Does GIA Grade Lab Grown Diamonds?
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Previously, GIA had a policy of only giving a full grading report to earth mined diamonds. Though the nonprofit educational and research organization has taken small steps towards accepting lab grown diamonds, a recent announcement in Summer of 2020 changing this policy represents a huge step within the industry. This switch of policy not only ads further validation to the lab grown industry, but helps the consumer navigate the complex world of diamonds.
GIA’s Grading Policy
Lab grown diamonds have been around since the late 1900’s, but their popularity in jewelry is relatively new. GIA has been grading laboratory grown diamonds since about 2007. Starting out, GIA offered laboratory grown diamonds reports for more identification purposes rather than full grading reports for the consumer. It is difficult for even a trained gemologist to tell the difference between an earth mined diamond and a lab grown diamond; so, they were being sent into GIA to test and confirm their origin.
But the reports GIA offered for lab grown diamonds were much different than their earth mined counterparts. For lab grown diamonds, GIA was only offering ranges for the color and clarity categories. This was in stark contrast to grading house IGI, who has been offering full grading reports on lab grown diamonds since 2005. For example, let’s say a diamond is graded out by IGI as a 1.00 carat round brilliant, G Color, SI1 Clarity. The official GIA grading report would grade that the diamond as a 1.00 carat round brilliant, Near Colorless, and in the SI Clarity range. Here is a table to show the comparison prior to GIA’s recent policy change:
|Color||Near Colorless||G Color|
|Clarity||SI Clarity Range||SI1 Clarity|
A diamond’s grade has multiple purposes for both sellers and consumers, from identification to price, so the more specific reports can be, the better. For this reason, many lab diamond companies stayed far away from GIA and sent their lab grown diamonds to grading houses like IGI (which was still using GIA’s grading criteria of DEF, etc. and IF-I3 clarity). Grading the diamond as a color and clarity range, rather than specific grades, made it very difficult for companies to price out their lab grown diamonds for consumers. A near colorless grade can be anywhere from G to J on the scale and are vastly different in not only their rarity, but price as well. This is why, up until now, the two most common grading reports for lab grown diamonds came from either IGI or GCAL.
GIA Changes Their Tune
Earlier this year, GIA Chief Executive Susan Jacques announced at JCK’s virtual event that GIA will be amending their lab grown grading policy. Though the reports will only be available online, GIA will be offering full color and clarity grading of lab grown diamonds.
“We are responding to consumer demand,” Jacques tells JCK. “We want to make sure that consumers are educated, that we can protect their trust in the gem and jewelry industry as well as the products they are buying. As consumers adopt this new category, it’s important that we evolve with the new consumer…I don’t think it’s a change of mind,” she says. “It’s an evolution.”
GIA has always touted that they are strictly an education and research organization, rather than one that has a vested interest in specific industries. This change further substantiates their claims that they are for information and educational purposes and are willing to change with where the consumers are headed.
As of right now, GIA will be inscribing their diamonds with the GIA report number (as they do on natural diamonds) as well as “Laboratory-Grown” but will not offer any sort of origin or growth properties on the diamond. They are considering adding those in the future but those specifications are more trade oriented rather than ones familiar to the consumer. The lab grown diamond reports will also look much different than their earth mined diamond counterparts to help minimize confusion and promote transparency within the industry.
What This Mean for the Consumer
GIA amending their policy of how they grade lab grown diamonds is not only very beneficial to the companies that sell them, but also to the consumer. It already can be intimidating and confusing to a consumer to start the process of picking out a diamond. There are so many grading categories and terms to keep track of that it can get overwhelming.
With GIA adding in a full grade report of lab grown diamonds, it will add a bit of consistency for the consumer. When trying to decide between a lab grown or earth mined diamond, the customer will have the ability in the future to look at potentially two reports offered by the same company, using the exact same scale and criteria for both diamonds. Though that aspect may not matter to some, it can add more reassurance to the consumer that both are diamond, and are treated the same no matter their origin.
Lab created diamonds continue to increase in today’s marketplace, and it is important for an organization like GIA to keep up.
“Natural and laboratory-grown diamonds co-exist today, accepted by both consumers and the trade. We believe the growth of laboratory-grown diamonds will expand the overall diamond market and bring in new customers…Ensuring consumers’ trust with GIA’s reliable, independent and authoritative grading reports for all diamonds benefits the public and the entire gem and jewelry industry,” Jacques says.
Though the new changes in GIA’s grading policy are taking effect in the fourth quarter of 2020, it will take some time for their Lab grown diamond reports to begin circulating among websites and in stores. But, this change will help expand the lab grown market and may motivate other companies who have been weary of stepping into that market feel confident in what lab grown diamonds can offer to consumers. These diamonds aren’t going anywhere, and will continue to grow and hold a significant share of the market. So it is important and vital that organizations like GIA are not only accepting, but embracing these diamonds.