By now, you probably know that diamonds are priced based on combined qualities of the 4Cs. If somebody was to show you a diamond and tell you that it is an F color SI1 clarity diamond, how do you know the diamond is really an F and not an H? Could the SI1 clarity also be misrepresented when it is actually supposed to be an I1 instead?
You see, there’s no easy way to verify the claims made by a salesman unless you carry around a set of masterstones for color grading and know how to physically examine a diamond for clarity. The fact is, 99% of consumers do not have such skills. More importantly, do you think it is a good idea to take the salesman’s word for an accurate assessment of the stone they are selling?
That’s why you have to depend on neutral 3rd party grading labs to give you an unbiased opinion and accurate report of the diamond’s qualities. For starters, two of the most reliable labs in the world are GIA and AGS. They are highly recognized in the jewelry industry for their impartial and precise grading standards. Stick with them and you can’t go wrong.
At this point, let me clarify some myths about the 5th C. You would often hear the terms “certified diamonds” or “GIA certification” being used by jewelers. Technically speaking, legitimate gemological laboratories do not “certify” anything as they only report the characteristics of the diamond based on known grading criteria.
Although “certification” is technically an incorrect term for a grading report, the reason it is commonly used in the industry is because of marketing purposes and because it is an easier term for consumers to understand.
1) You know exactly whether the diamond is natural or synthetic.
2) Any enhancement processes are detected and stated clearly. You won’t have to 2nd guess whether the diamond is laser drilled, fracture filled or had undergone HPHT treatment processes.
3) Provides you with added confidence and value.
Really? Do you really think so?
If you had been around the local stores, you will probably hear some jewelers claiming that you don’t need a certificate for a diamond. As bait to prey on unwary customers, they will usually tell you that GIA certified diamonds cost a lot more than non-GIA certified stones.
After all, you are told that you are buying a diamond and not a piece of paper. Why shouldn’t you save yourself thousands of dollars and get an “uncertified” diamond instead?
WRONG! Let me show you why…
Let’s take a look at how much it would cost a jeweler to get a diamond graded by GIA. The screenshot below is captured directly from GIA’s website and depicts the various costs of grading diamonds.
For the latest pricing, you can check out their webpage for more details.
At the time of writing this article, the fees of grading a 1 carat diamond at GIA costs $105. Why wouldn’t the jeweler send the diamond to GIA at the cost of a hundred bucks and sell it to you for thousands more? Wouldn’t that earn them more profits by doing so? Well, you probably guessed it by now.
The stone isn’t what the jeweler claims it is.
Here’s another common scam. Some jewelers claim that their diamonds are graded by GIA certified appraisers. Be careful here. This only means the diamond was appraised by someone who graduated from GIA. It is NOT THE SAME as a certificate from the official GIA’s laboratories. What really happens here is that the jeweler is taking advantage of GIA’s prestige by associating themselves to GIA.
In my opinion, in-house certifications or appraisal reports are usually frowned upon by me. Don’t expect to get an impartial grading certificate from jewelers who are trying to sell you their own wares. In fact, grade bumping is a common phenomenon where unethical jewelers trick unaware consumers into paying more for lower quality inventory. The “supporting” documents that come with such purchases will often show overly inflated valuation and have poor standards of grading applied to them.
There are rare exceptions to this rule though. For example, the in-house certification from Tiffany & Co. is one that is pretty reliable. You need to understand that Tiffany & Co. didn’t get their good reputation by selling junk to customers.
Apart from Tiffany’s grading reports, I don’t trust any other in-house reports by any other jewelers. When you are the one spending thousands of dollars on a diamond ring purchase, I don’t think you should either.
Tiffany’s grading document is the only in-house gemological report I trust for accuracy
While I can go on the record to saying Tiffany’s lab report is reliable and trustworthy, the cut and make of their diamonds leaves much more to be desired. Also, you would expect to pay a good 70% – 100% more for a Tiffany “branded” diamond compared to a diamond purchased elsewhere with similar specifications.
Personally speaking, a diamond is just a diamond. Paying an excessive premium for “branded” jewelry may not be the wisest thing to do especially if you have other expenses to take care of. Unless you are the type of person who loves to flaunt or show off, there are many other alternatives out there that can offer far better quality than branded stores like Tiffany or Cartier.
For me? I’ll rather let a more brilliant and sparkly stone do the talking and keep the extra cash in my own pockets. Remember to stick with GIA or AGS graded diamonds to be sure of what you will are getting.
In a nutshell, I had basically covered the essential steps of shopping for a diamond. The final part of this step by step guide is a quick checklist to summarize all the things you had learnt so far. Good luck!