What lab or certification is the best for checking your expensive ruby, sapphire or emerald?

Buying a high quality ruby, sapphire or emerald isn’t cheap, but how do you know the beautiful expensive gemstone you are buying is the quality you are expecting?

As I have discussed in our previous blog posts, it is very important to evaluate color gemstones value base on ‘six dimensional’ criteria – origin, color, carat weight, clarity, cut grade and treatments.   When all these criteria’s are taken into account we can then judge how ‘rare’ a particular gemstone is and evaluate the price base on supply and demand.   This makes having a ‘high quality’ lab report even more important as the information they provide will let us traders, jeweler or consumer judge what the value of a particular gemstone is.  So, which of these gemology labs are the best right now?

Please note the discussion I am providing below is based on my personal opinion & experience.  If you would like to provide your comments or add another lab to this list do feel free to provide your comments below as I am always open for suggestions.

In the color gemstone trade and end consumers the following labs are consider quite reputable.  Below are their names and website links.   Even though I have ordered the below list, there is in fact very little to distinguish from any of these labs in this list.   Below the list I have provided a summary table and my personal opinion of pros & cons for each lab.

  1. Gubelin Laboratories – http://www.gubelin.com/en/gemmology/gemlab
  2. Gemologist Institute of America (GIA) – https://www.gia.edu/
  3. Swiss Gemological Institute (SSEF) – http://www.ssef.ch/home/
  4. GemResearch Swisslab (GRS) – http://www.gemresearch.ch/
  5. GAAJ Lab – http://www.gaaj-zenhokyo.co.jp/index.html
  6. Asian Institute of Gemological Sciences (AIGS) – http://www.aigslaboratory.com/
  7. The Gem & Jewelry Institute of Thailand – https://www.git.or.th/index_en.html
  8. Dunaigre – (no website)
  9. [Newest Lab] Lotus Gemology – http://www.lotusgemology.com/
Establish-Lab-Table-Summary
Summary table of all the labs in this post

Gubelin Laboratories

Considered one of the oldest gemological laboratories, Gubelin labs has the experience in handling expensive color gemstones, the equipment and the database to check their origin.  It is considered one of the most premium and trustworthy labs out there.

Pros:

  • As it is one of the oldest it has the reputation
  • Uses latest gemological equipment to judge if a particular gemstone is treated or not
  • Has the database to compare and determine the origin of a particular gemstone.
  • Devoted in the science of gemology and therefore keeps up to date both in terms of staff and research.
  • Sometimes provide trade name comments like ‘pigeon’s blood’ ruby

Cons:

  • If additional comment not added, like most traditional labs, they base the color of gemstone only one ‘dimensionally’ – by stating only the “hue” color. This makes it difficult to buy a particular gemstone  without having it physically on hand as we need to check saturation levels (high or low) or tone levels (dark or light).

Gemologist Institute of America (GIA)

World’s foremost authority on diamonds, color gemstones and pearls, GIA has the experience and knowledge in providing accurate lab reports.  It also has the latest equipment, extensive database and experience to provide accurate origin and treatment reports based on scientific findings.  However, in the trade it is still considered more a ‘diamond’ laboratory then color gem lab.

Pros

  • Has the tradition and reputation in being one of the most accurate labs out there
  • Very strict in making sure they are unbiased by making sure the lab graders cannot have contact with the gemstone supplier and/or have issues of ‘conflict of interest’
  • Also has a reputable gemological institute which makes them keep themselves up to date regarding latest treatments and mine sources so that they can teach new gemologist (this is where I got my Graduate Gemologist degree from).
  • Uses latest gemological equipment to judge particular gemstone’s treatment and geographic origin.

Cons

  • Like most traditional labs, they base the color of gemstone only one ‘dimensionally’ – by stating only the “hue” color. This makes it difficult to buy a particular gemstone  without having it physically on hand as we need to check saturation levels (high or low) or tone levels (dark or light).  Reason why additional criteria are not added because they believe it is ‘too subjective.’    This is one of  the main reasons why there is limited use for this type of certificates in the gemstone trade.
2.87ct_Emerald_No_ClarityEnhancement_GIAReport_6182094232
Problem with GIA certificates for color gemstones is they don’t provide any additional color criteria except ‘hue color’ grade.

Swiss Gemological Institute (SSEF)

Similar to GIA, Swiss Gemological Institute is also one of larger and reputable lab which provide lab reports base on their scientific findings.   Though it is considered ‘a newer player’ as it was established a lot later than the other two labs above, it does have a reputable institute, latest equipment and reliable database to provide accurate origin and treatment reports.

Pros

  • Has the tradition and reputation in being one of the most accurate labs out there.
  • Also make sure they are unbiased by making sure the lab graders cannot have contact with the gemstone supplier and/or have issues of ‘conflict of interest.’
  • Has a reputable gemological institute which makes them keep themselves up to date regarding latest treatments or mine sources, so they can teach new gemologists.
  • Has two dimensional criteria in color, color hue and saturation levels, which make them more popular in the color gemstone business among traders and consumers.
  • Uses latest gemological equipment to judge particular gemstone’s treatment and geographic origin.

Cons

  • Does not use ‘trade names’ to identify color of a particular gemstone like ‘pigeon’s blood’ ruby or ‘royal blue’ sapphire. However, identifying or using trade name colors is “very subjective” and I do understand why they don’t use it when grading color for gemstones.  However, because we don’t have this criterion, it is still important to see the color gemstone beforehand.

GemResearch Swisslab (GRS)

Considered one of the most popular labs in the color gemstone trade as they are one of the first one using ‘trade’ names to identify color in the certificates.  It is especially popular in Southeast Asia and East Asia region.  The lab was founded by Dr. Adolf Peretti in 1996 and all the reports has to checked and sign off by him before the certificate is given to gem provider.

Pros

  • One of the first labs which use trade names to identify color like ‘pigeon’s blood’ or ‘royal blue.’ This actually helped the trade as it allowed people who don’t understand color to start trading gemstones based on the certificate.  It also describes the color as ‘vivid’ or normal which helps assist in identifying saturation levels.   This is one of the biggest reasons why this lab is so popular to traders and end consumers.
  • Lab also provides origin opinion which again helps evaluate value for traders and end consumers.
  • Uses the latest gemological equipment to provide his opinion.

Cons

  • As all lab reports have to be verified by Dr. A Peretti personally, the waiting time for this lab is very long.
  • Also because the lab results are based on only one person, there is a higher chance of ‘error’ based on personal opinion. In my experience, the color grade given for specific
    GRS-Certified-Pigeon-Blood-Rubies
    Couple of Burma (Myanmar) 2 carat rubies certifed by GRS as vivid red (GRS Type: pigeon’s blood)

    color like ‘pigeon’s blood’ ruby is too generous for some stones I have seen in the market.   Pigeon’s blood color should have the ‘exact red’ hue color with medium tone and vivid saturation, however, some GRS certified stones which were given this color range, I found to be either too pinkish-red or purplish-red range.  Therefore, in my personal opinion the color grades given are sometimes ‘too generous.’

GAAJ Lab

Large lab based in Japan GAAJ stands for “Gemological Association of All Japan” Laboratory.  They have been issuing reports for the last 40 years and have reputation similar to SSEF or GIA as they are also create reports based on gemological results based on research or latest equipment.    As you can guess from the name this lab is very popular in Japan.

Pros

  • Has reputable gemological institute which makes them keep themselves up to date regarding latest treatments, so they can learn and teach new gemologists.
  • Also make sure they are unbiased by making sure the lab graders cannot have contact with the gemstone supplier and/or have issues of ‘conflict of interest.’
  • They do provide “geographic origin assessment” based on chemical composition of particular gemstone, which is consistent to the bigger labs out there.

Cons

  • Like the other ‘bigger’ traditional labs, they base the color of gemstone only one ‘dimensionally’ – by stating only the “hue” color. This makes it difficult to buy a particular gemstone  without having it physically on hand as we need to check saturation levels (high or low) or tone levels (dark or light).

Asian Institute of Gemological Sciences (AIGS)

Established in 1978, AIGS is based in Bangkok and has both laboratory and gemological institute.   Also, being headquartered in Bangkok, “the gemstone capital of the world” it gives this lab a big advantage in learning the latest developments regarding all different treatments which are occurring in color gemstone world.    That is the reason why it is one of the most popular labs in Bangkok.

Pros

  • Has reputable gemological institute which makes them keep themselves up to date regarding latest treatments, so they can learn and teach new gemologists.
  • Being located in Bangkok gives it a big advantage in learning and getting exposures to ‘latest’ gemstone treatments.
  • They do provide origin and trade name color opinion like ‘pigeon’s blood’ which helps trading the gemstone base on certificate.

Cons

  • As it is located in Bangkok, there still don’t have reputation like other bigger labs to end consumer abroad. Due to this most traders avoid this lab for more premium gemstones, even though they know they are usually accurate in their findings.
  • If color opinion is not provided it is like other ‘bigger’ traditional labs, they base the color of gemstone only one ‘dimensionally’ – by stating only the “hue” color. This makes it difficult to buy a particular gemstone  without having it physically on hand as we need to check saturation levels (high or low) or tone levels (dark or light).

The Gem & Jewelry Institute of Thailand

Established in 2004, GIT is a governmental organization established to promote the Thai gem & jewelry industry.   Its institute is collaborated with faculty of science, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand’s most premium university, and therefore keeps up to date with latest developments in gemological sciences.  It is also a gemological institute which help train & certify new gemologists.

Pros

  • Technically a ‘non-profit’ organization which means it should not be biased on its report or findings.
  • Being located in Bangkok gives it a big advantage in learning and getting exposures to ‘latest’ gemstone treatments.
  • They do provide origin and trade name color opinion like ‘pigeon’s blood’ which helps trading the gemstone base on certificate.

Cons

  • As it is located in Bangkok, there still don’t have reputation like other bigger labs to end consumer abroad. Due to this most traders avoid this lab for more premium gemstones, even though they know they are usually accurate in their findings.
  • If color opinion is not provided it is like other ‘bigger’ traditional labs, they base the color of gemstone only one ‘dimensionally’ – by stating only the “hue” color. This makes it difficult to buy a particular gemstone  without having it physically on hand as we need to check saturation levels (high or low) or tone levels (dark or light).

C. Dunaigre

Established in 2008, this lab is based on the opinion of Mr. Dunaigre and gained popularity among premium gemstone  dealers due to his reputation as gemologist and the speed he provide a certificate back – 24 to 48 hours.    In fact, many premium dealers and auction houses use his certification.   He actually began his career with the Asian Institute of Gemological Studies in Bangkok, Thailand and then moved to the renowned Gübelin Gemological Laboratories in Switzerland where for more than 10 years he worked as the laboratory supervisor.

Pros

  • Provides trade names to identify color like ‘pigeon’s blood’ or ‘royal blue.’ The certificate also describes saturation color opinion like ‘vivid’ or normal.   This is a big reason why he is popular among premium gemstone dealers.
  • Lab also provides origin opinion which again helps evaluate value for traders and end consumers.
  • He also provides his ‘quality grade’ opinion which is quite useful because he is considered an experienced gemologist.
  • Uses latest gemological equipment to judge particular gemstone’s treatment and geographic origin.

Cons

  • As all lab reports have to be verified by Mr. Dunaigre personally, there is higher chance of human ‘error’ due to his personal opinion in terms color, treatment or quality grade. This actually can be a pro as well because Mr. Dunaigre is an experience gemologist.   However, in my personal opinion, not having any check or balances can be little more ‘risky.’

Lotus Gemology

This is one of newest labs in the market and the one I am most excited about as they actually the only one which grade color based on three dimensions  – hue, saturation and tone, which I wish the other reputable labs start adapting.   The lab is based on experience of Mr. Richard Hughes and Mrs. Wimon Manorotkul, who have over 60 years’ experience looking at rubies, sapphires and spinel and have written and taken amazing photographs on the subject.   In fact a lot of inclusions images you see in this blog is from their images.

Pros

  • Only lab that provides three dimensional color grading – hue, saturation and tone.  This reduces the risk in misidentifying color and helps consumers and traders to judge the stone better base on certificate.  Also, they provide color type opinions based on ‘trade names’ and are trying to standardize it.  You can see how they identify the color types through this link: http://www.lotusgemology.com/index.php/lab/color-types
  • Lab also provides origin opinion which again helps evaluate value for traders and end consumers.
  • Specialize in only three types of gemstones, rubies, sapphires and spinel as they are very comfortable and experienced with them. This means they will have less error in making their assessment as they are focused on these gemstones.

Cons

  • As it is lab based on two renowned gemologists, they have similar issues like GRS & C. Dunaigre as they don’t have anyone to provide check or balances which can be a little more ‘risky.’
  • Only grades three types of gemstones (ruby, sapphire or spinel) as they are most comfortable with them. This limits the usage of this lab.
2.03cts-Lotus-Gemology-Certificate vCopy
Recent stone we just got certified from Lotus Gemology.  We love this report as it provides all three color criteria – ‘color, saturation and tone’ plus if the stone qualifies in specific color type it will get Lotus color type grade like this “pigeon’s blood” color ruby.

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One thought on “What lab or certification is the best for checking your expensive ruby, sapphire or emerald?

  1. Great post Thai. Thanks for sharing. I will definitely going to check the diamonds I am going to purchase are worth it or not.

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