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First Time Buyer - Advice Needed


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I am currently looking for a diamond to set into an engagement ring. I am in Tampa, FL. 

I have been to a number of places, and there are two sellers in particular I am leaning towards. 

One has a 1ct SI2 G (IGI cert) for $3900 and a 1ct SI2 G (GIA cert) for $5200.
The other has a 1ct SI2 G (no cert) for $4500. They are honest and has said it measures 6.2mm which is approx 0.2mm smaller than what you would expect in a standard 1ct stone.

I am being drawn to the one with no cert, because he is a gemologist with 40 years experience (not just a sales person as in the other store) and the stone looks beautiful. He hand makes jewellery and is able to custom make an engagement ring.

My question is, how essential is the certificate? And how can an IGI certified diamond be less expensive than a non-certified diamond of the same quality, etc.

I have a budget which I am trying to stick to. Should I go for a smaller, but certified diamond of a better quality? So many questions and the whole experience is quite overwhelming.

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So, there are a couple of issues here:

1. The cost of a report. Which for a 1 carat stone is of the order of $100 or less - larger differences in price that you see are not due to the cost of the report; they are due to the objective differences in the stones... be they colour, clarity or cut quality.

The IGI G/SI2 may even be fairly graded - but the inclusions may be more visible/aesthetically damaging, the colour may be 'closer to H' than 'closer to F', the cut proportions may not be as nice, fluorescence may be an issue or finish may not be as good. However, considering that IGI is usually a bit more lenient than GIA on colour and clarity (and significantly more lenient on cut), I would think it highly likely that the "IGI" stone would likely have been graded I1 by GIA and/or the GIA cut grade would have been lower.

Having a reliable lab report does not make a stone 'better quality'; it simply makes transparent/evident whatever 'quality' the stone has. Note that the same does not apply to a non-reliable lab report; what that does (in my opinion) is to make transparent the commercial interest of the vendor...

2. The fair price of a stone. It is possible that the 'no cert' stone is fairly graded, but since a 0.98 H/I1/VG cut can be - to an untrained eye and/or without a loupe and scales - visually very difficult to tell from a 1.00 G/SI2/EX cut, but has a fair price 30-60% lower, the absence of a reliable, independent opinion (i.e. a lab report) isn't trivial. If you have good reason to trust the vendor with their judgement, then by any means do so.

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