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What Is Diamond Certification?

Diamond certification, or grading, is a process whereby a diamond is examined in a laboratory by skilled diamond grading experts. Using criteria set by the grading organisation, a report is created that identifies the characteristics of the diamond under examination. After the analysis is completed, a report is generated. Certification helps buyers to make informed choices about loose gems or those already mounted into jewellery.

Who Are EGL?

EGL, or European Gemological Laboratories, is a network of independent gemological grading businesses. EGL was founded in 1974, in Antwerp, Belgium, often thought of as the European centre of the diamond trade. The founder, Guy Margel, oversaw the growth of the business globally with independent grading labs now established in New York, Los Angeles, South Africa, Paris, London, Prague, Tel Aviv, Seoul, Istanbul, Mumbai, Delhi, Prague and Hong Kong. The affiliated branches are independent business trading under the EGL brand and, nominally at least, following the same procedures and standards in each laboratory.

As a commercial business, EGL serves the jewellery trade offering services designed to enable jewellers to offer several forms of certification with processes designed to appeal to and be convenient for jewellers.

EGL Certification Compared To GIA Certification

EGL is in competition with the market leaders GIA, The Gemological Institute of America, who are a non-profit grading lab. Most buyers of diamonds are likely to be interested in how an EGL certificated diamond compares with one certified by the GIA.

  1. EGL is a network of independent laboratories all run for profit by their owners. GIA is a single non-profit business. Although standards within EGL should be the same, there is not the same oversight and control as GIA can manage.
  2. Reports from different members of the EGL network have different formats and do not all carry the same information. GIA reports are consistent in appearance and content no matter where the diamond is assessed.
  3. GIA has no incentive to provide inflated grades. EGL has a service where jewellers can send diamonds for grading but only pay for the full report if the diamond gets an assessment that suits the jeweller or diamond merchant. This is not good for diamond buyers because they may see a report that gives higher gradings than are justified, or than would be given by GIA. All diamonds graded by the GIA have been prepaid giving the GIA no incentive to provide reports that 'please' the jeweller.
  4. EGL has a reputation for giving grades for diamond quality that are one or two levels higher than would be awarded in a GIA report. This leads to buyers overpaying for diamonds who believe they are getting a better diamond than they are actually buying.
  5. Particularly in the context of larger and more valuable diamonds, many insurers will not accept gradings provided by EGL for insurance claims. They will also tend to reject valuations based upon the information from an EGL report – requiring clients to obtain GIA reports for valuations.

SI3 Graded Diamonds

Clarity is an important aspect of the valuation and purchase of clear diamonds. Visible internal flaws are unpleasant to look at; heavily flawed diamonds sell at a lower price than less flawed examples. Buyers tend to understand that diamonds graded as SI1 or SI2 on the GIA grading scale will have slight inclusions but that they will usually not be easily visible to the naked eye. As a result, SI graded diamonds are seen as being a value point on the grading scale. Diamonds graded as Included (I) are often of such low quality that jewellers do not offer such diamonds.

EGL made a change to their clarity grades by adding a new grade SI3. This new grade, in effect, replaces the industry-standard I1 grade. The result is to enable jewellers to sell low-quality, visibly flawed diamonds at a price similar to 'proper' SI grade stones.

Should You Buy Diamonds Graded By EGL?

EGL diamond grading reports offer benefits to diamond sellers and jewellers, whereas GIA reports are transparent and even-handed. For buyers of diamonds, those stoneswhich have been graded by GIA will offer better value. There is no difference in quality between diamonds graded by the two organisations, both organisations see all types and quality of diamonds.

If you see a diamond graded as SI3, then the certification will be from EGL. The diamond will be heavily flawed and, unless such a diamond is acceptable to you and the price is right, you should avoid it.

The issue for buyers is that if EGL inflates the grading in comparison to GIA, then the priceof the stone in the jewellers will be higher than the price of an equivalent quality of stone with a GIA certificate. Naïve buyers, unaware of grading inflation will compare a GIA or EGL certified diamond of the same specification. They usually see that the GIA graded diamond costs more than the stone graded by the EGL. The perception is that the EGL diamond is cheaper. The truth is that the EGL stone, even though it has the same grade as the GIA one, is of inferior quality.

Buying a diamond with an EGL certification is, generally speaking, a bad idea. Only choose an EGL certificated diamond if you know that the price you are being asked to pay is the same as, or less than, the cost of an equivalent quality GIA diamond. For most buyers, making such a determination is not possible because buyers do not have the skills to carry out their own grading.

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