How should lab-grown diamonds be graded?

Rob Bates

In 2006, when Gemological Institute of America (GIA) chairman Ralph Destino announced that its grading lab would issue reports for lab-grown diamonds, it caused a huge uproar and fear in the traditional diamond market. But it shouldn’t have.

In the ensuing years, the GIA Synthetic Diamond Reportshave gotten very little traction, with most sellers opting for other labs. Which is surprising, considering GIA’s profile and prestige, and the fact that some consumers won’t buy high-end diamonds, including lab-grown ones, without a GIA report.

Why the antipathy? For one, the GIA calls its reports “Synthetic Diamond Reports,” and people in that business hate the word synthetic. For another, it uses a “descriptive” scale with general grading categories rather than the standard Four Cs. For color, it uses the general categories: “colorless,” “near colorless,” “faint,” “very light,” and “light.” For clarity, it uses the “VVS” and “included” categories, without rating them a 1 or a 2.

Last month, the GIA said that it was considering changes to the report in light of the changes to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Guides and in the market. It said the new reports were coming “soon.” It’s announced little since.

That’s caused a lot of speculation, but one can read some tea leaves. GIA will certainly make the word synthetic less prominent on the reports and likely not use it at all, as the FTC has removed it from its list of recommended qualifiers for lab-grown diamonds. (The FTC did not, contrary to some assertions, say that the term should never be used.) GIA has also said that it believes all treatments should be disclosed, even to lab-grown gems. It doesn’t currently include that information on its reports, but it likely will in the future.

But the big question is whether the GIA will grade lab-growns using the standard Four C grading scale, as HRD Antwerp announced it would this week. People in the lab-grown business have high hopes that will happen.

But one source thinks that, as is its wont, the GIA will play it safe. While it may include more color and clarity data, it seems unlikely—at least as I type this—that it will go the full monty and grade diamonds according to the standard Four C scale. The GIA probably considers this a compromise. For people in the created business, it would likely be a deal breaker.

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Source JCK Online