When you are shopping for diamonds or an engagement ring, “certification” is probably one of the first few concepts you will be introduced to. For most people, you would likely come across the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) report since it is the most widely used grading service in the world.
In today’s economy, the diamond industry is a huge booming business with rising demand from increasingly affluent countries. This has spurred the growth of jewelry related services like diamond grading and appraisals.
Besides the GIA certificate, there is a myriad of gemological labs that claim to offer “similar” grading services. I consider most of them to be dubious (e.g. EGL) while a small minority are actually decent outfits (e.g. AGS) worthy of your attention.
Outside Europe, one of the lesser known gemological labs is the HRD and you may occasionally come across a diamond graded by them. Within Europe, things are vastly different as HRD is considered a powerhouse in the industry.
For this reason, I want to bring special focus onto them to offer you a quick insight and review of the HRD lab.
Even though Belgium and the Netherlands are small countries (geographically), they are famous for their imports and exports in the diamond industry. In fact, did you know there are a number of heavyweight diamond businesses associated with these 2 countries?
Apart from Belgium based Rapaport Group and the De Beers (coincidentally a Dutch surname) cartel, HRD is also located in Belgium and has a Dutch name – Hoge Raad voor Diamant. When translated to English, HRD literally stands for the terms: High Diamond Council.
Founded in 1976, the HRD established itself as one of the top global laboratories when it comes to accurate grading services. In the European market, many in the trade consider the certifications issued by HRD as a direct alternative to GIA (although I disagree).
HRD’s Diamond Certification Lab complies with requirements laid out in “The International Rules for Grading Polished Diamonds” provided by IDC – Independent Diamond Council. That is, they follow worldwide practices that are proven and accepted by any distributor and buyer.
HRD thrives in their system of anonymity and objectivity when they grade diamonds. Their certificates also come from an authority that is well established in the trade.
Each diamond is supposedly assessed separately by a number of professionals to ensure accuracy. Also, the owner of the diamond is never made known to the graders and this helps prevent any potential conflict of interests.
Loose diamond securely sealed after its grading at HRD lab.
HRD claims to be the leading authority in the world of diamond grading. Yet, the fact is, they aren’t even considered a legitimate alternative outside the EU. And why is that so?
As a consumer, what matters to you when buying a diamond is that the grading report accurately describes the quality of the diamond. For example, if a certificate states that a diamond has an F color and SI1 clarity, it would be priced based on these qualities.
The problem with unreliable certificates is that these ratings are often inaccurate and inflated. That is to say, the true quality of the diamond could be a G color/I1 clarity and the unsuspecting consumer gets ripped off by overpaying for inferior quality.
Based on my personal experience with both labs, HRD and GIA have differing standards when it comes to color grading. HRD is lax and typically assigns 1 color grade higher than GIA.
That is to say, if a diamond was rated by HRD to be a G color, I would expect it to be an H color if GIA graded that same diamond.
When it comes to clarity grading, I find GIA to be stricter than HRD when assigning ratings on borderline cases. Let’s say a diamond sits on the border between a VS1 and a VS2 because of a small feather found near the girdle, GIA would assign this diamond to be VS2 while HRD might assign a VS1 grading.
And I’m not alone when making these observations of looser grading standards from HRD. In 2013, Rapaport performed an industry study by sending the same 10 diamonds to different gemological labs. As it turns out, GIA was the strictest and most reliable lab while HRD fared poorly with their grading results.
When it comes to a diamond grading report, I expect a gemological lab to provide credibility, accuracy, ethics and secrecy when performing their work. Unfortunately, HRD is not one of the labs that I would fully trust to deliver a reliable and trustworthy assessment.
If you’re thinking about buying an HRD certified diamond, I would caution you to reconsider doing so.
Given the discrepancies HRD has in their grading standards, I would recommend buying a diamond graded by GIA or AGS as they have better consistency and standards.