Certifiable

Lab grading reports. Are they just a piece of paper?

Every day thousands of people go to work in the major gem labs in the United States. They are there for only one purpose, to serve the gem and jewelry industry and above all the consumer. However, there are limits to what they can do. Can you separate fact from fiction in terms of their capabilities. Here’s your chance. Armed with information provided by the experts at Gemological Institute of America (GIA); European Gem Laboratory (EGL); International Gemological Institute (IGI); and American Gem Society (AGS) I developed the following quiz.
Each statement is either fact or fiction. Mark which statement you believe to be true and compare your answers to what the experts have to say at the end of the quiz. Good luck!

1.) A lab grading report isn’t a guarantee.
_______ Fact ________ Fiction

2.) GIA’s mission statement is to ensure the public trust by educating and serving the gem and jewelry industry worldwide. As a nonprofit institution, GIA provides knowledge and professionalism that will maintain the long term stability and integrity of the industry while strengthening and securing consumer confidence.
________ Fact ________ Fiction

3.) Grading a diamond can be so subjective some of the labs use four or more graders to get a consensus.
________ Fact ________ Fiction

4.) Lab grading reports only represent a snap shot of the opinion of the graders at the time the report was taken.
________ Fact ________ Fiction

5.) A lab grading report and a certificate are the same thing.
________ Fact ________ Fiction

6.) All major labs will not do a lab grading report on synthetic diamonds.
________ Fact ________ Fiction

7.) GIA does not certify any person, place or thing.
________ Fact ________ Fiction

8.) At an additional cost all the labs allow diamonds to be resubmitted for re-grading if the submitter is unhappy with the original results.
________ Fact ________ Fiction

9.) All labs use the same criteria to evaluate a diamond.
________ Fact ________ Fiction

10.) GIA uses proprietary Sarin machines to assist in determining the diamond’s measurements.
________ Fact ________ Fiction

11.) All major labs calibrate their equipment before each diamond is graded.
________ Fact ________ Fiction

12.) Lab grading reports could become null and void if a diamond is worn.
________ Fact ________ Fiction

13.) Lab grading reports are 100% accurate within one grade in either direction in clarity and color listed on the report.
________ Fact ________ Fiction

14.) Lab grading reports lose their value (even if the diamond isn’t worn) as they get older.
________ Fact ________ Fiction

15.) Physical measurements like weight, dimensions and proportions are absolutely objective.
________ Fact ________ Fiction

16.) If a lab grading report “reads” well, the diamond must be beautiful.
________ Fact ________ Fiction

17.) If the lab grading report “reads” bad, the diamond must be ugly.
________ Fact ________ Fiction

18.) A lab grading report tells you everything you need to know to determine the value of a diamond.
________ Fact ________ Fiction

19.) A lab grading report makes the diamond more valuable.
________ Fact ________ Fiction

20.) The labs can detect all forms of treatment 100% of the time; including baking.
________ Fact ________ Fiction

21.) The labs can with almost 100% accuracy determine if a fancy color diamond is natural.
________ Fact ________ Fiction

22.) A lab grading report is an appraisal.
________ Fact ________ Fiction

23.) A fully-bonded appraisal based on the GIA grading system is more valuable than any lab grading report.
________ Fact ________ Fiction

24.) To insure the diamond is worth what you paid and holds its value in the future it must come with a lab grading report.
________ Fact ________ Fiction

25.) A lab grading report will ensure the diamond is not a blood diamond.
________ Fact ________ Fiction

26.) All the major labs use colorimeters to be as precise as possible.
________ Fact ________ Fiction

Answers
1.) A lab grading report isn’t a guarantee.
Fact
The opening line on a GIA lab grading report states “This report is not a guarantee, valuation or appraisal”. No lab wants to guarantee anything or leave you with the impression that they do, because if something goes wrong in the transaction they don’t want to be held responsible.

2.) GIA’s mission statement is: To ensure the public trust by educating and serving the gem and jewelry industry worldwide. As a nonprofit institution, GIA provides knowledge and professionalism that will maintain the long term stability and integrity of the industry while strengthening and securing consumer confidence.
Fact

3.) Grading a diamond can be so subjective some of the labs use four or more graders to get a consensus.
Fact
In some cases not even the four graders can agree so they bring in more people to break the tie!

4.) Lab grading reports only represent a snap shot of the opinion of the graders at the time the report was taken.
Fact
Where that diamond came from; what it’s been through (mounted, dropped, nicked, etc.) can not be determined from the date it was graded to the date you receive it.

5.) A lab grading report and a certificate are the same thing.
Fiction
A lab grading report is not a certificate. A certificate would authoritatively confirm the facts and a lab grading report states a few facts but mostly subjective opinions. It was the jewelry industry (not the labs) who started the slang use of the word “certificate” in reference to lab grading reports. G.I.A categorically states that they do not certify any person, place or thing. I myself often use the word “certificate” incorrectly. To be perfectly accurate we should all be saying lab grading report or document if what we are saying is opinion based. E.G.L. USA does use the word certificate on their grading reports but disclaim any responsibility for any errors or omissions in the report.

6.) All major labs will not do a lab grading report on synthetic diamonds.
Fiction
According to Lynn Ramsey publicist for E.G.L. “E.G.L. USA is the only lab in North America to certify synthetic diamonds. However, we do not certify diamonds that have been fractured filled or any treated stones, in which the treatment is known to be unstable under certain circumstances”.

7.) G.I.A does not certify any person, place or thing.
Fact
As stated in the response to question #5.

8.) At an additional cost all the labs allow diamonds to be resubmitted for re-grading if the submitter is unhappy with the original results.
Fact
(G.I.A.’s Response)
“There are times when the grade of a diamond is at, or close to, a boundary point between grade ranges. For this reason, we offer services whereby a client may resubmit a diamond to be subsequently examined by additional independent experts, who may or may not render an opinion that differs from the original grading”.
(E.G.L.’s Response)
“Diamonds may be resubmitted at least two times if the owner disagrees with our grading. After two submissions, the owner can have a consultation with the senior graders”.
(A.G.S. response Peter Yantzer)
“It’s very simple, if the customer is not happy with our results and believes we are wrong they can resubmit it for evaluation again.”

9.) All the labs use the same criteria to evaluate a diamond.
Fiction
A.G.S uses their own in house system (such as AGS 0) while EGL recognizes an SI-3 grade. In addition, none of the labs agree with each other on one standardized system for measuring proportions.

10.) GIA uses proprietary Sarin machines to assist in determining measurements.
Fact
Sarin and Megascope machines can be ordered from the factory calibrated to specific tolerances as requested by the customer.

11.) All major labs calibrate their equipment before each diamond is graded.
Fiction
“Once a day would be ideal for us but at least once a week.” says Peter Yantzer of American Gem Society. “We fully service them once a year. With hundreds of diamonds being graded a day it is not cost effective for any lab to calibrate before each evaluation.”

12.) Lab grading reports could become null and void if a diamond is worn.
Fact
Since a diamond can be damaged during setting and while being worn, in my opinion any grading report becomes invalid.

13.) Lab grading reports are 100% accurate within one grade in either direction in clarity and color listed on the report.
Fact
Pin-pointing a diamond to an exact grade is subjective but pin-pointing it to a range is not. Example: To say a diamond is SI-1 is subjective but to say it is not any worse than an SI-2 or better than a VS-2 is objective. The FTC regulations state that a diamond must be within one clarity and one color grade.

14.) Lab grading reports lose their value (even if the diamond isn’t worn) as they get older.
Fact
As was stated earlier, the time frame between the diamond’s evaluation and its purchase date is unaccounted for. Lab grading reports older than six months tell the consumer one of two things: A. The diamond isn’t beautiful enough to be snatched up right away and B. The lab grading report is no longer a legitimate reflection of the quality of the diamond. Old grading reports are a red flag.

15.) Physical measurements like weight, dimensions and proportions are absolutely objective.
Fact and Fiction
Leverage gauges, Megascopes, Sarin machines and scales are temperamental. According to the manufacturers, if (and this is a big if) the equipment is clean and calibrated before each testing the results are 99.9% accurate. If hundreds of stones are tested between calibrations then measurements may be off + or – 3%. Since we already know that it is financially infeasible for a lab to calibrate their equipment for every stone, a separate megascope or sarin report must accompany or replace the lab grading report to confirm its physical measurements.

16.) If the lab grading report “reads” well, the diamond must be beautiful.
Fiction
No one lab grading report provides all the vital information. Therefore, it is possible for a diamond to appear to look good (read well) on its lab grading report when in actuality it is unattractive to the eye.

17.) If a lab grading report “reads” bad, the diamond must be ugly.
Fiction
The lab grading report may have judgments which are misleading. Also, beauty is still in the eye of the beholder. There are a lot of diamonds that technically return a poor amount of light; are off color and heavily included; but are loved anyway by their owner. Never forget it’s what a diamond represents that is its real beauty.

18.) A lab grading report tells you everything you need to know to determine the value of the diamond.
Fiction
A lab grading report is not a guarantee, valuation or appraisal.

19.) A lab grading report makes the diamond more valuable.
Fiction
Don’t confuse a bonding document (fully-bonded) which does guarantee value and a lab grading report. A lab grading report is an opinion on the overall quality of the diamond and does not increase the diamond’s worth.

20.) The labs can detect all forms of treatment 100% of the time; including baking.
Fiction
Nothing is 100% but the labs are probably 99.9% accurate on all forms of treatment with the exception of baking where they are batting .750.

21.) The labs can with almost 100% accuracy determine if a fancy colored diamond is natural.
Fact and Fiction
Fact on all colors except green.

22.) A lab grading report is an appraisal.
Fiction
However, separately I.G.I does offer a spectacular appraisal service; the largest in the world.

23.) A fully-bonded appraisal based on the GIA grading system is more valuable than any lab grading report.
Fact
The fully-bonded appraisal is the most comprehensive document you can get on the quality of the diamond. It includes every measurement (taken from a calibrated Sarin or Megascope machine); a colorimeter reading where grade and type are listed and a consensus of four graders who all must agree on what the worst case scenario is on the clarity grade. Then, it is accompanied with an unconditioned lifetime bonding document to guarantee current market value and secondary market value.

24.) To insure the diamond is worth what you paid for it and holds its value in the future it must come with a lab grading report.
Fiction
Don’t confuse a fully-bonded diamond and a lab grading report. They are two different things. Any quality diamond can come with a lab grading report, but only about 2% of all gem-quality diamonds come with a bonding document.

25.) A lab grading report will ensure the diamond is not a blood diamond.
Fiction
The only document in the world that can do that is a country of origin certificate.

26.) All the major labs use colorimeters to be as precise as possible.
Fiction
Officially, the labs do not use colorimeters at this time. Colorimeters do require constant maintenance and calibration.

Conclusion
Lab grading reports came into the marketplace to stop widespread misgrading. Did it work? Yes, I think so. However, lately it has become more important what letter or number or percentage shows up on a piece of paper than whether or not that little shiny rock has personality or takes our breath away. It didn’t happen all at once; it happened slowly. I see people make decisions on how much they will love their diamond based on what someone else’s opinion is. When did we give up our opinion of what’s beautiful; when did we relinquish our judgment? Any paper that comes with a diamond can only give you an idea of what you have. Want guaranties? Fine, make sure it’s bonded. Want beautiful? Make sure it takes your breath away! Make sure every time you look at the rock it reminds you of why you bought it in the first place; you found love, it found you. You’re damn lucky! That rock, regardless of size or quality is a symbol of that love. It shouldn’t be a contest about how big your bank account is or how smart you think you are. Are lab grading reports or appraisals or documents just a piece of paper? No. They are tools, guides, sign posts. No piece of paper in the world should ever try to tell you how you feel about your diamond. If it talks to you, listen up. It’s letting you know that you are loved.

by Fred Cuellar, author of the best-selling book “How to Buy a Diamond.” More questions? Ask the Diamond Guy®