Buying Certified Diamonds – GIA or IGI ?
If you are buying a diamond, you want to be sure that it is the real deal, and it has all the characteristics that your jeweler is claiming it has. To that end, there are certain companies that provide certification for diamonds. The two big names in the diamond certification business are IGI and GIA.
Often, people get confused about which one is more reliable and how their diamond certification process works. You may also wonder what exactly a diamond certificate contains and whether you should buy a certified diamond at all. If you have similar burning questions, you have landed at the right place.
But before we take a deep dive into the certification process of both the labs, you need to first understand why you need to buy a diamond with a certification and what does a certificate contains.
What is a diamond certificate?
In a nutshell, a diamond certificate is a third-party opinion that states every characteristic and feature of the diamond. When it comes to diamonds, a certification can prove two things:
- That the diamond is 100% what it claims to be – that is, natural or enhanced.
- That the quality of the stone, that is, its color, carat, and cut meet the standards set by the market. These parameters are often verified by a certified gemologist.
Usually, the certificate will have the following information:
- The shape and dimensions of the stone
- Weight in carats
- Color and clarity grade of the stone
- Standard of the finish of the diamond, for instance, the polish, symmetry, and girdle width
If your diamond is round cut, the certificate will tell you what the cut grade of the stone is.
Why should you get a certified diamond?
In very simple words, a diamond certificate protects you from fraud.
For anyone who is not an expert gemologist, it is hard to judge the quality of a diamond just by looking at it. A diamond certificate
proves to you that the diamond has the same carat, color and cut that the jeweler is claiming it has.
If there is no certification with a diamond, you only have the word of the jeweler to rely upon. And they may be the most trustworthy jeweler in the world, but it is still a lot to ask a customer to trust them with something as expensive as a diamond.
Without certification, there is also a conflict of interest between you and the jeweler. The jeweler is the one selling you the diamond, so it can be difficult to trust their word alone. A certification from a third party will help you verify the claims made by the jeweler, as well as check the authenticity of the stone itself.
A certificate also helps prevent you from overpaying for a particular stone. The neutral 3rd party grading not only voids any conflict of interest, it also ensures that you are paying for exactly what you are getting. Moreover, with these certificates, you can rest assured that there is no biased grading because the labs no have anything to gain from it.
Among other things, a certificate from a lab that is reliable and well-reputed will help you determine whether you are buying a naturally mined diamond, or if you are buying a treated or synthetic stone. Because the latter kinds of diamonds are cheaper than natural ones and it is hard to tell the difference with the naked eye, some inauthentic jewelers might pass a synthetic stone as a natural one and charge more. A certificate will prevent this from happening.
All in all, a certified diamond will provide you the scientific blueprint of the stone, verify its properties and features, and attest that the stone is real. The certificate will also help you if you want to insure the diamond, or if you want to sell it in the future.
The Grading Labs
There is an abundance of grading labs around the world that certify diamonds. As a consumer, you need to know what the differences between these labs are and what their grading certificates entail.
This is because each gemological institute or lab tends to have its own grading system as well as nomenclature. You will also notice that some labs are very stringent in their standards and very consistent, others may be looser and more inconsistent.
Due to this, you will also see very different results for the same diamond if it is evaluated by different labs. The problem that then arises is that an inaccurate assessment of a stone may result in an inaccurate assessment of the price of the same. If you do not know how a lab operates and what its standards are, you may very well end up paying more for a diamond of inferior quality.
Here is a look at two of the most popular diamond labs in the world: GIA and IGI. Let’s discuss which one you should prefer.
GIA or Gemological Institute of America
This is the leading standard for diamond grading in the world. It is one of the most trusted and reliable names in the industry. The headquarters of the company are located in Carlsbad, California, and have offices in cities all over the world. GIA is currently employing 1400 scientists, certified diamond graders, and educators. Besides certification, the institute also provides educational work in the industry and focuses on research related to developing better gemological technology.
In the industry, a certification by GIA is considered to be the gold standard. The company is well-known for its strict standards for grading diamonds, as well as the consistency with which they work. If you are buying a diamond that is graded by GIA, you can rest assured that the quality of the diamond is exactly what is represented in the certificate.
In other words, a GIA certificate is a true mark of authenticity and you can blindly buy anything that is certified by the GIA.
IGI or International Gemological Institute
Based in Antwerp, Belgium, the lab is the second most popular grading lab in the world. The institute grades polished natural as well as synthetic diamonds on a commercial level, and is quite popular among Asian countries.
Although the institute bills itself as one of the most reliable and trustworthy diamond grading companies, sadly, that is simply not true. While the company is not the worst in the world as there are many labs that are outright lying to customers, it has been noticed that there are certain inconsistencies in diamonds graded by IGI.
And that’s not all, the certification process of IGI is also laxer compared to GIA. They also work fast and grade diamonds on a large scale, which results in lowered standards. As a consequence of all this, they are seen as inferior to the standard bearers in the diamond industry, like GIA.
GIA vs IGI: Which certificate to choose and why?
When deciding what kind of certification to buy a diamond with, it is very simple – ALWAYS CHOOSE GIA.
As mentioned before, GIA has stringent standards that are simply unmatched. To give you an idea of the difference between the two labs, consider this: The IGI grade for a diamond is usually at least half or 1 grade above the certification provided by GIA. A VS1 grade by GIA may be graded as VVS2 by IGI. G color by GIA may be certified as F by IGI.
Since GIA has more stringent standards, you will notice that the diamonds certified by IGI are generally 7-8% cheaper than those graded by GIA. Because the truth is that you may be overpaying for an inferior diamond, instead of getting a diamond of the same quality at a cheaper price.
Now, as a consumer, this is very important for you. A GIA certification will tell you that you are getting exactly what you are paying for, while that by IGI may or may not be accurate. With a GIA certificate, you can compare the prices of similar stones and make sure that you are getting a fair deal. The same cannot be said for IGI certifications.
The problem with IGI
Consider this – a one-carat SI2 diamond generally costs $4k, and a stone with all other similar specs but I1 grading costs $3k.
Now, a jeweler might offer you an IGI diamond with SI2 clarity for $3.5k with an IGI certificate. You may think to yourself that you are getting a great deal and saving $500. But in truth, the institute may have marked up an I1 diamond to SI2 and you are actually overpaying for the stone.
It is not necessarily true that that happens all the time, but there are just enough cases that make you doubt the authenticity of an IGI certificate. On the other hand, if you have a certification by GIA that the diamond is SI2, you can rest assured that it is 100% what it claims to be.
Therefore, if someone is selling you an IGI certified diamond, it is not necessarily true that the diamond is inferior. Some IGI labs like the ones in New York City have standards quite as strong as GIA labs. But the problem is that you cannot know with certainty whether your diamond has been appraised in NYC or, say, in Antwerp or Mumbai. And the latter set of labs is certainly laxer with their grading than the former.
Say that a diamond was appraised in an IGI lab in Botswana. Then, it was sent to the IGI lab in NYC. In such cases, the NYC lab will usually honor the certifications made by their sister lab and issue a certificate that has the same grades as the one made in Botswana.
This rumor has actually been tested. The NYC lab tends to honor the grades of other IGI labs which do not have very strict standards of grading. This does damage their credibility to a large extent and this is the reason why it is usually recommended to take the grading by IGI with a grain of salt.
On the other hand, labs like GIA do not let anything affect their grading. Any markings on the diamond besides the SKU number and the weight of the stone are ignored by the lab, and everything else is investigated from scratch. GIA also doesn’t factor the grade of another lab, so you can test the theory for yourself and see if they are consistent with their grading (spoiler alert: they are).
When should you buy an IGI certified diamond?
Having said that, it should not mean that one can never buy IGI certified diamonds. There are certain types of stones that can be safely bought whether they are certified by IGI or GIA.
For example, if you are buying a stone that has a very high color or like, like a stone with FVS1, you are better off buying something that has been certified by GIA. But if you are buying a stone that has slightly lower quality, like a stone with I color grading or SI1 grading, you can consider buying something that has been certified by IGI. This way, you can save some cash without having to adjust too much on quality.
GIA is the industry standard for diamonds above 0.18 carats, but if you are buying diamonds below that weight and you are buying more than one piece, you can certainly consider IGI certified diamonds. This is because when it comes to a studded diamond jeweler, IGI is one of the best labs in the world.
In fact, IGI has the best technology for testing natural diamonds in a piece of studded jewelry. For these types of diamonds, a gradation by IGI is a stamp of the authenticity of the diamond.
Don’t get misguided by jewelers
As mentioned before, every lab has its own grading process. Not only that, some labs use the same terminology, which creates even more confusion. It also creates a false picture in the minds of the consumers.
When jewelers try to sell you low quality diamonds, they may use this terminology to create a false impression for the customers. They may even give you unreasonable explanations like you are buying the diamond, not a piece of paper if they are trying to sell you an uncertified diamond.
Other unethical jewelers may use a sales pitch that would sound something like, “GIA and IGI have both rated the diamonds in the same way. Why do you want to pay more for a GIA certified diamond when you can get a bigger discount with the non-GIA stone?”
The consumers should know that the reason some diamonds are GIA certified and others are not is no coincidence. Such jewelers have made a careful choice in getting the diamonds certified keeping in mind their profits. There is no evidence that getting a diamond certified by GIA is more expensive.
If you are getting a non-GIA diamond at a big discount and the GIA one is highly priced, it is not because the evaluation process is expensive, but because the non-GIA diamond is inferior. The reason a jeweler might push you to buy a non-GIA diamond is because they are banking on your ignorance and it will make them a profit.
At first glance, it may look like you are getting a great deal, but in reality, you are buying an inferior quality diamond at a marked-up price. This is the reason why unethical jewelers sell diamonds that are not certified by GIA and other reputable labs.
The bottom line is that GIA is considered the industry standard for all loose solitaire diamonds above the weight of 0.18 carts. In fact, it is no coincidence that you will never find a reputable jeweler with diamonds certified by labs that over-grade the stones. Most traders who are worth their reputation and are known for their great quality stones know that there is no superior authority for grading diamonds other than GIA.
If you know the diamond industry and have experience in buying and selling diamonds, you can make the decision regarding the certification of diamonds by yourself. But if you do not anything about buying diamonds and want to make sure that your money is well-spent and you are buying what you are paying for – just remember one thumb rule:
NOTE: Do not buy anything that is not GIA certified If you have not knowledge in diamonds.
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