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Why Should I Buy A Certified Diamond?

Why Should I Buy A Certified Diamond?

If you’re thinking about buying diamond jewellery chances are you’ve encountered the giant, floating question that is ‘Should I buy certified or non-certified diamonds?’.

The reason that question is so giant and floating is that some people – many of whom really should know better – continue to argue that it’s okay to buy uncertified diamonds. Even today, I see companies selling uncertified diamonds, using the phrase "what are you buying, a diamond or a certificate"!

What is a buyer to do?
We know you just want to make the right decision, so we've put together this straightforward guide to diamond certification, to help you decide for yourself.

Stay tuned for:
- what a 'certified diamond' is and what a diamond certificate does
- why diamond certification even exists
and
- the differences between certified, non-certified and self-certified diamonds

 

What does ‘certified’ mean?

It’s worth hitting the books here if only to underline what an astoundingly important word ‘certified’ is. Freedictionary.org defines it as:

  1. to confirm formally as true, accurate, or genuine
  2. to guarantee as meeting a standard

In the case of diamonds, being certified means:

  1. that the diamond is verified as being either 100% natural or ‘enhanced’ (see below)
  2. that the quality of the diamond (colour, clarity, and often cut) meets a certain standard, in the opinion of a qualified, experienced gemologist.

Burning Questions

What's an 'enhanced' diamond?

Enhanced diamonds are cheaper, low-quality diamonds that have been artificially treated with the gemstone equivalent of plastic surgery to make them appear higher quality. These treatments include laser drilling to remove visible inclusions, fracture-filling to hide small internal cracks, and colour-treating to give a diamond either more or less colour.

Can enhanced diamonds be certified?

Some diamond grading labs refuse to certify enhanced diamonds. Others will note on the certificate that the diamond has been enhanced and how. The seller is obliged to tell you if a diamond has been enhanced but ask to see the certificate to make sure.

What is a diamond certificate?

A diamond certificate is simply a piece of paper. It’s sometimes called a diamond grading report or dossier, or a diamond analysis document. Call it a banana if you like, it's what's on it that counts.

A typical diamond certificate tells you about the gem's

- shape and dimensions
- carat weight
- colour and clarity grades
- standard of finish (i.e. polish, symmetry, girdle width)
and, in the case of Round Brilliant diamonds
- cut grade

When you buy a certified diamond you're also buying the certificate, which should stay with the diamond for life. Keep it in a safe place (but not with the diamond itself, just in case) – you'll need it to appraise, insure or sell the stone.

 

Burning Questions

Is a diamond certificate the same as a diamond appraisal?

No. A diamond certificate describes and grades the diamond whereas an appraisal values the diamond according to current market prices. However, if present, the certificate is used to help appraisers determine the insurance or replacement value of a diamond and having a certificate usually means the stone will be given a higher value.

Does certification mean a diamond isn’t a blood diamond?

No. The certificate only assesses the diamond’s physical attributes, not its origins. Check the seller's policy to make sure they only buy and sell conflict-free diamonds.

Why do diamonds need to be certified?

In a nutshell, diamond certificates exist to protect you, the buyer. To demonstrate, let’s imagine what might happen in a world where diamonds aren’t certified.

Picture the scene:

DIAMOND SELLER (holding up a small diamond): This is a 1.8 carat, flawless, D colour grade diamond.

YOU (squinting at said diamond): Are you sure?

DIAMOND SELLER: Yes.

YOU: Oh, okay. Here’s my credit card, Mr Diamond Seller.

 

Now let’s imagine that same scene using a certified diamond:

DIAMOND SELLER (holding up a small diamond): This is a 1.8 carat, flawless, D colour grade diamond.

YOU (squinting at said diamond): Are you sure?

DIAMOND SELLER: Yes. And to prove it here is the diamond certificate from a respected independent laboratory.

YOU: Oh, okay. Here’s my credit card, Mr Diamond Seller.

Clearly, in the first example, you only have Mr Diamond Seller’s word that the diamond is what he says it is. Even if he’s the most trustworthy retailer in the world, that’s still a lot to ask of you when you’re buying something as precious as a diamond.

The trouble with diamonds is that, without a certificate, you only have your eyes to rely on – and it is extremely difficult for anyone who isn’t a gemmologist to know the quality, clarity, colour grade and carat weight of a diamond by just looking at it. Yet these things dramatically affect the value. Having a certificate to confirm these things protects both you and the seller.

 

Now to the thorny issue of self-certification…

Q. When is a diamond certificate not a diamond certificate?

A. When it's issued by the seller themselves!

Perhaps the single most important thing about a diamond certificate is where it comes from. To be of any use, the diamond must be certified by an independent, respected gemological laboratory such as GIA, AGS, HRD etc.

Certifying a diamond costs money so some retailers sell uncertified to be more competitive on price. However, they also know that people are put off by uncertified diamonds so in certain cases they self-certify – that is, they buy uncertified diamonds, grade them in-house and issue their own certificate. There are also some unscrupulous sellers, that buy independently certified diamonds, then throw away the certificate and certify it themselves... claiming it's better than the original certificate!

In a nutshell, the only difference between an uncertified diamond and a self-certified diamond is that the retailer who self-certifies has done some printing... and possibly marked up the quality, to make you think you are buying a bargain!

 

Burning Questions

What happens if I buy an uncertified or self-certified diamond?

It can be very tempting to buy uncertified or self-certified diamonds because they are usually cheaper than certified stones. But before you grab that uncertified bargain, bear in mind you run the risk of not getting exactly what you paid for.

Gem labs use very strict criteria to grade diamonds. An uncertified or self-certified diamond advertised as colour grade F may turn out to be more like a G or even H colour grade when compared with an independently certified diamond, meaning that, like for like, you might have saved very little at all (or worse, paid more than you should have)!

Retailer-issued certificates are also not valid in the eyes of an appraiser.

 

The Difference Between Independently Certified, Uncertified and Self-Certified Diamonds

By now, you should see why the majority of ethical, reliable diamond retailers only sell independently certified diamonds. But if you’re still not sure (or you skim-read) here’s our Certified vs Uncertified vs Self-Certified Diamonds Showdown:

Independently Certified Diamonds

  • Verifies that the diamond is 100% natural or enhanced: YES
  • Gives you an experienced, third-party quality grading: YES
  • Allows you to comparison shop to get the best price: YES
  • Adds value to the diamond: YES

Uncertified Diamonds

  • Verifies that the diamond is 100% natural or enhanced: NO
  • Gives you an experienced, third-party quality grading: NO
  • Allows you to comparison shop to get the best price: NO
  • Adds value to the diamond: NO

Self-Certified Diamonds

  • Verifies that the diamond is 100% natural or enhanced: MAYBE
  • Gives you an experienced, third-party quality grading: NO
  • Allows you to comparison shop to get the best price: NO
  • Adds value to the diamond: NO

 

The Bottom Line

If you remember nothing else, remember this:

Unless you’re very experienced in buying diamonds and feel confident evaluating the quality of a diamond yourself, buy independently certified (we recommend GIA). That way, you know the diamond you’re getting is exactly the same quality that you’re paying for.

Quality Diamonds only sell independently certified diamonds. Whether as loose diamonds or set in diamond engagement rings, we have your back!