This content is provided courtesy of USAA.

By Rudy Antompietri, manager, USAA Gemological Services

Have you ever looked through a jewelry store window and noticed the reports, or certificates, that tout a diamond’s price, quality and availability?

These reports are supposed to assure consumers of the quality of the diamonds on display. They represent the opinions of experts at the lab that evaluated and graded the stone based on factors such as color, clarity, carat and cut.

But not all lab reports are created equal.

The diamond grading reports were first introduced by the Gemological Institute of America in the mid-1950s as a training tool. Diamond dealers began using GIA’s grading system to determine a diamond’s value. And they began to buy and sell goods on it.

GIA reports became not just a method of assigning value but a communication system as well. As a result, a diamond dealer in New York can speak with a jeweler anywhere in the world, and both parties will understand one another.

While GIA is considered the gold standard of the diamond industry, other labs have been appearing on the scene since the 1980s. Many of these newer labs use the same terms as GIA to describe diamonds. But, in my opinion, and the opinion of many jewelers, the standards they use are weaker than GIA’s. This results in diamonds that are graded too high for the quality and, consequently, are overpriced.

Some of these other labs also create separate reports that assign monetary values to diamonds, a practice that raises questions about the objectivity of the diamond grading reports.

GIA and the American Gem Society do not assign any monetary value. AGS is a jewelry trade organization that promotes ethics within the industry and has a lab that follows GIA standards. Both GIA and AGS issue grades, but allow the marketplace to determine what the stones are worth.

My advice? When shopping for a diamond, seek out jewelers who adhere to GIA standards. How can you tell? Look for the GIA or AGS logo displayed in the window.

What do you think Cartier, Graff and Harry Winston rely on to determine the quality of diamonds they sell? Their websites state they use GIA reports. They guard their reputations zealously and will not take the chance of using inferior reports.

To find a jeweler who is an AGS member, visit