When it’s about buying a diamond, one of the most important things to consider is what certificate comes with this diamond.
Or which certification lab has assessed the diamond and graded it accordingly.
Why do you need to count on this very much? More than ANY other factor, even the Cut (even if it’s the most important factor among 4Cs)?!
Because simply if a lower quality lab (Anyone mentioned EGL?!) grades a diamond with a G-Color, while it’s an I or J for GIA, then you’ve purchased the wrong diamond, regardless of anything you’ve been recommended to get!
In this post, we will be covering one of the most controversial labs in the diamond industry:
The International Gemological Institute – IGI, and throughout our review, we will compare it to the most famous lab, the GIA.
Who & What are IGI Labs?
IGI was founded back in 1975 in Antwerp (Belgium), the labs were founded as diamonds, colored gems and jewelery certification institute.
IGI presence went exponentially, although they have started in Antwerp, they now have offices in Antwerp, New York, Hong Kong, Kolkata, Tel Aviv, Mumbai, Bangkok, Tokyo, Dubai, Toronto, Los Angeles , Surat, Chennai, Ahmedabad, New Delhi, Thrissur, Jaipur, and Hyderabad, and has more than 650 gemologists in their offices.
IGI features itself as the largest organization of its kind, meaning that they are the largest “international” labs, as they are located in many countries, but this needs more explanation (from them), because GIA has 3000 gemologists and they have offices in 13 countries, so it’s not quite sure what they mean by largest here.
IGI has a School of Gemology as well, with offices in Antwerp, Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Surat, Dubai, Shanghai, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Rome, Cavalese, Ascoli Piceno, Trecastagni, and Marcianise, where they offer diamond training and certification skills.
Unlike other labs like GIA or AGS, IGI is a company (for-profit), and it was kind of a family business (by the Lorie family) for all its lifetime, until recently in late 2018, when the Chinese conglomerate Fosun acquired 80% of IGI.
It’s worth to mention that IGI puts specific standards and methodologies to asses & grade diamonds, and this is applied across all their offices, unlike EGL which has many representations in different countries and you can easily find two EGL reports for the same diamond but they aren’t identical, each EGL labs use their own standards to assign grades, which is not the case in IGI.
IGI Grading & Reporting Services
As an organization specialized in gemstones & diamonds grading, IGI has many reports that show different characteristics of a diamond or other jewelry peice, we will take a look at some of the most popular reports provided by GIA:
1- Diamonds Report:
Like any other certification for diamonds in the industry (GIA, AGS, or others), this report assesses the diamond characteristics, and assign grades based on their standards, this report lists diamonds 4Cs, what Shape the diamond has, Polish, Symmetry (with its details like measurements, table & depth, etc.), and fluorescence.
It also includes a graphic representation for the diamond itself which shows inclusions found on the diamond, here is a sample for the diamond report by IGI:
2- Hearts & Arrows Diamonds Report
This diamonds type is becoming more popular now, with the big online retailers have introduced new lines of products and branded them as unique & spectacular diamonds with unmatched cut grade.
We’ve seen this in JamesAllen collection named True Hearts™, while their biggest competitor named the collection Astor™ By Blue Nile, and recently, the premium quality store Whiteflash jumped into this with their A CUT ABOVE® collection.
Because of this demand, and since GIA doesn’t include any specific details about these branded collection in the certificate, it became an opportunity for labs like IGI to issue grading report for diamonds with Hearts & Arrows (premium cut).
IGI uses Hearts & Arrows gemscope to check if ALL diamond facets aligned to appear correctly, which means full symmetric proportion to the diamond, the report is identical to the previous report, except it has a comment section to confirm that this diamond is a Hearts & Arrows one, like this one:
3- Colored Diamonds Report
IGI offers a service to grade and provide detailed assessment of colored diamonds as well, since colored diamonds are examined & assessed differently from the colorless diamonds we’re familiar with.
Why this report is important to be a separate one?
The Colored diamond report by IGI gives many details about the diamond color; its origin (natural or treated), grade, distribution and a comment section, like this one:
4- Synthetic / Lab-Created Diamonds Report
Lab-created diamonds are becoming more adapted in the past few years due to financial matters mainly, people are looking for cheaper options for almost everything out there, and diamonds are no exception.
You might think that it’s easy to identify a lab-created diamond, so why people would go for it? Actually, it’s not, NO one can detect the difference between a natural diamond vs. a synthetic one by just looking at it.
In regards to the IGI report for the lab-grown diamond, it’s identical to the natural diamond report, except it has a line that clearly states that this diamond is “Laboratory Grown”, and report name of course.
5- Other Reports by IGI
The above reports are the most popular reports that IGI offers (and what people look for actually), but IGI has more reports as well, which are:
1- Jewelry Report
2- Colored Stone Report
IGI Diamonds Grading & Reports Review, Are They Reliable?
Now it comes to the good question: How reliable are IGI reporting services?
Are IGI-certified diamonds good? Recommend to buy Them? Or we need to look for a better lab?
In certification labs, some names are very strict and follow unmatched standards, like GIA & AGS, while some others are much less about that, they have very “lenient” standards (like EGL!).
And in between those, a very wide range of certification labs come, they have a straight-forward guidelines to grade & assess diamonds, but they might not be as strict as the big names (GIA & AGS) in the industry, due to a lot of reasons, mainly the inspection tools they have, and the expertise of local gemologists they work with.
And in a lot of cases, the “for-profit” companies tend to be on the seller side rather than the buyer! Because at the end of the day, it’s their business, and being a profit-driven forces these companies to let sellers love their grading process!
This makes a little bit of less-consistency in their diamonds grading, as an example, GIA might grade two diamonds clarity with VS2, but in certifiation labs those with less restrictions, they might grade one as VS2 and the other as VS1.
IGI comes in this range, they are a good-reputable certification lab, and follow well-structured guidelines to assess diamonds, therefore, some of the big online stores sell IGI-certified diamonds, namely JamesAllen as you can see here, while BlueNile or Whiteflash still don’t offer IGI diamonds.
IGI vs. GIA Diamonds Grading Review
In our own assessment & comparison of diamonds that have been graded by GIA & IGI, we’ve seen a slight upshift in grading some diamonds characteristics, mainly in diamond clarity & color.
A diamond that has been graded as an SI2 by GIA might be graded as SI1 by IGI, similarly to color, a J-color diamond (as by GIA) can be seen graded as K by IGI.
We’ve seen in our EGL Labs review that their diamonds should not be an option for any buyer, they inflate color & clarity levels with two or even 3 grades, some might say: Okay, IGI doesn’t do that, it’s maximum by one grade, and this is not “a big deal”!
It is Actually, and a very big one!
Getting a diamond with grades that are higher that its actual grades (even 1 grade difference) is very risky, because:
1- You are paying an extra amount of money for a higher grade that doesn’t exist.
2- When you want to sell the diamond, it won’t be easy to convince a seller with a diamond other than GIA or AGS.
3- Even if you were able to sell it, you will also lose more money.
4- Most diamond insurance companies generally cover diamonds that are certified by either GIA or AGS.
Final Word on IGI-Certified Diamonds, Are They Good?
After what we’ve seen above, and although JamesAllen does sell IGI-certified diamonds (very small collection though), we don’t feel safe recommend them to our readers.
They are much better than EGL and other low quality certification labs, but it’s not the best option you should go for, yes their diamonds are a bit cheaper (compared to same characteristics for a GIA-graded diamond), but you’re not getting what you are paying for.
We always recommend getting a GIA or AGS diamonds (with GIA being the first option because it’s simply the best certification lab out there), from well-known online stores like JamesAllen, BlueNile, and if you’re looking for a top-quality premium diamonds, head directly to Whiteflash.