The Crunch: Much of a diamond’s value comes from its rarity, but modern technology has produced synthetic diamonds that are nearly indiscernible from their natural, mined counterparts. While the two are identical in beauty and durability, natural diamonds are considerably more valuable. That’s where the International Gemological Institute shines. Since 1975, IGI has added confidence to jewelry purchases by providing reports on gemstones true value using lab equipment and its decades of expertise. IGI has 20 locations all over the world and offers diplomas in jewelry analysis, furthering the cause of ensuring authenticity in jewelry sales.
Buying a diamond engagement ring is one of the most important purchases in someone’s lifetime. It’s a choice everybody wants to get right the first time, especially because it’s not cheap. The average price of engagement rings hovers around $4,000-$8,000, which is more than mere pocket change to everyday Americans. Before doling out a monthly paycheck, it’s crucial and federally mandated that consumers know what they’re buying.
Organizations like the International Gemological Institute exist to provide third-party analysis on diamonds and other precious gems, giving consumers details on treatments and the confidence that they’re paying a fair price.
Retailers rely heavily on third-party analysis when valuing jewelry with diamonds and other precious gemstones they intend to sell. Plus, retailers wishing to remain compliant with the Federal Trade Commission are required to provide consumers with specific information on the jewelry they sell.
“Fifty years ago, lab reports were not given to consumers. In fact, they were rarely used in the trade,” said Jerry Ehrenwald, President and CEO of IGI. “Independent professional third-party analysis has become a vital part of the sales transaction. It’s not just, ‘Trust me, I’m the jeweler. I’ve been on Main Street for a hundred years.’ That no longer goes.”
The growing popularity of synthetic diamonds through laboratory processes, such as HPHT (high pressure high temperature) and CVD (chemical vapor deposition), has kept organizations like IGI busy, since primarily labs have the equipment and expertise to determine the value of diamonds.
Jewelry retailers don’t often possess the equipment needed to tell the difference between natural and synthetic diamonds because the two are virtually identical in beauty, durability, and chemical composition. The only real difference is rarity, but it’s a difference that has a huge impact on value, with synthetic diamonds being worth anywhere from 30% to 50% less than their natural counterparts at this point in time.
“The demand for independent third-party analysis by a reliable organization has been growing exponentially in line with the improvement in technology of creating new stones and treatments,” Jerry said. “Our research department is constantly busy, looking at all kinds of new things that are coming up so we stay ahead of the eight ball, so to speak.”
Third-Party Certification Helps Jewelry Retailers Understand Value
For more than 60 years, the standards diamonds are judged by have been referred to as the Four Cs, which stand for color, cut quality, clarity, and carat weight. What organizations like IGI provide to retailers and consumers is the fifth C — confidence.
Retailers receive confidence in pricing by knowing details on the quality of gemstones in their jewelry, which they can then pass on to consumers. This confidence comes from having the experience and necessary equipment to measure spectroscopy, a vital test in telling the difference between mined and lab-grown diamonds.
“It’s not like you can just take a magic box and put a stone in there, and boom, it tells you if it’s a natural diamond or not,” Jerry said. “At a hospital, when a doctor analyzes blood, they’re using various equipment, but they need to know what they’re looking at.”
The technology to create synthetic diamonds has been around for more than 50 years. However, several brands have played a role in their proliferation on the market over the past decade, which has increased the need for laboratory analysis. While diamonds are popular, analysis is also important in revealing whether other gems have been treated.
Treatments can affect the value of stones, and consumers are entitled to the information that IGI provides retailers. For example, diamonds are at times infused with an epoxy to hide fractures, which can sometimes dissipate under the heat of a torch when a ring goes in for sizing. Many emeralds are oiled to fill fractures and enhance the appearance, and that oil dries out over time and requires retreatment. These are details that IGI reports bring to the surface.
“Ever since the introduction of synthetic diamonds, retailers have been submitting product to us for independent inspection to see if they’re natural and if they’re treated,” Jerry said. “Retailers are very concerned when they’re selling product that they are FTC compliant.”
More Than 40 Years’ Experience in Appraisals with a Vast Global Reach
IGI was founded in 1975 in a major diamond district in Antwerp, Belgium, and since then its reach has expanded to 20 global locations, including New York, Tokyo, Mumbai, Hong Kong, Tel Aviv, and Dubai. The organization has more than 450 employees who work diligently to analyze gemstones and bring confidence to jewelry transactions around the world.
Going beyond gem analysis, IGI also looks to further the field of gemology through its 12-location School of Gemology, enlightening students from more than 90 countries over the past 30 years.
Graduate gemologist and diamond graduate diplomas are earned upon completion of coursework and passing the final examinations, this includes classes in polished diamond, rough diamond, colored stones, pearl, jewelry design, jewelry CAD, and retail support.
Most of IGI’s students are diamond manufacturers and jewelry wholesalers, or their children, who are following a family tradition in the jewelry business. Jerry told us a lot of people with no experience in the industry enroll in courses because they want to study gemology or start a new career in jewelry.
A Standard of Excellence: IGI Remains Committed to Authenticity
Selecting the perfect engagement ring can be difficult, but IGI believes that consumers shouldn’t have to question if they’re getting a good price. Reading an IGI diamond report instantly tells the buyer every pertinent detail that affects value, including the cut quality, clarity, color, and carat size of the rock.
The choice between natural and laboratory-grown diamonds is up to the buyer. Synthetic diamonds are sold at a lower price point, which is an attractive option for many consumers. While it may be a personal choice, it’s important to have transparency in the process.
“The need for professional third-party analysis of gemstone quality has evolved into an essential component of the sales transaction,” Jerry said.
The growing popularity of lab-grown diamonds has only increased the demand for IGI and other gem authentication and appraisal groups. IGI has the experience and equipment to generate accurate reports that consumers and retailers have relied upon for over 40 years.