IGI vs GIA Certified Lab Grown Diamonds
If you are buying a significant diamond or a diamond engagement ring, a grading report from an independent diamond grading laboratory is important because it gives you all the information you need to know about the quality of your diamond. A diamond grading report, often referred to as a diamond certificate, isn’t an appraisal, so it doesn’t include your diamond’s value. It’s an educated assessment of a diamond’s exact quality characteristics, known as the 4Cs: color, clarity, cut and carat weight. Today, laboratories also confirm diamond origin, which is important because jewelers often can’t tell if a diamond is mined or lab-grown with ordinary gemological testing.
Buying certified diamonds levels the playing field between retailers to help you compare diamond prices while you are shopping for a diamond ring, engagement ring, or other jewelry with significant diamonds. Diamond certificates help you to identify your diamond if you ever have to repair or sell it. Grading reports also ensure you will receive the same quality replacement if your diamond is ever lost or stolen. Insurance companies use diamond certificates to determine the quality of replacement diamonds.
Lab grown diamonds are graded in the same way as mined diamonds by the same diamond grading laboratories. The two leading laboratories for diamond quality grading are the International Gemological Institute, most commonly known as IGI, and the Gemological Institute of America, known as GIA. Because they are the leading labs, most of the certified lab-grown diamonds that you see on the market will have grading reports from one of these two labs.
But these two labs don’t grade lab-grown diamonds (or mined diamonds) the same way. Diamond grading is opinion and there isn’t one consistent diamond grading standard that defines what a G color grade is or what a VS1 or VS2 clarity grade looks like. That’s why it’s vitally important to understand your diamond grading report. Diamond professionals don’t consider lab reports from different labs to be the same when they evaluate diamonds.
Here’s what you need to know about shopping for GIA certified lab grown diamonds and IGI certified lab diamonds for your engagement ring or other significant jewelry purchase.
Buying GIA Certified Lab-Grown Diamonds
There is a good reason why the GIA Diamond Grading Report has become the benchmark for diamond certification around the world. The GIA literally invented the diamond grading scale and those famous 4Cs of diamond quality. Since GIA is non-profit, consumers know they will receive the world’s most impartial and accurate analysis of their diamonds.
In addition to certifying diamonds and gems, GIA is the world’s leading gemological education institution. Over the course of its 85-plus years, the Institute has educated more than 365,000 gem and jewelry professionals worldwide. All of the other gemological laboratories use the grading system developed by GIA and have gemologists and graders who have been educated by the GIA.
But because GIA is a jewelry industry institution, funded by industry donations and the support of the mined diamond business, in one way it isn’t completely impartial. For many years it didn’t treat lab-grown diamonds the same when it came to grading reports in order to protect the natural diamond market.
GIA’s lab grown diamond reports initially only gave general ranges of diamond quality instead of the precise grades it uses for mined diamonds. Why? GIA argued that because lab-grown diamonds aren’t as rare, consumers didn’t need to know exact qualities. This discrimination against lab-grown didn’t just happen at GIA: diamond dealers voted to ban lab-grown diamonds from being traded in the largest online B2B diamond marketplace too.
Lab diamond growers and dealers, proud of the quality of their man-made diamonds, refused to use the second-class GIA reports, choosing reports that used precise grades from other labs instead. Although GIA certified diamonds were the standard for mined diamonds, IGI certified diamonds became the standard for lab-grown diamonds.
Finally, in October 2020, GIA began offering a new lab-grown diamond grading report with precise quality grades, acknowledging the growing interest and demand from consumers for lab-grown diamonds. But GIA Lab-Grown diamond reports are digital only, with no printed option. Despite the lack of a hard-copy report, GIA charges $125 for a Lab Grown Diamond Grading Report for a one-carat stone, compared to $110 for a natural Diamond Grading Report that includes a printed version of the grading report in addition to the online version. In addition, the Lab Grown Diamond Grading Report doesn't include a cut grade like the regular diamond grading report does, only assessments of polish and symmetry.
The new GIA lab-grown diamond grading reports do contain a lot of detail about the lab grown diamonds including the type of process used to grow them (CVD or HPHT) and whether the crystal was subjected to additional heat and pressure after it was grown to improve its color and clarity. GIA engraves all GIA certified lab-grown diamonds with the words “lab-grown” on the diamond girdle in microscopic letters as part of the grading process.
GIA grading reports are more expensive than competing labs like IGI that include cut grade information. And it can sometimes take a few weeks (or even longer) to receive a report. That’s why GIA certified lab grown diamonds are still not widely available on the market. At Brilliant Carbon, we are one of the first retailers to offer our customers the opportunity to buy GIA certified lab-grown diamonds.
Although it’s more difficult and expensive to obtain GIA grading reports for lab-grown diamonds, we have started to send our lab-grown diamonds to be graded by the GIA to give our customers the choice of premium lab-grown diamond certificates from the world’s most respected laboratory. We know our diamonds are excellent quality and will receive high grades on GIA reports. But our selection of GIA certified lab-grown diamonds is still limited. If you are looking for a specific size, shape or quality that we don’t currently stock, contact us and we can make sure that we send a diamond with those characteristics to GIA for grading for you.
Buying IGI Certified Lab-Grown Diamonds
IGI became one of the largest diamond grading laboratories in the world by providing all the diamond certificates used by major chain retailers. IGI created the credit card diamond reports used by many jewelers today. In 1981, IGI also added diamond and jewelry appraisals. You won’t see IGI diamond grading reports for the multimillion dollar diamonds at Sotheby’s and Christie’s auctions. But IGI grades hundreds of thousands of diamonds a year for the rest of us because it offers quick service and excellent value.
When GIA refused to precisely grade lab-grown diamonds, IGI stepped in and became the world’s leading grading laboratory for lab grown diamonds. IGI’s lab-grown diamond grading reports are exactly the same as its mined diamond grading reports except for a different color cover. It includes a cut quality grade and a hard-copy report in addition to color and clarity grades.
Because most lab-grown diamonds are sold with IGI grading reports, buying IGI certified lab diamonds offers you another important benefit. You’ll have a much better selection of IGI certified diamonds to choose from. This makes it much easier to find the exact size, shape and quality that you are looking for. You can easily compare IGI certified lab diamonds from different jewelers knowing they have been graded in the same way from the same laboratory.
We don’t recommend that you compare GIA certified diamonds and IGI certified diamonds because they are graded with different master stones and grading parameters. It’s better to compare apples to apples. In general, we expect IGI to grade a bit more generously than GIA. This is more of an issue for certified mined diamonds vs certified lab-grown diamonds because skilled growers can produce lab-grown diamonds with excellent color and clarity. Expect to pay a bit less for IGI certified diamonds than GIA certified diamonds because the reports are easier to obtain, cost less, and may have slightly higher grades.