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Calling Bullsh*t on “Subjective Grading”: My Experience with the Different Labs

rd plotIt seems that everyone is expressing their opinions on the recent Rapnet ban of all EGL certified diamonds, so I thought it was the right time to share my own personal experience – or at least, one of them – as it pertains to the differences in labs and how they grade.

Once upon a time, in a faraway part of my existence, I ordered an EGL certified diamond from a dealer in the U.S. that sold them incredibly cheaply. To my dismay, when I received the stone (graded by this particular lab as an “H” color) I noticed that the diamond was far too yellow for my liking, and that I would have never been able to sell it to my customer as such. Upon closer inspection, I saw what I thought was a laser inscription on the girdle. And I was right. It definitely was. The only problem is, it was an inscription by a different lab…

The GIA.

Thanks to the technological progress in our industry, I looked up the GIA inscription on their website. The letter I saw as the color grade gave me goose bumps. It borderline made me nauseated. This stone had been double graded and was selling for a higher price with the EGL grade than it was at the lower GIA grade. I felt my ears get hot and almost immediately picked up the phone to give the dealer a piece of my mind. This wasn’t one color-grade off. This wasn’t two color grades off. It was a fistful… Five. FIVE! There was a five-grade difference between this diamond certified by one of the Hong Kong labs of EGL International and by the Carlsbad lab of the GIA. Five. EGL’s “H “was GIA’s “M,” and the only answer I received from the person on the other end of the line, was this…

“Diamond grading is subjective. It states it right there on the cert.”

Pardon my language here, but I called bullshit. This was an abuse of the term “subjective.” Would you accept a car salesman telling you that the car you were buying from a dealership had four tires when you could blatantly see that it only had three? What if he said that since he was the *expert,* it was his opinion that was the correct one? Would you be infuriated? I would. I was. And at the time of the incident I tried to do something about it, but at the time, I really couldn’t get anyone to listen. And I mean that. NO ONE.

I made calls. I wrote emails. I did research on the overseas lab in question and even sent a fax (a fax!) when I couldn’t reach anyone there by email or telephone. What I got in return was silence. And when I went to one of the major databases listing this wholesaler’s diamonds and explained the situation, my complaint was met with the following response: “Yes, you’re not the first to come forward. We are currently investigating this as it is an issue.”

That was a long, long time ago. Nothing happened then, or shortly afterward, or in the years that followed. But, as we all know, something is happening now. And while, in my opinion, something should have been done prior to any lawsuits bringing attention to the matter, I’m happy to witness the industry step up and see to it that something of impact is done, today.

My advice to the EGL International is this: Create your own grading system. Use numbers for color. Use different abbreviations for clarity. Don’t use the GIA scale if you’re not using GIA grading standards. My advice for EGL-USA: stop calling yourselves the EGL-USA if you want to be able to be listed on diamond trading networks. Separate yourselves. Break free completely. There’s a stigma, now, and you seriously may want to think this thing through. My advice to all diamond dealers: send your stones to reputable labs. Know that this is only the beginning, and if you continue to have diamonds double-graded, it’s going to come back to you and hit you where it hurts. The spotlight is on you, and it’s on you right now. And my advice to jewelry retailers: cheap isn’t always better. Educate your customer, your staff, and yourself. Choose the right wholesalers, because in the end, it’s your name, and your reputation, that’s on the line.

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4 thoughts on “Calling Bullsh*t on “Subjective Grading”: My Experience with the Different Labs

  1. Great post. Any time I hear the subjective bit, I feel steam coming out of my ears. Why does GIA get to be consistent and reliable time and time again, and everyone else plays the “subjective” game. I just wish the turnover time at GIA would speed up from the 4+ week wait…

  2. praveen lodha says:

    Great comment sir.
    I would like to draw your attn to GIA grading stds between Mumbai and elsewhere. The Mumbai graded goods are significantly lower.
    I mfr in Thailand. The grading in Bangkok is quite strict, even if we request a recheck, seldom do we get any improvement.
    I have seen Mumbai graded colors GH etc look quite low. VS and SI1 SI2 are poor.
    When compared on Rapnet or other such portals, we face difficulty in selling our stones.
    rgds
    Praveen

  3. I understand your frustration and anger. Last thing you want, when you launch a complain, to hear a politically correct, unhelpful, insensitive and diplomatic reply, it feels like salt being rubbed on the wounds. But now you and many others like you stand vindicated.

  4. I’m not a jeweler, just a moderately educated customer, and even I’m irritated by the subjective grading of diamonds. Especially if I’m shopping on-line and can’t look at the stones. It’s just a crap-shoot then. My recent frustration are stones listed as GIA graded that I find were not graded at the lab, but by an independent GIA gemologist. Who in the heck is that? Is that even real? As a result of all this grading confusion and self-certification, I have had both stellar (usually GIA) experiences and feeling “steam out of the ears”.

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