Understanding the GIA certificate and if it really tells us all we need to know

By Shaul Cohen, Novel Collection


In the diamond industry, a GIA certificate goes a long way. But in the more specific category of Fancy Color diamonds, does it tell the full story?

When considering a white diamond our first instinct is to turn to the corresponding certificate.  In most cases, the GIA report does, in fact, give the consumer a complete understanding of the details so that they know essentially what they are buying without ever seeing the diamond.

natural yellow diamonds

A GIA certificate for a fancy color diamond, on the other hand, works in a very different way.  We cannot use or interpret the information provided in the same way that we do for white diamonds.  It is important to remember that the name of the game is color. This is the most important aspect to consider and so the GIA does state the color, but what is missing is a description of the quality of the color. For example, a diamond may be described as fancy yellow, but what quality of yellow? Our eyes can see many different variations of yellow in the world around us, and so it is the same when we look at colored diamonds.  Is it mustard yellow, lemon yellow, or maybe more of an ochre yellow? These are variations that our eyes pick up on easily but they may not appear on the certificate unless the secondary color is considered to be prominent enough in the diamond.  In this case, the GIA will add another word to describe the color, listed as a secondary color or, modifier.  The dominant color of the diamond is listed second. For instance, Fancy Orange-Yellow or Fancy Orangey Yellow implies that the yellow diamond has a strong touch of orange.

natural blue and pink diamond ring

The quality of color is extremely important to understand as it will greatly influence the price of the diamond. Going back to our example color yellow, as mentioned above, we could have two “equal” Fancy Yellow diamonds, as determined by the GIA, with certificates that are almost identical, including the description of their color. But one diamond is clearly a lemon color, while the other is very much mustard yellow. The more pure and desirable lemon yellow color will command higher prices.  However, from the looking at the certificate alone, we would have no indication of why one diamond is priced so highly above the other.  The same theory applies to all colors.  When given the choice between a blue that is reminiscent of a clear sky on a sunny day and one that is a blue color with a touch of gray (but not enough to appear in the GIA certificate as a secondary color) like a cold rainy sky, which would you choose?  A pink that conjures imagery of rose petals or a dusty mauve?  In both cases, the GIA would state the color as a Fancy Blue or Fancy Pink, but they are in fact, different from one another. A certificate is a powerful tool but our eyes tell us what is truly beautiful in the world of Fancy Color diamonds.

natural pink diamonds

In addition to the quality of color, the intensity of color plays a major role.  The GIA divides this into four categories: Fancy Light, Fancy, Fancy Intense and Fancy Vivid. Within in the category of Fancy there are exceptional colors that are labeled as Fancy Dark or Fancy Deep.  There are also colored diamonds that are not considered Fancy.  These colors are listed as Faint, Very Light or light.  When considering the GIA’s main categories of intensity as mentioned above, however, those of us in the colored diamond industry feel that four grades is simply not enough to give the full story.  Each grade represents a range of intensity, but as there few grades, each range is quite broad. We can use Fancy Intense Yellow as an example, describing the grade as a scale of 1 through 10.  A diamond can be a 2, so just making it into the category of Fancy Intense, but it will be much less intense than say a 9, which just misses the cut off for Fancy Vivid.  Variations in intensity, as with color, are easily visible and affect the per carat price of the diamond.

Another factor not considered with white diamonds is the distribution of color.  The GIA’s classification of even versus uneven color distribution is helpful; however, a grade of un-even is only used in very dramatic and visible cases. Many colored diamonds graded as having an even distribution of color will look different from one another.  Part of the diamond may be missing color or have a dark shadow but the effect is still not drastic enough to classify as “uneven.” The placement of inclusions could affect the color too, blocking it from returning to your eye.  Fluorescence is also an important factor here, but, as it is in fact very tricky, may be a topic for another article.  Of course, more evenly distributed the color, the more desirable the diamond is.

A GIA certificate is undeniably an important and useful tool.  It can tell us if the color is natural, it tells us the diamond’s weight, dimensions, purity, shape and the direction of its color and intensity.  But it cannot tell us the beauty of the diamond, and that is of the highest importance, as the stone’s beauty will influence its price.

With white diamonds, it is possible to have a price list based on the corresponding certificates, but with Fancy Color diamonds, we can now see why this would never be accurate.  And so, at the end of the day, equal in importance to a certificate, is an understanding of the full story that each diamond has to tell and the ability to find a balance between what we read in the certificate and what our eyes tell us.  The most important tool we have is our eyes.

Color distribution is affected in part by the way the diamond is cut.  The cutting style of a colored diamond is not the same as with white diamonds.  The cut is often modified: a combination of styles with the end goal being to not just increase the brilliance but also to maximize the naturally occurring color within the diamond. In an ideal situation, the brilliance and the color will work together so that there is a strong liveliness and a successful combination of color, light and fire.  The amount of light with color that returns to the eye is not something that can be understood from the report; it must be evaluated in person. Moreover, on the GIA certificate, the description gives a general idea of the cut and shape, but does not truly illustrate the appearance of the stone in question.  We can look at the certificate of a white radiant cut diamond and imagine very clearly how the cut looks. But with colored diamonds the word “modified” in combination with a known cutting style implies that there is more to the story.

1.08 carat oval blue diamond ring

Share Button