GIA and AGS Taking Collaboration to New Heights

In a move that is sending shock waves through the diamond industry the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and the American Gem Society (AGS) have just announced they are combining forces in the area of diamond cut research and development. Certain assets of AGS Laboratories (AGSL) are integrating into GIA, namely, the R&D team, IP, and its equipment.
GIA logo
GIA and AGS are sister organizations sharing common roots going back the 1930s when both were founded by the same people -the GIA to advance education and research into diamonds and gems, and the AGS as a trade organization consisting of retailers committed to best practices, knowledge, and the highest ethical standards. Both have always collaborated closely, and while the logic of this integration is clear, this unexpected move can only be described as seismic for the diamond industry. It will likely have far reaching impacts for years to come.
In their press release announcing the news GIA explained the strategy this way, “The American Gem Society (AGS) and GIA (Gemological Institute of America) will dramatically advance their long-standing collaboration in pursuit of their shared consumer protection missions.” Further explaining “The sibling nonprofit organizations, both founded by Robert M. and Beatrice Shipley in the 1930s, will combine their gemological research efforts, integrating AGS Laboratories' unique expertise, intellectual property and technology to develop new GIA products and services to protect consumers and support the trade.”
AGS logo
In 1996 AGS decided to open their own laboratory to focus on cut quality analysis, establishing the AGS Ideal cut grade. As interest in this lesser understood aspect of diamond quality grew in the consumer market AGSL continued to immerse itself in cut research and in 2005 released their groundbreaking direct measurement light performance cut grade system. As e-commerce began emerging and internet technology advancing, the new AGS system was embraced as the most sophisticated and rigorous available by a new generation of shoppers looking for elite cut craftsmanship.
Meanwhile, GIA launched their own cut grade system in that same year but it was proportion-based. The GIA cut grade system is still today only available for rounds. The AGS system, because of its mathematical 3D ray tracing approach, lends itself to grading any shape and facet arrangement. The system is currently used to grade princess cuts, ovals, emerald cuts, and specific types of cushion cuts in addition to rounds. GIA meanwhile was not able to launch a cut grade system for any fancy shape, and their Excellent grade for rounds has been criticized in the trade as being too broad.
In this bold stroke by GIA they are acquiring 26 years of intense research and development of the most advanced, most adaptable, peer-reviewed scientific cut grade system in the market. The light performance based AGS Ideal is a standard that sits alone at the top of the diamond grading hierarchy, and is now integrated into the GIA brand, along with the AGSL research team who designed it.

Introducing the New AGS Ideal Report from GIA

Customers of GIA will now have the option to order an addendum AGS Ideal report for diamonds that qualify and make the AGS Light Performance grade of Ideal. This will help segment the existing Excellent grade for rounds by acknowledging those diamonds that are both GIA Ex cut and also attain the higher AGS Ideal standard. It will also make it possible for GIA to produce cut grade reports on fancy shapes that qualify. From the GIA press release:
“Recognizing the significant contributions of AGS Laboratories to the industry and consumer trust, the AGS Ideal® Report will be available from GIA as a digital-only supplement to GIA diamond reports for eligible D-to-Z natural and laboratory-grown round brilliant and fancy shape diamonds. The AGS Ideal Report supplement will have an additional cost of US$25. GIA clients will be able to request the supplemental reports beginning in January 2023. Further details about the supplemental AGS Ideal Report® from GIA will be available soon.”
The addendum reports will be available starting in January 2023 for both natural and lab grown diamonds. Below is a sample of the new AGS Ideal report from GIA. It will be visible on the GIA report check page, and will be linked on all applicable Whiteflash diamond detail pages.
AGS Ideal Report
*Click image to enlarge
The new AGS Ideal report will be digital only, in keeping with GIA’s plans to phase out all paper reports by 2025. The GIA dossier will be available only in digital starting in 2023. The AGS Ideal addendum report will be available on the GIA report check page. It will not have a separate report number, but will instead be tied to the GIA report number.
The Ideal report is likely to feature the light performance grade of AGS Ideal along with individual aspects of light performance -brightness, contrast, leakage, and fire- designated also as “0”. In the AGS system “0” equals Ideal, and indicates zero net deductions in each of the light performance metrics.
The report will also feature an ASET light map. The ASET is generated from the 3D scan of the diamond used to perform the computer ray tracing and determine the light performance cut grade.

AGSL to become the GIA Cut Research Center

The AGS Lab which is part of the AGS campus will close at the end of the year and become the GIA Cut Research Center. The brilliant research team at AGSL will stay on to carry forward the mission of a scientific understanding of cut quality and diamond optics with the goal of continuing to develop new products and services pertaining to cut craftsmanship and light performance.
“The AGS Laboratories research staff, intellectual property, technology and Las Vegas facility will integrate into GIA. The combined research team will develop innovative products and services to improve how consumers and the trade understand and appreciate diamonds, including light performance research and a science-based fancy cut grade standard.”

A Game Changer for Fancy Shape Cut Grading

Arguably the most powerful aspect of the light performance cut grade system developed by AGSL is the ability to be applied to fancy shapes. GIA has struggled with the challenge because their cut grading system (rounds only until now) was proportion based. Because of the added complexity of fancy shapes, a proportion-based system that really worked was just not feasible. By acquiring the AGS technology and their research team, and establishing the AGSL facility as their new cut grading research lab, GIA has vaulted themselves into the future in this enormously important area of diamond grading. With the reach and resources of GIA behind the team, the science they have developed will continue to advance enabling GIA to provide services and products related to fancy shape diamonds that AGSL alone simply did not have the market visibility needed in order to achieve critical mass in this area. The opportunity here for GIA cannot be overstated.
It is clear from their initial press release announcing the move that GIA understands the importance of this asset, as they specifically mention this goal: “The combined research team will develop innovative products and services to improve how consumers and the trade understand and appreciate diamonds, including light performance research and a science-based fancy cut grade standard.”

GIA and AGS - A Masterful Merging of Synergies

For the past couple of decades AGSL has been deeply immersed in cut research, diamond optics and light performance. The fruits of their R&D have been proven in the marketplace and hailed as the ultimate cut grading system by both consumers and trade professionals. Though small by comparison to several of the major labs, AGSL has become widely recognized as the foremost authority on diamond cut quality.
Meanwhile GIA has become dominant worldwide as the most trusted lab in terms of overall diamond grading. Its global reach is unrivaled and is the preferred lab for the most valuable diamonds in the world. The combination of strengths of the two world-class laboratories represents a synergy that will unleash a new era in diamond grading and our understanding of what makes the most beautiful diamonds. It will enhance the consumer market and propel the diamond industry forward into the future.

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