in regard to their diamond cut quality standards. AGS’s diamond cut grading system uses an optical ray-tracing procedure, which measures and records a diamond’s light performances. In the light performance grading system, the diamond is 3-D scanned and the scan is ray traced. This leads to the ray trace effects of 32,000 rays being calculated and measured. Following that, the data is collected and the diamond is given grads for its brightness, light dispersion, leakage and contrast. As previously mentioned, the score of a 0 is the highest and best rating, indicating that there are no notable deficits in a given grading category.
EGL, the European Gemological Laboratory. EGL is a significant diamond certification lab that was created by Europe. Like GIA and AGS, its locations are spread out across the world, with offices in Tel Aviv, Johannesburg, London, Tokyo, Paris and other locations. It is also split up into two organizations: EGL USA and EGL International. The US has placed a ban on EGL International.
EGL is notable for being the first company to develop diamond grading techniques for diamonds that weigh less than the standard weight for a carat. As might be expected, EGL has a substantial market share as far as Europe is concerned. It is also notable for its introduction of the clarity rating “SI3,” as well as for being involved in lawsuits from irate diamond customers over what they claimed were over-estimated diamonds that they were sold.
Generally, the GIA is regarded as definitely holding diamonds up to a higher standard than EGL International does. Labs of GIA’s caliber are also regarded as better than EGL International with respect to the diamond grading process and their level of non-bias. EGL USA is considered to be more accurate than EGL International typically, but GIA is usually considered to be more accurate than even EGL USA.
Lastly, there is IGI, the International Gemological Institute. Based in Antwerp, Belgium, IGI is the second most well-known diamond certification lab behind GIA. This for-profit diamond certification lab’s presence is extensive in Europe, similar to EGL’s presence.
IGI is responsible for the grades of a very large number of polished diamonds in the industry, conducting a lot of business in Asian countries. IGI is also known for grading commercial-levels of synthetic diamonds. IGI and EGL are businesses that operate mainly in Europe and Asia, but both of them run offices in very influential cities such as New York.
IGI’s diamond grading standards are considered to be not as strict or as high-quality as certification labs such as GIA’s. Reports of IGI’s certifications claim that a grade from IGI can be as much as three whole grades off from what GIA’s or AGS’s certification processes would have given for the same diamond. It’s suggested that consumers interested in diamond rings stay away from IGI- and EGL-graded diamonds.