Would you consider buying a 1 carat diamond without a certificate? Most folks wouldn’t. Consumers rely on the objectivity of a third-party gem lab to tell them the properties of the diamond they’re considering.
So it is especially damaging to know that some diamond grading labs don’t do an ethical job when grading the diamonds. These “easy certs” have gained popularity within the trade, allowing the profitable sale of a diamond that isn’t as good as the cert claims. Recently this disturbing trend has been getting attention from the jewelry press:
Hedda Schupak, editor of the Centurion Newsletter, wrote about this in her article, “Are Diamond Grading Reports Art, Science, or Tool for Deception?” Rob Bates, of JCK magazine, posted this article, “The Problem With Diamond Certs“.
I admire both of these writers for shining a light on this uncomfortable subject. But before I delve deeper, I want to back up a step and discuss the value of grading reports.
The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) changed the world of diamonds in the 1950s by introducing their formal grading criteria for diamonds. Before the GIA existed, the diamond trade used exotic names like “River” for colorless, “Wesselton” for mid-range colors, and “Cape” for deeply yellow tinted diamonds. GIA standardized the way the world looked at diamonds by offering grading methodologies for both color and clarity.
GIA was also the first entity to begin issuing Diamond Grading Reports, which are referred to as “certificates” or “certs” within the trade. But they were not alone for long, and now many different firms issue various types of grading reports.
Consumers like grading reports. The information helps them evaluate their expensive purchase of a commodity that they may not fully understand. But, as the authors cited above point out, these certs are not always as accurate as they should be.
Disagreeing with a grading report is not that uncommon. Many times I’ve looked at a diamond and thought that I would have graded it slightly differently. But most often, in the past, it has been my opinion that the grading lab was being too tough. Now I’m seeing diamonds with certs that I feel are too generous – waaay too generous. So Hedda’s question, “Are diamond grading reports, art, science or tool for deception?”, rings true to me. And quoting Mr. Bates “This is not about a one-grade difference. That’s natural. When a lab is two or three grades off, that is a little harder to justify.”
Speaking about the recent Rapaport Diamond Certification Conference, Mr. Bates also points out, “That different labs often have wildly divergent standards is not exactly a secret; at the forum’s outset, organizer Martin Rapaport put up a slide that compared how different labs were valued on his RapNet trading network, as compared to GIA. One lab traded at 46 percent of the value of GIA, meaning its reports are basically worth nothing.”
So what is an honest jeweler to do? Here at Rio Grande, we have encountered this glut of “erroneously-graded” diamonds. We’ve responded by refusing to offer any non-GIA certified diamonds on our Rio Grande Diamond Marketplace. When we are seeking diamonds to offer to our customers, we certainly encounter these poorly graded stones, but we avoid them. If they are the only option, we will bring in the diamond, and offer our own grade before making any sale.
I would love to hear from you on this issue. What is your experience with diamond-grading? Do you agree that this is a crisis for our industry?