Founded in 1934 by Robert M. Shipley, the American Gem Society is a trade association of jewelry merchants, independent appraisers, suppliers, and other members with a special interest in the jewelry industry. The main objective of the AGS is training and certifying gemologists, jewelers, and jewelry appraisers. Like other agencies such as the GIA, it specializes in diamond grading. The company continuously develops high standards in diamond cut, clarity, and color.
The AGS is based in Las Vegas, Nevada, and runs affiliate bodies, such as the American Gem Society Laboratories (AGSL) and the American Gem Society Advanced Instruments Division. The agency boasts over 3,400 members. The membership comprises jewelers, suppliers, retailers, affiliates, and individual titleholders. It has jewelry consumers’ best interests at heart and strives to protect shoppers from illegal industry practices by enforcing ethical business ideals.
The History of AGS
The history of AGS can be traced back to the 1920s, at which time Robert M. Shipley was an influential jewelry merchant. He experienced a very humbling but awakening experience one day. During his heydays as a jewelry seller, Shipley believed he was the best merchant around and thought that he knew everything there was to know about jewelry in general. But that was before a pair of his repeat customers proved to him otherwise.
Shipley took the challenge positively. He reckoned that the apparent lack of expertise among many jewelry merchants accounted for the growing distrust between traders and their customers. When he later divorced, he ended up losing his jewelry store. Shipley then moved to Europe with one sole motive—to learn more about jewelry. As soon as he got there, he enrolled in a correspondence course with the Great Britain National Association of Goldsmiths. Upon completing the course, he traveled back to LA with a wealth of gemological knowledge and experience.
On 16 September 1930, Shipley founded a preliminary course in gemology. He focused all his time and energy on training local gemologists. During his training programs, Shipley introduced and fostered a somewhat new concept in the jewelry industry. The focus would no longer be on profit-generation but exceptional customer service. It is from his efforts that the phrase “certified gemologist” came into existence.
Shoppers were now keen on dealing only with certified gemologists, thereby creating a ripple effect that forced more traders to enlist for Shipley’s training programs.
Since the 1930s, the AGS has been on a consistent growth trajectory. The organization has introduced some of the globally accepted concepts and practices in the jewelry trade. Some of these achievements include:
- The invention of the first scientifically reviewed Cut Grade method.
- The creation of the Ideal Cut Grade for use on Round Brilliant diamonds, commonly referred to as the Triple Zero Cut or the AGS Ideal.
- Offering the first diamond grading reports with Oval and Emerald cuts including a Cut Grade for Princess.
Services Offered by AGS
It is almost impossible to discuss the company without mentioning AGS Laboratories. This is so because most of the operations of this organization are centered around its laboratory. The AGS Laboratories was established in 1996, and similar to the association, is a non-profit entity. It was founded mainly to enhance consumer protection.
The main service that AGS Laboratories offer is diamond grading. Being a third-party association, the lab’s grading reports can be trusted to be unbiased. Also, the reports are consistent because they are prepared by some of the industry’s most professionally-trained gemologists. All the grading processes in the lab are scientifically-conducted.
It does not matter whether one is a diamond dealer or buyer given that AGS Laboratories can be tasked with any diamond grading need. The laboratory’s grading certifications usually indicate the specific elements in a diamond, allowing for its weight and cut to be easily known. Moreover, the diamond’s color and clarity score can also be established. A dealer can easily put a price on his merchandise based on the report. On the other hand, the report will give an accurate appraisal of a diamond to its potential buyer before they purchase it.
The AGS ensures that their grading reports meet the minimum threshold for acceptability. These reports often feature the following elements:
- Accuracy and precision in grading.
- Clarity in preparation. Graders use such language as is easy for the report-holder to read and interpret.
- The use of cutting-edge patented grading technology. The technology is scientifically-driven, thereby ensuring accuracy and consistency each time.
- Up to six security measures that guarantee their authenticity.
Besides their diamond grading services, the AGS Laboratories also offer laser-inscription using a micro laser beam. The inscription could be of anything, from a company logo, a unique text, or an image to a serial number. In most cases, the inscriptions are made on the girdle so that they may only be viewed via a magnification device. These inscriptions can be vital, more so because they give diamonds their unique identity, adding to their overall value. Also, they can help owners track and identify them when lost. The best part is that the service does not interfere with the quality of diamonds.
Information Resource Center
Besides laboratory services, the AGS website is a goldmine of information where visitors can learn about anything concerning diamonds and jewelry in general.
The site has a page dedicated particularly to diamonds. On this page, information about the history of diamonds and how the AGS diamond grading system works is available. Visitors will also discover how diamond engagement rings became fashionable, and if they are thinking of buying but are not sure where to start, there is a comprehensive buying guide for them that focuses mainly on the Four Cs along with other considerations. Lastly, there are tips on how to verify that a diamond report is from the AGS.
Another section of the website is dedicated to jewelry in general. From birthstones to pearls and gemstones, information about how to identify and shop for these gems can be read.
Next, there is a section that discusses the jewelry industry, which lets visitors uncover some of the emerging trends in this lucrative sector. They can find out more about how to become an accredited AGS member. It is a rigorous procedure and only the best in the industry get accepted. Needless to mention, the AGS website can be used to locate a licensed AGS supplier.
Challenges in the diamond industry are never in short supply. From issues of blood diamonds to inconsistent grading reports, there is always something for consumers to grapple with. Therefore, the need for associations that can stand in the gap and restore the much-required sanity looms large. The most important thing, though, is that such agencies must be independent so that they can prepare unbiased reports. This proposition is exactly what defines the AGS’ role in the jewelry industry.
Ever since its inception, the company has always been a not-for-profit entity, implying that unlike most gemological agencies, the AGS does not focus on profit-generation. Instead, it aims to instill consumer confidence by setting the industry’s best practices. The fact that it is also independent means that there is no interference from conflicting interests. Therefore, their reports, certifications, and news publications can be regarded as credible and authentic.
Also, the AGS is a one-stop solution for every diamond need and can be contacted for diamond testing, grading, and appraisals. Besides, they offer lots of consultancy services, not to mention their many resourceful publications.
The AGS is more than 80 years old, carrying a long history that reflects in their expertise in diamond grading. The association is continuously seeking to preserve the integrity of the diamond industry, no wonder that most diamond buyers are now keen on trading with AGS-accredited dealers.