The Diamond Pro

Lab-Created Diamond Certification: Why Choose IGI

By Michael Fried
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Bottom Line Recommendation

While we strongly encourage a GIA or AGS certificate for natural diamonds, we recommend the IGI (International Gemological Institute) for lab-created diamonds. Unlike other labs, the IGI gives out specific grades on important features like Color and Clarity. By having a certificate, you can compare diamonds more easily to determine which stone gives you the most beauty for your budget.

Our preferred vendor for lab-created diamonds is James Allen. Their entire selection is IGI certified. Their high-end photography makes it possible to look at each diamond up-close before purchase.

Overall, however, we don’t recommend lab-created diamonds. While they’re beautiful and mimic real diamonds, they carry no inherent value. You can’t resell them and their prices have plummeted in the last few years. You’re better off buying a natural diamond from an online retailer like Blue Nile or James Allen. Almost every diamond is now mined ethically and the environmental impact is similar to the energy that’s used in the lab-grown process. Consider a recycled diamond for the most environmentally-friendly choice.

What is Lab Diamond Certification?

A diamond certificate is a document from an objective third-party lab that describes a diamond and its characteristics. The lab has no stake in the sale of the diamond and they evaluate each stone on its merit.

Along with each potential lab-created diamond, you should receive and review its lab certification. This lab report or certificate describes various elements of the diamond, such as Cut, Clarity, and Color. Expert jewelers evaluate, measure and scrutinize the diamonds with tools, such as a loupe or microscope, then report their findings on the certificate.

There are several diamond laboratories in the world. Each lab grades and describes diamonds differently, and sometimes the differences are significant. When you shop for lab-created diamonds, it’s important to know which certificates are reliable.

Are Lab-Grown Diamonds Certified?

Lab-created diamonds are certified, giving you important information on Cut, Clarity, Carat Weight, and more. By having a certificate, you can make an informed decision and compare similarly graded diamonds. For example, you can determine if this 1.11ct H VS2 diamond for $3,640 offers more beauty than this 1.33ct I VS2 diamond for $3,800.

Normally we recommend GIA certified diamonds, but that is not the case for lab created diamonds. Overall, the best certification for lab-created diamonds is the IGI, because they give specific gradings for qualities like Color and Clarity. The GIA, on the other hand, only provides a range—which doesn’t give you the information necessary to make a smart purchase.

What to Watch For: Lab-Created Diamond Certification

Diamond certificates across the different grading entities are not equivalent. That’s why the price lab-created diamonds are not comparable based on any certification alone. You should choose a diamond with a trustworthy certificate and review the diamond closely yourself.

Detailed grading matters

With natural diamond certification, every lab gives out a single grade for aspects like Color and Clarity. This is different with lab-created diamonds, however.

The GIA—which is the gold standard lab for real diamonds—doesn’t give Color or Clarity grades for lab-created diamonds. Instead, they give a range, such as H-J for Color. This range doesn’t give you a specific grading, which makes it difficult to compare diamonds and know what you’re truly getting. That’s why lab-created diamonds with a GIA certificate aren’t really an option.

The IGI, on the other hand—which is not consistent or reliable for natural diamonds—gives out detailed grades for lab-created diamonds. For instance, this 1.20ct radiant diamond has an H color grade and a VS1 clarity grade. When shopping for lab-created diamonds, you can compare IGI certificates to help you determine which diamond offers better beauty for the price.

Diamond grading is subjective

All diamond grading is subjective. Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t a central organization that defines what an “H” Color is or what a “VS2” Clarity grade looks like.

If a lab entity consistently calls one color grade “H” while another lab consistently calls the same color “I”, it’s perfectly acceptable—as long as it’s consistent.

Even when a lab is consistent in its grading, though, it doesn’t mean the entity is trustworthy. Buying a lab-created diamond with a weak certificate (such as a certificate other than IGI) at a high price point isn’t a smart decision.

Compare diamonds with the same cert

It’s best to compare diamonds graded by the same laboratory, such as two IGI diamonds. Because both are evaluated by the same third-party, you’re more likely to be comparing apples to apples. For example, you can look at this 2.07ct IGI-certified I VS1 diamond for $9,160 to see if you’d rather purchase this 2.54ct IGI-certified I VS1 diamond for $9,960.

Consider the price over the certification

Regardless of the certificate, the price of the diamond should be thoroughly evaluated. The price should reflect the actual beauty, quality and Cut—both on the certificate and to the naked eye.

If you’re unsure if a lab-created diamond is priced too high, have an expert review it before purchasing. For specific questions about lab-created diamond prices and certifications, contact us.

IGI Certification: Why It’s the Best for Lab-Created Diamonds

The IGI (International Gemological Institute) began as the blue-collar workhorse of the diamond industry. It became the most popular gem lab for major jewelry chains in Canada and the United States, such as Zales, Kay and other jewelers.

In some ways, IGI is like a factory. They tend to work fast and their prices for certificates are lower than the GIA. Diamonds sellers benefit from the lower cost, but not necessarily the end consumer.

For natural diamonds, we don’t recommend the IGI because the grading is lax and not as consistent as the GIA. However, for lab-created diamonds, IGI is the most thorough grading entity. For instance, they give specific Color and Clarity gradings for lab-created diamonds. This allows you to compare diamonds and ensure you’re getting what you pay for.

We recommend purchasing IGI-certified lab-created diamonds from James Allen. Because their lab-grown diamonds come with an IGI certificate, you’re able to compare the available options. For instance, this 1.50ct F VS1 diamond is $7,050 while this 1.20ct F VS1 is $4,190. James Allen has 20 years of experience and focuses on customer satisfaction and competitive pricing. They also have the most high-tech imagery, so you can accurately evaluate diamonds yourself.

By buying an IGI lab-created diamond, you’ll have peace of mind knowing your diamond is equivalent to the quality that’s claimed.

GIA Certification: The Gold Standard, But Not for Lab-Created Diamonds

The GIA (Gemological Institute of America) is the most renowned and respected diamond grading entity in the world. GIA is incredibly consistent and provides reassurance when purchasing natural diamonds.

An extensive GIA report is created for each natural diamond, including aspects like carat weight, table %, depth %, symmetry, polish grade, Cut quality, Color, Clarity and more.

For lab-created diamonds, however, only ranges are given for certain characteristics. As an example, a diamond might be given a VS1-VS2 clarity grade range. The GIA doesn’t give a specific grade, such as VS2. Without this information, it’s impossible to compare lab-created diamonds, their beauty, and their price. That’s why you should stick to an IGI certificate for lab-created stones.

Due to these GIA’s policies for grading, there are very few GIA certified lab created diamonds. Certified lab created diamonds will trend towards IGI certification. GIA recently announced some changes to their grading, but it is not enough to move the needle. The biggest change they made is dropping the word ‘synthetic’ from their title for lab created diamonds.

Can Lab-Created Diamonds Be GIA Certified?

Yes, you can find a GIA certified lab created diamond, but not with enough detail to make an informed purchase. For lab-created diamonds, the GIA does not provide specific gradings. For instance, the GIA doesn’t give out Clarity and Color grades for lab-created diamonds. They give a range instead, such as I-K for Color. Without a specific grade, it’s impossible to compare diamonds and make the best decision. That’s why we recommend IGI certification for lab-created diamonds.

Why a GIA-Certified Natural Diamond Always Beats an IGI Lab-Created Diamond

While you can find beautiful IGI lab-created diamonds, the stone itself has no inherent value. The price of lab-created diamonds have plummeted in the last few years and we expect that trend to continue. Lab-created diamonds also have no resale value.

Natural diamonds, on the other hand, are beautiful, timeless gemstones that typically maintain at least 50% of their original purchase price. By selecting a GIA-certified natural diamond, you’re purchasing a high-quality diamond that will maintain at least some of your investment.

We recommend purchasing a GIA-certified diamond from a reputable online vendor like James Allen or Blue Nile. You can find a stunning diamond at a fraction of the price of bricks and mortar retailers.

For help in finding the best diamond for your budget, contact our experts.

About the author
Mike learned the diamond business from the ground-up at Leo Schachter Diamonds - one of the world's top diamond manufacturers. He has been recognized as a diamond industry expert by Time, PeopleMoney, The Daily Mirror, NerdWallet, The Times Herald, Yahoo Finance Australia, The Art of Charm, The Washington Diplomat, The Next Web, and more. See more
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