About 20 years ago, buying a diamond with a second opinion given on its quality (a certified diamond) was fairly uncommon, but when it was certified you could trust the certification papers it came with. Today, things are very different. The certification of a diamond is often used to mislead the consumer rather than protect them, and here are some of the ways it’s done.
Accidental and Fraudulent Grading
A lot of the time a retail jeweler or wholesaler will literally shop for diamonds that are mistakenly or intentionally graded a higher quality than they actually are, so it appears they have great prices. These diamonds are not worth a dime more than their correct grade would dictate, but since the certification says they’re better quality than they are , it makes them very easy to sell for some extra profit to unsuspecting consumers.
Another common problem is intentionally, or even fraudulently misgraded certified diamonds. Today there are thousands of companies who make diamond certificates, and in order to take business away from the GIA and EGL they will grade diamonds as being better than they actually are. This ensures that plenty of diamond sellers become and stay their paying customers.
The “Good Guys” Aren’t Perfect
The GIA has long been known as one of the most reputable diamond graders but interestingly enough, they have had their share of problems too. About 7 years ago they were charged with thousands, if not millions of fraudulently graded diamonds, as some of the grading supervisors were taking kickbacks from the big companies to grade their diamonds better than they actually were. And, while EGL (USA) and AGS are fairly reliable, EGL (IL) and others are a different story. Diamonds graded by the EGL branch in Israel can easily be four grades lower in quality than the stated grade.
The other well known company is the AGS (American Gem Society). A lot of online diamond vendors and retailers carry AGS certified diamonds and tout them as being one of the strictest grading companies. Well, they might also be saying that because they are paying to be an AGS member and carry their diamonds! When someone pays YOU to carry YOUR diamonds, you may have a slight incentive to grade those diamonds in a way that will benefit your customer (the retailer). I’m not saying they’re not a reputable company, just beware of all the hype.
The Certificate Is Still Important
The certificate IS still important – just not as important as the diamond itself. The other problem with most certificates is that the cut (the most important aspect of a diamond) is usually expressed in measurements or an “overall” grade. While you can try to pick a diamond that is close to the ideal proportions, you can’t actually see how the diamond sparkles without looking at it. There are over 625 different quality combinations that determine the cost of diamond, and not all of these are listed on the certificate. However, they must ALL interact to create a brilliant looking diamond. I have rejected many “ideal” cut diamonds that look horrible!
It’s good to go with a certified diamond and it’s better to go with a trusted jeweler or vendor. If you have the option, ask to compare two diamonds with similar grades and judge for yourself how much a difference in color, clarity, or cut there is.
Here are some more tips for making sure you get the right price on a diamond.