Modest proposal: we need a new diamond grading scale

Rob Bates

With the continued concern about different lab standards, maybe it’s time to look at the bigger picture.

According to Legacy of Leadership, the GIA history written by William George Shuster, the current grading system was developed in the 1950s, in part to bring about a standardized nomenclature for diamond grading. Before the system came about, he writes, “there was widespread ‘soft grading’—that is, careless upgrading—of diamond color by dealers, retailers, and appraisers. Terms such as rarest white, river, or top Wesselton, once reserved only for ‘top color’ diamonds, were used with customers to describe diamonds of somewhat lower quality.

Now, it seems, we are in similar position — with the leniant grades coming from labs that use the GIA-developed terminology but don’t always grade to GIA standards.

So what is the solution? The first option is to find a way to prevent labs that deviate from the GIA scale from using the GIA-developed nomenclature. It is not clear how that would be enforced — other than by what we are seeing now: lawsuits.

[two_third]But maybe we should flip that idea. Perhaps it’s time to invent a whole new diamond grading system. I talked a bit about this on the Four Grainer podcast, and while I doubt this will happen, when I bring it up no one has called me crazy. (Yet.)[/two_third][one_third_last]

“Perhaps it’s time to invent a whole new diamond grading system?”


The current diamond-grading nomenclature is not proprietary. Everyone uses the GIA color and clarity scales. If GIA — or another industry group — developed a new system it could be legally protected. Of course, if only GIA used it, that might stand in the way of widespread trade adoption. So perhaps the scale could be licensed to different labs, provided those labs grade to the set criteria. (This would fit with GIA’s public-benefit mission.) That would ensure we don’t have a situation like we have now, where the system is so widely used that it becomes abused.

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Source JCK Online