When you are spending your hard-earned cash on something as important as an engagement ring, you want to make sure that you are getting what you think you are paying for. With changes in the way many diamonds are sold, there is a lot of reliance on so-called diamond ‘certificates’. But there are also a lot of misconceptions about these pieces of paper – starting with the name.

If you are buying a diamond ring – you need to be aware of the potential pitfalls....



An independent Grading Report should be available for any new diamond you are buying - and it is a report, not a certificate. There are a number of key differences between a report and a certificate:

- a certificate certifies an objectively verifiable fact

- a diamond grading report outlines the opinion of the person grading the diamond

- about where it lies

- on a continuum of standards

- set out by the grading body by whom

- that individual is recognised as competent to grade diamonds.



Certificates are available from independent diamond grading bodies for diamonds of around 0.25ct or larger. Smaller diamonds, especially the tiny melée stones used in halos and on ring shanks, are never graded as it is not worthwhile.

If you are buying a diamond of 0.3ct or more which is represented as being of a particular Quality, for example a ‘G SI1’ – colour ‘G’ and clarity ‘SI1’ etc - you should insist on an independent report, not an in-house report by the vendor.


At their best, grading reports will give the lay person some information by which to evaluate the quality of the diamond. But when you are new to the field, as most people buying an engagement ring are, they can confuse more than enlighten.

Here’s why:

Art not Science

Grading diamonds is an Art, not a Science, the standards are set at different levels by different grading bodies. There are a number of different grading bodies and they have their own examination standards for grading qualifications. Not only that, diamond grading depends on an individual’s interpretation of those standards so there is variation even among members of the same organisation. For the layperson, the danger is that you end up not comparing like with like.


In recent years the industry has seen over-grading in some quarters and by some grading bodies. This undermines confidence in the whole process and could make a ‘certificate’ almost worthless. While some of this is fraudulent, much is down to the different standards of each body.

'Selling the Certificate'

Some retailers, especially online are, in effect, ‘selling the certificate’ rather than the diamond itself. These retailers are middlemen between the diamond merchants and the consumer and may never actually see the diamond. As the consumer is not an expert, he or she can’t really know what they are buying and the entity selling to them doesn’t always know either.

Not an Ethical Guarantee

A grading report does not mean that a diamond has been ethically produced, and it certainly does not even guarantee that the diamond is truly ‘conflict-free’. This is because the problems and holes in the Kimberley Process, which was supposed to address the serious issue of ‘blood diamonds’, mean that stones from undesirable sources can enter the supply chain at every level.

Value Trade-Offs

A grading report cannot give you any idea of ‘value for money’ or help evaluate the trade-offs which are always possible between one stone and another to enable you to get the best for your money.

In-House Reports

Many High Street jewellers and online retailers don’t offer independent grading reports with their diamonds, relying on in-house reports. These have no objectively verifiable criteria at all and the consumer can have no redress as grading is then a matter of opinion.


A couple came to me for wedding rings by recommendation from one of their friends. At the same time they asked for my opinion on the engagement ring which they had bought only six months before in a shop in Hatton Garden, London’s jewellery quarter. Not knowing where best to start when buying their ring, like many people they thought this would be the place to find it.

They found a design they liked and were sold the ring as a 0.7ct DVS1 diamond at a price they thought was a very good deal. But there was no independent certificate to verify the grading of the diamond. Even by eye it was clear to me that the diamond they thought was a colour D was not. The colour was significantly lower than they believed they had purchased! But because there was no independent certificate, there was little they could do to remedy the situation.

While the price they paid would have been a good deal if the diamond were a GIA certified D colour, they had paid more than they should. Given the overstatement of the colour, it was no surprise to discover that the retailer had also graded the clarity with equal laxity. Sadly, they lost out on both counts.


There is a lot online about the 4 C’s of diamonds. Not only is this confusing to some, to others it can create a false sense of ‘expertise’. If you have read 101 explanations of what to look for in a diamond, you may think you know all you need to know.

I have outlined just a few of the problems you may not be aware of when you are comparing diamonds. The bottom line is that you could pay a lot more than you should for the true quality of the diamond you purchase.

The only way to make sure you get the best stone for your budget and to fit your priorities is to talk to a jeweller who will be open and honest with you about these matters and give you clear and impartial advice about your options.


If you would like more information or just an informal chat about whether a Bespoke Ring is the right thing for you, you can start the ball rolling with an initial call to me at our Walton on Thames Studio on 01932 918189 or get in touch HERE.

We are always happy to talk to you, answer any questions you may have - AND we don't try to sell you stuff.

P.S. If you would like to know more about me and my own personal approach to the jewellery I design for my clients, I've tried to explain the ethos and values behind what we do in the About Us section.

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