If you’re buying a diamond, it’s likely an expensive and sentimental purchase.
Several steps have been developed to protect buyers who may not have extensive experience in the diamond industry to ensure that you’re getting what you pay for.
One of those measures is the inclusion of serial numbers and grading certificates:
Here’s How to Identify Some Diamonds:
Diamonds from reputable sellers will usually have serial numbers and certificates from one of several agencies. This number applies to the loose stone only and not the other components in a piece of jewelry, such as the setting, ring, or chain.
Table of Contents
How Do You Identify a Diamond?
High-quality diamonds are identified by a serial number given to them by an organization specializing in analyzing and grading diamonds.
These organizations usually have processes for identifying clear diamonds, colored diamonds, other gemstones, gemstones created in laboratory conditions, and synthetic stones that some customers may mistake for diamonds.
It isn’t recommended to buy a diamond that doesn’t have a report to go with it. If you do, you might not even be getting a diamond.
Unfortunately, some people will attempt to scam those looking to buy a diamond, or they’ll try and sell a diamond that they don’t legally own.
Most customers cannot identify diamonds by looking alone. While there are all sorts of tricks online to determine if your diamond is real or not, the best way to get an actual diamond that meets the grading indicated by the seller is to use the diamond’s serial number and certificate.
Who’s in Charge of Numbering Diamonds?
The most well-respected diamond certification organization is the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). Founded in 1931 by Robert M. Shipley, the original mission of the GIA was to provide education around precious gemstones and attempt to professionalize the jewelry.
In the 1940s, the GIA developed a system of grading diamonds called the Four Cs — cut, clarity, color, and carat. In the 1950s, the GIA began issuing diamond grading reports, which they still offer on diamonds and other gems.
Many jewelers will have copies of the report available for the customer to view before purchase.
In 1988, the GIA graded the famous 45.52-carat Hope Diamond, currently on display at the National Museum of Natural History. In the mid-1990s, the GIA published articles on identifying synthetic diamonds to help protect buyers from purchasing something they think is a diamond.
In the late 1990s, the GIA worked with legendary diamond dealer De Beers to work on criteria for identifying diamonds created in a laboratory, which they developed in response to the controversy around the damage diamond mining causes to the earth and the exploitation of diamond mines around the world.
What is a Lab-Created Diamond?
As technology has advanced, humans found a way to replicate the processes in the earth’s crust over millions of years.
These labs can “grow” diamonds in a few weeks, and since they are created under the same conditions, they have the same chemical makeup as a natural diamond.
These diamonds are created with no disruption to the earth. As diamond mining practices come under more and more scrutiny, these are a great option for those looking for a more environmentally friendly and humanistic diamond.
They’re also substantially cheaper than natural diamonds, so getting a much larger stone for a fraction of the cost is possible. Lab-created diamonds generally don’t hold much resale value, but since diamonds are hugely sentimental to most buyers, that’s not as much concern.
While the GIA paved the way for diamond identification, other organizations offer similar services, such as the American Gemological Society (AGS), which offers a similar scientific grading process but provides the results in a 1-10 format instead of the more common letter-based grade.
The European Gemological Laboratory is used throughout Europe, but they also have a presence in the United States through EGL USA. There is also the International Gemological Institute, which is a for-profit company.
Generally, the EGL and IGI have looser standards than the GIA and the AGS, and these diamonds would not receive the same grading if submitted to the GIA.
The grading organization provides a unique serial number to each diamond they inspect. It is also included on the certificate they issue for each diamond so that you can compare the two.
Grading Vs. “Certifying” or “Appraising”
It’s important to note that grading a diamond is an anonymous, scientific process.
It does not automatically correlate with the monetary value of the diamond. The price of a diamond at any given grade is set by the diamond market, which will fluctuate over time.
The grade of the diamond will not change unless the diamond is damaged in some way.
Are Diamonds Laser Inscribed?
If a diamond has been graded and given a serial number, the number itself will appear on the diamond.
Since the 1980s, lasers have been used to inscribe the serial numbers onto diamonds and other gems. Don’t go peering at your ring for the number.
Once the serial number is assigned, the laser will inscribe the number on the stone’s girdle.
Serendipity Diamonds states, “The ‘Girdle’ of a Diamond describes the outer edge and division between the Crown and Pavilion of a polished Diamond.” It can only be seen with a microscope, and it doesn’t impact the refractive properties of your diamond.
That’s important since light refraction gives diamonds their “shine.”
The serial number engraved on the diamond matches the number printed on the grading report provided by the organization. When you purchase a diamond, you will receive the grading certificate. You can request another one from the grading organization if you misplace it.
You’ll need a jeweler to look at the serial number for you, and it’s best if you can take it back to the jeweler where you purchased it or provide some proof of ownership.
Do All Diamonds Have Numbers and Identifiable Marks?
Only diamonds that have been submitted to a grading institution after being cut will have a serial number.
These associations don’t provide serial numbers for raw diamonds, and even if they did inspect, grade, and engrave them, the area with the engraving would likely be lost when the gemstone was cut.
Different organizations have varying requirements for what kind of diamonds they will grade, so stones that don’t meet those requirements will also not have a serial number. The organizations also only inspect loose stones.
The serial number is for the stone itself and not any additional settings or stones that come in a piece of jewelry. If your diamond seller cannot provide evidence of grading and the ring’s serial number, it is recommended that you buy from a different seller.
These numbers were designed to protect customers who won’t have as much knowledge about diamonds and ensure that the industry adheres to strict standards.
However, if you inherit a diamond through a family member, they may not have had it identified. If you’d like to protect it, you can always send the stone to one of the organizations to get it graded.
Is There a Database I Can Check for Diamonds?
The GIA offers reports to a consumer so that you can compare the report given to you by a jeweler to the one in the GIA database.
Also, if you lose your report, you can request another one from GIA’s database. They keep a catalog of the diamonds that they grade.
However, they do not keep track of identifying information or purchaser. To prove ownership of a diamond, it’s recommended that you keep your certificate of purchase from the jeweler and submit your diamond’s serial number and grade certificate to your insurance company.
What Can You Do if Someone Steals Your Diamond Ring?
This is the worst-case scenario for any diamond owner, but luckily, there are a few steps you can and should follow when you notice your ring has been lost or stolen:
1. File a Police Report
The first step is to call the police and file a report that you believe your ring has been stolen.
In that case, you are the victim of a crime, and you need to get law enforcement involved. Your insurance company will also likely require you to file a police report.
2. Call Your Insurance
And after you’ve called the police, you should call your insurance company and file a claim.
They likely won’t make an immediate payout, but they do have procedures to help recover diamonds that have been lost or stolen.
3. Call the Local Pawn Shop
If your diamond ring was stolen, you could also contact local jewelers and pawn shops. Let them know that you’re trying to recover your ring and provide them with the serial number.
If someone comes in trying to sell a diamond with that number, they will know it is a fraudulent sale and alert the authorities.
4. Check Online for Your Ring
You can also look online to see if your ring is posted for sale.
If you find it, alert the authorities and give them as much information as possible.
It is not recommended that you approach or engage with the person selling your ring.
5. Retrace Your Steps
You can also retrace your steps.
If you think your ring went missing from your gym locker, head to the gym and see if they have any footage of people who could have taken it.
Similarly, if you think it may have fallen off somewhere, see if there is any footage that may confirm it.
If someone finds your ring on the ground, they’re legally required to attempt to find its owner. They’re breaking the law if they don’t turn the ring in to the police or attempt to find the owner.
So even if you lost your ring, if someone else finds it, they don’t automatically get to keep it. So it’s worth trying to find footage of anyone picking up your ring.
6. Check the Serial Number & Insurance
If you think you’ve found your ring or the police seize a ring that you suspect is yours, you’ll be able to use the serial number to identify it, even if it has been taken out of the setting (or fallen out and recovered).
If your ring is insured (as it should be!) and isn’t found, you’ll receive a payout from your insurer.
Purchasing a new ring won’t offer the same sentimentality as the ring that was lost, but it will mean that you won’t have to spend so much money as if you had to replace it completely.