Diamond Information in the Internet Age

In this new age of internet shopping, consumers are demanding more information on diamonds as well as all the other products they are considering. Once a very insular business where information was closely held by the powers that be, the internet has been a great driver of transparency in the diamond trade. It is much harder now for the industry to operate behind a veil of secrecy as it has for generations. Not only has the explosion of diamond information been a boon to consumers, but it has also helped educate members of the trade themselves, which has been a welcome development for the industry.
Today, a gemological report (aka ‘certificate’) from a laboratory like GIA is a requirement for most sales of diamonds of any significant size and quality. To facilitate the emerging need for these reports in order for diamonds to be offered online and sold remotely, existing laboratories grew rapidly and new labs opened up to accommodate a surge in demand for their services. Laboratories filled different niches in the market such as AGSL pioneering light performance cut grading and IGI becoming the dominant force in identification and grading of lab grown diamonds. The GIA, the institute who wrote the book on the 4Cs, greatly expanded their laboratory operations around the world to meet demand for diamond grading information.
In Stock Diamonds
Modern technology has provided a powerful suite new diamond analysis tools which are now available to consumers and trade members alike. Probably no device has been more pivotal than the Sarine machine, a non-contact measuring device that accurately measures every facet of a polished diamond. The data it produces enables the rendering of a 3D model of the diamond which has been a boon to researchers. This data has enabled sophisticated ray tracing software to be developed that can analyze all the key components of light performance, and also create full range of computer-generated light maps including ASET, the foundational piece of the AGS Light Performance grading system.

The Rap List

In the 1970’s a diamond broker in New York started compiling detailed information about asking prices for diamonds at the wholesale level and began publishing the Rapaport Diamond Report for the trade. The ‘Rap List’ morphed into a diamond information chart so widely relied upon that it became the tail that wagged the dog in the industry. Whereas the original purpose was to provide more transparency to the trade in terms of the broader market, eventually changes in the prices on the list could themselves drive diamond prices. This was often a hot topic at the producer level of the industry, and generated no small amount of controversy. But it did tend to level the playing field and indirectly help consumers. Whether you were in a small rural town or a big city, local jewelers had a better idea of what they should be paying for particular sizes and qualities of diamonds.
Diamond information moving online became a way to sell certified diamonds to remote consumers. Many diamond professionals had traded remotely via certificates for years, but now that information was available to consumers and it enabled them to go more directly to the source. This ushered in a new paradigm that eliminated many of the ‘middlemen’ that for generations were necessary to facilitate trading. These developments combined to put much more power in the hands of consumers and to dramatically shrink margins. Ultimately, the free flow of information has also resulted in better cut quality on the manufacturing side of the industry making more beautiful stones more plentiful in the market at better prices.

Diamond Cut Quality Finally Shines

As consumers began to learn more about diamonds with all the new information flowing onto the internet, it became clear that Cut was the least understood of the 4 C’s. It also became clear that the quality of the cut had the greatest impact on the beauty of a diamond, generating the optics that result in fire, brilliance, and scintillation. For decades, the diamond industry compromised cut quality in order to maximize a diamond’s carat weight. This practice would soon give way to a new generation of diamonds cut to standards that would enhance their beauty, thereby benefitting the consumer market in a new and important way.
Detailed Graphical Sarine Report of Table View
Detailed Graphical Sarine Report of Table View
Detailed Graphical Sarine Report of Pavilion View
Detailed Graphical Sarine Report of Pavilion View
Internet technology that made website development possible evolved in tandem with computer technologies that made understanding light behavior in diamonds possible. This led to the development of light performance grading systems that could provide diamond cut information beyond anything on a diamond certificate. The AGS Laboratories had been established earlier with a specialty in cut grading and the Ideal Cut was born. Originally it was based on a 2D parametric assessment that closely aligned with the work of Marcel Tolkowsky in the early part of the 20th century. But AGSL continued research with the modern tools and employed highly trained mathematicians and specialists in optics to eventually create a scientific, peer reviewed light performance cut grading system. The new AGS 000 was now based on a direct assessment of a 3D model of the diamond, involving tens of thousands of computer calculations, and rendering a detailed picture of a given diamond’s optics including brightness, contrast, leakage and fire. And the beauty of this approach to cut grading is that metrics can be developed around these aspects in order to potentially grade any diamond shape or facet pattern. 2D assessment was inherently incapable of accomplishing this task.
For many years the AGS Platinum Certificate was the ultimate pedigree in diamond cut quality. The GIA recently acquired the intellectual property of the AGS Laboratories and now offers an AGS Ideal addendum report for qualifying diamonds that are submitted to the lab. And the research team at AGSL moved over to GIA and are continuing their research. It is likely that these efforts will result in new innovations in the understanding of diamond cut quality and light performance in the future.

Lab Grown Diamonds Information

Into the mix now have come lab grown diamonds, and in a BIG way. Single stones are being traded in much the same way as natural diamonds, with laboratory reports detailing diamond information including the 4 Cs as well as growth method, diamond type, and hearts and arrows in many cases.
The GIA issues reports on lab grown diamonds, as do other top tier laboratories. But IGI stands out for both the sheer volume of reports they issue on lab diamonds as well as the amount of detail they contain. Since growth method is important to many shoppers (there are distinct issues to look for in lab diamonds depending on whether they are CVD or HPHT grown), GIA reports without growth method are not as informative as IGI reports. Because GIA has the most universally respected reputation for accuracy in color and clarity grading many shoppers still prefer a GIA report, even on a lab grown diamond. But since most lab diamonds on the market are in the upper ranges of color and clarity, and since there is a much smaller difference in pricing between grades in lab diamonds vs natural diamonds, the value of a report with a full set of data (such as some IGI reports) is more compelling for shoppers in this new market.
Whether lab grown diamonds will always be traded this way remains to be seen, as this is a relatively new market.

Diamond Pricing Information

Modern shoppers want to know everything about the quality of diamonds they are considering, but diamond pricing information is crucial to their being comfortable with value and making a fully informed buying decision. Fortunately, with certified diamonds it is fairly easy to browse the internet and get a general feel for the market. However, even laboratory reports don’t tell the full story about diamond beauty or value. There are factors that can impact a diamond’s light performance that are not graded or measured on a diamond report – chief among them is transparency. Inclusions and other defects in both natural and lab diamonds can impact their ability to propagate light internally and return it in a fulsome fashion to the eye of the observer. The lack of perfect transparency can result in cloudy diamonds, even when perfectly cut. Lab diamonds grown by the CVD method are particularly prone to striation in their carbon lattice due to fluctuations and interruptions in their growth process, which can negatively impact their transparency. Distinct production methods and costs, in addition to quality factors, are causing lab grown diamond pricing to be much more variable than the market for natural diamonds.
In addition, overall cut quality is not graded for fancy shapes (non-round diamonds) on most gemological reports today. Without a reliable source of this information, a consumer is left to parse this complicated area of diamond quality on his or her own. This major shortcoming is starting to change as a variety of ad-hoc cut grade systems are now coming into use. With GIA’s enormous reach, and their recent acquisition of AGS light performance grading technology which is applicable to both rounds and fancy shapes, there is the prospect that a widely respected grading system for fancy cut diamonds will eventually become part of the diamond marketplace.

In-house vs Virtual Inventory

The diamond information available on different internet listings can vary dramatically. One of the factors affecting the quantity and quality of information available is whether the diamond is owned and in-house by the merchant listing it. The vast majority of listings are known as “virtual inventory” – these are diamonds that the merchant does not own and is normally not even in their possession. They are listings generated by data feeds from a collection of manufacturers who supply the information for the listing details. That information is therefore subject to whatever limitations the manufacturer has in providing it. The listing may or may not contain such items as actual photo, video, or advanced light performance imaging such as ASET, IdealScope, or Hearts and Arrows view. In the case of virtual inventory, the merchant who is listing the diamond has not themselves verified the information pertaining to the diamond, though presumably they will before shipping the item to the consumer. Not having the stone in possession means it is unlikely the shopper will be provided with stone-in-hand consultation, additional images, or the ability to physically see the stone before purchasing it. Virtual diamonds are also typically found on multiple websites and are therefore subject to prior sale, which can be highly frustrating for a shopper particularly since most shoppers are not aware that the merchant does not physically have the diamond.
Some merchants do offer in-stock diamonds and can provide all the services necessary for a customer to completely understand the diamond and to guarantee availability. In many cases these are branded diamonds like A CUT ABOVE® super ideal natural diamonds that are manufactured to our comprehensive set of qualifications and specifications, are exclusive to that merchant, and never go to the virtual market. For lab grown diamonds we likewise carry a large collection of Precision Lab diamonds that are exclusive to Whiteflash.


Doing a good job of shopping for a diamond for an engagement ring or special piece of fine jewelry involves acquiring a substantial amount of information. Fortunately, we are in the Information Age!
But there is a wide range of information of mixed educational quality in the diamond market today. And there are often important pieces of information that are missing, even from top tier laboratory reports. The best merchants provide high quality diamond education and comprehensive and accurate information about the diamonds they offer, enabling a shopper to make an informed and confident buying decision.
The internet is full of virtual inventory listings for diamonds, giving merchants the ability to offer a huge range of diamonds in terms of size, shape and quality. Finer diamonds that have been cut with intention to the specifications of select merchants enable them to offer exclusive diamonds not found anywhere else, and which conform to their own qualifications. In addition these diamonds are fully analyzed and vetted, and are guaranteed available for delivery, in-person viewing, or in-hand gemological consultation.

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