De Beers Group's International Institute of Diamond Grading and Research (IIDGR) launched its generic diamond grading program last February, entering "what arguably is the most contentious space in the diamond distribution chain where concerns have grown over grading consistency and standards, or lack thereof, in the past few years," writes Rapaport. Initially providing the selection and diamond activity for Forevermark, making sure the appropriate diamonds are chosen that fit the brands’ parameters, IIDGR will is now expanding into the diamond grading business, while its business unit is also responsible for developing De Beers synthetic detection machines - DiamondSure, DiamondView, DiamondPlus, and Automatic Melee Screening (AMS) machines. Their "core mandate", however, is always to maintain consumer confidence in diamonds.
Jonathan Kendall, president of IIDGR, talked to Rapaport about the advantages and technology behind IIDGR. "We offer a significant improvement in accuracy and consistency because of the technology we deploy. A lot has been said recently about a lack of consistency in some laboratories which has made cross-border purchases of a graded diamond a difficult experience. Our technology ensures consistency in grading across our labs in the UK, Antwerp and Surat. We currently deploy four to five steps to determine the color and clarity of a diamond, which are the most difficult inputs in a grading decision. Technology is used to make a call on color and clarity in the first stage and our graders then work to confirm that decision ... We’re getting so accurate with color that soon we’ll be using the color grading machine plus a final grader to validate the decision, cutting the process to just two steps. It will take a few years for us to get to that same position on clarity but, in the meantime, we’re using technology to assist graders to the extent we can."
IIDGR uses GIA grading standards and is confident about this decision. Kendall says, "We’ve analyzed their results and used those to develop our own master set. We don’t have a strong emphasis on the master set because all the algorithms in our equipment are in a sense their own master set ... We’re determined to avoid the issues that came up in the past year or two with labs that were using the GIA language but not grading to its standards. It’s critical. You can’t use a language and then provide something that’s lighter on standards than expected." IIDGR can currently "handle around half a million diamonds this year. We can increase that capacity significantly with greater investment in technology. In terms of physical space, we’ve got the capacity to double that very rapidly."
On the topic of synthetic diamonds, Kendall says that, "We haven’t found quantities of undisclosed synthetics mixed with natural diamonds lately but there are issues. We do find stimulants in melee goods and there have also been quite significant reports in countries such as China where there have been high-pressure, high-temperature (HPHT) enhanced diamonds mixed in with natural diamonds. There’s no doubt the issue exists and testing needs to become part of the normal business practice in the industry.