Feb 24, 2023
GIA vs IGI. How did GIA Enter the Lab Grown Diamond Certification Race?

It is a historical moment in the diamond industry as the GIA has finally, at least seriously, entered the race to certify colourless (white) lab grown diamonds using the same methodology and standards they use for mined diamonds.


What is the History of Lab Grown Diamonds and GIA?

The heavily intertwined history of both lab diamonds and GIA is very interesting to say the least. GIA (Gemological Institute of America) was a pioneer in embracing lab grown diamonds and one of the first labs to certify them. It is important to note that, at that time, some 15 years ago, man made diamonds had a yellowish colour and therefore, thought of as inferior to mined diamonds.

There was radical transformation in the industry at the end of 2016, when the first gem quality white lab grown diamonds in UK were unveiled to the local industry and rest of the world. With the increased exposure and proliferation of lab diamonds, GIA, as one of early adopters, was in an enviable position to rapidly, with minimal effort, expand their certification business and capitalise on the hype.

De Beers, allegedly, pressured GIA to halt the certification of the newer lab created diamonds that were now identical to mined ones.


How Did De Beers Impact GIA’s Certification of Lab Grown Diamonds?

It cannot be understated that the influence of De Beers on GIA was significant. For those who are unaware, De Beers is a global diamond conglomerate of South African origin and is credited with makings diamonds what they are today. De Beers pioneered in transforming the diamond’s role from simply being precious gems into mandatory purchases for engagements and weddings of every single urban society in the world. They are the ones that coined and marketed the now ubiquitous phrase “Diamonds are forever”, embedding themselves into the fabric of society and, therefore, forever change how love and romance are conducted. Thus, with their astronomic success, they quickly dominated the market and established a near total monopoly of the global diamond supply and, consequently, their price.  


What Changed in GIA’s Certification Process for Lab Grown Diamonds?

Now that you have the context of the influence and power that De Beers wielded in the diamond industry, let us return to the exploration of the connection between them and GIA. Back in the middle of 2019, GIA announced that by the end of that year it would re-start certifying all lab grown diamonds, including colourless stones. This news was welcomed by the industry as it indicated that lab diamonds was now too big to ignore, even by those who are against them.

However, to the disappointment of all, it became clear that the GIA would end up sneakily using a different grading method to certify lab grown diamonds which was unfairly designed to devalue lab made diamonds.

GIA vs IGI lab diamonds

When Did GIA Finally Start Grading Lab Grown Diamonds Fairly?

The war waged by the coalition of GIA and De Beers against lab grown diamonds has finally come to an end with lab grown diamonds being the clear victor. At time of writing this article, GIA has finally relented and begun applying the same standard of grading for both man made and mined diamonds. This is viewed by most in the industry as a significant milestone, signifying the acceptance of the fact that lab created diamond are fundamentally the same as mined diamonds; the artificial rift has finally been closed and the diamond industry can now once again advance forward. 

Despite the GIA finally re-entered the lucrative race, the majority of the industry feel that is too little, too late. This is because their hesitancy and antagonistic attitude has allowed their competitor, IGI, to corner the lab grown diamond certification market unhindered, therefore, becoming the leader. GIA will now face an uphill battle to reclaim their crown, but only time will tell if they can succeed.


What are the Pros and Cons of GIA Certified Lab Grown Diamonds?

The disadvantage for customers, unfortunately, is that GIA certified stones will come at a higher cost, for a variety of reasons. For starters, their certification costs are a lot higher than IGI’s. Additionally, GIA has fewer global offices than IGI, thus, logistically getting a stone certified by GIA is a costly endeavour, in both time and money. To make matters worse, most GIA labs only certify diamonds up to a certain size, for example the Hong Kong office does not certify 2.00CTs and above, leaving only the US labs to deal with large stones. Regarding certification time, it is even more concerning as GIA takes about 1 MONTH to get a stone certified versus IGI who only takes a few DAYS, not helped by the fact GIA can be stricter on the grading the IGI. 
Taking all these factors into account, it is inevitable that no matter how much we try to minimize the costs borne by our customers, GIA certified stones will still be an estimated 10 – 15% costlier than their IGI certified counterparts. 
Cons: GIA certified stones will be an estimated 10 – 15% higher in cost.


Who is the Winner from this Unprecedented Development?

The real winner is the lab grown diamond market, and in effect, the end customers like you. GIA finally entering the market head on validates, conclusively, the legitimacy and quality of man made diamonds. This puts to rest any baseless accusation propagated by the mined diamond industry against the durability, colour, and the foreverness of lab grown diamonds. 


What should you buy -  IGI vs GIA?

We believe for today’s discerning buyer, even though both labs are trustworthy and scientific, IGI certified is the overall better option when buying a lab grown diamond. Unsurprisingly, IGI certified diamonds costing less outweighs any other advantage a GIA certificate might have. Another advantage IGI has over GIA is that due to a head start, IGI has already become the most prolific player and established themselves as preferred lab for most of the diamond industry. Unfortunately for GIA, succumbing to De Beers and hedging in their lot with the mined diamond industry has consequences, which they are now reaping. Nevertheless, GIA could one day regain their hegemony of the diamond certification industry, but to industry insider this looks like a long shot and a pipe dream at best. 
True: IGI is the most popular and dominant lab in the world for lab grown diamonds. 
True: GIA is the most popular and dominant lab in the world for mined diamonds. 


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In summary

GIA has entered the lab made diamond in UK certification race using the same standards as for mined diamonds. GIA had a history of being a pioneer in embracing lab created diamond in UK, but De Beers allegedly pressured them to halt certification. Despite GIA’s recent re-entry, IGI dominates the certification market due to GIA’s higher costs and longer certification times. We therefore recommend customers to chose IGI certified man made diamonds in UK over GIA certified ones.