We wish we can link to an EGL diamond on a reputable store like James Allen or Blue Nile, but unfortunately from more than half a million diamonds there, NOT a single diamond of them comes with an EGL certificate.
When it comes to diamonds, there are multiple points to be checked and verified before settling on a diamond. We consider the diamond certification lab to be one of them; scratch that, the most important one of them!
This is simply because this lab will grade ALL other factors; which you will be making your purchase decisions based on them; whether it’s color, clarity, fluorescence, you name it. All of this needs to be graded by a reputable lab.
Knowing how to read a diamond certificate is great and all, but if you are relying solely on the information on that piece of paper, then you at least MUST understand which company is providing the data on that paper (grading report/certificate) and what standards are they using to determine them!
Take cars for example, when you’re considering getting one, will you count on a guy who just opened his auto-repair shop last week without any reputation? Or you will take it to a professional center to inpect it for you? Same goes for diamonds.
One of the most common questions we get regarding diamond certification companies is about EGL! If you’re wondering:
What is EGL certification? Are EGL-certificated diamonds safe to purchase? Why are EGL diamonds so much cheaper? Is EGL vs. GIA a fair comparison?
Then, we sure got you! What we will be covering (or uncovering for that matter) today is something your local Jeweler probably will never disclose and most probably won’t be very happy that we’re disclosing either!
Before we get into the full exclusive review of EGL and its comparison with GIA, let’s take a look at this diamond on eBay (here is a saved image for the diamond in case got unlisted), the diamond has a D color on its EGL certificate, now let’s take a look at this D color diamond on Blue Nile that’s certified by GIA.
Would you ever believe both are the same color grade? Well, we wouldn’t!
Now let’s take a look at the background story of EGL and why they are so “generous” in grading!
The European Gemological Laboratory – EGL
EGL stands for the “European Gemological Laboratory”. EGL started back in the ’70s with many labs around the world; each with its own rules (and standards) to grade diamonds, you can safely say that it’s a “franchise” company, rather than a reputable lab. No, cross that! Even franchise companies follow the same procedures (and standards) to the letter!
As any solution born to fix a problem in the market, EGL was founded as a response to a growing number of problems that diamond merchants -and this is a key point as you will see below- had with both AGS and GIA.
EGL employs more than 1100 scientists, researchers, and educators, and they have laboratories in different cities around the world, they have some in London, Paris, Mumbai, Hong Kong, Tel Aviv, and other cities.
It’s worth mentioning that since EGL is a business rather than a non-profit, these locations are different businesses and each has its own standards to follow, some of them are better than others, but in common, they have some common standards to an extent (we will get into that shortly).
One of the most notable grading “techniques” that was introduced by EGL is creating a new clarity grading technique for diamonds that weigh less than 1 carat. They called this new grade an SI3, but is this “invention” considered an advantage for EGL? We will know the answer shortly, and why.
To measure how EGL contributed to the diamonds industry, let’s just take a quick look on GIA and what did they offer to the diamonds world, then come back for a quick comparison.
Gemological Institute of America – GIA
Unlike EGL, GIA is an independent non-profit organization (so no one is getting rich by grading diamonds) that was established back in 1931; to provide guidance, standards, research, and education to purchasers, merchants, and the entire gemstone industry.
Today, more than 3000 employees work at GIA offices that are spread in 13 different countries (headquarter being located in CA, and their offices are found across 13 countries, with 11 campuses, 9 laboratories, and 4 research centers worldwide).
GIA certification is considered to be the most widely adopted certificate for diamonds; which is easily understandable since we know that they set their inspection standards to extremely high levels.
All their labs follow strict guidelines and standards, therefore, for any diamond that gets a GIA, you can rest assured that it has been thoroughly tested and that all details found in the certificate are 100% true and precise. An example of the certificate is seen here:
So, EGL invented SI3, do you know what GIA had invented?
GIA didn’t just gain this huge credibility because of its decades in the industry (or its high standards), it is because they created the global standardization of all diamonds: The 4Cs (Cut, Carat, Clarity, and Color)!
Yes, GIA brought the 4Cs standards to life; along with the International Diamond Grading System™ back in the 1940s, and until this day, these are considered worldwide standards for evaluating diamond quality.
GIA is also known to be a leading provider for diamond education on the web; they create a lot of online courses about diamonds -they have created their first online course back in 2009- that anyone can enroll in and become a GIA Alumni, they also have endless articles on Diamond Education.
So, now we have two competitors EGL vs. GIA! (That’s of course if we can call EGL a competitor for GIA!) Let’s see what advantages EGL has provided for the diamond industry, and if these advantages are for the merchant, you (the buyer), or both.
EGL vs. GIA: Where EGL Succeeded?
Being a “for-profit” company (unlike GIA and AGS), EGL stood out from the herd; by making the merchant’s life a lot easier and helping them win over market share. What problems were they looking to address (and solve)?
1) Speed: Both AGS and GIA were taking too long to certify diamonds. Having inventory in-house is key for a merchant (especially before online stores existed like James Allen or Blue Nile). Having a diamond out being certified for too long can have a negative impact on merchants.
EGL set out to speed the process and return the goods to the merchants way faster. This way, merchants did not have to give up their diamonds (which they have most probably paid for) out of their inventory for a month or two to be certified from GIA or AGS! EGL certificates were a life-saver for these merchants!
2) Cost: Both AGS and GIA are more expensive than EGL (There is a kind of relation between cost & speed as you can tell since it gets verified and certified faster, the process would be much easier, shorter, and less pricey!) And by going after volume, EGL was able to lower prices. An EGL vs. GIA would typically be around 20% lower cost to the diamond merchant.
3) 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), don’t mix this I with the color grade I.
Read: Diamond Carat Chart: How Weight Affects Size
Both GIA and AGS have a wide variety of diamonds that fall into the I clarity grade. EGL invented something called an SI3; a grade “introduced” for the first time by EGL, a funny story actually, instead of stamping a diamond with an I1 grade, which no one will ever buy, this grade was created to make it look like a higher level on the SI scale!
Long story short, SI3 was founded in order to provide merchants the ability to stay out of the I family (simply because I here stands for “Included”, which means inclusion are visibly included to naked eye)!
So what EGL actually did is that they replaced the clarity level I with a new clarity level, and named it SI3. So for example, when comparing the low clarity of EGL vs. GIA, the GIA will come in at an I2 or I1 while the EGL comes in at an SI3 (just an example). Obviously, this is better for the merchant!
4) Strict Grading: Out of all the labs in this industry, only a few stand out with strict and consistent grading: GIA, AGS, and IGI; which is going all the way in as well.
You should recall the diamond grading system is accepted but not mandated. Each certifying company is free to use its own measurements. Realizing that having higher diamond clarity and diamond color grades is of interest to the merchants, EGL is much laxer in its grading systems.
It is common for diamonds that are two grades higher in EGL vs. GIA. For instance, an H or I color GIA diamond might be graded by EGL as an F or G!
EGL Vs. GIA: What it Means For You; The Consumer!
Until now, we have been talking about what EGL offers the merchant, but what does that mean for you; the buyer? In short, we encourage you to stay away from EGL diamonds! As you see above all that EGL offers are advantages 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 the quality of EGL, which is inferior to that of the GIA, and the wholesale price is already discounted! This discount (or part of it) can be then passed on to the consumer.
We have seen this many times; EGL diamonds priced only slightly below similarly graded GIA or AGS stones (e.g. The salesperson shows you an EGL H-SI1 and a GIA H-SI1) In this case you can assume that the merchant is ripping you off! For this example, you can assume this diamond would be graded by GIA as an I-I1!
If you think we’re being too harsh, take a look at both Blue Nile and James Allen (read our Full Review for James Allen here); the 2 premier online diamond stores, and look for a diamond that is EGL certified – you won’t find any!
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 away from both, but EGL LA does have a better reputation.
EGL vs. GIA: The Summary
- EGL plays into the needs of diamond merchants (and not yours).
- EGL offers no advantage to a buyer\consumer.
- EGL grades with lower standards than 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 from that jeweler as chances are he/she is ripping you off.
- Among all EGL labs, EGL Israel or EGL Belgium are the worst in reputation!
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