EGL Certification: Can You Rely On Its Standards?

Last Updated on August 29, 2023 by Juli "Jewels" Church

Ah, diamonds—the epitome of elegance, a true marvel of nature, and often a symbol of eternal love. But let's be honest, the journey from awe to ownership is fraught with questions and fears, isn't it?

"Is this diamond worth its price tag?" "How can I be sure of its authenticity?" "What if I invest in a stone only to discover it's been over-graded?"

EGL certification

These questions resonate with the anxieties that potential buyers, perhaps like yourself, grapple with.

As a seasoned diamontologist, I understand the vortex of concerns that whirl around this significant, emotionally charged, and often costly decision. That's why diamond certification is important, and there any many certifying bodies that can give that — GIA, AGS, EGL, IGI — to name a few.

The thing is, the a diamond's certification needs to be more than just a piece of paper; it must be a trustworthy, honest, and rigorously vetted reflection of a diamond's true characteristics.

My Bottomline Opinion

Before we delve into the labyrinthine world of EGL diamond certification, I feel compelled to put my cards on the table: While EGL (European Gemological Laboratory) is a known entity in the diamond certification space, I do not recommend relying solely on an EGL certification for your diamond purchase.

Why? That's the question this blog aims to answer in thorough detail. Prepare for a deep dive into the complexities, controversies, and considerations that surround EGL certifications. Let's embark on this illuminating journey, shall we?

What is EGL Certification?

The European Gemological Laboratory, or EGL, established in 1974 in Belgium, is an intricate tapestry of history, scientific development, and market strategies. While appearing on the surface as just another certification body, its legacy, practices, and controversial moments make it a complex entity within the diamond world. Notably, each EGL lab operates as a for-profit entity, a business model that aligns with many other gemological laboratories but brings its own set of implications.

This for-profit nature is of interest, especially considering EGL's broader range of grading services that include smaller or imperfect diamonds often overlooked by other labs. It's plausible to surmise that this inclusive approach caters to a wider market, thereby potentially increasing revenue. However, this strategy comes with its pitfalls, primarily the inconsistency in grading standards across EGL labs, which has been a subject of industry debate and scrutiny.

The organization's expansion across multiple countries, with labs that are independently owned and operated, has made EGL a household name in the industry. We've got EGL USA, EGL Europe, EGL Israel — and these are just a few of the most prominent ones. Yet, these independently operated, for-profit labs have contributed to varying standards in diamond grading, leading to significant controversies over the reliability of EGL certifications.

By understanding EGL's for-profit status, one gains extra insight into its operational dynamics, motivations, and the ongoing debates surrounding its practices. This adds a layer of complexity for both novice and seasoned buyers who encounter EGL certifications in the market.

The EGL Diamond Certification Process

EGL's certification process, at least superficially, appears thorough and robust. Like most established certifiers, EGL examines a given diamond under tightly controlled conditions using specialized equipment. The aim is to meticulously evaluate its quality and characteristics.

The grading report subsequently issued should, in an ideal world, serve as a comprehensive guide to understanding the diamond's inherent attributes. Yet, it's worth noting that the standards of this process can vary depending on the specific EGL lab — a point that we will revisit later for its implications.

Factors Evaluated

When it comes to evaluating diamonds, EGL presents itself as an authority on the Four Cs — Cut, Clarity, Color, and Carat. What exactly are these factors, you might wonder? Let's deconstruct:

  • Cut: This element tells you how well the diamond has been cut and shaped. It impacts how the stone captures light and sparkles. EGL grades the cut from 'Excellent' to 'Poor,' much like other leading laboratories. However, it's worth noting that the precision of these grades has been called into question by industry experts.
  • Clarity: Clarity measures the presence of internal or external flaws, known as inclusions and blemishes. EGL provides clarity grades ranging from IF (Internally Flawless) to I3 (Included), where the stone has noticeable inclusions. Critics argue that EGL's clarity grades are often more lenient compared to other certifying bodies, which can artificially inflate a diamond's value.
  • Color: EGL's color grading spans from D, which is completely colorless, to Z, where noticeable color is present. The grading should, in theory, reflect how much or how little color a diamond possesses. But beware — EGL has been criticized for sometimes assigning higher grades than what other labs might give for the same stone, misleading consumers about a diamond's true color.
  • Carat: Carat weight is perhaps the most straightforward metric; it simply measures the size of the diamond. While it's hard to misrepresent this particular characteristic, it's the interaction of the carat weight with the other Cs that gives a more rounded picture of a diamond's value.

EGL also scrutinizes lesser-discussed metrics like polish, symmetry, and fluorescence. For example, polish refers to the quality of a diamond's surface condition, and symmetry addresses the exactness of the stone's shape and facet arrangement. Fluorescence refers to how a diamond reacts to ultraviolet light, which can impact its overall appearance.

Though these factors may seem auxiliary, they contribute to the overall quality and appearance of the diamond. However, given EGL's noted inconsistencies in grading more fundamental aspects, skepticism extends to these additional factors as well.

Types of EGL Reports

EGL issues various types of grading reports that aim to suit different needs, yet each has its unique set of attributes and implications for the buyer:

  • Full Diamond Report: This is the most exhaustive offering, providing a complete analysis of all evaluated factors, including a plotted diagram of the diamond's inclusions. This report is often used for higher-value diamonds and is considered the gold standard for what EGL offers. It’s detailed enough to give potential buyers a comprehensive look into their prospective purchase.
  • Consultation Report: Generally less expensive to obtain, this report is a streamlined version of the Full Diamond Report. It usually omits the plotted diagram of inclusions and may not provide full grading for all Four Cs. This report is often chosen for lower-value or smaller diamonds where the owner or buyer may not require a comprehensive analysis.
  • Mini Certificate: This is a condensed report that provides basic information, primarily focused on the Four Cs, in a wallet-sized format. Diamond dealers find this ideal for quick assessments or retail selling, but this certificate should not be your sole guide for a significant purchase.
  • Online Reports: Some EGL labs offer an online verification service where you can quickly check the key attributes of a graded diamond. Though convenient, these should be treated as preliminary and supplemented by more detailed assessments for substantial investments.
EGL sample diamond report

The type of report you opt for can affect not just your immediate understanding of your diamond but also its potential resale value and market appeal. Given the range of options and the controversies surrounding EGL's practices in grading diamonds, the choice of report type is not just a procedural decision but an essential strategic one for any serious buyer.

EGL's Methodology and Varied Standards

When it comes to EGL's certification process, the methodology doesn't veer drastically from industry norms — at least, not ostensibly. Under tightly controlled conditions and utilizing cutting-edge equipment, diamonds are assessed for their various attributes. The result? A detailed grading report, intended as an exhaustive guide to a diamond's inherent value, from its aesthetics to its structural integrity. However, the reliability of such reports is where the questions—and indeed, the controversy—begin to glitter as sharply as the diamonds themselves.

The Not-So-Uniform Standards

While one might assume a universal consistency across EGL labs given their shared name, this assumption would be a faceted illusion. Each EGL lab operates independently and, yes, for profit, which casts shadows over uniform grading standards. For instance, a certified diamond might receive a 'G' color rating in one lab and a 'H' in another. This inconsistency isn't just a semantic quibble; it translates into significant differences in market value.

Significance of Subjective Grading

The grading of diamonds is, by nature, not entirely devoid of subjectivity. However, EGL's perceived leniency in grading has led many to question whether the lab's reports are tilted in favor of sellers, inflating the Four Cs—Cut, Clarity, Color, and Carat—to more appealing grades. Such inflation would naturally make diamonds seem more valuable, impacting the buyer's investment in ways that may only become clear upon resale or further evaluation.

The Human Element

Behind every diamond certificate is a team of gemologists and analysts armed with microscopes, computers, and years of training. EGL is no different, boasting a team of skilled professionals. But human subjectivity coupled with the for-profit nature of individual labs begs a provocative question: to what extent do commercial pressures influence grading decisions? A loaded query, indeed, and one that throws into relief the complexities of the certification process under EGL's roof.

The Role of Technology

EGL incorporates advanced technologies like spectrophotometry and computerized modeling in its grading. While impressive, one must wonder: does the sophistication of the technology mask potential laxities in grading standards? After all, even the most advanced machinery is operated by humans, whose judgments can be swayed by a multitude of factors, including the aforesaid commercial pressures.

A Closer Look at The Four Cs

At the end of the day, EGL does offer a detailed breakdown of the Four Cs along with other characteristics like fluorescence, symmetry, and polish. However, the grades for these metrics can be contentious. When it comes to diamonds, every fraction of a grade can represent hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in perceived value—a steep price to pay for potential inconsistencies.

Thus, while EGL's certification process may sparkle with the allure of rigor and precision, a closer inspection reveals a more mottled landscape. One fraught with subjective interpretations, varying standards, and the looming shadow of commercial interests. It's a complex milieu, one that potential diamond buyers would do well to traverse with both eyes wide open.

Comparing EGL with Other Certifications

EGL vs GIA (Gemological Institute of America)

When it comes to diamond certification, the gap between EGL and GIA feels vast. I often say that GIA is the "Harvard of gemology," a title earned through its rigorous and consistent methodologies that have shaped the industry since 1931.

One of the reasons I trust GIA implicitly is its universal grading system, backed by decades of scientific research. With GIA, a "G" grade in New York matches a "G" grade in Hong Kong. This global consistency is something I've personally valued throughout my career. It means when I advise clients or make acquisitions, a GIA certificate holds its value universally, eliminating much of the guesswork.

In contrast, EGL, especially its international arm, is often more lenient in grading. I've seen stones with EGL certificates that claim to be a certain grade, but when examined closely, they would likely rank one or two grades lower under GIA standards. This might seem trivial to some, but remember, each grade can significantly inflate a diamond's perceived value and price. In my experience, such inflations often lead to heartbreak when it comes time for resale or trade-in.

GIA doesn't stop at just the Four Cs. A GIA report often includes additional crucial factors such as symmetry, fluorescence, and polish. I find this level of detail invaluable for a comprehensive understanding of a stone's true characteristics.

In my years as a diamontologist, I've found that while EGL does indeed cover these additional aspects, the grading can be inconsistent or lenient, particularly when compared to GIA's stringent standards. It's not unusual to find discrepancies between EGL's and GIA's assessment of the same diamond attributes, including factors like fluorescence or symmetry. These discrepancies can be minor to a casual observer, but they hold considerable importance in the gemological world, impacting both valuation and long-term investment prospects.

So, in my professional opinion, if you're facing a choice between EGL and GIA, go for the latter. The investment is not just financial but also emotional, and a GIA-certified stone offers an extra layer of assurance that is hard to put a price on.

gia cert report

EGL vs IGI (International Gemological Institute)

When navigating the nuanced terrain of diamond grading, the comparison between EGL and IGI often arises. While both organizations may not boast the universal acclaim that GIA does, they each occupy a unique space in the industry. As someone deeply entrenched in gemology, I've encountered plenty of both EGL and IGI certificates and each offers its own blend of pros and cons.

IGI was founded in 1975 and has grown into one of the world's largest independent gem certification labs. What I've noted about IGI is its consistency in grading—while perhaps not as stringent as GIA, it's generally more reliable than EGL, especially EGL International. I've often recommended IGI for those looking for a cost-effective but still dependable certificate.

The disparities in grading rigor between EGL and IGI become evident upon close inspection. In my own work, I've seen diamonds graded as "Very Good" in cut quality by EGL only to be rated as "Good" by IGI. While such discrepancies might seem inconsequential to the casual buyer, they can result in significant value adjustments, and you can feel it in your pocketbook when it's time for resale or appraisal.

Market reputation is another area where IGI seems to have a slight edge. Perhaps it's due to its presence in key diamond markets like Antwerp, or maybe it's the consumer confidence garnered by its more consistent grading practices. Either way, I've noticed that an IGI certificate often carries a bit more weight than an EGL one, especially in more discerning markets.

In a nutshell, if EGL and IGI were siblings, IGI would be the more disciplined one, more in line but not quite on par with their overachieving sibling, GIA. While IGI certificates often cost more than EGL's, the modest increase in price can often justify the higher degree of confidence you receive in return.

IGI certificat

You can check out how all four of the major players in diamond certification compare to each other in this post on GIA vs AGS vs EGL vs IGI.

EGL USA vs EGL International: A Brief Contrast

Contrary to popular belief, EGL USA and EGL International are distinct entities, each with its unique set of grading standards and market reputation. EGL USA is lauded for adhering to more rigorous grading norms and is certified by the American Gem Society, lending it an extra layer of credibility. On the other hand, EGL International is known for more liberal grading, sometimes leading to inflated diamond qualities.

This discrepancy has consequences. EGL USA enjoys a better reputation, particularly within the United States, but still doesn't match the universal prestige of a GIA certificate. Meanwhile, the laxer standards of EGL International can raise eyebrows, especially among discerning buyers who question the true value of their purchase. Both versions are generally more affordable than GIA-certified stones, but remember: lower cost doesn't equate to equivalent value.

Even though they share the EGL brand name, these two entities offer different levels of reliability, reflected in their market acceptance and pricing. Whether you lean toward the stricter EGL USA or consider the more liberal EGL International, be aware of what each brings to the table. Your understanding can be the difference between a gem of a deal and a costly mistake.

Price Factor

This leads us to the question of price. Why does EGL diamond certification often come cheaper? The answer, alas, is a cocktail of lenient grading standards and a broader range of diamonds accepted for certification.

While you may save upfront, the long-term ramifications can be less than sparkling, especially if you're considering the diamond as an investment. I've often advised clients to consider the old adage, "You get what you pay for," particularly poignant when navigating EGL's cost-friendly but potentially misleading certifications.

Global Acceptance

While EGL has a global presence with labs in multiple countries, its certificates don't carry the same worldwide clout as GIA or even IGI. A diamond graded by EGL might not be as readily accepted or valued as GIA-certified diamonds in different markets, limiting your options for resale or trade. I've traveled extensively, from Antwerp's diamond district to the bustling markets of Hong Kong, and I can attest to GIA's near-universal acceptance. EGL? Not so much.

So there you have it—a critical view of EGL in comparison with other reputable certification bodies. It's a landscape replete with pitfalls for the uninformed but navigable for those who tread carefully. I strongly recommend that prospective buyers do their homework and seek out multiple opinions, especially if venturing into the slightly murkier waters of EGL certification.

Controversies and Considerations Regarding an EGL-Certified Diamond

Inconsistent Grading

The issue of inconsistent grading is a recurring theme when it comes to EGL diamond certification. The heart of the matter lies in the noticeable leniency in their diamond grading practices. I've been in situations where I've had to scrutinize an EGL-certified diamond only to find it would rank lower under GIA's or even IGI's standards. These inflated grades create a misleading perception of value. Consumers think they're getting a higher-quality diamond than they actually are, which can turn a moment meant for joyous celebration into one of doubt and dissatisfaction.

Market Perception

There's no sugarcoating it: the market often views EGL-certified diamonds as inferior to those certified by more stringent bodies. Jewelers and other industry insiders are well aware of the grading inconsistencies, which translates into lower resale and trade-in values for EGL diamonds. This can be a harsh wake-up call for consumers who thought they were getting a "deal." Market perception is like the tide; it's hard to go against, and with EGL, you're often swimming upstream in terms of consumer and industry confidence.

Buyer's Discretion Advised

Given the outlined controversies and inconsistencies, it's imperative for buyers to exercise extreme caution when considering an EGL-certified diamond. I cannot stress this enough: if you're leaning towards an EGL diamond, consider getting a second opinion from an independent appraiser familiar with international diamond grading standards. An extra set of trained eyes can offer invaluable insight into the actual diamond quality and value, potentially saving you from making an expensive mistake.

The diamond industry can be a labyrinth of intricacies and subtleties, but at the end of the day, you want your investment to hold both emotional and financial value. The certification is more than a piece of paper; it's a blueprint of your diamond's integrity. Make sure that blueprint is as accurate as possible by opting for a more reputable certification.

Making an Informed Choice: A Final Word on EGL

As we journey through the glittering but complex world of diamond certification, the essence of this discussion boils down to trust and value — two facets equally as important as any of the Four Cs. I've spent years in this industry, and if there's one universal truth I've gleaned, it's that not all certificates are created equal. And in a realm where minute details can spell a difference of thousands of dollars, the disparity between EGL and its more reputable counterparts like GIA and IGI is far from trivial.

The hazards of relying solely on an EGL certificate are numerous, from lenient diamond grading that inflates diamond qualities to a lack of universal market recognition. Such issues not only raise red flags but can significantly impact the financial and emotional value of your purchase. Whether you're making this investment for love, legacy, or both, you don't want to cloud such an important decision with uncertainty.

While EGL's often lower prices might be tempting, remember that in the intricate world of certified diamonds, you truly get what you pay for. An EGL certification may not cost as much upfront, but the long-term ramifications can be expensive, both monetarily and emotionally. For peace of mind and genuine value, I repeat the unequivocal recommendation I gave near the beginning of this post: Opt for a diamond that has been graded by more stringent and globally recognized labs like GIA or IGI. A GIA-certified diamond, will leave no in no doubt as to its quality.

Meet Your Jewelry Expert

Learn More About Jewelry

Want to learn more about jewelry? Check out these other helpful resources written by our jewelry experts!