GIA Diamond Certification: Is it Legit?

Sharif Khan
Sharif Khan
Last Updated    EST 

The diamond industry is highly lucrative, one reason why its sanctity and integrity must be safeguarded at all costs. A common challenge this industry often faces is the infiltration of blood diamonds. Blood diamonds—also referred to as unethically-sourced diamonds—are those that are obtained from war-ravaged countries and are sold primarily to finance insurgencies. Another common challenge the diamond industry faces is inconsistencies in grading reports.

A trader deserves protection from investing in diamonds with questionable integrity, against which backdrop the Gemological Institute of America was established. GIA is an organization that researches, identifies, and grades diamonds and other gemstones. Besides, it offers educational services and a wealth of resourceful information for would-be diamond traders, most of which is available on the company’s website.

Read our insights on AGS versus GIA and the best grading labs in the world

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GIA's History

The Gemological Institute of America was established in 1931, almost ten years after Robert M. Shipley conceived the idea. In the early 1920s, Shipley was one of the most successful jewelers in the US. However, he was concerned about the unfortunate state of the industry. At the time, there were no professional bodies to set and regulate industry standards, which is why unethical business practices were rampant.

Shipley resolved to bring about the much-required sanity into the industry. He flew to Europe, where he took up a gemological correspondence course in the Great Britain National Association of Goldsmiths. He then traveled back to Los Angeles and started a preliminary training program in gemology on 16 September 1930. The primary mission of this program was to train and certify jewelers.

Shipley reckoned that by doing so, dishonest merchants would be done away with. All certified jewelers maintained close ties, assembling and forming a national jewelers’ guild that sought to offer professional jewelry services to diamond buyers. Instead of the traditional sales-based approach, merchants focused on providing their buyers with invaluable information. The term “certified gemologists” was also born on account of this newly developed conduct. Diamond buyers were keen on trading with duly certified jewelers, and this is how the GIA was established.

The GIA’s main objective is to set and maintain the standards used in the evaluation of gemstone quality. Presently headquartered in Carlsbad, California, the association aims to protect diamond buyers and sellers from illegal business practices. It boasts 11 campuses and four research centers, all spread across 13 countries. Besides, the GIA has nine laboratories dedicated to diamond testing and grading.

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Significant Milestones for GIA

1931 – The GIA is established.

1937 – The company patents the first gemological microscope, a historic milestone that allows gemologists to examine their gems more closely.

1953 – The GIA coins the Four Cs which remain a globally-recognized formula used to determine the quality of diamonds.

1955 – The company issues the first grading reports that subsequently received worldwide recognition.

1956 – The association devises an ingenious way of detecting such diamonds as are irradiated for color enhancement.

1960 – The company publishes the first diamond dictionary, another significant milestone for aspiring gemologists.

1987 - The Liddicoat Gemological Library & Information Center becomes the first library to amass the highest number of books on gemology.

1991 – In line with the GIA’s social corporate responsibility, the company hosts its first Career Fair.

1999 – The GIA introduces HPHT treatment in the diamond industry. The industry can now use this high-pressure, high-temperature technique to establish the value of decolorized diamonds.

2003 – The firm invented a technology used to detect sapphires made using beryllium-diffusion techniques. Besides, the company is also now able to identify diamonds that are made from chemical vapor deposition.

2005 – The GIA comes up with a method for grading the round brilliant diamond cuts using the D-to-Z color range.

2007 – The organization introduces the Synthetic Diamond Grading Report, making it easy to establish the quality of lab-grown diamonds.

2014 – It comes up with Diamond Check technology through which traders can distinguish between natural and lab -grown diamonds.

GIA Grading Report

GIA is Known For

1. Research

As mentioned, the GIA primarily researches diamonds and the area of gemology at large. The lion’s share of the studies is focused on diamond identification and strives to help traders around the world distinguish between real and synthetic diamonds, especially when such a distinction is impossible to make with the untrained eye.

The GIA also advances research on the various other aspects of diamonds, and after introducing the concept of the Four Cs, it did not stop there. It continued to investigate other elements of diamonds, such as fluorescence, all in a bid to establish the right methodologies for determining diamond quality. Besides spearheading research on diamonds, the GIA also researches rubies and sapphires. Click here to learn more about the company’s ongoing research projects.

2. Education

In addition to research, the GIA also offers holistic education programs. The company has 12 campuses around the world. However, most courses are offered online via an interactive eLearning model that renders the online programs nearly as practical as the on-campus ones. The GIA campus-based programs are accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC). Moreover, the online programs are accredited by the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC).

One notable course that the company offers is the Graduate Gemologist diploma. Some of the skills that can be learned under this program include:

  • Jewelry design,
  • Casting,
  • Mold making,
  • Wax carving, and
  • CAD/CAM.

The program covers the full spectrum of how diamond processing works, from exploitation at the mines to production at the factories. The various aspects of diamonds and how those aspects influence the latter’s quality are also covered therein. Also, there are units on how to use gemological equipment safely and effectively.

Upon completion, participants of the course receive the Graduate Gemologist diplomas, besides the Graduate Colored Stones and the Graduate Diamonds diplomas. They are considered certified gemologists at this point and can become any of the following industry members:

  1. Jewelry Merchant,
  2. Pawnbroker,
  3. Diamond Sorter/Grader,
  4. Diamond Appraiser,
  5. Diamond Auction Specialist,
  6. Inventory Control Specialist,
  7. Estate Jewelry Dealer, and
  8. Gemological Lab Technician.

The best part is that professionally trained and certified gemologists administer the courses. Apart from these two learning models, the GIA also provides corporate training programs. Follow this link to apply.

Laboratory facilities are also some of the GIA’s flagship services. The organization offers professionally prepared diamond grading reports that typically analyze the four parameters—cut, carat weight, color, and clarity—used to determine the quality of diamonds. Usually, there are two types of reports: (1) the Diamond Dossier report, a less thorough, less expensive version of the detailed report, and (2) the comprehensive report known as the Diamond Grading Report.

If possible, always go for the detailed report because it analyses the various elements of the diamond in detail. The Diamond Grading Report will highlight the stone's specific carat weights and specify its color, country of origin, and cut. Above all, the report will state if the stone has any inclusions. Remember, a diamond may look all eye-clean, but too many inclusions could affect its clarity score. A GIA report seeks to highlight the details that would otherwise escape the attention of the undiscerning buyer.

In most jurisdictions, a seller must issue their buyers a Diamond Grading Report for any sale of 0.5 carats or over; a buyer ought to insist on getting the report even if a purchase is lower. A merchant that issues a GIA Grading Report is likely to be reputable.

Diamond Cheat Sheet Blue Nile


The GIA is a non-profit organization and works independently. This means that there is no interference from the government, other gemological agencies, or diamond merchants. When seeking expert opinion on diamonds or gems in general, prefer a company that works independently, guaranteeing no conflict of interest. Since, as mentioned before, the GIA is not a profit-seeking organization, its services are primarily geared toward helping diamond traders.

The company has set and maintained high standards in the industry, mainly due to these two factors. It does not matter whether one is a diamond dealer seeking to have their diamonds certified or a diamond buyer looking for appraisal services; their best bet is to consult the GIA.

Besides being an independent and not-for-profit agency, another factor that makes the GIA stand out from most gemological institutes is the massive resource of information. The company seeks to educate members of the public on all matters that pertain to diamonds. To that end, the GIA runs rigorous outreach programs through periodical publications, one example of which is Gems & Gemology.

Additionally, the organization runs an online Gems Encyclopedia that contains many of the terms commonly used in gemology. Whether considering taking up a course in gemology or trying to start up a diamond store, one can invest in the Gems Encyclopedia to learn about some basic terms and jargon used in the industry. Some of the terms the encyclopedia tries to explain include diamond cuts.

If based in Carlsbad, the Richard T. Liddicoat Gemological Library & Information Center might be a go-to resource center. The center is still the world’s largest and most diverse gemological library and houses over 38,000 books, 700 international magazines, 80,000 digital images, 1,000 videos/DVDs, and 300 maps. Besides, the library features over 6,000 original jewelry-design renderings. Most of these works are older than the library itself. What is more, the center has reference staff who are always happy to answer every diamond-related question.

Indeed, the GIA is a trailblazer in initiating and fostering the best practices in the diamond industry. Visit this link to check if they have a location nearby. Click here to contact them for any general queries and clarifications on diamonds and gems.

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