the 5th c

A reliable grading report is very important when buying a diamond.

By now, you probably know the price of a diamond is largely dependant on the qualities of its 4Cs. If somebody shows you an uncertified diamond and claims that it has an F color and SI1 clarity rating, how do you know the diamond is really an F and not an H color? Could the SI1 clarity be misrepresented when it is actually an I1 instead?

Well, there’s no easy way to accurately 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 its clarity.

The fact is, 99.9% of consumers do not have such skills or equipment to do so. Let me tell you that even a trained professional won’t be able to accurately do so without proper lighting conditions and tools.

More importantly, do you think it is a good idea to take the salesman’s word for an assessment of the stone they are selling?

The answer is No!

That’s why you have to depend on neutral 3rd party grading reports (also referred to as certificates) to give you an unbiased and impartial assessment of the diamond’s qualities.

What is a Diamond Grading Report (Certificate)?

gia certificate 5 cs

This is what a GIA diamond certificate looks like.

Basically, a diamond grading report is a scientific blueprint of the diamond’s quality and characteristics (i.e. 4Cs). At this point, I would also like to clarify some misconceptions and 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 reasons it is commonly used in the industry are mainly for marketing purposes and because it is an easier term for consumers to understand.

Reasons Why You Should Only Buy a GIA or AGS Certified Diamond

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) Allows you to easily compare diamonds due to the consistency of grading.

4) Provides you with added confidence and value.

Now, there are plenty of gemological labs that provide grading services but the two most reliable labs in the world are GIA and AGS. They are highly recognized in the jewelry industry for their impartial, consistent and precise grading standards.

As a consumer, you should NEVER buy a diamond that is graded any other lab unless you want to get ripped off.

But I Could Save Money By Going “Un-certified”…

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. This is always used as a marketing pitch to prey on unwary customers and 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.

how much does grading a diamond costs?

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. If it were sent to GIA for impartial grading, the resultant grading report will reflect the inferior quality of the diamond and make it unsalable.

If you want to buy a high quality GIA or AGS certified diamond, make sure you check out White Flash and James Allen. Both vendors are highly reputable and have a superb selection of diamonds for you to cherry pick from.

“I’m Offered a Deal For a Diamond With an Appraisal Document”

international gemological information summation of appraisal valuation report

Example of an appraisal document – IGI Summation of Appraisal Report

In order to make you feel good about a purchase and think that you’ve gotten the deal of a century, there are also unethical jewelers who would use appraisal documents to market uncertified diamonds.

Here’s how they will market a pitch to scam uneducated consumers. “Look, this diamond has a stated value for $10,000 in this appraisal document and it’s only going for $4,000 if you buy it now”.

In truth, the diamond ring is of low quality and may not even cost $2,000. Just by slapping on a fictitious value on a piece of worthless document, the jeweler had grossly inflated the value of the ring to make you feel like you have gotten a great deal.

The thing is, a diamond grading report (certificate) is NOT the same as an appraisal or valuation certificate and there is a big difference between the two.

A diamond grading report is a document that contains the characteristics of the diamond (e.g. 4Cs) and is supposed to be an impartial assessment that doesn’t peg any monetary value to the diamond.

A diamond appraisal document places a monetary value on a diamond or a piece of jewelry. It is usually used for insurance purposes and relies on estimations. As a result, an appraisal document is less objective and in reality, the “value” that is printed on that paper can be any amount that the jeweler wants.

Wait, My Jeweler Told Me That They Grade Using GIA’s Standards

jeweler grading a diamond

This is another common scam that is run by scumbags in the industry. Very often, you will come across jewelers who claim that their diamonds are graded by GIA certified appraisers and it’s the “same” thing as a GIA grading report.

Now, you need to be very careful when someone says that. 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 to rip you off.

In-house certifications or appraisal reports are frowned upon because they always open up avenues for abuse. 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 and co ring and certificate

Tiffany’s grading document is the only exception of an in-house gemological report I trust.

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 be 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!

If you are looking for ideal cut diamonds that are crafted with the best light performance and precision, check out the signature diamonds from White Flash and Brian Gavin.


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13 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Greg-
    July 22, 2015 at 12:09 am

    Tiffany does also offer a warranty with every diamond sold ensuring that if you are take your diamond to GIA (or another independent grading lab), the independent report will at the very minimum give the same grades as the Tiffany in-house diamond report, if not better. If this is not the case, the warranty guarantees a full refund for the entire lifetime of the diamond.

  2. Avatar
    bas verlee-
    June 25, 2017 at 4:01 am

    Great website you have. We spend many hours on it this weekend after visiting a Tiffany’s store where we basically heard for the first time about grades, cuts etc. After our visit, I started Googling for Tiffany reviews and found your website. My fiancee Amanda and I got engaged last weekend in Sydney, Australia and are excited to find a nice engagement ring. Due to an international secondment of 3 months we are currently living in Sydney (until September). I’m Dutch and Amanda is Canadian and we normally live in The Netherlands.

    Yesterday we went to the Tiffany store. After spending some time at the store Amanda really likes the Tiffany Harmony design:
    https://www.tiffany.com/jewelry/rings/tiffany-harmony-ring-GRP06731/

    We were pairing this ring with a 0.50 – 0.62 carat round diamond and found out that prices range from AUD 9.000 – 11.000 (USD 5.300 – 8.300) excluding 10% VAT. This however includes the ring which is about AUD 2.000 (USD 1.500). This makes the price for the diamond around USD 3.800 – 6.800 excluding VAT. Given that this price was a bit steep for our budget we asked them to look into their inventory. The salesperson came up with AUD 7.200 ring (USD 5.400: about USD 1.500 for the ring + USD 3.900 for the diamond) for a 0.62 carat diamond, SI1 (slightly included), Color I. She said SI1 graded diamonds normally do not pass Tiffany’s standard, but some do. We will hear next week whether this ring is still available.

    Anyway, given the price levels, I started to do some research on the quality of the diamond and to find out more about Tiffany’s quality and to get an idea of the Tiffany “mark up”. That is how I found you on Google. After doing some research online I would think we can get a higher quality diamond for these price levels.

    After reading your articles I am now researching the Sydney area to check if there are any suppliers around where we can find a nicer, better priced alternative and a higher quality stone. I would reckon though that most stores will just show you their diamond collection (and maybe a GIA certificate) and that it would be difficult to spot a nice stone with the naked (unprofessional) eye. Therefore I have a couple of questions I would like to ask you:

    1. Do you know any suppliers over here (Sydney, Australia) that we should check?

    2. I did a search myself of course and most stores only have a simple website not showing their selection of diamonds online. I found one store however, GS Diamonds, that also offers GIA certified diamonds online. They seem to have a big selection and you can search using criteria although it kind of overwhelmed me. Would you be able to find a good quality diamond using the filters on their website?

    3. We looked at online stores such as James Allen and Whiteflash. We are a bit worried about buying a ring online without seeing it on your finger first. I therefore was thinking of buying a diamond online at Whiteflash (for example) and buying the ring in a local store somewhere else. Would you recommend this?

    4. Would you consider the SI1 rock Tiffany is going after? (given it is SI1 graded)

    5. Any other tips you have for our situation? We could also look for nice diamonds in Kuala Lumpur in a couple of months (holiday) or back home in the Netherlands I was thinking.

    To sum up, we are looking for:
    • round shape diamond
    • 0.50 – 0.65 carat weight
    • I would say VS2 or better
    • (near) colorless (read on your website that grading H or better is sufficient for this carat weight
    • Best cut possible of course
    • Budget max. USD 5.000 for the entire ring, let’s say that max. USD 3.500,- for the diamond.

    Hoping you have some time for our questions. Many thanks for your help!

    Kind regards

    Sebastian

  3. Avatar
    Paul Gian-
    June 27, 2017 at 2:43 am

    Well, you should be reading every single word here: http://beyond4cs.com/buying-diamonds-blind/

    What you are doing with the local store is way more risky. I tell people to go online to shop NOT because of better prices. It’s because of better selections and quality. The lower prices are just a by-product of shopping online.

    There are no problems with buying a Tiffany diamond ring. You just need to come to terms with paying a significant premium for the branding while getting product that’s nothing remarkable. Stick with the online vendors I recommend if you want a high quality product at a competitive price point.

  4. Avatar
    Eduardo-
    October 6, 2017 at 6:44 am

    Hello Paul.

    First of all, thank you all the light you have brought me about buying diamonds detailed in your web page beyond4cs.com

    I’m in the quest for finding a great engagement ring according to my budget, the best value for money I can get (as much as anyone else I guess)!

    This is the second time I’m going to by an engagement ring and I wish I had made more research like the one I’m doing right now, it would have certainly saved me a lot of money.

    The first time I just walked into a diamond store here in Mexico and bought a 0.5 carat, G , ideal cut with S2 clarity; the diamond wasn’t GIA or AGS certificated, it had only a store certificate and it costed me about USD 6 K back then (when the Mexico-USD exchange rate was 13 pesos per 1 dollar).

    Imagine my surprise that I could have gotten a +1.00 carat equivalent diamond with GIA certificate back then with the same money!… if only I had made my homework properly…and since then, the exchange rate is now on the 18 pesos per dollar mark, I have to think in something like USD 3,200 for the whole diamond + ring

    Anyway, I was wondering if you could give me your opinion on some diamonds I’ve found at James Allen web site (which of all the sites you have reviewed in your web site I think it’s the best since it have a very good and intuitive search tool and the videos are extremely visible and top quality)

    My Top 3 picks are these ones:

    Top 1 – 0.81 CARAT G-SI2 EXCELLENT CUT ROUND DIAMOND – https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut/0.81-carat-g-color-si2-clarity-excellent-cut-sku-3332526

    It has a visible cloud… on a 20X close up, as far as I can tell it sparkles a lot and have no fluorescence! Other than the cloud I think it’s a very good value for money On the holloway cut adviser it has light return, scintillation and fire excellent and spread very good – Price USD 2,660

    Top 2 – 0.77 CARAT G-VS2 EXCELLENT CUT ROUND DIAMOND – https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut/0.77-carat-g-color-vs2-clarity-excellent-cut-sku-338312

    It has a cloud also and other things, but couldn’t find it on a 20X close up, I see that the hearts and arrows are not very visible and it’s more expensive than the previous pick (Top 1)
    On the halloway cut adviser it has light return -scintillation excellent and spread -fire very good – Price USD 3,030

    Top 2 – 0.76 CARAT F-SI1 EXCELLENT CUT ROUND DIAMOND – https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut/0.76-carat-f-color-si1-clarity-excellent-cut-sku-3291991

    It has a cloud also, but couldn’t find it on a 20X close up, I see that the hearts and arrows are not very visible and it’s more expensive than the previous pick (Top 1)

    On the halloway cut adviser, it has light return, scintillation and fire-spread good – Price USD 2,930

    I have not yet asked for the Asset image of the diamonds but wanted If you could possibly take a look at them. BTW they do not have your ideal cut measures, but very very close to them…

    Hope you have a great day Paul (the bot) and hope to hear from you soon!

    Regards!

    Eduardo Catzin

  5. Avatar
    Paul Gian-
    October 7, 2017 at 4:45 am

    The Holloway Cut Advisor (HCA) is a useless tool and I suggest you ditch all usage of it. All 3 diamonds are mediocre stones and it shows up in the videos. The light performance is mediocre and the crown angles are way too high which affects the balance of brightness and fire. Dump all 3.

    I did a comprehensive search for you and would recommend these stones instead:

    https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut/0.72-carat-g-color-vs2-clarity-ideal-cut-sku-3426131
    https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut/0.72-carat-f-color-si1-clarity-ideal-cut-sku-2502540

    These 2 diamonds are eyeclean and exceptionally well cut for light performance. They are much much much much much better choices than the stones you picked.

    Go for these instead of the 3 you picked.

  6. Avatar
    Eduardo-
    October 9, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    Thanks a lot for the feedback!!!

    I honestly didn’t thought the stones were that bad. I find it hard to distinguish the light performance without a comparison (and I’ve read your recommendations in the web page several times) About the crown angles that’s something I was taking as of less importance than the rest of the variables; seems I was very wrong!

    Thank you again for taking the time to lend a hand to someone you don’t know at all…

    Regards!

    Eduardo Catzin

  7. Avatar
    Eduardo-
    October 11, 2017 at 7:41 am

    Paul hello again. Would you recommend buying in Bluenile vs James Allen? It seems that the videos are much better at James Allen so that’s what I’m asking. Both also have GIA certified diamonds.

    I noticed, from your last recommendation of James Allen diamonds on the previous e mail, that you filtered by TRUE HEARTS in the tool search. Should I try to focus on the true hearts cut? or the Ideal Cuts are also a fair bet filtering by your Round Ideal Cut proportion’s suggestions (https://beyond4cs.com/shapes/round/ideal-proportions/? (also looking for excellent polish and symmetry)

    When searching in Blue Nile should I focus on Astor Ideal Cut or the Ideal cut are also fair bet? In this site, I can’t seem to find the crown and pavilion angle and lower girdles and star facets (seems it’s done on purpose, for example in this one https://www.bluenile.com/diamond-details/LD00435365)

    Sorry I ask about this when you have already sent me a very good suggestion, the thing is i’m trying to maximize the diamond carat as much as I can and get a diamond with the suggested characteristics you recommend (and also have a look at the real stone in video, phones idealscope, etc); I’m also ashamed it took so long to communicate again, but we had a major quake in Mexico City and the following week was a very busy and strange period of time…

    Hope you can give me some more advice, regards!

  8. Avatar
    Paul Gian-
    October 12, 2017 at 9:33 am

    I read about the earthquake on the news and am glad you are OK. It must be tough times there.

    Buying from Bluenile is fine as long as you stick to listings with videos. The Astors generally have good optical symmetry and light performance. You can actually find the proportions of the diamond inside the GIA certificate.

    https://www.bluenile.com/diamond-details/LD00435365 is a decent stone but there is some light leakage under the table facet. However, if cut quality and sparkle are your priority, these 2 stones would edge the stone above.

    https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut/0.72-carat-g-color-vs2-clarity-ideal-cut-sku-3426131
    https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut/0.72-carat-f-color-si1-clarity-ideal-cut-sku-2502540

    If carat size is a priority, by all means go for the BlueNile diamond. You actually did pretty well to pick this stone out.

  9. Avatar
    Eduardo-
    December 31, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    Hello again Paul.

    I just wanted to thank you for your advice and recommendations to buy a proper diamond in James Allen. I ended up buying one of the ones you recommended (https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut/0.72-carat-g-color-vs2-clarity-ideal-cut-sku-3426131) and I must say I was pretty impressed of the diamond quality; It was definitely worth the price I paid for it and much more!!!

    My now fiance, LOVED IT. I proposed her on Dec 29th and she can’t stop looking at it!

    All your recommendations in beyond4cs.com ARE TRUTH AND CORRECT: Cut is the king and should never be sacrificed for the other Cs, choosing a perfect cut diamond within the dimensions in the diamond certificate you recommend DOES MAKE THE DIAMOND look bigger and it sparks very beautiful. The importance of the 5th c of certification is also important!

    If you give me permission, I would like to leave you a note in your blog for all the help and a reference to the Diamond you recommended.

    Thank you!

    Eduardo Catzin

  10. Avatar
    nicholas colucci-
    February 27, 2018 at 4:03 am

    you are amazing thank you for all this info. so can you help me buy an engagement ring? i would pay for your knowledge. I am going to a local shop maybe you can join me by phone? I am trying to buy a non GIA certified diamond because I don’t believe that all other certificates are bad. lets discuss please.
    thank you
    nick

  11. Avatar
    Paul Gian-
    February 27, 2018 at 6:10 am

    There are too many discrepancies in non-GIA or AGS lab reports. From experience, and I say this having examined diamonds that are graded by hundreds of different labs, NONE of them come close to the accuracy or credibility of GIA and AGS.

    No decent jeweller will attempt to sell you a non GIA/AGS certified diamond and those that do, are scumbags in the industry. It’s as simple as that. The diamond certification is important because it helps you make an informed and logical decision based on reliable facts. So, don’t fall victim to inflated grading regardless of what a jeweller may say otherwise about buying an uncertified or a diamond with dubious certification.

    Of course, you could disagree with what I say and still want to buy a diamond without a GIA or AGS certificate because it is “cheaper”. Well, it’s your money at the end of the day. If you want to overpay for inferior quality, that’s up to your own choice.

    If you have questions, you can contact me via email and details are in the contact us page. But really, it’s easy to DIY by reading up and shopping sensibly without succumbing to greed.

  12. Avatar
    trudy-
    March 7, 2019 at 9:46 pm

    I started shopping for a diamond on James Allen recently and noticed that there are a lot more AGS-certified diamond than GIA in the 1 ct. range. The AGS ones also offer an ASET image right on the description page, saving me the trouble of requesting the Idealscope image from JA for the GIA ones. Do you think AGS is equally good or should I just stick with GIA?

  13. Avatar
    Paul Gian-
    March 8, 2019 at 8:35 am

    Most of the diamonds you are referring to that are graded by AGS belong to the Truehearts signature series. These are diamonds curated for light performance and cut precision by JA. AGS is much stricter than GIA when grading cut quality and polishers will usually send the cream of the crop to AGS for their top grading and the rest of their mediocre stuff to GIA so that it gets a respectable triple Ex to make them more marketable. So, these diamonds from AGS are better cut and if you are a layperson, it’s much easier to make a selection there. You can read more details about that here: https://beyond4cs.com/reviews/james-allen/true-hearts/

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