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HRD’s Unpopularity

HRD really never caught on as a legitimate alternative in the US, despite lots of attempts at pushing it by diamond merchants (Leo Schachter was one of the big pushers).

The reason is simple: In our opinion, HRD billed itself as the European version of the GIA.  We feel they claim to be the authority for diamond grading in the world. We believe the problem with HRD, though, is that they are incredibly inconsistent and usually average about 2 color and/or clarity upgrades over GIA.

HRD’s Inconsistencies

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

Now, as I mentioned earlier, this in and of itself doesn’t really matter as long as an HRD graded diamond would be priced the same as a GIA graded diamond of two lower grades.  But the fact is that this is rarely the case.

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

Our Recommendation

We feel that if you are in Europe and considering buying a diamond that is certified by HRD, you might want to reconsider. In almost every case, you will get more value by purchasing a diamond certified by GIA or AGS from the US and having it sent to you. Remember, even if you have to pay VAT, the price you’ll pay locally already has that incorporated into the price.

James Allen offers free overseas shipping and great conditions for overseas buyers.

Evidence Backing our Claims

In 2013, Rapaport published a now well known article entitled “Grading the Graders.” In the article, they performed an experiment 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 grades 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 which are known to basically be fraudulent in the diamond industry).

This experiment clearly establishes a bias in HRD graded 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 we feel that you, the customer, must err on the side of caution to avoid getting screwed.

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 through buying an HRD certified diamond at a similar price to a GIA certified diamond.  In our expert opinions, 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:

Here are the results:

HRD Grade HRD Cert# GIA Grade GIA Cert#
H SI1 16029790002 I SI2 2175798415
F SI1 16029790001 G SI2 2175798417
G SI2 16029790004 G SI1 2171798416
G SI1 16029790003 H SI2 2175798425

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  – 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 for GIA/HRD diamonds listed on the largest virtual marketplace for the wholesale diamond industry, Rapnet, confirms this claim.  See below 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:

D 15,615 12,716 10,779 9,240 8,346 6,455 5,346
E 11,577 10,654 8,770 8,141 7,232 6,052 5,038
F 9,883 9,208 8,161 7,663 6,820 5,922 4,846
G 7,983 7,805 7,184 6,674 6,160 5,476 4,491
H 6,624 6,455 6,091 5,943 5,632 5,068 4,436
I 5,664 5,461 5,186 5,118 4,962 4,634 3,980
J 4,629 4,490 4,403 4,327 4,132 3,911 3,643
K 3,905 3,747 3,600 3,475 3,342 3,187 3,017
L 3,424 3,197 3,194 3,108 2,943 2,806 2,691

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

D 12,953 11,148 4,356
E 10,044 10,715 6,843 4,240
F 8,792 7,751 7,471 5,934 3,837
G 6,996 6,663 6,563 6,107 5,427 5,085 3,962
H 5,595 5,663 5,316 5,238 4,980 4,705 3,734
I 4,872 4,789 4,915 4,452 4,253 4,362 3,383
J 3,947 3,952 3,986 3,793 3,790 3,574 3,023
K 3,856 3,354 3,435 3,097 2,993 2,598 2,940
L 3,504 2,874 2,845 2,705 2,885 2,453 2,298

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

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