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GIA vs IGI
Apr 28, 2023
Diamonds
GIA vs IGI

With GIA committing officially to certifying colourless (white) lab grown diamonds, it is a landmark moment for the diamond industry. It is especially impactful because GIA will be using the same methodology and standards for mined diamonds. As industry veterans and experts, we will share our thoughts on what this means to you, the customer, and the global market for man-made diamonds. Moreover, we will explore the meandering but fascinating path GIA took in reaching this decision.

 

LAB GROWN DIAMONDS AND GIA HISTORY

A leading diamond certifier, GIA (Gemological Institute of America), has been enthusiastic about lab grown diamonds from the very beginning and was one of the first to certify them. GIA and lab grown diamonds have become inextricably linked since lab grown diamonds first entered the wider diamond market. Historically, around 15 years ago, man-made diamonds were considered inferior to mined diamonds due to their slight ever-present yellowish tint.

When the first truly high-quality, gem-like, white, or colourless, lab grown diamonds were introduced around 4 years ago, thereby transforming the diamond industry forever, GIA made an unexpected and complete U-turn. As an early adopter, GIA could have realized massive rewards with limited effort if it had stayed the course. The result was that they halted certifying lab-grown diamonds in contrast to everyone’s expectations. It was such a baffling and seemingly illogical move to diamond industry insiders like us that it was a hot topic of conversation for a long time.

As time passed, speculations and theories emerged and subsequently spread. There was, however, one that was considered the most credible. The theory has since been supported by numerous pieces of evidence. According to reports, De Beers pressured GIA to cease certification of lab-created diamonds that were now identical to mined diamonds in quality.

In case some of our younger audience is unfamiliar with the company, De Beers is a giant in the diamond industry. Their legacy and influence have largely contributed to diamonds being what they are today. Thanks to them, diamonds have become the jewel of choice for engagements and weddings in almost every culture. The unforgettable and instantly recognizable phrase “Diamonds are forever” was coined by none other than De Beers, forever changing the way love and romance are expressed. Consequently, it is not surprising that De Beers profited enormously; they were able to dominate the diamond industry and dictate how it ran. In addition, they controlled the supply chain, so they were able to control the price of diamonds globally.

Thus, De Beers had enormous influence and pressure over the GIA and other diamond-related institutions. However, in the middle of 2019, GIA finally conceded defeat and reaffirmed its commitment to certify all lab-grown diamonds, now including colourless ones. This prestigious certification body re-joining the lab-grown diamonds community was welcome news, as it signified that the man made diamonds were here to stay, something even the critics could no longer ignore.

In the end, however, GIA could not escape De Beers’ influence; for lab grown diamonds, GIA would use a different grading system than it does for mined diamonds. Immediately, it became apparent that this system unfairly devalued lab-grown diamonds. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that this was an intentional effort to make mined diamonds look superior to lab-grown diamonds by highlighting their supposed ‘superiority’. Essentially, De Beers was back at their old trick in an attempt to protect their monopoly once again.

GIA vs IGI

IF YOU CAN’T BEAT THEM, JOIN THEM!

This sneaky and dishonest tactic backfired spectacularly for GIA and De Beers in what may come as a surprise to no one. Following overwhelming criticism, GIA scrapped their dogy grading system in favour of applying the original for both man-made and mined diamonds. Nearly everyone received the news positively, especially environmentalists and players like us in the diamond industry.

While those in the diamond industry welcomed GIA’s change of stance, many feel it came too late. Due to their earlier shenanigans, their chief competitor, IGI, has been able to capture the market for grading and certifying lab grown diamonds. With IGI now leading and GIA the underdog, GIA has no choice but to work hard to regain its previous position as the authority on diamond certification.

 

PROS AND CONS OF GIA

How does that affect you as a customer? If you want a diamond that is certified by GIA, you will have to pay a premium. Is there a reason why you have to pay extra for a GIA certificate? To begin with, GIA’s operating costs are higher than IGI’s, which naturally pushes up their certification prices. In comparison to IGI, GIA has fewer offices globally, which reduces their output. A further limiting factor is that most GIA labs only certify diamonds up to a certain size. For example, GIA’s Hong Kong office only certifies diamonds under 2.00CT. Any gem weighing more than 2 carats is only handled by GIA US. Moreover, their grading time is unfavourable, taking around a month to certify diamonds, citing stricter standards, compared to IGI’s a few days max.

The GIA certification, therefore, commands a higher price than an IGI certified diamond of similar properties. It is unfortunate that NOVITA DIAMONDS must pass on some of the added premium to our customers despite our best efforts to absorb most of it.

Cons: GIA certified stones are approximately 10 - 15% more expensive.

 

THE WINNER IS THE MARKET

The fact that a prestigious institution like GIA is going all-in on man-made diamonds says a lot about their legitimacy and superiority, in some regards, to mined diamonds. In fully embracing lab grown diamonds, GIA also debunks, permanently, all baseless claims made against lab grown diamonds by those with a vested interest in mined diamonds. This results in almost everyone benefiting, but none more so than the end-user, who now has a readily available compelling alternative to mined diamonds.

 

WHAT SHOULD YOU BUY - IGI VS GIA?


Our recommendation to prospective buyers is to almost always choose an IGI diamond over a stone certified by the GIA. There is no doubt that both IGI and GIA are trustworthy laboratories with stellar track records. In spite of this, the large savings offered by IGI certified diamonds outweigh any perceived quality advantage from GIA certified diamonds. Furthermore, IGI possesses a competitive advantage because it had a head start over GIA, which stopped certifying lab-grown diamonds in the middle, thus offering a larger variety and greater choice of stones.

Because of De Beers’ interference with GIA, IGI is now the authority when it comes to lab grown diamonds. If you choose an IGI diamond, you will not only be able to choose from a huge variety of diamonds, but you will also be able to purchase it at a much lower price than a GIA diamond. For the foreseeable future, GIA will try to play catch up to IGI, so as a buyer, you’re better off buying an IGI diamond.


True: IGI is the world’s most popular and dominant certification lab for lab grown diamonds.
True: GIA is the worldwide leader in lab testing for mined diamonds.

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GIA vs IGI