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Commentary: The Business

AGS Turns Over Light-Performance Mission to GIA

AGS Labs’ contribution to diamond grading will live on, says John Carter.




SHORTLY AFTER THE American Gem Society (AGS) founded AGS Laboratories in 1996, it became clear to me that there was something exceptional about a diamond if it obtained the coveted grade of AGS Ideal. I wanted to be a part of an organization that did something as bold as revolutionizing the way diamonds were cut worldwide. It’s why I initially joined AGS.

What this laboratory accomplished was nothing short of a revolution within our industry. The American Gem Society Laboratories was the first grading laboratory to offer an overall cut grade report. Visionary suppliers began to recognize the importance of such a report and that it could tell a story that directly benefited the customer. Once the spark was lit and these standards spread, an AGS Ideal became a true symbol of optimal performance.

Eventually, other worthy laboratories came in and told a similar story, but our proportion-based system continued to evolve and led to the ASET-based light performance system. To this day, the highest compliment a diamond can be paid is for it to receive AGS 0 or AGS Ideal for light performance.

AGS recently announced it had made the strategic decision to close the lab and focus solely on its mission and membership. While this journey for AGS Laboratories has been a glorious revolution, AGS finds that for our mission to continue, we needed help from the name we’ve all come to know and trust. GIA (Gemological Institute of America) will take up the lab’s cause from here with its AGS Ideal Report, a supplemental digital report that adds a light performance grade to their 4Cs documents.

It’s fitting that AGS Laboratories’ legacy should wind up in their capable hands. AGS and GIA are sibling organizations; they share the same founder, and their missions are connected.

The research of our laboratory will now find itself led by Susan Jacques and her team, comprised of the finest gemological minds in the world. AGS members and supporters of our lab should be proud, as we know that our standards are in the thoughtful care of GIA.


While this transition may be bittersweet, it is also a chance to say “thank you” to the American Gem Society Laboratories.

AGS Laboratories, not only did you spark a revolution, but you also changed how we buy diamonds forever. This transition ensures that your hard work and contribution to the never-ending cause of unlocking a diamond’s optimal beauty will live forever.

John Carter is the owner of Jack Lewis Jewelers in Bloomington, IL, and outgoing president of the American Gem Society.



It Was Time to Make a Decision. It Was Time to Call Wilkerson.

Except for a few years when he worked as an accountant, Jim Schwartz has always been a jeweler. He grew up in the business and after “counting beans” for a few years, he and his wife, Robin, opened Robin James Jewelers in Cincinnati, Ohio. “We were coming to a stage in our life where we knew we have to make a decision,” says Jim Schwartz. He and Robin wanted to do it right, so they called Wilkerson. The best surprise (besides surpassing sales goals)? “The workers and associations really care about helping us move out own inventory out of the store first. It was very important to us.”

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