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.
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.
1) You know exactly whether the diamond is natural or synthetic.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’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!