An announcement in February that the International Institute of Diamond Grading and Research (IIDGR) has launched its generic diamond grading program surprised very few, but was noteworthy. Through it, the De Beers Group entered what arguably is the most contentious space in the diamond distribution chain where concerns have grown over grading consistency and standards, or lack thereof, in the past few years.
IIDGR’s foray into diamond grading is an extension of its activity for the Forevermark brand, while the business unit is also responsible for developing De Beers synthetic detection machines – DiamondSure, DiamondView, DiamondPlus, and Automatic Melee Screening (AMS) machines.
Jonathan Kendall, president of IIDGR, expects to draw from those other activities as the new grading business develops, while keeping focus on what he claims is his core mandate: to maintain confidence in diamonds.
Rapaport News: What is the background of the IIDGR?
Jonathan Kendall: IIDGR effectively became a fully-fledged business in 2011 when we started in-house marketing of our synthetic detection equipment. Until then, the equipment was sold by a third party, but we felt it lacked the required focus to get the equipment into the broader market that would ultimately encourage confidence in diamonds.
What is the relationship between IIDGR and Forevermark?
JK: The Forevermark brand and IIDGR work together but offer different products and services. IIDGR does all the selection and diamond activity for Forevermark, making sure the appropriate diamonds are chosen that fit the brands’ parameters.
We’ve been grading diamonds for Forevermark since 2004 when the brand was being tested in China and Hong Kong. We also started grading and inscribing diamonds for De Beers Diamond Jewelers around 2010. While we were supporting De Beers branded programs, people started to ask us for generic grading of diamonds. It seemed a logical extension to what we do as we already had in place the systems, the people and the exclusive equipment.
What added value does IIDGR bring to the grading environment?
JK: We offer a significant improvement in accuracy and consistency because of the technology we deploy.
A lot has been said recently about a lack of consistency in some laboratories which has made cross-border purchases of a graded diamond a difficult experience. Our technology ensures consistency in grading across our labs in the UK, Antwerp and Surat.
Explain your use of technology in the grading process?
JK: We currently deploy four to five steps to determine the color and clarity of a diamond, which are the most difficult inputs in a grading decision. Technology is used to make a call on color and clarity in the first stage and our graders then work to confirm that decision.
We’ve analyzed and compared our equipment’s grading with that of tens of thousands of results from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). We’re getting so accurate with color that soon we’ll be using the color grading machine plus a final grader to validate the decision, cutting the process to just two steps.
It will take a few years for us to get to that same position on clarity but, in the meantime, we’re using technology to assist graders to the extent we can. The technology on clarity provides a map, or a grader aider, which gives a picture of all the inclusions in a diamond. The grader can use that to analyze a stone rather than having to only use a microscope and their eyes.
The equipment also has the capability to highlight concerns. So, if the color or clarity machine detects an anomaly, it will alert the grader for a closer review.
Is the equipment available for sale to other labs?
JK: We made a conscious decision not to sell our equipment because we’re concerned that it can be misused, undermining the trust customers place on it. This equipment has to be managed, operated and calibrated every day.