Buying a diamond can be a tricky process. One must weigh the jewel of their dreams with the realities of availability and budget. A person may compromise with a moderately tinted stone or one with an inclusion or two more than planned. Sometimes a consumer will encounter a boon in the form of a high quality diamond for a reasonable price. This may seem too good to be true.

Savvy customers will insist on only buying diamonds with paperwork from noted laboratories. Unfortunately, some grading organizations, such as the European Gemological Laboratories International (EGLI) will use grades that mimic those of reputable establishments, such as Gemological Institute of America (GIA) to give the impression of an impressive yet inexpensive diamond.

While there are a number of vendors who encourage misleading grades, many people and organizations in the diamond industry are pushing back. However, it may take a while for new standards and practices to come about that promote this measure of honesty. In the meantime consumers should err on the side of caution, keeping some ideas in mind when they shop for diamonds.

The two aspects of diamond grades that are most often misrepresented are clarity and color. The former measures the imperfections on and within the stone, and how they may impact its sparkle. Clarity ranges from the ideal “flawless,” to “internally flawless,” and degrees of “very, very slightly included,” “very slightly included” and so on. Color represents how close a diamond is to the ideal of being completely colorless, with GIA using “D” to denote the pinnacle hue.

EGLI tends to grade its color and clarity one to five grades higher than what GIA would say, while using terminology that mimics GIA standards. For example, a diamond what GIA would deem to be a “K” hue would be called a “G” by EGLI, or a jewel that EGLI would say is “slightly included” has a GIA “imperfect” grade. This is meant to intentionally fool customers, making them think they are getting a superior diamond for cheap, when the truth is that they are getting a modest stone for a low price. This approach harms the customer, damaging the resale value of what they thought was a superior diamond, plus the mindset of the customer as a person to be fooled rather than treated with care.

Some people may be so taken in by the prospect of a quality diamond for cheap, that the full implication of the purchase doesn’t register until much later. For example, they may take their stone to be appraised, or sent to a laboratory for assessment, only to find out that what seemed to be a bargain was actually a trick. It is one thing to buy an inexpensive jewel, but it should be done at full disclosure.

While there are people and organizations within the industry who are combating misleading grades, it doesn’t hurt for prospective buyers to make informed choices. Before you shop, research which grading services are reputable. Ideally, they should be third party labs with a verifiable history of good service. European Gemological Laboratories is tricky, as there are many subsets under the name. Some versions are of better name than others. When shopping for stones, ask if the jewels come with certification, and if so, from where. It is also to seek out retailers who have a verifiable history of taking care of customers.

We want others to find and buy the jewel of their dreams. For that to happen, consumers should know what is and isn’t true about their purchase. They should also be aware of those who may try to trick them, and those who are fighting to make a positive diamond experience for them.


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