For anyone looking to buy a diamond for the first, second or fiftieth time, a comprehensive and reliable grading report is essential. We often talk exclusively about GIA graded diamonds, but glossing over the fact that there are other institutions offering their own methodologies for assessing the quality of diamonds can be confusing.
You may, for instance, have come across IGI diamonds during your research.
The IGI (or the International Gemological Institute) is the largest independent gemological laboratory in the world. Established in 1975, it has locations in all major diamond trade cities.
The International Gemological Institute, ISI, was established in 1975 in Antwerp, Belgium. After GIA, they are the 2nd most well-known lab in the world, grading a significant number of diamonds each and every year. They are, however, better more widely known outside the United States, and especially popular in the Asian region.
Yes, it is a highly reputable institution recognized around the world.
That said, it is not considered to be among the very best labs for grading diamonds. We will explain why in greater detail below but, for now, let’s talk you through the specifics for the IGI’s grading scales for each of the Four Cs.
Like many of the most popular methods for grading diamonds, the IGI’s diamond grading system is categorized by 4 C’s: carat, color, clarity, and cut:
The carat scale for IGI diamond certification depends on the size and weight ratio. IGI does not include larger gems if the weight does not match the size in their IGI certification, due to the fact that it isn’t considered “perfect”.
IGI grades the color of a diamond on the same grading scale as the GIA’s widely-used grading scale – a letter color scale ranging from D – Z. As always, the less color a diamond has, the higher the value it has. A diamond graded with the letter D represents a colorless diamond and continues up the scale to a diamond with the letter Z, representing a light yellow or brownish tint.
Much like the GIA, the IGI grades clarity on how clean a diamond is from inclusions and blemishes. The diamond’s size, number, location, and nature of internal inclusions are aspects that are inspected during the clarity assessment.
But, while the GIA utilizes a clarity scale ranging from FL to I2, the IGI’s clarity scale runs from 0-10, with a score of 0 being completely flawless up to a score of 10 which includes significant flaws.
One of the things that bothers us about the IGI’s Cut Grades is their inclusion of the grade ‘Ideal’, which sits one cut above ‘Excellent’ on the scale. As you know by now, the GIA’s scale for Cut quality ranges from Poor (like the IGI’s) to Excellent, so it’s no doubt clear why it can be confusing for shoppers browsing jewelers that stock diamonds certified by a variety of labs.
For shoppers who want the best – and who know that the best sparkle comes from diamonds with the best cut grades out there – this supposedly superior grade given by the IGI may just sway them in favor of a diamond accompanied by one of their reports.
Unfortunately, this is a big risk, since the IGI just doesn’t compare to the GIA in terms of consistency or accuracy, and we would never recommend them to shoppers – even if they seem to pose certain benefits.
The IGI stress their commitment to providing clear parameters for Cut grades to the trade and, by extension, to shoppers themselves. That said, we struggled to see the value their system offers anyone.
Like the GIA, the IGI’s cut grades are based upon a set of predetermined parameters for aspects like proportion and scintillation. These parameters are, to their credit, freely available for shoppers to find out for themselves, but something that makes their reports a lot less informative (in our opinion) is the absence of any proportion diagram. Given the monumental importance proportion and ratio hold for a diamond’s beauty and sparkle, having that diagram is a great way of clearing up any confusion for inexperienced shoppers.
The important thing to remember is that, while the word ‘Ideal’ definitely sounds better than ‘Excellent’, the IGI aren’t grading any diamonds that are fundamentally superior to the diamonds sent to the GIA. While they have added that additional grade into their system, that grade is merely indicative of the highest level of Cut quality as they see it.
For the GIA, the highest level of Cut quality is awarded an Excellent grade. Ultimately, the fact that the IGI would have awarded it an Ideal grade doesn’t mean anything.
So, doesn’t that mean that the Ideal grade from the IGI is just as good as the Excellent grade from the GIA, and that shoppers can consider both to be worthwhile investments? No – not exactly.
The IGI’s reputation as a less consistent lab with a much higher rate of turnover for grading natural (earth-made) diamonds means that their grading reports just don’t offer the same value and reassurance to shoppers as the reports created by the GIA’s gemologists.
For us, the Excellent graded from the GIA still represents the best possible Cut grade you can choose for your diamond. The IGI’s ongoing issues with inconsistency mean that the benefits of paying for Ideal over Excellent are very unclear, and we wouldn’t recommend that shoppers pay the premium for a grade that, ultimately, just ‘sounds better’.
IGI diamond certification reports are provided for diamonds of any size and can be customized for a variety of customers throughout the diamond industry. The grading report provides a complete assessment of the stone’s 4 C’s: color, clarity, carat and cut. The report also includes a plotted diagram of the characteristics and proportions of each diamond as well as information about the cut by analyzing proportions, polish, and symmetry.
IGI also issues an IGI Diamond ID which is a passport-sized document containing the same information as the grading report, just without the plotted diagram.
There are both advantages and disadvantages that come with an IGI diamond certification. Advantages include lower costs of certification, and a faster turnaround time than what is offered by other high profile diamond grading institutions.
The disadvantage of an IGI diamond certification includes inconsistency, as reports are pumped out at a faster pace than other grading labs. This leads to much looser and less predictable results – a major downside to anyone looking to make the strongest investment possible into their diamond.
No – the GIA’s methods for assessing diamonds are far more reliable, even if they are slower and more costly.
IGI diamonds cost less than GIA diamonds because of the fact that the process of grading each of the stones attributes takes less time. And, while skimping on time will save you money in the short-term, it really isn’t a sacrifice you want to make on something this important.
Think of it this way. If your jeweler told you they could spend one day making a ring setting for you – that’s everything from the design to the creation itself – or, at a higher upfront cost, spend a couple weeks making sure every small detail was perfected, and every component handmade, you know which one you’d go for.
Why? Because, alongside the diamond and the gold, platinum and silver, time is yet another factor that is essential to creating a beautiful ring.
The additional time the GIA invests into grading diamonds translates into greater consistency, and much more attention to detail – and the reason why we consider their approach to be a clear winner.
Ideally, no. GIA diamonds represent the safest investment for any shopper.
For a total beginner, it’s easy to imagine that all reputable diamond labs will offer the same level of assurance over the value of a diamond. In reality, the different methodologies and labels offered by these institutions can ‘muddy the waters’, and confuse first-time shoppers over what it is that they’re buying.
This is another reason why we focus on the GIA’s methods. In addition to offering the greatest level of consistency – and, of course, more time and attention that some of the other labs are able to give to their diamonds – focusing on the GIA’s scales gives shoppers the clarity they need to know what they are paying for, and how valuable it really is.