Does the GIA Grade Lab-Grown Diamonds?
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Previously, the GIA had a policy of only giving a full grading report to mined diamonds. Though the non-profit educational and research organization has taken small steps towards accepting lab-grown diamonds, a recent announcement in the Summer of 2020 changing this policy represents a huge step within the industry. This policy switch not only further validates the lab-grown diamond industry but helps the consumer navigate the complex world of diamonds.
The GIA's Grading Policy
Lab-grown diamonds have been around since the late 1900s, but their popularity in jewelry is relatively new. The GIA has been grading lab-grown diamonds since about 2007. Initially, the GIA offered lab-grown diamonds reports for identification purposes rather than full grading reports for the consumer. It is difficult for even a trained gemologist to tell the difference between a mined and lab-grown diamond. So, these stones were being sent to the GIA to test and confirm their origin.
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This article is also a part of our Lab Grown Diamonds Fundamentals Mini Course, in the unit Lab-Grown Diamonds vs. Natural Diamonds.
But the reports the GIA offered for lab-grown diamonds differed from those offered for their mined counterparts. For lab-grown diamonds, the GIA was only offering ranges for the color and clarity categories. This was in stark contrast to the grading house IGI, who have been offering full grading reports on lab-grown diamonds since 2005. For example, let's say a diamond is graded out by the IGI as a 1.00 carat round brilliant, G Color, SI1 Clarity. The official GIA grading report would list that 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 the 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 a report can be, the better. For this reason, many lab diamond companies stayed far away from the 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. Stones within this range are vastly different, not only in terms of rarity but also price. This is why, up until now, most grading reports for lab-grown diamonds most commonly came from either the IGI or GCAL.
The GIA Changes Their Tune
Earlier this year, GIA Chief Executive Susan Jacques announced at JCK's virtual event that the GIA will be amending their lab-grown grading policy. Though the reports will only be available online, the GIA will be offering full color and clarity grading for 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."
The 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 stand for information and educational purposes and are willing to change to inform consumer interests.
As of right now, the 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 different than reports for mined diamonds, to help minimize confusion and promote transparency within the industry.
What This Mean for the Consumer
The GIA amending their lab-grown diamond grading policy is very beneficial, not only to the companies that sell them but also to the consumer. Picking out a diamond can already be intimidating and confusing to a consumer. There are so many grading categories and terms to keep track of. It can get overwhelming.
The GIA's decision will provide some consistency for the consumer. In the future, when trying to decide between a lab-grown or mined diamond, the customer will have the ability to look at potentially two reports, one for the lab-grown diamond and another for the mined diamond. Both will be offered by the same company, using the exact same scale and criteria for both stones. This will reassure the consumer that both stones are diamonds and are treated the same, no matter their origin.
The presence of lab-created diamonds in today's marketplace continues to increase. It's important for an organization like the 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 changes in the 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. However, this change will help expand the lab-grown market and may motivate other companies who have been wary of stepping into that market. These diamonds aren't going anywhere. Their share of the market will continue to grow. So it is vital that organizations like the GIA not only accept but embrace these diamonds.
Katy Tezak is a Diamond Graduate from the Gemological Institute of America and a diamond and engagement specialist. She loves educating the consumer about all things diamond and helps them create anything from their dream engagement ring to everyday one of a kind jewelry.
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