Buying a Diamond: Lab Certs & Why They are Important

May 05, 2019

Buying a Diamond: Lab Certs & Why They are Important

The two most important gem labs in the world are the GIA (Gemological Institute of America - Gem Trade Laboratory) and the AGS Lab (American Gem Society Laboratories).

When shopping for something as precious and rare as a natural diamond, it’s important that the diamond includes a diamond grading report from an independent laboratory. A thorough grading report covers all 4Cs—cut, color, clarity, and carat—so that you know and understand the quality of what you are purchasing.  

Most diamond grading laboratories were created as a service to the diamond industry. Not AGS Laboratories. AGS Labs was founded in 1996 by the American Gem Society (AGS), and is a nonprofit diamond grading laboratory with a mission of consumer protection. This mission ensures you will receive an unbiased opinion on the quality of your diamond. 

Having a diamond grading report from AGS Laboratories  reveals the genuine quality of your precious gemstone, both inside and out.

GIA is the best known lab in the world with facilities in most of the major diamond industry wholesale and broker trading centers in the world.

AGS is small by comparison but extremely important, having made a name for itself as a pioneer in the critical area of diamond cut quality analysis. Given that cut is the most important aspect of a diamond grade, AGS training, from an AGS Registered Jeweler in an AGS Guild Store, is as good as diamond retailing gets. 

The discussion of AGS vs GIA reveals more similarities than differences between the two labs, with an AGS certificate shedding light in areas lacking in a GIA report.

You're going to have to rely on the honesty of your jeweler or your online diamond seller as well as on relying on laboratory grading certification to truly know and be able to bank on the validity of the quality claims of your diamond both for your own peace of mind as well as for the purpose of insurance valuation and sometimes resale value and trade-in.

Any time you have a grading certificate has the name of a company other than a grading lab, it's not necessarily a value factor of the diamond.  It's subjective because it comes from the seller.  The better and best grading labs only work with their own logos and their own names.  Retailers and wholesalers alike use the same LAB CERTS. 

Here are some photos of Lab Certs:

AGS:

These lab certs have holograms, bar codes,  and on the reverse side of the document, you will see something that looks like a hologram but is, in fact, a proprietary security mark woven into the paper. Examples of unifraction embossing can be found on some foreign currency.

Bear in mind that a laboratory grading certification ("Lab Cert") comes from GIA, AGS, GAI, IGI, EGL, or a LABORATORY.  Not originating from the store or the  seller.  For instance, Whiteflash, James Allen, Costco and Blue Nile do not generate Lab Certs.  When they have a trademarked option, such as "A Cut Above(R)",  or "Astor Ideal (R)" it is branding.  It is that sellers internal grade with a name that the seller (retailer) makes into what sounds like an industry standard.  This makes it confusing for the customer who is trying to make a judicious purchase and focus the investment on the 4 C's.  These branded terminologies clutter the mind of customers. 

Jewelers and Gemologists who are GIA trained and AGS Registered Jewelers and certified can produce a valuation or appraisal of a diamond using the standards of GIA laboratories;  but the actual lab cert COMES FROM A LAB.  Not from the store or the seller.

Know with confidence that your D-to-Z diamond is natural with GIA diamond grading reports. Included in the reports is a full 4Cs assessment – color, cut, clarity and carat weight – along with polish, symmetry and fluorescence. For standard round brilliant cut diamonds, the reports come with a GIA Cut grade. Multiple security features on GIA diamond grading reports ensure their authenticity. Laser inscription available and included with select services.

Laser inscription is awesome.  We highly recommend it.  It is microscopic and we can photograph it and include it with your appraisal.  Here is a photo of what it looks like:

The lab cert is sold accompanying the diamond.  The better the lab, the more expensive the diamond in most cases.  

Try to find a jeweler who is your advocate.  One who is relatively OCD, who searches for you and finds you the best diamond for the lowest price;  a jeweler with the best credentials selling you a diamond with the best credentials.  Those credentials, simply put, are GIA training & certification, AGS training and certification, and a Lab Cert in ADDITION to an accurate appraisal valuation for both fair market value and for your insurance valuation. 

If you are buying a diamond with no lab cert, have your jeweler or seller send the diamond to GIA or AGS and get the diamond certified after you buy it.

You can send your diamond to GIA and have it certified if you don't have a GIA lab cert.  Or your jeweler can do it for you if you don't have a GIA laboratory account.

Here is the link and guidelines to do it yourself. 

Once certified, though, there's no question as to the validity of the grade of your diamond. 

The Lab Cert is important for establishing the value of the diamond.  Getting them is a pain.  Laborious and expensive.  To simplify your process and better enjoy your experience, insist on a lab cert when you buy your diamond. 

Lab certs are developed in grading labs where there are humans performing the grading, and where the equipment is far more elite than what any jewelry store has to offer. The collective experience and laboratory standards are higher, with GIA and AGS being the very highest and most credible. 

You already know that the 4Cs of Diamonds - cut, color, clarity, and carat weight - are the most important characteristics to understand when making a diamond purchase.

Diamonds are a commodity.  At Talisman Collection Fine Jewelers we charge 25% above wholesale plus tax.   We show you how the fluorescence is affecting the grade of the diamond.  We show you what's good or bad about the cut.  These are aspects you don't get with online retailers or Costco.

We show you the entire wholesale market, and we show you our invoices. at Talisman

We are very competitive diamond buyers;  our proprietor has  40 + years of contacts in the business and staff & vendors who go back into the jewelry industry for up to five generations.   

The diamonds we buy come from vendors who have been in the industry for generations, and who have the lowest competitive pricing.  

My point:  We're working to get you the best diamonds for the lowest price.  We're not a mass commercial retailer who is giving loose parameters and not looking you in the face when sourcing your diamond.  We are sourcing you an ethical, fair trade, diamond with provenance and certifcates of credentials proving the value.  Good luck finding that at Blue Nile, Costco or James Allen.  Good luck finding the pricing we are offering at Brilliant Earth or Tiffany & Co. 

There are two reasons why diamonds cost less:

1.  Because they have lower grades in one or more of the 4 C's.  When they cost more, they have higher grades in the 4 C's.  Don't let anyone try to tell you differently.  It's very methodical and simple.  Grading a diamond is always based on the 4 C's.

and / or

2.  The buyer is getting better deals and passing the savings to you.  Transparently.  So that you're getting a better deal - not a lesser diamond.

When shopping with any honest retailer you should receive a very clear report in the form of a lab certification;  ideally from the GIA or AGS laboratory - showing the grade of the cut, color, clarity, and the dimensions of the diamond as well as the accurate carat weight.   A branded certification from the retailer - whether it's Shane Co, Robbins, or any jewelry retailer - is not a Lab Cert.  It's just a receipt or an appraisal from a store.

We know shopping for a diamond or diamond jewelry is a big investment, and at times can be intimidating. Always ask for an AGS Laboratories Diamond Grading Report to help you make an informed purchase. And, be sure to shop with an American Gem Society credentialed jeweler. They will explain your desired diamond’s AGS Laboratories Diamond Grading Report, as well as tell you about the qualities and characteristics that make your diamond unique.

The American Gem Society (AGS) was founded in 1934 by a small group of leading jewelers. Their goal was to create an organization that could help protect the jewelry-buying public from fraud and false advertising. Today, we’re proud to say their vision has become a reality.

Approximately 3,400 jewelers, retailers, suppliers, individual titleholders and affiliates have joined the American Gem Society and have dedicated themselves to consumer protection, ethical business practices, and development and maintenance of superior gemological skills and knowledge.

Only one in twenty jewelers have met the exacting requirements necessary for membership. To join the AGS, every member must go through a peer-reviewed application process followed by an annual recertification exam. This process ensures that every AGS member you meet is at the top of their game, and more importantly, each one has pledged to protect you, the consumer.

Talisman Collection Fine Jewelers and Andrea Riso are AGS Guild Members and a Registered Jeweler thereof.  It's hard work, with an annual exam and a lot of studying.  Talisman upholds the mission statement of the AGS which is:

The American Gem Society (AGS) is a nonprofit trade association of fine jewelry professionals dedicated to setting, maintaining and promoting the highest standards of ethical conduct and professional behavior through education, accreditation, recertification of its membership, gemological standards, and gemological research.

The Society is committed to providing educational products to inform and protect the consumer and to contributing to the betterment of the trade by creating industry standards to protect the jewelry-buying public and the fine jewelry industry as a whole.

AGS Laboratories, founded to support the AGS mission, is a nonprofit diamond grading laboratory with a mission of consumer protection. Adhering to the AGS Diamond Grading Standards, AGS Laboratories is dedicated to offering diamond grading reports that provide consistency and accuracy based on science.