A diamond grading report (or more commonly known as a certificate) describes the quality and characteristics of a diamond. More importantly, an independent and reliable certification provides you with an assurance that the diamond has been accurately graded without bias from the seller.
2 of the most well-known labs in the world are GIA (Gemological Institute of America) and AGS (American Gem Society). However, with the increasing demand for diamond certification from third-party entities, there is a growing number of gemological labs that offer such services.
The problem here is that each laboratory has its own methodology and standards for grading diamonds. Since there’s no organization or government body that oversees or regulates the grading standards used, it makes it very difficult for consumers to separate the reputable labs from the shady ones.
In today’s article, we will focus on a grading lab called Gemological Science Institution (GSI) and review some of the services they offer. We will also take a look at GSI diamond reports which are often found at large chain stores to see if they are any good.
Let’s jump right in…
GSI lab is a recently established and independent laboratory that offers gemstone identification, appraisals and diamond grading services. Their head office of GSI is located in New York City and they have global operations spanning across 7 countries: the United States, India, Dubai, Israel, Belgium, Hong Kong, and Botswana.
Unlike the majority of other geological labs that offer a similar suite of services and remain in obscurity, GSI built their businesses around some of the largest retail chains in the US like Jared and Zales. And that’s how many consumers get to know about the name of GSI lab.
GSI offers a variety of report formats for diamond jewelry such as the Full Diamond Examination (FDX) report, Special Diamond Examination Report (SDX), Intermediate Diamond Examination Report (IDX) and the Modified Diamond Examination Report (MDX).
They also offer customized reports that are tailored to the specific needs of jewelry companies or incorporate the company’s branding such as the example you see below for an engagement ring offered by Fred Meyer Jewelers.
A branded Fred Meyer Jeweler grading report offered by GSI.
The Full Diamond Examination is GSI’s most comprehensive report. On their website, it is stated that the FDX report can include different information such as the 4Cs, fluorescence, polish/symmetry, physical measurements, clarity plots and other details that the client (jeweler selling the product) wants to include.
Below, you can see two such examples of the FDX reports. While looking at them, try to see if you can spot the critical differences between these 2 grading reports.
Did you manage to see the differences between these 2 FDX reports? Can you see the contrasting differences in the description areas and the picture of an engagement ring being graded compared to a picture of a round diamond in the other report?
Now, this business practice of allowing clients to selectively choose what goes inside a report perplexes me because it creates inconsistencies. If someone were to compare an FDX report to another FDX report, they would be making a mistake thinking that there were equivalent documents.
But that’s not the most important point. What made me sit up with surprise is that there are also different grading methodologies used depending on what the client wants.
As seen above, one of the FDX reports shows a diamond ring that is graded after the center diamond is mounted and the color/clarity is listed as a range instead of an absolute grade. Yet, in the other FDX report shows a loose round cut diamond that has been graded in its unmounted form.
As a trained grader from GIA, it would be blasphemy if the same type of activities were carried out at a GIA lab. In order for accurate, fair and consistent grading to be carried out, every single diamond graded at GIA must be in the loose form (unmounted from setting).
The point I am making here is that different grading methods shouldn’t be used for the same type of grading report.
The Intermediate Diamond Examination report (IDX) is very similar to an FDX report and the main difference lies in the smaller physical size of the report (6.75″ x 5″ bifold document). While they do exist, I seldom see these being offered by jewelers.
The Modified Diamond Examination report is basically a condensed version of a full-fledged grading report. Some jewelers opt for this type of grading report to market and highlight a certain aspect of the diamond. In the example below, My Diamond Story is a vendor that includes a GSI light analysis of the diamond they are selling for its better light performance.
The Special Diamond Examination Report (SDX) is probably the type of document that you will come across when shopping for a diamond ring in a big-box retailer or large jewelry chain store. Here are some examples of GSI reports of authenticity to give you an idea of how they look like.
GSI offers customization to these reports with brand logos and color themes to match the corporate brands of their clients and even go as far as to include branded boxes, packaging, displays, brochures and easels.
As you can see, GSI is a very pro-business gemological lab with its suite of customizable services. Its main clients are primarily made up of large chain stores like Zales and Shane Co where they negotiate bulk grading services at a discount. Besides cost-effective grading reports, GSI also provides relatively faster turnaround time compared to labs like GIA and AGS.
Now, if you had done some prior research or been browsing at large jewelry chain stores, you would have noticed that the prices of GIA diamond rings are often much higher than GSI diamond rings when comparing like-for-like diamond grades on paper.
So, why do these price differences exist? Does it mean you are getting a better deal with a GSI certified diamond ring?
Based on my personal experience, the difference in prices are a result of differences in the “true quality” of the diamond rings. Even though a GSI certified diamond may have a similar grade as a GIA certified diamond, the GSI diamond will be lower in price because the same diamond will likely receive a much lower grade if GIA were to assess the stone.
Vendors that utilize GSI certs know this and most of them discount their goods to market them as giving customers a better deal. Even though the discounted price may make a piece of jewelry look like a great deal, the inconsistency and looseness in grading make the purchase risky.
As a consumer, the problem with buying an engagement ring with a GSI cert is that you won’t know exactly what you are buying and this makes it extremely hard to determine a fair price to pay for it.
Here’s the thing, most consumers may assume that as long as they are buying a certified diamond, they would be fine. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. In the diamond industry, the source of the grading report matters.
From my personal experience, I found that GSI’s grading is much looser than GIA/AGS. I would say that they aren’t even on the level of 2nd tier grading labs like IGI and HRD. This means that if a diamond was graded as G color and VS2 clarity by GSI, it would receive a much lower color/clarity grade if the same diamond was graded at GIA.
Now, you need to understand that different labs can have different operation practices and grading standards. That’s perfectly fine and realistically, you shouldn’t expect all labs to be grading diamonds on the level as GIA does.
In fact, GSI has never claimed that they are on par with GIA and they are just a for-profit entity that is offering a service by issuing the reports. While they may use terminology that’s similar to GIA’s, it doesn’t mean that they grade diamonds on the level of GIA’s standards.
The problem arises when salespeople and “professionals” use the GSI document as a tool to market their products as being equivalent to a GIA report.
Unethical people in the industry often use inaccurate reports to misrepresent the diamonds they are selling. This allows them to markup prices or oversell the diamond and ultimately, most shoppers end up paying more than they should for an inferior product.
The purpose of a diamond grading report is to help you make an informed buying decision and because of this, I do not recommend buying a diamond with a GSI certificate or appraisal document. This is the same advice that I would give readers who are considering diamonds graded by lower-tier labs like EGL or IGI.
That’s because the grading standards that they use are much looser and inconsistent compared to labs like GIA or AGS.
While most jewelry pieces that come with a GSI diamond report may be seemingly cheaper, it doesn’t mean you are getting a better deal nor does it mean that the true value of the diamond has been adjusted accordingly. It’s really a stab in the dark and you won’t know what you are buying exactly.
As a professional in the industry, I can tell you that when sellers choose the type of grading report they offer for their products, they don’t do it to give the uneducated consumer a better deal. Instead, it is often done with the intention of making more profits at the expense of the unwary shopper.
If you want to buy a diamond with peace of mind and get better value for money, I recommend buying those that are either GIA or AGS certified from a reputable vendor with consumer orientated sales policies.
With that, I hope this review of GSI diamond certification has been insightful and if you have further questions or need help with anything, feel free to leave a comment below to get in touch.