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Gia Vs Ags…and Are H&a Really Worth The Extra Expense?


DLNOK
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While GIA has always been considered THE standard in diamond grading, I've done quite a bit of reading and am beginning to believe that AGS is actually more strict when it comes to cut, i.e., an AGS Ideal is a better cut stone than a GIA Excellent.  Thoughts?

 

Also, I've been looking at James  Allen and Brian Gavin, but  am leaning towards BGD Signature stones.  I'm looking for a 1 ct round stone for a right handed ring I have and a pair of round 1.5 tcw round studs. These are for me, but will eventually be heirlooms for the kids.  Therefore, I want really high quality stones.  My requirements are, AGS/GIA,  cut:  Ideal/Excellant (OOO/XXX), color:  E or F and clarity of VS2 for the larger stone and SI1 for the studs. 

 

I've been leaning towards BGD Signature stones, but my question is, if I find bright, nicely cut stones, is it worth the extra expense of getting Signature H&A's?  I guess I haven't seen enough nice stones to be able to compare them to true H&A's.

 

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

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The answer to both your questions (AGS vs. GIA and BGD vs. "generic") is "consistency".

 

GIA has deliberately chosen a very broad set of proportions (and looks) for its "excellent" cut grade, whereas AGS has narrowed them down a lot. Does that make AGS-graded stones "better"? No - not least because you could have a GIA-graded stone that if sent to AGS would be graded Ideal - but it does make the uncertainty over what you are getting less, particularly if you are buying online and you haven't seen quite a few diamonds with different proportions.

 

Brian is also extremely consistent in the way he cuts his stones; there are stones which are as well cut as Brian's, but finding them is a lot harder than going to Brian's site and ordering from his stock. James Allen's offering, while of high quality, it is 1) less consistent than Brian's, and 2) not necessarily as well finished (think "top 5%" instead of "top 0.5%" - the top 0.5% is in the top 5%...).

 

H&A is a whole 'nother kettle of fish. It has to do with the extent to which the diamond is cut in a specific way (very symmetrically and with certain proportions), and while H&A diamonds look fine, they don't look "better" than others to everybody, and personal preferences are what matters at the end of the day.

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Thank you so much for your reply! It really helped me understand certain issues. However, it also raises a couple of questions. If AGS is more strict in it's cut grading, why wouldn't an AGS Ideal cut be more valuable than a GIA Excellent cut? Of course, SOME GIA Excellent stones would be graded Ideal, but not all of them. I'm sure I must be missing something here, but I'm thinking…supply vs demand. If AGS is more strict in it's cut grading, then there should be fewer AGS Ideal cut stones. Fewer Ideal cut stones SHOULD equate to a higher value/demand for them.

 

Also, regarding H&A, I am very confused. If they don't look better, do they look different? The only difference I can tell is when the stone is positioned to show the arrows. Otherwise, my novice eye cannot tell much difference. Therefore, why would they be considered more valuable? Thank you for your time and insight!

Edited by DLNOK
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Well, AGS Ideal tend to have a slight premium over GIA Excellent, but it's difficult to assess it, since there are so few AGS graded stones. On the Diamond Finder are currently advertised 270,400 GIA-graded round stones, but only 5,200 AGS-graded ones - this has nothing to do with the relative beauty of the stones, but reflects the relative commercial/marketing power of the two lab brands.

 

Remember that there are two parts in the demand/offer relationship: offer of AGS Ideal may well be restricted, but prices won't rise unless people demand specifically AGS Ideal. Finally, bear in mind that there is significant variation in price across GIA excellent: prices advertised on the Diamond Finder for 1.00-1.05 GIA F/VS1/XXX no fluorescence vary between $11500 and 8100 - that's about 30%, and much of that is "details of cut".

 

On H&A: yes, they do look different; "better" is up to you, and it also depends on what you are comparing them to (a truly excellently cut diamond that just happens not to have H&A proportions vs. something that barely scrapes into GIA Ex). As to why they cost more, there are two factors at play:

 

1. It takes more time to cut a diamond to H&A standards of symmetry and finish (note: not proportions; those take the same time no matter what they are within very broad margins).

 

2. Supply and demand - the extent to which the demand is generated by marketing rather than spontaneous preference is moot, but the fact remains that "H&A" has gained a reputation for being "the best". I don't share that view, but that has very little influence on prices ;).

Edited by davidelevi
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>>>  These are for me, but will eventually be heirlooms for the kids.  Therefore, I want really high quality stones.  My requirements are, AGS/GIA,  cut:  Ideal/Excellant (OOO/XXX), color:  E or F and clarity of VS2 for the larger stone and SI1 for the studs. 
 
 

If you're buying for long-term holding, the AGS "slight premium" will likely grow as the market does. GIA is on record for changing/improving its standards, and so you might think a future GIA set of criteria will have more stratification, particularly among the current "excellent" cut stones.  AGS-000 and Brian Gavin are a way to future-proof yourself in this sense.

 

If you think [H&A] are a marketing gimmick, you're probably at least 90% right.  Every good-size chain outfit is trying to brand their so-called premium stone cuts in similar fashion.  I would doubt this marketing buzzword is still around in 20 years, let alone 40 (for your grandkids).  You just want to avoid things that get an early moniker of "antique" or old-fashioned, like the Rose cut.

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I've decided to go with BG AGS 000's.  I guess my primary dilemma involves an AGS 000 versus an AGS 000 H&A.  Is there a significant difference in brilliance and scintillation…light return.  Are H&A more brilliant, brighter, more scintillating, etc?  It seems to me that a BG AGS 000 is going to be pretty darn beautiful just on it's own.  However, since I haven't seen enough stones "up close", I can't decide what to do.  Are BG H&A's brighter, more colorful, more brilliant…enough of a difference to make them worth the premium?  Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems to me that H&A's, especially BG H&A's, aren't really a "gimmick", but rather, the "best of the best".  I'm not talking about all of the gimmicky, branded 97, 102, etc., facet stones out there, just a regular BG AGS 000 H&A.  Am I wrong?  Any input would be greatly appreciated!!!

Edited by DLNOK
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I've decided to go with BG AGS 000's.

Good way of solving the problem.

 

Are H&A more brilliant, brighter, more scintillating, etc?

No they aren'tNote; they may appear more symmetrical when compared to other diamonds. The H&A name comes from the fact that when seen through a special viewer they show a pattern of something that can resemble hearts on one side and something that may resemble arrows on the other. Since this requires a special viewer and a loose diamond to be seen, to me it is a gimmick; some people like the symbolism involved.

 

Are BG H&A's brighter, more colorful, more brilliant…enough of a difference to make them worth the premium?

Compared to what? For me, the key reason for shopping with a vendor like Brian is the consistency: you don't need to spend time and effort in sifting through all the "maybes" to get one of the best cut diamonds available.

 

***********************************************************************************

 

Note) The "best" diamond cut does not exist. Why? Because brightness, fire, scintillation, contrast and pattern are to an extent mutually exclusive; get more of one, and you have to give up something of another. H&A proportions strike a good balance, but they are by no means the only set of proportions that "work", and people may prefer more or less of one "ingredient" or another to come up with their ideal recipe.

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I've decided to go with BG AGS 000's. [...] …enough of a difference to make them worth the premium? 

 

I would echo David's reply, but if you're really looking to move up to the very top of what is available, then slide the selector from [E.F] color to [D]; slide the clarity all the way to the [iF] peg.

 

Once you're in the Signature series for BG, the only way to climb higher is by making sure you're maxed out on all "4C's".

 

Now, your comments about "brighter, more colorful, more brilliant" are really asking the wrong question.  That's for fictitious stuff, like "Blue Sky" on the Breaking Bad series.  What you are buying at the top of the line is exclusivity -- the purest, cleanest pieces of ice in existence.

 

It's possible that these purest stones may not be perceived as Brighter, or More Brilliant, or whatever.  That's not what the premium price is for.  Rather, these are the natural stone qualities, as opposed to what Brian Gavin can do for you, who will cut them in the best (man-made) way to extract your maximum sparkle.

 

How you view color and inclusions are entirely up to you.  In your first post, you're willing to settle for VS2 for the larger stone.  And that's a very good choice. But face it, there will be relatively speaking a lot of VS2s in the market, with more being produced each year.  IF stones, however, are perhaps measured in the dozens for the size you're looking at.  Add this to [D] colorless, and you're down into the single digits of new stones available worldwide in a given year.

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John, I'm sorry but I have to take exception to what you say, since it's factually wrong:

 

Actually, D is not statistically rarer than O-P... In fact, it's a heck of a lot more difficult to find a GIA-graded O-P than it is to find a D, though that has more to do with the economics than the actual rarity of the colour.

 

As to clarity, since "IF" is a purely artificial definition, I don't see what one is buying into. Yes, there are fewer "IF or "FL" than SI2, but there are about as many VVS1 as there are IF. So?

 

FWIW, D/IF stones - unless they are otherwise exceptional (i.e. over 10 ct) - are relatively more difficult to sell than (say) G/VS2, particularly for a consumer.

 

On the other hand, I really cannot make heads or tails of your comment:

 

[...] your comments about "brighter, more colorful, more brilliant" are really asking the wrong question. That's for fictitious stuff [...]

What is that supposed to mean? That one cannot see differences in cut? Nothing fictitious about it, let me assure you.

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Hi David,

 

 

Perhaps you're missing the part where I nestled everything within the context of this part --

 

Once you're in the Signature series for BG, the only way to climb higher is by making sure you're maxed out on all "4C's".

 

>>> Actually, D is not statistically rarer than O-P... In fact, it's a heck of a lot more difficult to find a GIA-graded O-P than it is to find a D, though that has more to do with the economics than the actual rarity of the colour.

 

I think you're referring to "colors" O-P, correct?  Then, the reason why these are "rare" is because most merchants will send them off for an EGL rating perhaps 2-3 grades higher.  It's not because the stones are rare at all.  It's because no one thinks they can sell GIA stones in these categories, i.e., with such a low grading.


 

>>> As to clarity, since "IF" is a purely artificial definition, I don't see what one is buying into. Yes, there are fewer "IF or "FL" than SI2, but there are about as many VVS1 as there are IF. So?

 

While the definition is technically artificial, the physical quality that makes stones receive a rating of "internally flawless" is indeed a natural occurrence.  Using your logic, the name GIA itself is artificial -- an arbitrary assemblage of letters to depict an organization of people, that's all.  Of course, we don't think that way!

 

>>>FWIW, D/IF stones - unless they are otherwise exceptional (i.e. over 10 ct) - are relatively more difficult to sell than (say) G/VS2, particularly for a consumer.

 

Not really relevant in this thread.  DLNOK is looking at long-term holding and generational transfer.  My own D/VS1 would be a problem to sell because of its size, but I'm not contemplating having to deal with the problem in this lifetime.


>>> On the other hand, I really cannot make heads or tails of your comment:  // [...] your comments about "brighter, more colorful, more brilliant" are really asking the wrong question //

>>> What is that supposed to mean? That one cannot see differences in cut? Nothing fictitious about it, let me assure you.

 

Within the context, again, of stones which are already Brian Gavin AGS 000 Signature, it's extremely doubtful that you could use any perceived variance in "sparkle" as criterion of increased desireability.  If one stone seems dimmer, clean it again.  There's just an absolute limit on returns.

 

I'll go even farther and  say that even with your long-practiced eye, you might not be able to correctly visually pick the BG AGS 000 stones out of a set of GIA XXX's, especially if you didn't know how many to look for.  (But I will concede you'd likely get 80% right.)

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Sorry - O-P stones are about as rare (or abundant) in nature as D. Just like E, F, G, H etc. ones. Independent of grading and commercial factors - which is what we agree is causing the "scarcity" of lab-graded lower colours.

 

For example, for 1.00 - 1.10 VS1 GIA/AGS on the Diamond Finder:

 

D 788

E 1072

F 1185

G 737

H 726

I 719

J 753

 

From K on, colours not coincidentally no longer called "near colourless", the commercial factors take over and stones go to other labs or none until we get to Y-Z or so, where the price picks up again.

 

The physical quality that makes a diamond "IF" is neither more not less "natural" than what makes it VVS1; of course grade boundaries are arbitrary, but there is nothing special about "IF", since it is as arbitrary as the others: it depends on the magnification chosen. At 1x (corrected, unmagnified vision), all stones graded VS1 or higher are "IF" or "FL". At 100x, very very very few IF would be left. So?

 

If you are looking at "long term holding" (meaning "forever"), then any discussion on "market" is irrelevant. If you are not, and you are looking at the asset as something that may need to be liquidated at some point, then having something that is easier to sell (such as a VS2 vs. IF) is a plus, not a minus.

 

On cut - I may be wrong, but I think DLNOK is asking whether BGD's diamonds are "brighter, more colourful, more brilliant" than other diamonds - not among themselves, where in particular given Brian's highly consistent cutting methods it would indeed be very unlikely to have some that are significantly more brighter than others.

Edited by davidelevi
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Thanks to everyone for your input!!!  I'm learning a lot!!!  Actually at this point, I'm just wondering about the difference between a BG AGS 000 versus a BG AGS 000 H&A and whether H&As are actually, "the best of the best".  While I realize that you probably can't even see the H&As with the naked eye, does a cut this exacting make the stone more brilliant, brighter, more colorful, etc., than a BG AGS 000?  I am beginning to think that comparing the two are just "splitting hairs".  Also, are most SI1's "eye clean", or should I go with VS1 or VS2? Thanks again for all of the information and your opinions…it's been very interesting and quite helpful!!!

Edited by DLNOK
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An exacting cut (meaning one with good proportions and care being taken in making them work together) produces a sparkly, brilliant and fiery stone. This is totally independent of whether it shows H&A, which is one such combination of proportions. Is H&A the best? No - because "best" is subjective.

 

Once upon a time, when life was simple, Brian only sold stones he cut, they were all H&A and your question would have been answered easily.

 

As far as I know Brian's own cuts ("Signature", "Blue") are all H&A anyway, and he then offers virtual stock in two grades ("Advance Selection" - which will also be H&A, but are cut on demand, and "Virtual Selection" - which includes a bit of everything and is not cut by Brian). So I'm not sure there is such a thing as a "non-H&A Brian Gavin diamond"; the "virtual selection" stones may or may not be H&A, however BGD is only acting as a broker with high levels of service, but they aren't stones exclusive to BGD.

 

On clarity: most SI1 are eye-clean to most people in most circumstances. VS2 brings it to almost certainty, and VS1 is complete safety. One indisputably good thing about shopping at BGD is that they will tell you if the stone is eye-clean or not - based on their opinion, or if you ask them based on specific criteria (distance, lighting, observation angle, setting of stone, ...)

Edited by davidelevi
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