What is Certification?

The differences in diamond attributes such as Cut, Color, Clarity, or Carat can be very minor, but the price differences are not. And because a high level of expertise is required for diamond evaluation, it is of the utmost importance to know the precise attributes and characteristics of your diamond. Given that pricing varies so drastically, you'd never want to purchase an expected quality of diamond, but get something else. Diamond certificates standardize diamond attributes so you know you're getting exactly what you've paid for. It's a protection for consumers globally.

Many consumers wonder why it is that some diamonds or other precious gemstones come with charts, certificates, or extensive packets of information upon purchase, but others only come with a receipt and a “thank you shopper.” While you can request any information related to a diamond you intend to purchase, and you can get copies of information on one you choose, the more thorough (thick or hefty) reports and certificates are reserved for diamonds that have received an official certification, or “certified diamonds.” Diamonds and other gemstones receive certifications through gemological institutions that carefully evaluate, compare, and rate them for quality and consumer demand. Non-certified diamonds may have ratings or accompanying documentations, but they haven’t received an official certificate from an institute, such as the GIA, or the Gemological Institute of America.

Advantages & Disadvantages to Certified Diamonds

The most obvious benefit of buying certified diamonds and other gemstones is the insurance that you’re getting what you pay for, and that it is of the utmost quality and beauty. However, even if those things matter little to you, some other advantages to buying certified diamonds are:


  • Proof of authenticity and ownership. These are good to have if your diamond should ever be lost or stolen.

  • Proof of appraisal. This is important if you ever need to prove how much the diamond is worth.

  • Assurance of gem quality. You’ll know that your diamond will last and withstand years’ worth of damage and daily abuse.

  • The biggest disadvantage to buying certified diamonds is the price tag most of them carry. You’ll pay more for diamonds worthy of certification, but it’s worth every cent to the discerning and quality-conscious consumer.



Advantages & Disadvantages to Non-Certified Diamonds

If a certificate isn’t as important to you as the pleasure the diamond brings, there are advantages to buying non-certified diamonds:


  • Lower prices

  • Less hassle with grade-checking and research

  • A wider selection from which to choose

  • Wider availability/lower demand

  • On the down side, quality assurance isn’t guaranteed with non-certified diamonds, so the cheaper price tags might simply mean that you get what you pay for. Also, retailers can easily manipulate numbers and facts to raise prices on diamonds that don’t deserve even half of the price you ultimately pay.

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Background, Price Effect, and Report Characteristics of Gemologial Institutes

The abbreviations AGS, EGL and IGI is little more than Greek to the average jewelry consumer. However, these, and similar institutions, are the ranking entities behind diamond and other gemstone certification and grading. Each one has its own system and rating methods, and all are recognized as expert authorities in the field of gem classification.


AGS

The America Gem Society (AGS) was founded in the early 1940’s. Since the late 90’s, they’ve operated as a non-profit organization. They grade Cushion, Round, Oval, Emerald and Princess cut diamonds that lack “fancy” colors or terms. Their “Cut Grade” method is unique; the only one in their profession of its kind. They’re also believed to have the most simply formatted and outlined, easiest to understand diamond grading reports of all the institutions. The exact effect an AGS grade has on the price of a diamond is unknows, but diamonds that receive an AGS report are considered to be worth far more on the market than other diamonds (non-certified diamonds) all across the country.

The AGS grades diamonds on their “performance,” which includes characteristics such as proportion, weight/size ratio, finish, and light leakage and dispersion. They screen each diamond for treatments that would render the diamond altered or “ungradable,” such as fracture filling, and thoroughly inspect the diamond to ensure its authenticity.


EGL

The EGL is well-known for its advances in research with accomplished mineralogists and geologists. Although the EGL stands for European Gemological Laboratory, they have branches all over the world, such as the EGL USA and the EGL Platinum lab in Israel. The EGL is responsible for the clarity grade “SI3,” and they originated methods of rating gemstones that don’t quite weigh a whole carat. Despite the wide range of influence worldwide, an EGL certification and grade seem to have more impact on the price of diamonds in the European countries than in any other country.

The rating characteristics for the EGL include symmetry, diamond weight (carat), and flourescence.


IGI

The International Gemological Institute (IGI) is the second widest known gem research and grading organization in the world. Although its influences reigns primarily in Asia and Belgium, where their headquarters is located, they, like the EGL, have a few offices scattered all over the globe.

Some people say that, because their reach is so broad (as the word “internationally” in their name suggests), they tend to be too lax in their grading system, putting lower-grade diamonds on the market labeled as higher rated stones. Other consumers believe that the IGI’s ratings are just and accurate, and would gladly pay far more for an IGI certified gemstone than one with documentation from any other gemological institute. Because of the split opinions on rating accuracy, an IGI rating often has little or no impact on a diamond’s price tag, unless it is purchased in the regions the IGI serves more completely than other gem organizations.

The IGI grades gemstones based on clarity, color, and other visual surface characteristics.


GIA Certification

GIA sealIn order to deal with the lack of transparency in diamonds and pricing, an institution known as the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) was founded as a nonprofit organization. Over time, GIA has become the global industry's standard for diamond grading and grading practices. GIA is a technology pioneer that holds the strictest grading standard. After GIA, other laboratories arose in order to compete with GIA. With lots of inconsistencies and questionable practices, the value of the certificates issues by these other institutions rapidly declined. Therefore, GIA certificates carry a premium because they are the industry's safest, most consistent and strictest evaluation of a diamond's characterics. Other labs include AGS, EGL and IGI. In the diamond industry, it is understood that the other labs will have inflated color or clarity grades. We strongly recommend researching diamonds and reports if they are not GIA certified diamonds. The price difference between GIA diamonds and non-GIA diamonds can be 15% - 25%. Four Mine only carries GIA certified diamonds in order to preserve the same standard of consistency and transparency. GIA certification reports are thorough and provide all the relevant information required to assess a diamond. Each report has a unique identification number and all diamonds under 1.00ct are laser inscribed by GIA on the girdle of the diamond in order to verify them. All diamonds above 1.00ct have optional laser inscription. Nowadays, most diamonds do have a laser inscription of the report number for ease of identification.

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How to Read a GIA Report

GIA reports come in 2 forms: diamond dossiers and diamond grading reports. We'll show you what to look for and how to free both. Diamond Dossiers: these reports are standard practice for all diamonds under 1.00ct. The largest difference between a dossier and a full grading report is that a dossier does not have a GIA diamond plot, which maps the location of inclusions.

example of GIA diamond dossier report for diamonds under 1.00ct


Line 1: Date of certification and unique GIA report number assigned to every graded diamond.

Line 2: The shape of a diamond and whether or not it is a brilliant cut diamond.

Line 3: The length x width x height of the diamond.

Line 4: Identification of the 4 C's of diamonds starting with the precise carat weight rounded to the nearest 0.01ct.

Line 5: The color grade assigned to the diamond.

Line 6: The clarity grade assigned to the diamond.

Line 7: The cut grade as signed to the diamond (only available for round cut diamonds).

Line 8: The polish grade assigned to the diamond.

Line 9: The symmetry grade assigned to the diamond.

Line 10: The fluorescence grade assigned to the diamond.

Line 11: The grade setting clarity characteristics known as inclusions that are found within the diamond.

Line 12: The inscription laser etched on the girdle of the diamond.

Line 13: Comments provided by the gemologist about any potential treatments or clarity inclusions that affect the sparkle of the diamond.

Diamond chart: These are all the angles and measures that contribute to the diamond's cut grade. These include the diamond table, depth, crown angle, crown height, girdle size, pavillion angle, pavilion depth and culet. GIA also provide the 4 C's grading scales as reference points so you can identify in which range your diamond sits. GIA reports can be verified by entering the report number on the GIA Report Check.

How to Get a Diamond GIA Certified

To receive a GIA certification, it costs money. Even if your stone turns out to be of much lower quality than you hoped, or even a synthetic, it costs over $100 for a one-carat gemstone. Most people then have a popular jewelry retailer or trusted gem expert insure and ship the diamond to a GIA lab for testing and inspection. Once they’ve concluded their evaluation, they will send it back to you, along with your certificate (or an explanation as to why it was uncertifiable) and any other documentation you may need or request, including the laser-imprinted I.D. number of your diamond.

GIA diamond grading report with all the diamond attributes as an example

Line 1: Date of certification and unique GIA report number assigned to every graded diamond.

Line 2: The shape of a diamond and whether or not it is a brilliant cut diamond.

Line 3: The length x width x height of the diamond.

Line 4: Identification of the 4 C's of diamonds starting with the precise carat weight rounded to the nearest 0.01ct.

Line 5: The color grade assigned to the diamond.

Line 6: The clarity grade assigned to the diamond.

Line 7: The cut grade assigned to the diamond (only available for round cut diamonds).

Line 8: The polish grade assigned to the diamond.

Line 9: The symmetry grade assigned to the diamond.

Line 10: The fluorescence grade assigned to the diamond.

Line 11: The grade setting clarity characteristics known as inclusions that are found within the diamond.

Line 12: The inscription laser etched on the girdle of the diamond.

Line 13: Comments provided by the gemologist about any potential treatments or clarity inclusions that affect the sparkle of the diamond.

GIA grading report with a diamond plot showing the inclusions mapping

Diamond Plot: The diamond plot shows 2 very important features of the diamond. First, it shows the faceting style of the diamond. This is valuable because in shapes such as Cushion, they can vary in their cutting and faceting style as well as in their length (rectangular or square). Second, the plot includes red and green markings that represent the size, type and location of inclusions. These plot are subjective because they are hand plotted by GIA gemologists.

Finally, below the plot, you'll find the definitions of the red and green markings, including the type of inclusion. Please note that there could be inclusions other than what is described in the plot. The major, most visible, grade setting inclusions are plotted.

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