Diamond “certificates” Just what are they?

I get asked about diamond certificates almost daily.  They are so commonplace in the jewelry industry today, but unfortunately, diamond certificates have become more confusing and misleading than they are helpful. In this article, I will try to cover just about every aspect of a diamond certificate including the reasons that they even exist and who can prepare them. I will try to keep it concise and certainly worth your time, but bear with me – there is a good deal to cover.

First things first – let me clean up the terminology. A diamond “certificate” is not actually a certificate; it is simply a “diamond grading report” and they are most certainly not all created equal. The reports are not and never were designed to be a warranty, guarantee or proof of value. This is sadly the most misunderstood part of a diamond certificate and one of the most important bits of information that I hope you will get from this article.  In fact each lab, somewhere on their grading report includes disclaimers and limiting conditions to that effect.  At the end of this post I’ve included some images of the disclaimers from the major labs.

In order to fully understand today’s grading reports, it’s best to understand how they came to be. Prior to the 1950’s, diamonds were not sold with these reports or any standardized grading. There were a lot of descriptive words used to describe a diamond’s quality, but it was a confusing maze of letters, numbers, Roman numerals and even terms to indicate where the diamond was mined (e.g. Wesselton. River). “His diamond is an AA quality? Well this one is an AA+!” Then in 1953, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), a gemological school that was founded in 1931, developed a consistent and simplified combination of Arabic letters and numbers to describe the qualities of a diamond. This system is still in use and has become the most widely used grading scale in the world. Color grades range from D-Z (D representing a colorless diamond) and clarity grades range from flawless (F) to included (I3). While much simpler to understand, I still like to refer to this as the “alphabet soup” of diamond grading.

What makes this even more confusing is that, while identification of gemstones is an exact science, the grading of a gemstone is not. There is some subjectivity. Each quality grade represents a range only. Because no two diamonds are alike, not all diamonds within a range are alike. Not all SI2 clarity diamonds are identical, but the size, location, or amount of inclusions put them all within that range. Enter the gemologist, a trained diamond grader, and the advent of the diamond grading report. The laboratory of the Gemological Institute of America was the first major organization to provide “certificates” on a diamond. Graduate Gemologists, trained by the GIA and using the GIA established methods of grading​, prepared documentation that offered their opinion, or observation of the quality of the diamond. These documents represented the observations of a diamond as graded by that gemologist, at that time. As I mentioned earlier, there is some subjectivity to the grading, so it is possible for that grade to vary slightly. The industry accepted variance from one gemologist to another is one color and clarity grade in either direction. For example, gemologist 1 might grade the color of a diamond as a “G” and gemologist 2 might grade it “H”. That is an acceptable variance. Remember, it’s an opinion.

As with any opinion, people will disagree from time to time. When we consider that a diamond’s value is based on the combinations of cut, color, clarity and carat weight, it stands to reason that if I have a diamond that I think is a “G” color and someone else feels that it is an “H” color, we might disagree on the price. So what do we do? We send the diamond to a laboratory for an unbiased opinion of the quality. Sometimes that settles the dispute, but what if you weren’t happy with the findings of GIA? Perhaps, like an unfavorable diagnosis from your doctor, you seek a second opinion. Well, where are you going to go for that second opinion if GIA is the only lab? You start your own lab!

Over the years, many other gem labs have sprung up around the world. Using the same grading terminology, these labs had their own gemologists (many trained by the GIA) and prepared their own reports,  based on their own opinions. ​As time went by, the various labs and the “strictness” of their grading varied. Today, it’s an unfortunate but common occurrence for the diamond grading reports of labs to vary in some cases well beyond the industry accepted standards of one grade difference. I’d like to interject here and say that I have nothing against diamond reports when prepared and used properly. In fact, they can be a useful tool when buying a diamond, but on today’s market, the inconsistency of diamond reports is leading to major confusion about what a certain grade range should look like and what the diamond’s value should be.

Today, I visited the website of a very popular seller.* I searched for a diamond with identical characteristics as you would find on a grading report. SI1 clarity, H color, Ideal cut and exactly 1.00 carat. I found 87 diamonds that fit the criteria, all graded by the same lab. The retail prices that I could buy them for online ranged from $4,538 all the way to $7,707! A difference of more than $3,000… on diamonds that are identical based on their “certificate”. A little more research and I was able to find more “identical” diamonds ranging from $3,541 up to $10,154! This time, the diamonds were graded by different labs. So why such a difference? And what is the real value of a diamond with those quality characteristics?

It’s not so easy to answer those questions. We know that grading is subjective, but who is checking these “certificates” for acceptable accuracy? Unfortunately, there are no licensing laws, governing body or enforcement agency when it comes to diamonds and jewelry. You could start your own lab tomorrow if you really wanted to! There is no requirement for the people grading the diamonds to have any gemological knowledge to do so. The problem lies in that there is a tremendous emphasis put on the “importance” of having a diamond certificate, (regardless of its accuracy).

I’m reminded of friend’s visit to a diamond office.  After quite a while of looking at diamonds, he selected one and asked that they have a grading prepared for it.  Their next question had him simply speechless and quite honestly a bit puzzled.  “What would you like the report to say?”  What?  I thought a grading report was an unbiased, third party opinion of the quality of the diamond?  My friend’s response you ask?  “Well I want it to say what the grade is of that diamond.”  “Sure, but what do you want the grade to be, we’ll send it to the lab that will give us that grade.”

Sadly, this is not a one off situation and happens more than I care to admit. Now please don’t jump to the assumption that every jeweler and every lab around the world is dishonest. Far from it. I bring this up simply to point out how important trust is when buying a diamond. Through experience, I know that a diamond certificate is only as strong as the reputation and expertise of the lab. The same goes for the jeweler that sells the diamond to you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. What are the seller’s credentials and where were they trained? Do they have to retest for their titles? What grading standards do they use?  As I mentioned before, diamond certificates can be a good thing when prepared and used properly and this is where trust and reputation come into play.


The inconsistency of diamond grading reports also brings up the question of the true value of a diamond. When you have a price difference of more than $3,000 on “identical” diamonds graded from the same lab, what is the real value of that diamond? Based on the information we’ve discussed so far, we can surmise that there will be a great variance between these “identical” diamonds, but quality characteristics alone cannot determine a diamond’s value. Diamonds are not a commodity. The value of the diamond goes far beyond a grading certificate. What other services, guarantees or lack thereof are provided when buying the diamond? Can you trade the diamond in? Are you paying for a nationally advertised brand name?

The other, and arguably the most important part of a diamond is “how does it look” Do you think it looks incredible? Does it sparkle? No diamond certificate in the world can show you that. Most certificates do have a comment about the diamond’s cutting – ideal, excellent, very good, etc. While these words attempt to describe how it SHOULD look, they simply fall short. Unlike the uniformity of the color and clarity scale, “cut” criteria varies from lab to lab. One person’s “excellent” cut might be someone else’s “very good”. And trust me, a diamond graded “fair” can be far from it! In the combined 50 years of diamond buying experience, my father-in-law and me, neither of us have EVER bought a diamond simply by looking at a grading report. We are professionally trained gemologists and appraisers. We re-certify our titles yearly, and are 2 of only 400 people in the country with these high credentials. We buy hundreds of diamonds a year, never once letting a certificate tell us if the diamond is pretty. Why should you?

A grading report can also affect you as a consumer in the price you pay.  Not only can a poor report impact the retail price for the diamond, you have to pay for the report itself.  A grading report can add a few hundred to a few thousand dollars to the price of a diamond.  The better and stricter labs tend to charge a bit more, but you get a better, more accurate product.  The cost of the grading report is often included in the price of the diamond.

So to recap…

What is a diamond “certificate?”  Well, it’s not a “certificate,” it’s a “diamond grading report”. It is a printed opinion on the quality of a diamond by a specific diamond grader at a specific time, under specific conditions.

Why do they exist? (originally)  To provide an unbiased third party opinion and as a way to identify one diamond from another using a unified terminology

Why do they exist? (today) A document prepared as a way for the overly cynical consumer to feel confident about the price they paid on a particular item.  An assumed “apples to apples” comparison of a product that simply cannot be looked at as a commodity.

Who can prepare them? Anyone.  There are a handful of well known labs that are commonly seen by the consumer.

  • Gemological Institute of America (GIA) **
  • American Gem Society Laboratory (AGS or AGSL) **
  • European Gemological Laboratory – USA (EGL-USA)
  • European Gemological Laboratory – International (EGL-INTL)
  • International Gemological Institute (IGI)


Thanks for reading! Have questions?  I’d love to hear from you.  Stay tuned for my next two posts! The next one will talk about “value” in a diamond and the second one will talk more about our credentials and our onsite gem laboratory.



*As of the writing of this post (1pm on 11/11/14)   ** GIA and AGS are the labs that we choose to use here at Rasmussen Diamonds.  They are the most respected and accurate labs in our industry.  They created the terminology that the rest of the industry uses.  They are also where we choose to get our credentials and education.







Selling your old gold and silver

“Where can I sell my old gold?”

“How do I know I’m getting a fair price?”

“Why aren’t the gemstones worth anything?”

All great questions, and trust me, you’re not the first person to ask them, and you won’t be the last.  In this post I hope to give you some information that will help.  It might seem a little long, but there’s a lot to cover.

First, let’s talk about the price of gold.  When you hear people talking about the price of gold being so high, they are talking about pure gold, 24K which is bought and sold as a commodity.  The gold that is used in jewelry manufacturing is only a portion of the entire piece.  10K, 14K, and 18K are the most popular alloys in jewelry.  The measure of karat is best described as a ratio or percentage of pure gold in the piece of jewelry.  10K gold is 10 parts gold and parts “other metals,” or 41.6% gold.  14K is 14 parts gold and 10 parts “other metals,” or 58.3% gold.  18K is 18 parts gold and 6 parts “other metals,” or 75% gold.

The “other metals” that are talked about are often proprietary blends designed to make the finished piece more durable, easier to work with, or even change the overall color.  Copper and silver are two of the most common metals alloyed with gold.  In order for the gold to be reused, it must first be refined.  Melted down, separate out the other materials, re-alloy with new metals and finally turned back into jewelry.  There is an expence for this entire process.  And to make it cost effective, you have to refine a lot of gold at one time.  It is sometimes possible to simply re-melt and re-use the gold, but it often results in a porous and pitted final piece.

“Where can I sell my gold?”

Today there is no shortage of places to sell your old gold.  Places seem to pop up overnight!  The first and most important thing to remember is find someone you trust.  In our experience, independent jewelers almost always pay more than any other place.  The simplest reason is this, they are in business to sell jewelry.  An independent jeweler doesn’t need to rely on scrap gold as a profit center to stay in business.  Billboards, newspapers, and TV commercials all cost money to produce.  If a business’ main source of income is scrap gold, they need to make enough profit from your gold to pay for those ads.   News programs have done countless reports on selling gold and how to avoid being cheated.  This video from a San Francisco CBS affiliate did a really great job explaining the process.  Check out the video here.  Depending on the volume of gold a store buys and sells to refiners, the prices the store gets from the refiner may vary quite a bit.

“How do I know I’m getting a fair price?”

That can be a tough one.  Again, you need to trust the person buying your gold.  As the above video states, there can be range.  I also caution people about the value of their time, and gas!  I certainly agree with the idea to “shop around,” but at some point you need to factor in your time and money spent on gas getting from place to place.  I must regretfully tell you of a time  a guest chose not to sell his gold to me.  He got a price that was $10 better.  Unfortunately he had to drive 60 miles round trip to get to the other store.  Let’s assume his car gets 20 miles/gal.  At $3.25/gal for gas, he spent $9.75 just to sell his gold for $10 more… not to mention the time out of his day.

“Why aren’t the gemstones worth anything?” 

In most cases, we can’t reuse the gemstones in the jewelry.  Gemstones, diamonds included, can chip, scratch, and break.  The used/worn gemstones can’t be put in jewelry and sold as new.  If they are going to sold as “used” or “estate” jewelry, the selling price is only a fraction of a new piece.   Additionally, the labor costs to remove the gemstones can often exceed their value.  When the items go to the refiner to be melted, the stones are sometimes removed via an acid bath or  just burned out and destroyed.   Some diamonds can be reused, but that is on a case by case basis.

Other things to consider:

-Signs in the windows of 3 stores in your home city: “We pay the most for your gold!”  “Highest payment for your gold!” “Top dollar for your gold!”   I hate to burst your bubble, but someone’s lying. They can’t all be paying the most, and if you have to put a big sign in your window odds are pretty good none of you are paying the most in your city.

– Home Gold Buying Parties:  Remember, business need to make money to stay in business.  If the company running the sale offers you a “commission” or “bonus” on the amount of gold your friends bring to the party, the money is coming from somewhere, usually the amount your friends could have gotten for their gold had you taken it somewhere else.  Find the local independent jeweler paying the most and have a “party” in their store!

– Quoting prices over the phone:  Are they paying per gram? per pennyweight? per ounce? Is it a sliding scale?  What is the price of gold when you called vs when you brought in the gold?  It’s way to easy to quote a higher price over the phone simply to get you in the door only to find a “problem” with your gold that would make the price lower than quoted over the phone.

Finally, I’ll tell you that I do not promise to pay the most.  There is no way I can guarantee that someone isn’t going to pay just a bit more to prove me wrong.  I can tell you that we’ve had thousands of happy customers who recommend us to their friends and family.  I can tell you we’ve been here in Racine for more than 100 years, and you don’t get the privilege of staying in business that long if you make it common place to be dishonest to your customers.

We appreciate your business,



Price vs. Value

Price vs. value.  This can be another confusing concept. In my last post, I briefly discussed the difference between price and value of a diamond. While it seems to be a matter of great importance to know the exact grading qualities of a diamonds, and in this age of information, it’s so easy to research all of that, there is no doubt that a search for diamonds will come up with a myriad of information and pricing. This is because diamonds are NOT a commodity. There is no set price for what a customer would pay for 1ct G color, SI1 clarity diamond. Just as there is no set price for what I, as a retailer, would pay my vendors for that stone either. On paper, I’ve seen price differences of up to 25% on similar diamonds.

The price of an item is the amount of money that you will pay for a product. The value of that product is a little more subjective and obscure. Value is the buyer’s perceived worth of the item being sold. We all value different things, even on the same product. A parent of a 16 year old new driver might place more value the safety features of their child’s car more than how it looks. The 16 year old will probably put more value on what their friends think of is when they pull into school the next day. Lots of things play a part in the value of an item. Manufacturing techniques and quality craftsmanship, warranties, return policies, payment options, packaging, and brand name are just a few.

Jewelry is a great example of where it can be confusing. For example, if you are looking for a 14K yellow gold cable link chain, you’ll find a big range of prices. While you might think you’re comparing the same thing, there are a lot of different things that affect the selling price. How heavy is it? Is it handmade or machine made? What type of clasp does it have? Is there a warranty on it? And that’s just a few things to compare. Diamonds are the same way, but usually dealing with higher prices than a gold chain so it adds up faster. On paper, you can compare “identical” diamonds and see big price differences.

What other value factors are there to compare on diamonds? Here are just a few:

– How do they look in person? Is one more appealing to your eye? You know the old adage “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder!” Are you able to see it before you buy it? (That and more on the differences when buying a diamonds online in a future post.)

– What type of warranties come with your purchase? If it chips, will they fix it? Can I trade it in for a larger stone later? If so, is there a minimum price increase you have to pay? – What type of diamond grading report does it have, if any? Due to their stricter grading, reports from the Gemological Institute of American have a larger cost associated with them than do reports from the European Gemological Laboratory.

Only you as the consumer can decide if selling price of an item fits with your opinion of the product’s value. It is the job of the seller to build that value. Very few items “sell themselves.” After last week’s lengthy post, I figured I’d keep this one shorter. There is so much more that could be said on this topic like consumer buying habits, product advertising, premium pricing for brand names.


P.S. – There is still the most import thing about buying jewelry.  Why are you buying it?  What is the emotional connection? All these value factors are great, but it’s easy to lose the big picture.  We’ll talk about that more in depth next time around.  Stay tuned!


Jewelry Shopping Surveys, Reviews, and Testimonials…

Customer feedback is very important to us.  Our goal is to provide each guest with the Ultimate Jewelry Shopping Experience.  If you had an amazing experience we’d love to hear about it.  If your visit to Rasmussen Diamonds didn’t live up to what you expected, we want to hear that too.  If you have a few moments, please click on the Rasmussen Diamonds logo below and take a brief survey.

Along with feedback directly to us, we love testimonials and referrals.  There are so many places online to submit your reviews.  YELP, Google Places, Yahoo, Insider Pages, Facebook are just a few of the places you can submit a review of your shopping experience at Rasmussen Diamonds.  We hope you’ll stop by one of those sites and give a review of your shopping experience.



Washington D.C. I.J.O. conference

Hey Rasmussen Diamonds Family,

Bill, Kathy and I have been in D.C. since last Friday.  We’ re attending the summer show of Independent Jewelers Organization.  There were some amazing educational seminars that we listened to as well as made some brilliant travel plans that we’ll announce later this week.

We are putting in a new line of bangle bracelts with interchangable “clasps.”  He’res a picture of just a few of the clasp options.

Bracelets will be available in sterling silver, sterling and gold and all gold and in sizes from 6.5″ up to 8″ with half inch increments available.  We should have them in the store by the end of August.  Be sure to stop in and check them out.

Stay tuned to the Rasmussen Diamonds Blog for more exciting information!


Rasmussen Diamond Dash

Diamond Dash Winners!

So here they are, the winners of the Rasmussen Diamond Dash.

We are thrilled with the response from this first event.  The weather was great, the participants were awesome and we want to say a special THANK YOU to our radio partners Lite Rock 92.1 and WRJN News-Talk Radio 1400AM.  They were a big help in getting the word out and the live remote broadcast the day of the event helped keep the excitement level high.

Stay tuned for information on next year’s event.  We’ve already stated to plan a bigger and better event!  We had over 250 people participate in this Dash and with the feedback since the event we’re hoping to hit 400 next year.

Rasmussen Diamond Dash

Rasmussen Diamond Dash!

Hey everyone!

The Rasmussen Diamond Dash is getting closer.  We are only 48 hours away and you can feel the excitement!  Wait, you don’t know what the Rasmussen Diamond Dash is?  You’re going to love this.  Head over to for all the details.  The short version is this: We’re giving away a $14,000 diamond ring and you have a chance to win it!  It’s a high tech scavenger hunt in downtown Racine played over 2 1/;2 hours.  Get clues, solve riddle, score points.  The person with the most points is going to win an awesome diamond ring.

Stay tuned to the site for updates and photos after the event as well as possible hints!

See you Sunday!


Welcome to Rasmussen Diamonds’ Blog

For more than 100 years we have been helping you celebrate special moments with gifts of jewelry.  We are Racine’s oldest jeweler, offering the most educated staff , a full range of services, and the ultimate jewelry shopping experience.

  • Your bridal destination: with over 800 engagement, wedding and anniversary ring designs in store to choose from, we have the largest selection  in the area
  • In case we don’t have just the right ring, our custom design services (including CAD/CAM) can make the ring of your dreams
  • Loose diamonds: Using state of the art technology we find the most beautiful diamonds for you to choose. We don’t rely on certificates or pieces of paper to tell us what to buy, and you shouldn’t either.
  • A beautiful collection of basic jewelry wardrobe pieces as well as the latest in fashion forward pieces
  • Jewelry repair
  • Jewelry appraisals by Certified Gemologist Appraisers (currently only 8 in the state, 400 in the country, the only 2 in Racine)
  • Complimentary watch battery service: If we can replace it, there’s no charge!

Part of our outstanding customer service is a commitment to educating ourselves as well as our guests.  We have created a range of options for our guests to keep up to date on the latest information.

  • The “Rasmussen Diamonds Times” – Our Monthly e-newsletter
  • Our informative website  where you can find a wealth of information in the Rasmussen Diamonds University section as well as read our latest blog post
  • Have a tough question? Try the Gem Guys!  Send your questions to our experts at

If you have questions about any of the items above, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 262-884-WISH (9474) or email us at

Store Hours:

Monday – Friday  10am to 7pm   –   Saturdays 10am to 5pm

Thank you for choosing Rasmussen Diamonds for your special moments!