By Michelle Graff
The new grading report for man-made diamonds from HRD Antwerp. The lab has started using the same color and clarity grades for lab-grown diamonds as it does for natural stones. (Photo courtesy of HRD Antwerp)
Antwerp—HRD Antwerp is now grading lab-grown diamonds using the same color and clarity scales it applies to natural stones, the laboratory confirmed to National Jeweler.

In its new man-made grading reports, which launched last week, HRD Antwerp has migrated from having just five color grades—colorless, near colorless, faint, very light and light—to the same 13 that it uses for natural diamonds—D to M, plus N-O, P-R and S-Z.

The Belgian grading lab is also switching from five clarity grades—free of inclusions (FI) to included (I)—to the same 10 applied to mined diamonds, starting with loupe clean (LC) and ranging to P3 (pique 3).

“Our aim is to serve the industry as a whole, from rough to consumers. We identified a need for better transparency and support concerning the new complications [meaning undisclosed mixing of lab-grown diamonds with natural] that arise with lab-grown diamonds,” the lab said in a statement to National Jeweler. “For this reason, we developed the set of measures explained above. The certification is just one piece of the complete puzzle of services we provide to enhance trust and transparency.”

HRD Antwerp has been issuing grading reports for lab-grown diamonds since 2013.

In the fall, it plans to add a report for finished pieces of jewelry set with man-made stones (the lab already issues reports for jewelry set with natural stones.)

The issue of how to grade lab-grown diamonds is a source of disagreement in the trade.

In October 2016, National Jeweler talked to Tom Moses, the Gemological Institute of America’s executive vice president and chief laboratory and research officer, about why the GIA uses a limited, less specific grading scale in its “Synthetic Diamond Reports” instead of the four Cs.

In the interview, Moses said that generally speaking, lab-grown diamonds are nitrogen-poor, so they are going to be of high color and clarity and not exhibit the same range of color and clarity as mined diamonds.

The GIA’s grading system, which was created long before lab-grown diamonds were prevalent, was “developed for normal mine run, which doesn’t change,” he said. “That’s nature.”

Moses’ remarks generated some back-and-forth in the story’s comments section, and a more recent editorial by JCK News Director Rob Bates—who thinks the GIA should offer the standard 4Cs scale for lab-grown diamonds—sparked a slew of online conversation over the grading of lab-grown diamonds.

Moses said in the October 2016 interview with National Jeweler that he didn’t see GIA altering the way it grades lab-grown diamonds in the “near future,” but changes in the market over the past two years, coupled with the Federal Trade Commission’s recent revisions to its Jewelry Guides, have forced the lab to change course.

GIA spokesman Stephen Morisseau told National Jeweler last week that it will be launching new reports for man-made diamonds “in the near future,” though details on exactly what will be changing beyond the title—the FTC now says that the term “synthetic” is confusing to consumers—have not been released.

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