The International Gemological Institute [IGI] is an organization that deals with the certification of diamonds as well as colored stones and other jewelry. It’s arguably the world’s largest independent gemological laboratory, in terms of geographical presence and projects completed.
The institute is based in Antwerp, Belgium. However, IGI has offices in several towns and cities around the world. Examples include New York City, Mumbai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Tel Aviv, Dubai, Los Angeles, Shanghai, and Bangkok.
IGI-certified diamonds come with exceptional quality assurance. That’s because the company uses cutting-edge scientific technology in all its grading processes. Besides, it’s the only international gemological laboratory that’s wholly owned and managed by a single central governing body. Not only does that streamline operations. It also ensures all certifications by the company are accurate and valid.
The Significance of IGI in the Diamond Grading Industry
IGI is the oldest gemological laboratory in Antwerp. And Antwerp is the world’s diamond center. Therefore, that speaks to IGI’s experience and reputation as a jewelry grader. IGI is also the only gemological lab with active presence and operations in nearly all the continents.
The idea behind the establishment of gemological labs was to enhance diamond trade by offering accurate grading reports to diamond dealers. So, by default, most of these labs ought to have been based in diamond-mining countries. However, that’s not quite the case, and for justifiable reasons.
Most diamonds aren’t processed in their countries of origin. For instance, Africa is a significant producer of rough diamonds. Countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo have produced diamonds from time immemorial. But to date, there are no serious diamond processing firms around the mining sites. Therefore, the DRC exports nearly all its diamonds to other countries, where they’re cut, polished, and graded.
Most countries where much of the processing takes place may not even have significant active diamond mining sites. A case in point is India. It’s in light of this that IGI sought to open up operational bases in diamond-processing regions. That way, diamond vendors would comfortably have their diamonds graded locally. And for the most part, the IGI has succeeded in eliminating geographical limitations. The institute offers a range of services. The most common one is the independent diamond grading. Besides, the organization grades other colored stones.
Other services by IGI include;
- Identification and appraisal of gems, thereby issuing reports on the same
- Authentication and attestation of the origins of diamonds
- Laser inscription services
- Offering courses on diamonds and other colored stones, through the institute’s IGI's School of Gemology.
Presently, IGI issues over one million reports annually. That high number is mainly because the organization caters to both 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. The focus is on information and not necessarily whether the value matches the price asked.
Besides diamond vendors, consumers, and individual investors, IGI caters to several other market segments. Examples include insurance corporations, catalog companies, internet sales organizations, and accounting and securities firms.
How IGI Diamond Grading Works
Like any other reputable grading lab out there, IGI deploys state-of-the-art scientific equipment. The equipment is designed for accuracy and consistency.
The grading process basically involves an analysis of the elements that make up the Four Cs. Such components include the diamond’s carat weight, color, clarity and cut. Each aspect is carefully analyzed, and the findings noted in the report.
The process starts by examining the diamond carat. Gemologists deploy carefully calibrated instruments to arrive at the most accurate carat weight. Then they analyze the color of the stone. To do that, the graders use the color scale that ranges from D (colorless) to Z (yellow). Usually, the color of your diamond is determined by comparing it to the lab’s master stones with predetermined colors. When evaluating the color, they also check for more detailed aspects like fluorescence.
The next step involves checking the clarity of your diamond. Here, the experts use a powerful 10x magnification loupe to check for any inclusions. Should there be any blemishes, the graders list them down 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 the cut. In this step, IGI gemologists evaluate how the stone is cut and polished. Some aspects that are 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 how that shape impacts the stone’s overall symmetry and proportions.
For accuracy purposes, all collected data is verified through further tests. IGI tries to ensure there’s as minimal error margin as possible. That guarantees the uniqueness of your diamond. Ultimately, a report is drafted. The report is a passport-size document that details all the specific features of the stone.
IGI Operations and Its Strongest Selling Points
IGI boasts a staff consisting of over 650 qualified personnel. The number is made up of gemologists, accredited appraisers, as well as other office personnel.
To keep up with the emerging trends in the industry, IGI has always been adaptive to technological changes. The company has since created an effective Online Data Retrieval program. Through the program, its clients can track the progress with their samples. Most importantly, you can verify the authenticity of your diamond reports. ODR works for all IGI-issued reports post-June 2004. The program has been of immense assistance to most jewelry buyers, especially those in countries where the laboratory doesn’t have regional offices. So, besides asking for a report from a diamond dealer, you can also ascertain the authenticity of such a report.
In addition to the Online Data Retrieval program, IGI also created the Registration and Recovery Service. The RRS service allows you to register your diamond jewelry in the IGI data bank. That arrangement makes diamond identification and recovery hassle-free. It’s especially beneficial for insured diamonds. In case you lose your diamond, the insurance company will almost always indemnify you with a similar jewel.
If you happen to lose or damage your diamond, you can call IGI’s toll-free number and report the matter. For destroyed diamonds, IGI issues a computer printout describing the diamond in detail. If your diamond is stolen, the company will contact the local police in the area of incidence. Additionally, IGI would search on the diamond auction market in case your stolen jewelry comes up for sale. The company would also put up alerts in the industry. That way, all manufacturers, retailers, and pawn stores will know about your stolen diamond and keep an eye out for it.
Besides all these services, IGI provides gemology courses through the IGI's School of Gemology. The IGI's School of Gemology was the first school to offer a practical Rough Diamond course. Some areas of study the school focus on include training on rough diamonds and colored stones, jewelry design, jewelry CAD, and retail workshops.
IGI is the world’s largest gemological lab. The company’s mission is to continually offer professionally graded diamonds to its clients all over the world. And it has succeeded in delivering on that mandate for the duration of its existence. Besides its amazing offers, the IGI website is a goldmine of information. On the site, you can learn about anything concerning diamonds. Such information is useful if you intend to purchase a diamond.