The International Gemological Institute (IGI) is an organization that deals with the certification of diamonds, colored stones, and other jewelry. It is arguably the world’s largest independent gemological laboratory in terms of geographical presence and projects completed.
The institute is based in Antwerp, Belgium, though it has offices in several towns and cities around the world, including New York City, Mumbai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Tel Aviv, Dubai, Los Angeles, Shanghai, and Bangkok.
IGI-certified diamonds come with exceptional 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 also ensures that all every certification issued is accurate and valid.
The Significance of 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 the establishment of 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 that has been producing diamonds since time immemorial. But there have been no serious diamond processing firms established around the mining sites to date. Therefore, the DRC exports nearly all of its diamonds to other countries where they are cut, polished, and graded.
The majority of the countries where much of the processing takes place may not even have significant active diamond mining sites; a case in point being India. It is in light of this that 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 their independent diamond grading.
Other services by the 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 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 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, 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 that 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. When evaluating the color, they also check for more detailed aspects like fluorescence.
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 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 on how its shape 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. Ultimately, a report is drafted which is a passport-size document that details all the specific features of the stone.
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 their clients to track the progress with 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 been of immense assistance to most jewelry buyers, especially for 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. In case 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 the 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 put up alerts in the industry so that manufacturers, retailers, and pawn stores can know about the stolen diamond and keep an eye out for it.
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 the world’s largest gemological lab, bent upon continually offering professionally graded diamonds to their clients all over the world. The institute has succeeded in delivering on that mandate for the duration of its existence. Besides amazing offers, the IGI website is a goldmine of information where one can learn about anything concerning diamonds. Such information is useful when intending to purchase a diamond.