Columnists Chuck Koehler The Retailer’s Perspective: So, you wanna buy a Cert?

The Retailer’s Perspective: So, you wanna buy a Cert?

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In the three decades that I’ve been in the jewelry business, a whole lot of things have changed. Some of them I’ve welcomed right from the beginning, and some of them I’ve resisted. But, one of the changes that I’ve been having a hard time coming to grips with is certified diamonds.

I received my gemological certification in 1983. I’ve handled so many diamonds that it’s not second nature to me, it’s first nature. That being said, I don’t need someone telling me what the grade of a diamond is. I’m the one that makes that decision. I know lots of you old timers out there feel the same way as I do. But, alas, times are a-changing, and something tells me that certified diamonds are here to stay.

So, reluctantly, I’m beginning to accept them as a way of life. The general public now wants papers with their diamonds and I’m not talking about the appraisal papers that I provide. So, if it’s a cert they want, it’s a cert they’ll get. But how does the process work? What does it cost? Who does it? I didn’t know either, so I thought I’d do a little investigative piece for everyone and uncover the mystery.

For purposes of comparison, I asked each of the labs below to explain to me what would happen if I sent them a 1.00 ct., SI1, H-color diamond to be certified. What was the process, time frame, cost, and services available. (Note: I didn’t discuss services for colored gemstones, but if enough people write to me and ask, I’ll do that next.) Here’s what I discovered.

International Gemological

Institute, IGI

Founded in 1975, Jerry Ehrenwald, G.G., A.S.A., has been president and CEO since 1981. IGI charges $65 for a detailed grading report (for a one ct. stone), which is the full blown certification, but you can get a smaller report called a Diamond Consultation for $40 (also for a one ct. stone). It takes about 3-4 business days to process. IGI will assign an account executive (AE) to your company. Your diamond will first go to the official weights and measurements department where IGI uses an ISO certified ‘self calibrating’ scale (I.G.I. is ISO accredited in the US, Canada and India). Once the weights and measurements are complete, your AE takes the diamond to the first of three gemologists who will identify and grade your diamond using strict GIA standards. The 35-45 graders at the New York lab are graduate gemologists and most have many years of experience.

IGI has 12 grading labs around the world with plans to add more in the future. IGI charges $12 for a laser inscription on the girdle of a one ct. stone. I found it interesting to learn IGI invented the process of diamond laser inscription and owned the original patent for laser inscribing the cert number on the girdle of a diamond. IGI certs are recognized by insurance companies around the globe and some insurance companies offer a 7 1/2 to 12% discount on your policy if your jewelry has an IGI cert. Very cool. Their phone number is 212-753-7100.

Gemological Institute

of America, GIA

GIA charges $100 for diamonds weighing between 1.00 - 1.49 for a grading report, which also includes a hand drawn plot of your diamond, They also offer a Diamond Dossier which is less expensive and excludes the plot but does include a laser inscription. All diamonds that come into GIA for grading go through the exact same screening process, regardless of size. In the initial screening, all diamonds are examined for enhancements and treatments. If a diamond is suspected of being treated, it is automatically re-routed to the I.D. Research Department for a more thorough examination to determine and document the treatment. If a diamond passes the initial screening, it will go to color grading. GIA has a propriety color measuring machine that is unique to them. Most diamonds are also visually color graded against D - Z master comparison diamonds. Depending on the size of the diamond when two color graders agree on the color, the diamond is sent to clarity grading. Newer graders at GIA will have the first look at the diamond. The diamond is then sent to a second, more experienced grader for confirmation and a second opinion. Larger and very high grade diamonds are then sent to a 3rd senior grader for absolute confirmation and agreement.

Now this is something I think a lot of people will find interesting. GIA employs many graders that come out of their Graduate Gemologist program, however being a G.G. is not a hiring requirement. If someone is hired as a diamond grader and they do not have a G.G. they are required to take the G.G. course if they wish to stay employed in the Lab. GIA incurs the cost of the G.G. programs for the employee. How cool is that?

Also interesting to note is that many times a diamond will be color graded at one lab and clarity graded at another depending on capacity and demand at various labs. GIA has a close relationship with law enforcement and has recovered countless diamonds that were reported stolen, ended up in a GIA facility for grading and returned to the rightful owner. Their number is 800-421-7250.

Gem Certification and

Assurance Lab, GCAL

GCAL, located in the World Diamond Tower in New York city, is an independent diamond and gemstone certification laboratory. Certification costs start at $40. This includes laser inscription, guaranteed grading, and complete light performance analysis. The process takes 2-4 business days.

GCAL has 16 experts on staff who offer an array of gemological services, and have experience ranging from 5-42 years. At GCAL, 3 gemologists examine every diamond independently of one another. Two gemologists have to agree exactly on color and clarity before the certification is complete.

GCAL stood out to me for their calibration standards. GCAL is the only gem certification laboratory to meet the exacting standards of testing for certification under ISO 17025 Laboratory Accreditation in the Western Hemisphere, and one of only three in the world. GCAL offers co-branding and private label certification for retail jewelers.

Another thing I really liked about GCAL was the diagram that is printed on your cert that shows the depth percentages, table percentages and such, is printed individually for your specific diamond. It’s not just a static chart that shows you what an ideal cut should be, it’s actually your percentages. Very cool. Their phone number is 212-869-8985.

European Gem Labs USA,

EGL USA

EGL USA prides itself on their research department’s ability to detect all of the new treatments such as microkm and HPHT. EGL USA charges approx. $60 per carat to produce a grading certificate and it averages about 3 days to complete. At EGL USA at least 2 gemologists have to agree on color, and 2 on clarity. Then one senior gemologist will have to agree with everyone before the grade and color are certified. Afterwards, all diamonds are screened for treatments and the results are sent to the client. Once the grading is completed, the client has the option of asking for a recheck. If the client agrees, the cert is printed.

Now here’s what stood out with EGL USA to me. If, after finding out your diamond wasn’t exactly what you thought it was, instead of paying the $60 per carat for the cert, the client can pay a minimal fee, starting at $15 for a 1ct, and the stone will be shipped back with a printout of the results. This way for instance, if you thought it was flawless and it wasn’t, you don’t have to pay the full price.

The other thing that separates EGL USA from any other lab in my comparison is the SI3 grade. Now I know that a lot of people out there don’t agree with that, but I’ve personally seen at least a thousand diamonds in my life that fall smack dab in the middle between SI2 and I1... just sayin’ .... EGL USA has four labs across the globe and their phone number is 212-730-7380.

In conclusion, here are my observations:

1) Certs are here to stay. If that’s what it takes to sell a diamond, then so be it.

2) All of these labs have invested millions of dollars in equipment and personnel in order to provide a service that is first rate and I am duly impressed with all of them.

3) It doesn’t cost $400-$500 to get this done. Before I started my research, I polled a dozen jewelers who had have never sent a diamond off to be certed before. Everyone of them thought it cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars... myself included. I was quite surprised to find out that it’s very reasonable indeed.

4) Lastly, and this is just personal. All but one of these labs had very cumbersome, very difficult to navigate phone systems. Just trying to get a human on the line was next to impossible except at GCAL where they don’t have an automated phone system. They actually have a person answering the telephone. That was quite refreshing to say the least.

If you have any further questions, I’ve added all the phone numbers and I’m sure they’ll be happy to assist you in any way possible. I learned a lot and I hope you did too. I hope this helps.

And, just a reminder to all the bench jewelers out there, if you haven’t started using the new Mary Kay Satin Hands soap with moisturizers and scrubbies you’re missing out. I’m telling you this stuff is great for bench jewelers - I’m a fan. If you don’t have a Mary Kay rep, use mine. Contact McKensie at www.MaryKay.com/mmorrison7605 or call her at 615-517-8081.

Chuck is the owner of Anthony Jewelers in Nashville, TN. Chuck also owns CMK Co., a wholesale trade shop that specializes in custom jewelry and repair services to the jewelry industry nationwide. You can contact him at 615-354-6361, www.CMKcompany.com or send e-mail to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 
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