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Diamonds
GIA vs IGI
Feb 02, 2021
In a classic case of better late than never, GIA has finally fully committed to certifying colourless (white) lab grown diamonds, which is nothing less than a historical moment for the diamond industry. What makes this event more impactful is that GIA will be using the same methodology and standards they use for mined diamonds. We will devote time in this article to weigh in on this as industry veterans and experts and what this means to you, the customer, and the global man made diamond market at large. In addition, we will be exploring the interesting road GIA took to finally reach this decision.

 

LAB GROWN DIAMONDS AND GIA HISTORY

 

Since lab grown diamonds entered the diamond market, the story of both lab grown diamonds and GIA were inescapably intertwined. GIA (Gemological Institute of America), the most respected diamond certifier globally, was enthusiastic about lab grown diamonds from the very beginning and a direct result was one of the first to certify them. To provide context, around 15 years ago, man-made diamonds were considered as lesser than mined diamonds since all, or most of them, had a yellowish tint.

However, GIA did a complete U-turn, when 4 years ago, the first truly high, gem-like, quality white, or colourless, lab grown diamonds were introduced, thereby transforming the diamond industry forever. If GIA had stayed its course, as an early adopter, it could have capitalised on this new development and reaped massive rewards with minimal effort on its part. In contrast, and contrary to everyone’s expectation, they halted certifying lab grown diamonds. To diamond industry insiders like us, this was such a baffling and seemingly illogical move that it was a hot topic of discussion for a long time.

With time, speculation and theories spread. However, one emerged that was deemed the most credible. Since then, multiple pieces of evidence has all but confirmed the theory. De Beers, allegedly feeling threatened by the newer lab created diamonds that were now identical in quality to mined ones, pressured GIA to stop certifying them.          

To recap and provide background to some of our younger audience, De Beers is a giant in the world of diamonds. Such is their legacy and influence that they are mostly the reason diamonds are what they are today. They were instrumental in making diamonds the go-to choice for engagements and weddings of nearly every culture. "Diamonds are forever", the unforgettable and instantly recognisable term, was coined by none other than De Beers, forever changing how love and romance were expressed. It is no surprise then that De Beers profited massively; they were able to dominate the diamond industry and dictate how it was run. They had total control of the supply chain and, as a result, could control the global diamond prices.

Therefore, the pressure and influence De Beers were able to exert on GIA or any other established diamond-related institutions were genuinely enormous. However, by the middle of 2019, GIA was forced to concede defeat and quietly announced that it would resume certifying all lab grown diamonds. This time including colourless stones. The rejoining of such a prestigious diamonds certifier was welcome news and was a clear signal that lab grown diamonds were here to stay, something even the detractors could not deny any longer.

However, GIA still couldn't escape De Beers' influence; GIA would be using a different grading system different from the one they use for mined diamonds to certify lab grown diamonds. It didn't take long before it was noticed that this system was designed to devalue lab grown diamonds. Those reading between the lines could clearly see this was an intentional effort to keep mined diamonds in the spotlight by highlighting their 'superiority' over lab grown diamonds. In other words, De Beers was once again using their power to protect their monopoly.

IF YOU CAN’T BEAT THEM, JOIN THEM!

To the surprise of no one, this sneaky and downright dishonest tactic backfired on the coalition of GIA and De Beers spectacularly. In the face of overwhelming backlash, GIA accepted defeat; they scraped the dogy grading system in favour of applying the original for both mined and man made diamonds. The news was received positively by almost everyone, chiefly environmentalists and, of course, diamond industry players like us. 

Nevertheless, many in the diamond industry think that GIA's change of stance happened too late. Their earlier shenanigans have allowed their chief competitor, IGI, to capture the lab grown diamond grading and certification market. IGI is now the leader and GIA the underdog; GIA has no choice but to work hard to climb back to their previous place as the authority when it comes to certifying diamonds

 

PROS AND CONS OF GIA

 

What does that mean for you as the customer? In short, you will have to pay a premium if you want a diamond that is certified by GIA. So why, you may ask, are you paying extra for a GIA certificate? To start with, GIA's operating costs are higher compared to IGI's, which naturally inflates their certification prices. Since GIA has fewer global offices than their chief competitor, IGI, their output is thus lower. Another more limiting factor is that most GIA labs limit certification to certain diamonds size. For instance, the GIA office in Hong Kong only certifies diamonds below 2.00CTs. 2cts and above are exclusively dealt with by GIA US. Even their grading time is unfavourable, taking around a whole month to certify diamonds, citing stricter standards, whereas IGI does it in a few days at most.

As a result, GIA certified stones command a significant premium over a comparable IGI certified diamond. Although we try to absorb most of the price difference, NOVITA DIAMONDS is sadly forced to pass down some of this added premium down to the customers.

Cons: GIA certified stones will be an estimated 10 – 15% higher in cost.

 

THE WINNER IS THE MARKET

A prestigious and celebrated institution like GIA going all in, undeniably proves the legitimacy of man-made diamonds as being equal and superior in some key regards to mined diamonds. The end result is that almost everyone benefits, none more so than the end customer, who is now provided with a compelling alternative to mined diamonds. GIA fully embracing lab grown diamonds also conclusively debunks, permanently, all the baseless claims by those with a vested interest in mined diamonds against lab grown diamonds. 

WHAT SHOULD YOU BUY - IGI VS GIA?

As a customer, we believe you should almost always go for an IGI diamond instead of a stone certified by GIA. Both IGI and GIA are trustworthy labs, both having good track records. However, the large savings afforded by choosing an IGI certified diamond outweighs any perceived quality advantage from a GIA certified diamond. More important, because of the head start IGI had over GIA, who stopped certifying lab grown diamonds in the middle, there are that many more stones being certified by IGI, giving them an advantage when it comes to variety and choice.

The ill-timed interference by De Beers on GIA has allowed IGI to become the authority when it comes to lab grown diamonds. Not only will you have a huge variety of diamonds to choose from if you go for an IGI diamond, but you will also be able to buy it significantly cheaper than a comparable GIA one. It will take a very long time for GIA to match IGI, if ever, but meanwhile, as customers, you are better off buying an IGI diamond.

 

True: IGI is the most popular and dominant lab in the world for lab grown diamonds.

True: GIA is the most popular and dominant lab in the world for mined diamonds.

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