Diamond Certification

Diamond Certification.

For some time, we have seen the rise of diamond certification as a means to show a diamond’s grade. Thanks to the internet, people now have a greater ability to access information about all sorts of subjects. With this, the demand for information about diamonds has grown too. Diamond certification or diamond reports have now become pretty well standard for all diamonds weighing over half a carat.

diamond certification with round brilliant cut diamond
A diamond with GIA certification.

Many years ago, a person wanting to buy a diamond would simply have gone to their local jeweller. They would have taken the jeweller’s word on what was a good diamond to buy. The jeweller did not have to be exact about diamond grades.  It was common for a jeweller to simply say a diamond was around G-H in colour and VS-SI in clarity. This is still the practice in some stores. It is very inaccurate to quote a price on diamonds that spread over four grades. Consumers should expect more from their jeweller than this.

Why did diamond certification come about?

Consumers had no way of telling exactly what it was they were buying when they bought a diamond without certification. Equally, in an area where the detail dictates price, they had no way of knowing if the asking price was fair and in line with the market. Without certification, grades stated by a retail store were likely to be wide of the mark.

Some jewellers still sell large diamonds without certification. There is no law that says certification is required when you purchase a diamond. When buying a diamond make sure the grades in question have some basis in fact. It is important that the main diamond, in particular, has a lab report of good standing in the trade. A Gemological Institute of America (GIA) report for example. For more information on GIA certified diamonds, click here.

You should also receive a valuation with any ring that you buy. This is an independent assessment of the diamond and the ring. The valuer who assesses the ring should be a member of the National Council of Jewellery Valuers. The valuation will confirm the details of the size and quality of the gemstones. It will also identify any documentation that accompanies the main diamond/s.

Does Every Diamond in a Ring come with Certification?

There is a simple answer to that…no. This is because it is not cost effective or practical to have all diamonds certified. Diamonds of 0.50 ct (half carat) are often certified. GIA Labs don’t certify small diamonds (less than 0.15 pt currently ). The main reason for this is the cost. A ring with 100 diamonds would have 100 certificates! In this case, the certification will cost more to produce than the ring it is sold with! You would need a wheelbarrow to carry home your documents.

Another reason is the need to match diamonds in a ring that has multiple small diamonds. You cannot always match diamonds visually as well as with exact paperwork. Exact certification matching is difficult and in some cases out of the question. “Visually matching” is the normal procedure for smaller diamonds and difficult precise shapes.

One last thing is volume. Once a cutter submits a diamond to the GIA for assessment, they need it back in order to sell it as quickly as possible. Adding a number of smaller diamonds into the mix would increase delays.

Diamond Certification Benefits Consumers but it has Limitations.

Today many jewellers sell diamonds that have been certified. This has certainly been of benefit to the consumer. However, it is still by no means a perfect system. The issue of poor grading standards continues. Additionally, diamond certification documents provide only very basic information. Certification gives us a framework to assess things by and makes for better transparency.  Diamond certification is a useful tool, but it doesn’t provide all the answers.

Who is Diamond Certification for?

The GIA report is mainly for the customer’s reassurance and peace of mind. It only provides us in the diamond trade with a starting point for our investigations. As diamond dealers, we need more information than it provides. Of course, a diamond with a certificate is easier to sell than a diamond that doesn’t have one, so it is something we in the trade want too. However, diamond certificates leave out crucial information. In order to know if a “good” diamond is being offered to you, you will need all the missing information. You should be fully comfortable with the people you are dealing with. Most of the critical information needed is only available from the cutter or dealer. It cannot be ascertained from the GIA certificate.

Diamond Certificates Contain Only Basic Information.

The rise of diamond certification has helped to educate the consumer. However, in many ways, this has led to other problems. Consumers have become overly confident. It is thought you can rely on certification alone to purchase a good diamond. Sadly this is not the case. After over thirty-five years in the diamond trade, I would not buy a diamond just on the basis of its certification. If thirty-five years worth of knowledge is not enough for me to buy in this way, I suggest a consumer who makes a big purchase such as this without a professional involved is not spending their money wisely.

A diamond’s certifying document tells us only a little about the diamond. The certificate lists the diamond’s measurements and some information about the diamond’s cut and colour.  It gives an idea of the level of inclusions within the diamond. Grading labs tend to keep things simple and dumb down the detail in an attempt to cater for the lay person. It also makes the certifying process faster, and therefore more cost effective.

How the Diamond Actually Looks:

A diamond’s lustre is critically important. Above all else, this needs to be excellent. This is a diamond quality issue that is outside the remit of the 4C’s.  It is an issue of clarity. However, it is not covered by the GIA report in most cases. Leaving it out of the clarity assessment is a bit like saying a glass of dirty water is “clean” simply because it has no visible particles floating in it.  A diamond with low lustre can be very dull and lifeless, just like a glass of dirty water.

You will be able to see a great looking diamond sparkle from across the other side of the room. This is what every purchaser is looking for. The trouble is, certification alone does not tell you if you have a great diamond.

Does the Diamond Look Milky?

Some diamonds can have a milky appearance. This really impacts on the look of the diamond. Instead of being bright, the diamond looks cloudy or hazy. However, milkiness is unrelated to the clarity assessment of the diamond in 95 % of cases. It is rarely given a reference in GIA certifying documents even when the diamond is clearly affected by “milkiness”. It is critical to avoid this issue to get a great looking diamond.

A Brown or Green Tinge?

Diamonds can have a green or brown tinge to them. This is not only an issue that we find in low grade diamonds. Diamonds with a grade of D,E,F or G can have a brown or green tinge present. If you purchase a diamond based on the certificate alone, you would not know if the diamond suffers from this, as the grading report does not address this issue at all.

This is because the colour tint (grade) assessment is made by looking through the rear of the diamond. The problem is, some diamonds don’t look the same when viewed from the top, as we see them when they are set into a ring. The GIA ignores in its certification the question of whether or not the diamond has a brown or green tinge. This is an issue that we always check on with our cutters when we conduct our due diligence on a diamond.

Inclusions: What Colour Are They?

What colour are the naturally occurring inclusions within the diamond – black or white? It is important to know the colour of the inclusion because the colour may affect how the diamond looks. Big black marks in a white diamond will not be as clean looking as white inclusions. White inclusions will have less of an impact on the diamond’s visual appearance. The certification document will not tell you this important detail.

The Position of Inclusions Within the Diamond.

The position of the inclusions within the diamond can also affect how the diamond looks.  A single inclusion in a poor location can reflect back and forth in many facets. This will make the diamond appear as if it has more inclusions than it actually has. The inclusions in these diamonds are seen repeatedly within the diamond, like a hall of mirrors reflecting. As a result, a diamond that has a grade of SI1, will actually look like a much lower grade, such as SI2 or even lower. We cannot tell by looking at the certification if this problem exists. The GIA only marks actual inclusions on the plotting diagram.

The Plotting diagram.

The GIA diagram is only a basic likeness of the inclusions present. The plotting shows the general position and type of inclusion. It does not mark all the inclusions in all cases. Certificates give extra details in the “comments” section of the report where necessary.

It is important to note that the plotting diagram does not represent the “actual” cut design of the diamond in the report. This is especially the case in fancy cut diamonds. There is a massive variation in cut designs. The “plotting map” is a line drawing of the cut only. This is used in the main to illustrate the inclusion features of the diamond rather than its exact cut.

Issues With Relying on Diamond Certification:

Diamond Grading Standards Vary Greatly.

It is very important to be in full command of issues relating to diamond certification in order to get the best out of your budget. The fact is, issues of poor grading continue still. You get what you pay for! Not paying enough for a diamond will get you a poor example of the grade diamond you have bought. Part of the problem is that the grading of diamonds is attempting to categorise something that is really difficult, if not impossible, to define within exact parameters.

Much in diamond grading assessment is subjective. In this sense, the term “diamond grading laboratory” is perhaps a bit misleading. It gives the impression that what the lab does is to make scientific, exacting assessments in all areas. However when it comes to diamonds, labs can only be exact in terms of the diamond’s weight and it’s millimetre measurements. In other areas of the assessment, with the present system, a diamond’s grade level is just a general grouping.

The standard of the grading report is important if you want to know if a particular diamond is of suitable colour and clarity. There is no single body overseeing grading labs, so standards between them can vary. Even though they use the same terminology, the standards they apply are not always the same. A diamond graded as F in one lab can receive a grade of H or I in another lab.

Inconsistencies in Grading.

Because what is included within certain grade levels is so broad ranging, we see many diamonds that really are very bad examples of the grade they have been given. We also see many diamonds where the grades given in the certifying document are simply incorrect. This inaccurate grading is a problem for the unwary consumer wishing to purchase a diamond on the basis of this document. At Ellissi we reject these as options.

“Low end” diamonds are often the first listed on many websites. Such low end diamonds are easy to find. The “high end” diamonds within each grade level are much more difficult to source. They are fewer in number, but worth hunting for. This is what we do every day at Ellissi.

Colour and Clarity on Certification.

The system used to assess a diamond’s colour and clarity grade looks on the surface to be quite simple. The colour of the diamond is given on an alphabetical scale.  The further along the alphabet you progress, the greater the degree of tint. The assessment of where a diamond sits on the alphabetical scale can vary from one lab to the next. The difficulty is that attempting to cagegorise this is like asking a paint shop whether a tint is white? There are so many versions of white! Where does one begin and the other end? At what point do you no longer consider a tint to be white? Everyone will have a different opinion, depending on their perception of colour.

Diamond clarity, on the other hand, is a measure in steps over eleven levels. Clarity grades begin with Flawless (FL) at the top and ends with I3 (Included at the third level) as the lowest level. When looking at clarity, it is not always easy to shoehorn something as individual as a diamond into a particular grade level. The variation between diamonds in the type and position of inclusions is infinite, as every diamond is individual.

The diamond grading system in these two areas is akin to grouping all the features of the human face across the world, and putting them into just eleven groups. You can see that this system is never going to be perfect or indeed accurate enough on its own.

Which Labs are best?

Most people in the jewellery trade agree that despite some issues, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) is still the diamond certifying lab of choice. Other labs exist that work to the GIA standards, but not in every area of assessment in every case.

Click on the following link for more information about the most well known internationally recognised diamond grading laboratories.

At Ellissi, we supply GIA certified diamonds. The GIA is the industry standard for consistency and accuracy. A GIA certificate is not, on its own, a guarantee of a good diamond.

What to make of it all?

Some grading labs do offer more detail in the documents they produce. However, the problem remains that you need experience as a gem merchant or a gemologist in order to be able to interpret it. Even the best certification in the world will not tell us if the diamond is a great diamond.

When purchasing a diamond you should seek professional advice. This will help you understand the qualities we look out for in a diamond for each cut type. It is the best way to get the most out of your budget.

As diamond dealers, we talk with diamond cutters about our needs. We need the information that is missing from the grading certificate. There are more than 20 factors we look at when making our decision about any particular diamond. These factors are an important consideration in how the diamond looks and its price.

We go through this process before offering any diamond to a client. Doing this due diligence is a lot of work. However, it is an absolute must if you want a great diamond. Buying a diamond plucked from a list of diamonds on a website is very risky. You have no real way of knowing what you are getting or if the price is right.