National Jeweler Network

Market Developments

A retailer’s solution to diamond grading confusion

By James Alperin

August 25, 2014


James Alperin owns James Alperin Jewelers in Pepper Pike, Ohio. He can be reached at alpjewel@aol.com.

Diamond grading reports have become as ubiquitous to the jewelry industry as diamonds themselves. 

Diamonds were once color graded as Jagers, Cape, Top Silvercape, Wesselton and other names that indicated their color in vague terms. As we all know, that system of grading disappeared long ago.  

Jewelers needed to have a precise system of grading diamonds so that one stone accurately could be compared to another, removing the margin of error that had existed to that point. The large amount of money that rested on the slight improvement of a diamond’s grade made the exactness of diamond grading a must. Thus a standard system of grading was born using a precise compilation of letters for color and clarity grade. 

Today the precision of the diamond grading system is under attack from many different labs using the same grading scale popularized by the Gemological Institute of America. One can get a report from one lab that states a diamond’s grade is G, VS2 then take the same stone to another lab and get a grade of D, VVS2.  

Often the grades given for the same diamond can be light years apart and, for the uninitiated, can lead to confusion about price. Why is it that a 1-carat D, VVS2 is so much more money at one store than another when both stores have reports, all be it from different labs, stating the color and clarity grade to be the same?

Where does this leave the consumer and how should jewelers represent diamonds? Some jewelers choose to use only one lab for all their diamond grading while others use several labs. Some jewelers still rely on selling the sizzle and not the steak and choose not to use diamond grading reports at all. The best line I’ve ever heard concerning reports was in a group of jewelers discussing what labs they use. One of the jewelers who chooses not to use reports said, “I don’t use diamond certificates. The first time someone mentioned ‘certs’ to me, I thought they were talking about breath mints!”  

When a consumer is shopping for a diamond, they need to know and, frankly, have the right to know that the diamond they are purchasing has an independent report of its true grade. When labs offer trumped-up reports stating that a particular stone is of a particular grade and they use the GIA’s scale for grading, the lab is clearly misleading the public. If a lab wishes to give grades to stones that are not within the strict guidelines of what the world has taken to be factual--in this case, the GIA system--then it should use a totally different system of grading and not confuse the public by using the GIA system of letters and sub-numbers. 

We all know that when the GIA won’t give a stone a particular grade, the stone can be sent to other labs that will bestow upon that diamond the grade that the supplier was hoping to get. Yes, the diamond still might sell for less than one with an equivalent GIA grade but that only adds to the difficulty of the retailer who is in competition with some other store touting the same grade diamond for less money. The consumer buys a diamond with a false grade and the retailer with the GIA diamond loses the sale.

If we are to continue to sell diamonds with grading reports in our industry, the multitude of labs selling these reports should develop their own system of grading so the consumer will not be fooled into purchasing something that it is not.  Honesty has been the hallmark of our industry and is what has kept many jewelers in business for generations. Business done on a handshake is one of the beloved values that we as an industry hold. I can’t think of another business in today’s world where such trust exists. Our very reputations are at stake using lab reports that are somewhat shaded.  The consumer deserves to know what it is that they are buying and should be presented with a lab report that is as honest as your reputation. 

What do you say? Let’s shake on it.