Looking to know which is better between GCAL vs GIA Diamonds?
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This is our comparison of the GCAL vs GIA Diamonds
In this article, I have reviewed both diamonds in-depth and will fully explain to you which one is better.
Let’s get started with an in-depth look at what sets these diamonds apart.
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Table of Contents
What’s The Difference Between GCAL vs GIA Diamonds?
GIA Diamond Reports
GIA Diamond Reports are assessments provided by the Gemological Institute of America, an esteemed organization established in 1931. Widely regarded in the industry, the GIA is known for its consistent and reliable grading standards. Many retailers, including James Allen, rely on GIA certifications to instill confidence in the quality of their diamonds.
The GIA offers a comprehensive range of services, including education, research, and certificates for various gemstones such as natural diamonds, natural colored diamonds, colored stones, and pearls. They are credited with developing the widely used “four Cs” system (color, clarity, cut, and carat weight) for describing diamonds.
GIA diamond reports are conducted by expert gemologists who carefully examine each stone to determine if it is natural or lab-grown, as the GIA has different criteria for grading these types of diamonds. The reports contain essential information such as the diamond’s shape, cutting style, the four Cs, polish, symmetry, fluorescence, and a diagram depicting the proportions of the diamond.
To ensure the authenticity of a GIA-certified diamond, buyers can verify the report by matching the GIA report number, the serial number on the diamond’s girdle, and the information provided on the GIA’s website. By entering the serial number on the GIA’s “Report Check” page, buyers can confirm the accuracy of the report displayed by the vendor.
GCAL Diamond Reports
GCAL (Gem Certification & Assurance Lab) was founded in 2001 by renowned jeweler Donald A. Palmieri. It provides a comprehensive range of services to the industry, including educational resources, metal testing, diamond appraisals, and quality assurance testing. However, GCAL is most known among consumers for its grading reports that ensure the value of diamonds. In addition to loose diamonds, GCAL also grades precious metals, colored stones, colored diamonds, and pearls.
GCAL’s diamond certificates consist of three parts. The left panel of the certificate verifies the diamond’s identity, which is achieved through laser inscription with a corresponding serial number. Buyers can verify the authenticity of a GCAL report by entering its unique number on GCAL’s website. The middle panel analyzes the diamond’s four Cs (carat, clarity, cut, and color), which have a significant impact on its price. GCAL provides detailed information on these characteristics, including shape, optical brilliance, optical symmetry, and polish in the “cut” category.
The third panel of a GCAL report focuses on the diamond’s light performance. Brilliance is emphasized in this section, with the “Optical Brilliance Analysis” showing areas of light return and loss. The “Optical Symmetry Analysis” provides insights into the diamond’s proportions and facet alignment, influencing how well it interacts with light based on the symmetry of its facets. The “Proportion Diagram” at the bottom of this panel illustrates the actual dimensions of the diamond.
GCAL offers various types of certificates, including an express grading certificate, which is a smaller option compared to the traditional one. However, for buyers looking for complete information when purchasing an engagement ring diamond, it is recommended to base their decision on the full-length GCAL report.
How are GCAL and GIA Reports Different?
1. GIA’s Focus on Natural Diamonds Rather than Lab-Created Diamonds
GCAL, unlike the GIA, started grading lab-grown diamonds earlier, providing reports that filled the gap in the market. GCAL offers four different reports for lab-grown diamonds, including a general certificate, a certificate with a hearts and arrows analysis, an express certificate, and a jewelry card.
In comparison to the GIA’s lab-grown diamond reports, GCAL’s reports are more comprehensive. They provide additional information such as grades for culet size and optical brilliance. GCAL’s reports also feature colored diagrams that illustrate how the diamond handles light based on its proportions and facet alignment.
Both GCAL and GIA lab-grown diamond certificates include details about the method used to create the diamond. The most popular methods mentioned are Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) and High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT).
2. GCAL Provides Comprehensive Inclusion Details
GIA reports feature clarity plots that depict the type, size, and position of inclusions within the diamond. These plots are found in the middle panel of the report and provide both a top and bottom view of the diamond, accompanied by symbols representing the inclusions.
For instance, let’s consider a 1.05 carat round-cut diamond graded by GIA. The clarity plot on the report would indicate the presence of various inclusions, such as crystals, knots, features, needles, naturals, and indented naturals. The plot helps potential buyers understand not only the types of inclusions present but also their specific locations on the diamond.
The clarity plot is valuable as it allows buyers to identify any inclusions that may be undesirable, such as large features or cavities near thin girdles or sharp corners.
In comparison, GCAL certifications include the overall clarity grade and information about the types of inclusions present, along with an image of the actual diamond. In the “Identifying Characteristics” section of the GCAL report, the inclusions are listed, along with their respective locations. For example, the report may indicate that needles and pinpoints are located on the upper girdle and bezel.
This detailed analysis provided by GCAL can be immensely helpful for buyers, as it allows them to assess the size and precise location of the inclusions. This information enables buyers to make more informed decisions when selecting a diamond that aligns with their preferences and requirements.
3. GCAL Offers Certificates Backed by a Guarantee
GCAL distinguishes itself from other gemological laboratories by offering a money-back guarantee on their grades. This means that they stand by the accuracy of their grading and are willing to provide a refund if any discrepancies are found. In contrast, other grading labs often include disclaimers that limit their liability for errors in judgment. If a seller misrepresents a diamond’s characteristics, such as giving it an incorrect color grade, courts have ruled that the seller is responsible.
The GIA, for example, includes limitations in their reports by stating that their reports are not guarantees, valuations, or appraisals. This means that the GIA does not provide a warranty for their grades. If another institution grades the same diamond differently in terms of color or clarity, the GIA is not held responsible for the discrepancy.
The lack of guarantee from many institutions highlights the importance of choosing a diamond from a reputable source like GCAL. GCAL’s money-back guarantee adds an additional level of assurance for buyers, as it demonstrates their confidence in the accuracy of their grading.
4. GCAL Certificates Feature Diamond Images
One notable difference between GCAL and GIA reports is that GCAL includes an actual image of the diamond on its report. This image, located at the bottom of the middle panel, showcases the diamond’s crown (top) and pavilion (bottom). The photograph is taken at 10x magnification, allowing buyers to observe the details of the cut and the level of symmetry in the facets.
In contrast, GIA reports do not feature a similar image of the diamond. Instead, GIA reports include a standardized clarity plot that is consistent across all reports and primarily serves the purpose of indicating inclusions within the diamond. While GIA reports may include a proportions diagram that provides measurements such as table depth and percentage, the image itself is a standardized outline present in all their reports.
It’s important to note that while the image on GCAL reports is an added feature, it should not be the sole basis for making a decision to purchase a diamond. It is highly recommended to view the diamond either in person or through high-resolution images online to gather sufficient information. While the magnified image on the report offers some insights, it may not provide enough detail to fully assess the diamond’s worth. Nonetheless, the image on the GCAL report can be a helpful component in the decision-making process.
5. GIA Reports Dominate the Market
When browsing for diamonds at popular retailers, it is more common to find diamonds certified by the GIA rather than GCAL. The GIA is widely recognized as the leading organization for diamond grading, and many buyers specifically look for diamonds with GIA certification.
As a result, retailers often choose to send their diamonds to the GIA for grading more frequently than other institutions, including GCAL. For example, two prominent online diamond retailers, Blue Nile and James Allen, offer GIA reports with their diamonds. In fact, Blue Nile’s entire collection is graded by the GIA.
However, there are still other retailers that offer GCAL certifications alongside GIA. Some examples include Helzberg, Costco, and Robbins Bros. The fact that both GIA and GCAL have established partnerships with reputable retailers demonstrates their credibility and reputation within the industry.
The Impact of GCAL and GIA Reports on Diamond Prices
The grading report from either GCAL or GIA can have a significant impact on the price of a diamond. There are two primary ways in which the report influences the diamond’s cost.
Firstly, the sale price of a diamond is typically based on the grades assigned to it. For instance, let’s consider a diamond with the following grades:
Carat: 2.00 Cut: Very Good Color: F Clarity: VVS2
If the same diamond were graded by another organization and received the following grades:
Carat: 2.00 Cut: Excellent Color: F Clarity: VVS1
The seller could potentially price the diamond higher based on the second set of grades. Although it is the same diamond, the higher grade assigned by the alternative lab may justify a higher selling price. This demonstrates the importance of having a reliable and consistent grading from a reputable lab. Stricter grading standards typically result in a lower price for the diamond.
Secondly, diamonds graded by the GIA often come with a premium compared to those graded by other labs. The GIA has established a strong reputation within the industry, which allows them to charge higher fees for their grading services. This cost is often passed on to the buyer. In general, it can cost the vendor anywhere from $150 to $300 for the GIA to provide a grading report.
Choosing Between a GCAL or GIA Diamond: Factors to Consider
GCAL and GIA are well-established and respected institutions that offer reliable and comprehensive assessments of diamonds. When it comes to ensuring the accuracy of a diamond’s qualities, both organizations provide the necessary assurance.
It is crucial to have confidence that the price you pay for a diamond is based on an accurate evaluation. GCAL and GIA address this concern by providing thorough analyses of a diamond’s characteristics in a clear and understandable manner.
Therefore, I recommend that buyers begin their diamond search with organizations like GCAL and GIA. These institutions have a proven track record of evaluating diamonds, instilling confidence in their assessments and reports.