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Knowing how to read a diamond certificate is great but if you are relying on the information that’s on the certificate you MUST understand who the company is that is providing the information and what the standards they use to determine their grading reports are. One of the more common questions I get regarding a diamond certification company is about EGL (EGL vs. GIA). As you will see below- your local Jeweler probably will never give you this information!
A Bit of history about the European Gemological Laboratory (EGL).
The EGL was founded in the mid 1970’s in response to a growing number of problems that diamond merchants (and this is a key point as you will soon see) had with both AGS and GIA. Being a “for profit” company (unlike GIA and AGS) EGL set out from the get go to make life easier for the merchants in order to win over market share. What problems were they looking to address?
– Speed- Both AGS and GIA were taking too long to certify diamonds. Having inventory in house is key for a merchant (especially before online sales at stores like James Allen). Having a diamond out being certified for too long can have a negative impact for merchants. EGL set out to speed the process and return the goods to the merchants faster.
– Cost – Both AGS and GIA are more expensive then EGL. By going after volume EGL was able to lower prices. An EGL vs. GIA will typically be around 20% lower cost to the diamond merchant.
– Low Clarity Grades – It is well known that diamond clarity plays a major part in the diamond buyers decision making process. Many merchants have a hard time selling any diamond that falls into the I diamond clarity family (example I1 or I2). Both GIA and AGS have a wide variety of diamonds that fall into the I clarity grade. EGL invented something called an SI3 clarity grade in order to provide merchants the ability to stay out of the I family. SO for example when comparing low clarity of EGL vs. GIA the GIA will come in at an I2 while the EGL comes in at an SI3 (just an example). Obviously this is better for the merchant!
– Strict Grading – You should recall the diamond grading system is accepted but not mandated. Each certifying company is free to use their own measurments. Realizin that having higher diamond clarity and diamond color grades is of interest to the merchants EGL is much more lax in their grading systems. It is not uncommon diamonds that are 2 grades higher in EGL vs. GIA. For example an H or I color GIA diamond might be graded by EGL as an F or G!
EGL vs. GIA – what it means for the consumer
Until now I have been talking about what EGL offers the merchant but what does it mean for you, the diamond buyer? In short- stay away from EGL diamonds! As you see above all that EGL offers is advantage to the merchant! They are able to offer higher graded diamonds (both color and clarity) for cheaper prices. Why are they cheaper? Because everyone in the diamond industry knows that the quality of an EGL vs. GIA is inferior and the wholesale price is already discounted to take that into effect. This discount (or part of it) can then be passed on to a consumer. Many times I have seen EGL diamonds priced only slightly below similarly graded GIA or AGS stones (e.g. he shows you an EGL H-SI1 and a GIA H-SI1) In this case you can assume that the merchant is ripping you off! In the example I gave you can assume this diamond would be graded by GIA as an I-I1!
If you think I am being to harsh take a look at both BlueNile and James Allen, the 2 premier online diamond stores, and look for a diamond that is EGL certified – you won’t find one! Because the online business relies heavily on the certs it is most important to only use certified diamonds with the highest standards.
One last point – EGL has many locations and each of them is run as an independent business. So EGL Los Angeles is totally different then EGL Israel. While I would recommend staying way from both EGL LA does have a better reputation.
Summary of EGL vs. GIA:
- EGL played into the needs of diamond merchants
- EGL offers no advantage to a buyer\consumer
- EGL grades with lower standards then GIA or AGS
- EGL is heavily discounted in the diamond business to business market
- If a jeweler tries to sell you an EGL diamond, politely ask to see an AGS or GIA
- If a Jeweler tries to sell you an EGL diamond for close in price to a similar AGS or GIA stone- leave and don’t buy form that Jeweler as chances are he is ripping you off.
- Never buy an EGL Israel or EGL Belgium diamond!