The diamond landscape is undergoing an enormous shift currently as retailers and consumers shuffle to determine the correct place for earth mined diamonds and LGD, or lab grown diamond products. Besides ongoing price fluctuations for LGD as these products proliferate, natural diamonds are experiencing price adjustments this past year as well.
To Cert or Not to Cert
Central to the discussion of diamond values are lab reports, also called diamond certificates. They do not assign a dollar amount to the stone being examined. Rather, grading labs deliver an unbiased analysis on the quality components of each stone. From there, one can extrapolate a retail price range for the diamond using a Rapaport diamond pricing grid – or other pricing data available.
The process of diamond grading adds a cost that the vendor must absorb. So not every diamond comes with a cert. Most large size diamonds, certainly those of higher quality carry a lab report, since the consumer expects that.
Not every stone needs a cert for it to sell says Raphael Weil, founder of World Wide Weil, Miami, FL. “I think it’s all about trust because my customers keep telling me that. [They say] we trust you, whatever you’d buy for your wife is what we will buy.” According to Weil, “For smaller preowned, vintage and antique pieces, 95% of the people just trust me with no cert, no appraisal, no nothing.”
Every diamond certificate is unique to the laboratory that conducts the examination. Still, they all bear certain similarities that vendors and consumers need to contextualize the stone. Details include clarity, carat weight, color and cut – traditionally known as the 4Cs. These days they also indicate if the stone is natural (and if so what is it) or if it is laboratory created.
It’s never enough to accept what looks like a GIA inscription on the stone’s girdle, reports IGI lab in Tel Aviv. They recently detected a lab grown diamond bearing a deceptive GIA inscription number on the 6-carat pear shaped stone. Turns out, it was actually an LGD trying to pass for a natural diamond. Thorough lab testing can make the separation, however. Photoluminescence has become standard testing to render a separation between natural earth mined stones and LGD. The examiners are looking for a wavelength of 737 nanometers which identifies the stone as being lab grown. There can be other red flags too, but this one is definitive.
So Which Lab?
The trade offers up several options when choosing a grading lab for diamonds. GIA (Gemological Institute of America) is widely known to the public and boasts a global network. Operating since the early 20th century, the lab also began grading laboratory grown diamonds in 2007.
GCAL by Sarine offers AI technology and advanced instrumentations which delivers a broad spectrum of data about each diamond. They are recognized for their proprietary technology GEMPRINT which positively identifies each unique diamond.
AGS (American Gem Society), a respected industry contributor utilizes their proprietary clarity grading system that requires a bit of a tutorial to fully master its terminology.
Still other labs like IGI (International Gemological Institute) delivers reports with color and clarity grades that are distinct from the more well known GIA. They were early adopters to the task of grading lab grown diamonds.
EGL (European Gemological Laboratories) are a collective franchise of global labs. As per EGL USA’s website, they evaluate diamonds, color diamonds and gemstones, plus pearls, loose rough stones, and lab-grown diamonds.
Are Consumers Loyal About Reports?
So, does a particular lab report matter to consumers? Not always, says Jake Fox, owner of J. Fox Custom, Boerne, TX. “For those who aren’t dead-set on GIA when they walk in your door, it doesn’t particularly matter.” Fox’s experience proves the salesperson can help the customer fall in love with the stone, given the price is right. “A good, honest salesperson can sell a pretty diamond. The last large natural I sold was an EGL. [The report] was about as accurate as you’d expect, but that doesn’t matter. I sold it as what it truly was (in my opinion) and let the customer know up front ‘I think what that paper says is a bit optimistic, however the diamond is still gorgeous, and still a very fair price for what I believe it to be’.”
De Beers Grading
There are labs that even tradespeople in the US are not always cognizant of. Not so known to Americans at least, are the De Beers grading labs. Originally named International Institute of Diamond Grading & Research (IIDGR) it’s been more conveniently shortened to De Beers Group Industry Services, making things clearer for customers to understand. According to De Beers, the labs based in the UK, Antwerp and Surat were grading their own Forevermark diamond goods in the beginning.
Global diamond analyst Edahn Golan, founder of Edahn Golan Diamond Research & Data is familiar with De Beers grading system. He makes it clear why we may not have their labs as top-of-mind. “De Beers’ labs primarily serves De Beers’ brands, although not exclusively. They mostly grade Forevermark diamonds and diamonds sold at De Beers jewelers.”
Golan underscores the similarities and differences between De Beers labs and its competition. “All labs provide similar services: determining diamond characteristics. The differences are mainly in the technologies they use, R&D, education services, and costs.”
Diamond sales specialist and graduate gemologist Donna Russell, at Acredo, Denver, CO says, “Here I am celebrating over 40 years selling diamonds and I haven’t seen a De Beers grading report yet.” It is her view that GIA remains the #1 choice with mined diamond grading reports for accuracy and consumer recognition.
Jake Fox weighs in on his experience. He points to the importance of consumer recognition. “We carried Forevermark diamonds previously, and the grading seemed to be pretty accurate overall. I’d put (their standards) a bit higher than GIA, in my opinion. But it was also less desirable to most customers.”
Whether or not a diamond needs a grading report may depend on its size or the persuasive skills of a salesperson who establishes trust in the consumer. And not every instance does the customer demand a particular lab report. But there’s one thing for sure. With the proliferation of lab grown diamonds in the same retail stores with natural diamonds, consumers demand clarity. Acredo’s Russell points out, “With the popularity of LGDs, a grading report is more important than ever before.”