IGI Certification: are their diamond grading reports reliable?

Sharif Khan
Sharif Khan
Last Updated    EST 
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The International Gemological Institute (IGI) certifies or grades diamonds, colored stones, and other jewelry. It is one of the world’s largest independent gemological laboratories in terms of geographical presence and projects completed.

The institute is based in Antwerp, Belgium. However, it has offices worldwide in several towns and cities, including New York City, Mumbai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Tel Aviv, Dubai, Los Angeles, Shanghai, and Bangkok.

IGI graded diamonds come with good quality assurance because cutting-edge scientific technology is used in their grading processes. Besides, it is the only international gemological laboratory wholly owned and managed by a single central governing body. Apart from streamlining operations, it ensures that every certification is accurate and valid.

Read our insights on IGI versus GIA to compare them to the best grading labs in the world. Also, search & watch diamonds in 40X 360° HD videos.

IGI in the Diamond Grading Industry

Besides being the only gemological lab with active presence and operations in nearly every continent, the IGI is the oldest gemological laboratory in Antwerp, the world’s biggest diamond center. This feat speaks to the IGI’s experience and reputation as a jewelry grader.

The idea behind establishing gemological labs was to enhance the diamond trade by offering accurate grading reports to diamond dealers. Hence, by default, most of these labs ought to have been based in diamond-mining countries, although, for justifiable reasons, this is not the case.

Most diamonds are not processed in their countries of origin. Africa is a significant producer of rough diamonds, and so is the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has been producing diamonds since immemorial. However, no serious diamond processing firms have been established around the mining sites to date. Therefore, the DRC exports nearly all its diamonds to other countries, where they are cut, polished, and graded.

Most countries where much of the processing occurs may have few active diamond mining sites; a case in point is India. In light of this, the IGI sought to open up operational bases in diamond-processing regions. That way, diamond vendors would comfortably have their diamonds graded locally. For the most part, the IGI did succeed in eliminating geographical limitations. Moreover, the institute offers a range of services, the most common of which is its independent diamond grading.

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Other services by the IGI include:

  1. Identification and appraisal of gems, thereby issuing reports.
  2. Authentication and attestation of the origins of diamonds.
  3. Laser inscription services.
  4. Offering courses on diamonds and other colored stones through their School of Gemology.

Presently, the IGI issues over one million reports annually. This high number results mainly from the organization’s ability to cater to corporate diamond dealers and individual investors. Modern-day consumers have also become more jewelry conscious. When the idea of diamond grading was conceptualized, vendors mainly used it as a pricing mechanism. Nowadays, consumers are keen on learning about the details of the diamonds they wish to buy, implying that the focus is on information and not only on whether the value matches the price asked.

Apart from diamond vendors, consumers, and individual investors, the IGI caters to several other market segments, such as insurance corporations, catalog companies, internet sales organizations, and accounting and securities firms.

How IGI Diamond Grading Works

Like any other reputable grading lab, the IGI deploys state-of-the-art scientific equipment designed for accuracy and consistency.

The grading process involves an analysis of the elements that make up the Four Cs—weight, color, clarity and cut. Each aspect is carefully analyzed, following which process the findings are noted in the reports.

The process starts by examining the diamond carat, which involves Gemologists carefully deploying calibrated instruments to arrive at the most accurate carat weight. Afterward, they analyze the color of the stone for which the graders use the color scale that ranges from D (colorless) to Z (yellow). Usually, the color of a diamond is determined by comparing it to one of the lab’s master stones with predetermined colors. They also check for more detailed aspects like fluorescence when evaluating the color.

The next step involves checking the clarity of a diamond. Here, the experts use a powerful 10x magnification loupe to check for any inclusions, and when they find any, the graders list them on the diamond report. The diamond is then assigned an appropriate clarity rating depending on its score on the clarity scale. The scale ranges from IF (internally flawless) to I3 (heavily included).

The final element to examine is cut. In this step, IGI gemologists evaluate how the stone is cut and polished. Some aspects analyzed here include the cutter’s design, crown height, girdle thickness, culet size, and table diameter. The cut grade ranges from Poor to Excellent. The grade not only depends on the shape of the diamond but also on how it impacts the stone’s overall symmetry and proportions.

For accuracy purposes, all collected data is verified through further tests. The IGI tries to ensure that there is as minimal error margin as possible, thereby guaranteeing the uniqueness of a diamond. A report is drafted, a passport-size document detailing all the stone's specific features.

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IGI Operations and Its Strongest Selling Points

The IGI has employed 650 qualified staff comprising gemologists and accredited appraisers, among other office personnel.

To keep up with the emerging trends in the industry, the IGI has always been adaptive to technological changes. The company has created an effective Online Data Retrieval program that enables its clients to track the progress of their samples. Most importantly, a client can verify the authenticity of their diamond reports. The ODR works for all IGI-issued reports post-June 2004. The program has immensely assisted most jewelry buyers, especially those in countries where the laboratory does not have regional offices. Therefore, besides asking for a report from a diamond dealer, the authenticity of such a report can also be ascertained.

In addition to the Online Data Retrieval program, the IGI has also created the Registration and Recovery Service, via which a piece of diamond jewelry can be registered in the IGI data bank. This arrangement makes diamond identification and recovery hassle-free and is especially beneficial for insured diamonds. If a diamond is lost, the insurance company will almost always indemnify its owner with a similar jewel.

If a diamond owner happens to lose or damage their diamond, they can call IGI’s toll-free number and report the matter. If the diamond is destroyed, the IGI issues a computer printout describing the diamond in detail. But if it is stolen, the company will contact the local police. Additionally, the institute would search on the diamond auction market in case the stolen jewelry comes up for sale. The company would also alert the industry so manufacturers, retailers, and pawn stores can know about and watch for the stolen diamond.

Besides all these services, the IGI provides gemology courses through their School of Gemology. The school was the first to offer a practical Rough Diamond course. Some areas of study that the school focuses on include training on rough diamonds and colored stones, jewelry design, jewelry CAD, and retail workshops.

The IGI is one of the world’s largest gemological labs, bent upon continually offering professionally graded diamonds to their clients worldwide. The institute has succeeded in delivering on that mandate for its existence. Besides amazing offers, the IGI website is a goldmine of diamond information. Such information is useful when intending to purchase a diamond.