When buying a diamond, whether lab-grown or natural, it always makes sense to pay attention to the certification by a trustworthy gemological institute to ensure the quality of the diamond. There are three leading institutes in particular that enjoy worldwide recognition and whose assessments can be relied upon, namely the IGI, the GIA and the HRD.
The IGI, pioneer in laboratory diamonds
The International Gemological Institute (IGI) was founded in Antwerp in 1975 and is the largest independent gemstone laboratory in the world. As early as 2005, the IGI also began to grade laboratory diamonds, bringing comparability, security and a degree of standardisation to this new, fast-growing branch of the diamond industry for the first time. As far as certification of lab diamonds is concerned, the IGI is therefore the preferred choice for many.
When evaluating diamonds, the IGI focuses on the well-known 4 Cs, cut, clarity, carat and colour, but has also introduced a fifth C: confidence. This means that as a diamond owner you can trust 100% in the impeccable working method and objective evaluation of the IGI. In addition to the 4 Cs, each certificate contains information on the dimensions and proportions, the fluorescence and the shape of the diamond, as well as a graphic diagram depicting the clarity characteristics.
The grading process here is as follows: To ensure an independent, fair and anonymous valuation of a diamond, each diamond is transferred to a neutral container upon arrival and is given a specially generated IGI identification number, which is assigned to the container and through which the diamond can be reassigned to the correct owner or owners after the valuation. During the entire valuation process, however, the diamond remains anonymous and no one involved in the valuation process learns who owns the diamond. In addition, as a further security measure, each step in the valuation of the diamond is carried out by another gemologist. For this purpose, the diamond is sent back to the centre after each evaluation step and randomly assigned to someone else for the next step. Each lab diamond is given a laser inscription that identifies it as such. Natural diamonds only get a laser inscription at the owner's request.
In borderline cases, the IGI tends to give the better grade. This is one reason, among others, why the IGI is somewhat less prestigious than the GIA or the HRD.
The GIA as the world's most renowned institute
The GIA was already founded in 1931 in the USA and is today considered the most reliable of all institutes that issue certificates for diamonds. This is also confirmed by a study on the diamond industry from 2013. The 4 Cs, which are now the global standard for the evaluation of diamonds, were introduced by the GIA and have subsequently become established. The GIA is a non-profit organisation, which makes it even more reliable and independent.
The GIA evaluates the 4 Cs, as well as the symmetry, polish and fluorescence of the diamond. The certificate of the GIA also contains a graphic diagram to illustrate the clarity characteristics, as well as a proportion diagram. What is a disadvantage here is the high demand and the associated waiting times: anyone who wants a certificate from the GIA for their diamond has to wait up to five weeks for it. Moreover, the GIA has no location in Europe and all diamonds must first be sent to the USA for examination. This is also one of the reasons why the GIA certificate is more expensive than the IGI certificate.
The HRD as the European counterpart to the GIA
The HRD is based in Antwerp and was founded in 1976. The HRD follows the graduation rules of the International Diamond Council (IDC) and enjoys almost as high a reputation internationally as the GIA, as it is very precise and strict in its evaluation. It is particularly popular in Europe and because of its comparable integrity and reliability, it is considered by many to be the European counterpart to the GIA. Compared to the GIA, diamonds here are graded somewhat less strictly in the lower range of the colour scale, and somewhat more strictly in the upper range. As a result, HRD-certified diamonds can turn out a little cheaper than GIA-certified ones.
The HRD first tests whether a diamond is of natural origin or lab-grown. If it is determined that it is a lab-grown diamond, the diamond is engraved with the inscription 'lab-grown' using a laser. In addition, the HRD evaluates the 4 Cs, as well as the fluorescence. Furthermore, information on the dimensions and proportions of the diamond are noted. As with the certificates of the other two institutes, the HRD certificate includes a graphical diagram depicting the clarity characteristics.
To ensure anonymity, the HRD uses a dual-code system in which each diamond and its owner are each given the same code that allows them to be matched to each other without revealing the owner's identity. In addition, diamonds are always graded separately by several gemologists and only when many of them have reached a consensus is the final grading of a diamond determined accordingly.
The main thing is no in-house certificates
Caution is advised with diamonds for which an in-house certificate is offered. With these certificates, the diamond is only evaluated by an appraiser at the jeweller's premises and not by an internationally recognised institute. Accordingly, the certificate can turn out to be much more positive than would have been the case with an evaluation by an independent institution. For uninformed customers, this can mean that they pay more for their diamond than it is actually worth.
Ultimately, however, with a positive evaluation by each of the three institutions presented here, you can be sure that you are buying a high-quality diamond. If you really want a diamond of the highest quality, a diamond with a GIA certificate is probably the best choice. If that takes too long, however, you are also on the safe side with an IGI or an HRD certificate. However, it may make sense to go for an IGI certificate if it is a lab-grown diamond, due to their many years of expertise in the lab-grown field.