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HRD Certification: What You Need to Know Before Purchasing a Diamond

By Mike Fried,

HRD Antwerp, short for Hoge Raad voor Diamant, is one of Europe’s largest diamond certification laboratories. It is based in Antwerp, Belgium, a city renowned for its longstanding history in the diamond trade. Their certification offers detailed information about a diamond’s 4Cs—cut, color, clarity, and carat weight—along with other characteristics like fluorescence and finish.

However, it’s worth noting that HRD is generally considered to be less stringent in its grading than other labs like the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). In our experience, they usually average about two color and/or clarity grades above the Gemological Institute of America (GIA)’s grading. HRD-graded diamonds are usually priced much higher than equivalent diamonds graded by the GIA. For these reasons, our expert opinion is to stick with diamonds certified by the GIA when making a purchase.

Sample HRD diamond certificate

Bottom Line Recommendation:

If you’re located in Europe and are considering buying a diamond that is certified by HRD, we suggest reconsidering it. In almost every case, you’ll receive better value by purchasing a diamond certified by GIA from the United States and having it sent to you (prices are lower there). Even if you have to pay VAT, the price you’ll pay locally already has that incorporated into the price anyway. James Allen and Blue Nile offer free overseas shipping and great conditions for overseas buyers.

History of HRD

Founded in 1973 as Hoge Raad voor Diamant, HRD issues certificates for diamonds and gemstones primarily in Europe. HRD is headquartered in Antwerp, Belgium and its chief shareholder is the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC). Not generally regarded as a legitimate alternative in the United States, HRD still claims to be the authority for diamond grading in the world.

Over the years, we’ve experienced incredible inconsistency with HRD grading. They usually average about two color and/or clarity grades above the Gemological Institute of America (GIA)’s grading. HRD-graded diamonds are usually priced much higher than equivalent diamonds graded by the GIA. This allows for significant profits to be made by diamond companies at your expense as a diamond buyer.

To help you with the diamond buying process we lean on our expertise and experience. The author of this article, our CEO, Mike Fried has over 20 years of experience in the diamond industry. Mike started from the bottom, sorting and evaluating hundreds of thousands of diamonds to learn every facet (pun intended) of diamond quality and value. Mike followed that up by spending years buying and selling diamonds on the wholesale market as well as selling tens of millions of dollars worth of diamonds to diamond retailers.

HRD Diamond Grading Report

HRD provides a full report, evaluating each diamond on various qualities and components.

Grading Results

When it comes to grading diamonds, the most important aspects to consider are the diamond 4 Cs (cut, color, clarity and carat). Each C is graded on a scale to help determine the quality and beauty of a diamond.

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Cut and Proportions

HRD grades cut on a scale from Excellent to Poor. They also provide three subgrades: proportions, polish and symmetry.

Proportions help describe the level of brilliance and fire a diamond will exhibit.

Polish indicates the finish on the diamond’s facets.

Symmetry describes how proportionate a diamond is in certain areas and parameters.

HRD cut guide

Color

A diamond’s color is graded based on how white or colorless it is. HRD grades diamonds from D to Z, with D being the most colorless and Z carrying noticeable brown or yellow tint.

The naked eye is usually unable to tell the difference between two adjacent color-graded diamonds, although the price difference can be significant. It’s important to review the diamond closely as well as review the diamond color grading.

Clarity

A diamond clarity chart describes the options of how clean a diamond can be from blemishes and inclusions. The HRD grades clarity on the following scale:

  • LC (Loupe-clean)
  • VVS1 (Very, Very Slightly Included 1)
  • VVS2 (Very, Very Slightly Included 2)
  • VS1 (Very Slightly Included 1)
  • VS2 (Very Slightly Included 2)
  • SI1 (Slightly Included 1)
  • SI2 (Slightly Included 2)
  • P1 (Piqué (or Included) 1)
  • P2 (Piqué (or Included) 2)
  • P3 (Piqué (or Included) 3)

Carat

Carat, which indicates the weight of a diamond—not its size—is measured and reported on an HRD certificate.

Carat weight measurements are standard across all grading entities. While carat weight is important, the other C’s (cut, color, and clarity) play a larger role in the diamond’s overall beauty.

Additional Grading Information

In addition to information about the 4 C’s, an HRD report will include details on fluorescence, girdle size, culet, table width and finish grade.

HRD’s Inconsistencies Compared with GIA

In our experiences (see below for more detail), the combination of HRD’s perceived clout and professionalism paired with their unprofessional and unreliable overall grading allows for significant profits to be made by the diamond companies.

If an HRD-graded diamond were priced the same as a GIA-graded diamond of two lower grades, there wouldn’t be as much of a problem. But the fact is, this is rarely the case.

So, if you are seriously considering buying an HRD-certified diamond, please do some smart price comparisons first—and always assume that the diamond is equivalent to a GIA diamond of two grades (color and/or clarity) lower.

Evidence Backing Our Claims

In 2013, Rapaport published a now well-known article entitled “Grading the Graders.” In the article, they performed an experiment by sending 10 diamonds to 6 different labs. While we don’t fully agree with their methodologies (for one, they didn’t send the diamonds to other IGI branches outside of New York), their results comparing HRD to GIA and the other labs are telling.

In that experiment, they assigned a numerical value to each color and clarity grade, going down by one point for every increased color and clarity grade. Over the 10 stones, the average grade for the GIA-graded stones was 14.8 while the average grade for the HRD-graded stones was 16.3—a difference of 1.5. In this experiment, HRD ranked below (in order) GIA, IGI and EGL USA. HRD only ranked above EGL Hong Kong and EGL Israel (two labs that are known to basically be fraudulent in the diamond industry).

This experiment clearly establishes a bias in HRD grading in relation to GIA grading. Likewise, there was no consistency in the way HRD upgraded the stones over the GIA grades.

Considering this evidence, we feel that you, the customer, must err on the side of caution to avoid getting swindled.

As this Rapaport experiment establishes, it is not a given that an HRD-graded diamond will have inflated grades when compared to GIA, but it is certainly the likely scenario.

Since we care about each reader of our website, we cannot accept the position that only a “certain percentage” of you will get lesser value when buying an HRD-certified diamond at a similar price to a GIA-certified diamond. In our expert opinion, this scenario is likely enough that we must warn you, our dear readers, about it.

Furthermore, our own experiment sending 4 diamonds to both HRD and GIA generated equally substantiating results.

Here are the results:

HRD GradeHRD Cert#GIA GradeGIA Cert#
H SI116029790002I SI22175798415
F SI116029790001G SI22175798417
G SI216029790004G SI12171798416
G SI116029790003H SI22175798425

Out of the 4 diamonds, 3 received 2-grade upgrades (as we warned above), and one stone received a 1-grade downgrade. This is exactly what we claim about HRD: weaker overall grading and inconsistency.

In light of such results, the only possible position we can take to protect you, the consumer, is to always assume an HRD-graded stone is, in GIA standards, two grades lower than is claimed by HRD.

The HRD grade bias in relation to GIA is well-known and established in the diamond industry and is clearly reflected in industry pricing. Comparing the prices of GIA/HRD diamonds listed on the largest virtual marketplace for the wholesale diamond industry, Rapnet, confirms this claim. See below for the results using the Rapnet tool “TradeScreen” which aggregates pricing data of all of the diamonds listed on their service.

Presented here are the tables by color and clarity for diamonds weighing between 1.00 and 1.49 carats, with no fluorescence, with all cut/polish/symmetry grades at the top of their respective scales. Prices are listed in dollars per carat.

First GIA:

 IFVVS1VVS2VS1VS2SI1SI2
D15,61512,71610,7799,2408,3466,4555,346
E11,57710,6548,7708,1417,2326,0525,038
F9,8839,2088,1617,6636,8205,9224,846
G7,9837,8057,1846,6746,1605,4764,491
H6,6246,4556,0915,9435,6325,0684,436
I5,6645,4615,1865,1184,9624,6343,980
J4,6294,4904,4034,3274,1323,9113,643
K3,9053,7473,6003,4753,3423,1873,017
L3,4243,1973,1943,1082,9432,8062,691

Then HRD (the blank squares are combinations for which there are not at least 3 diamonds listed on Rapnet):

 IFVVS1VVS2VS1VS2SI1SI2
D12,95311,148    4,356
E10,04410,7156,843   4,240
F8,7927,7517,471 5,934 3,837
G6,9966,6636,5636,1075,4275,0853,962
H5,5955,6635,3165,2384,9804,7053,734
I4,8724,7894,9154,4524,2534,3623,383
J3,9473,9523,9863,7933,7903,5743,023
K3,8563,3543,4353,0972,9932,5982,940
L3,5042,8742,8452,7052,8852,4532,298

Of the 54 boxes in which there are comparable stones, only 2 are priced higher with HRD certificates than GIA. On average, the GIA stones are 13% more expensive than HRD-certified diamonds.

In financial economics, the efficient-market hypothesis (EMH) states that asset prices fully reflect all available information.

There is only one logical explanation why the wholesale diamond market would price at such a consistent discount in HRD-certified diamond prices when compared to GIA-certified diamonds: the market knows HRD’s grades are inflated when compared to GIA’s. Otherwise, every diamond merchant would buy up these “cheap” HRD diamonds, send them to GIA, and make an easy 13%.

Advantages of HRD Certification

  • Primarily available for European customers
  • Indicates that you should look for another diamond (one that’s GIA certified)

Disadvantages of HRD Certification

  • Inflated grading
  • Lacks consistency in grading
  • May lead you to spend more on a diamond than it’s worth
  • Does not provide reliability or integrity with its grading systems

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Unique Reports and Additional Services

In addition to standard diamond certificates, HRD offers the following:

  • A treated diamond grading report
  • A laboratory-grown diamond grading report
  • Preliminary diamond examinations
  • Laser inscription
  • Sealing
  • Repolished diamonds
  • HRD Antwerp Express

If you’re considering an HRD-certified diamond, we strongly suggest reconsidering. We recommend only purchasing diamonds that come with a GIA certificate.

The key reason for this is that the GIA is far more systematic and consistent in the way they grade diamonds. This means that you can trust that the data on the certificate matches the diamond you’re purchasing.

As the GIA explains:

The GIA Diamond Grading Report includes an assessment of a diamond’s 4Cs – color, clarity, cut, and carat weight – along with a plotted diagram of its clarity characteristics and a graphic representation of the diamond’s proportions. For standard round brilliant cut diamonds falling in the D-to-Z color range, the report also includes a GIA Cut grade. Gemological Institute of America (GIA)

While a diamond with an HRD certificate might look like a better deal, the reality is that the grades may be significantly inflated, as well as far less consistent than those provided by other grading entities.

Any questions about purchasing a diamond? Contact our experienced experts.

If you would like to know more about diamond certificates, read our guide on diamond certification.

Here are more specific certificate topics to browse:

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About the author

Mike Fried Mike Fried Mike Fried has over 25 years experience in the diamond industry working with Leo Schachter Diamonds, Moshe Namdar Diamonds, and joining The Diamond Pro in 2007. He is recognized as an industry expert and has been quoted in publications such as Us, People, Page Six, The Next Web and more.

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