Editors

5 Takeaways on the Lab-Grown Diamond Market

EditorsNov 15, 2016

5 Takeaways on the Lab-Grown Diamond Market

Editor-in-Chief Michelle Graff shares what she learned at the recent forum on lab-grown diamonds held in New York.

This file photo shows a 5.19-carat CVD-grown diamond recently graded by the Gemological Institute of America. While this diamond was submitted without proper disclosure, attendees at a recent forum on synthetics say that it’s detection of lab-grown melee that’s a more pressing problem for the industry. (Photo credit: Johnny Leung and Tony Leung, courtesy of GIA)

A few weeks ago in New York, I had the opportunity to attend a day-long forum on lab-grown, or synthetic, diamonds organized by the U.S. Jewelry Council.

The purpose of the forum was not for the mined diamond industry to align itself against the diamond growers; in fact, it’s worth pointing out here that there are well-known diamond companies/dealers that have their hands in both.

As just one example, Royal Asscher--a 162-year-old family business that invented the cut that still bears its name and cleaved what remains the largest diamond ever mined, the Cullinan--had a line of colored lab-grown diamond jewelry called Rebel Chique and now is part-owner of a company selling lab-grown diamonds on Amazon.

Instead, the forum was put together to discuss the issue of undisclosed lab-grown diamonds, those stones that slip into the supply pipeline undetected.
Here’s (some of) what I learned.

Takeaway No. 1: You are accountable if you sell a lab-grown diamond as natural. This is a point that came up even before lunch and, for me at least, was pretty clear cut and simple.

Yet people in the audience kept asking questions about it, laying out myriad scenarios in which a sale involving an undisclosed synthetic diamond might go down. Would I be liable if this happened? What about that?

But, alas, the answer was always the same: You--whether you are a jeweler, an appraiser, a diamond manufacturer or a diamond dealer--are liable if a diamond that is lab grown is sold as natural.

Takeaway No. 2: Because of the above, jewelers need to exercise quality control over their inventory. But, sadly, many of them don’t. So, what constitutes quality control, exactly?

JVC President and CEO Cecilia Gardner said it does not mean jewelers need to check every single item in their inventory, but have to have some “demonstrable activity” that shows that they are selling products that have been checked and that they believe are as represented.

When I later asked her if there’s a specific percentage of inventory she would recommend checking-- say, 20 or 25 percent--Gardner didn’t give me one, but recommended that jewelers test a “steady sampling” from all suppliers that is continuous and broad-based, with the overarching idea being that they’ll be able to demonstrate due diligence if needed.

By “checked,” she meant sent to a reputable grading lab unless, of course, the jeweler has their own testing equipment.

Relying on the word of your suppliers

alone is not enough. In other words: Work with vendors whom you trust, but also verify.

Will this prevent you from being sued if you sell a product that’s not what it was purported to be? No.

Will it help you in court more than standing up and saying “nothing” when asked what you did to ensure the diamonds in your stock labeled as mined were not lab grown? Yes.

The Jewelers Vigilance Committee actually has an entire publication on quality assurance and control. It’s called “Getting It Right.” It’s $20 for JVC members and $25 for non-members, and you can order it on the JVC website.

Takeaway No. 3: When one company gets hurt, everybody feels it. Diamonds are largely unbranded, so when a report on one jeweler who sold a lab-grown diamond as natural pops up on the 6 o’clock news, it gives consumers an unfavorable, if undeserved, view of the entire industry.

This is even truer today with the rapid-fire news cycle and the proliferation of, ahem, journalists looking for “content” to fill the endless number of websites and blogs that are out there. In other words, once a story is reported, it’s likely going to be shared thousands of times, morphing and growing in the re-telling. The internet, in case you haven’t noticed, is not a stickler for accuracy, nor is it a platform where nuance travels well.

Despite the fact that players along all points of the pipeline feel the effects when it comes out that one individual has been dishonest, there is no industry-wide standard for the machines used to separate lab-grown diamonds from mined ones, or industry-wide policy on dealing with those who submit stones without proper disclosure, one presenter pointed out.

As she put it, “When there is an issue--be it conflict diamonds or be it the FATF report or be it any issue that comes out--then we all suffer. It’s very different than the textile industry … when there’s an issue with Nike or Puma, it’s condensed to that brand. But with us, we all suffer.

“And so it’s very important that we as an industry are aligned and agree on a system to protect our product and protect consumer confidence in our product.”

Takeaway No. 4: There are machines available for detecting lab-grown melee, but the technology isn’t where people seem to want it to be. A speaker from a major grading laboratory said that he gets this question a lot: Why doesn’t his lab have one machine that’s inexpensive, compact and can quickly screen for absolutely everything?

The answer is simply that the technology isn’t there yet, but the industry’s biggest grading labs do recognize that undisclosed melee is a problem, and they say they’re working on it.

Just as two examples, De Beers’ International Institute of Diamond Grading and Research (IIDGR) introduced an automated melee screener back in 2014, and followed this year with a much less expensive machine called the PhosView. That machine, however, only detects high-pressure, high-temperature (HPHT) grown diamonds and was created specifically for one market--India.

The Gemological Institute of America, meanwhile, rolled out a melee analysis service just this year.

According to what we heard at the forum, more machines and services are in the works, so stay tuned.

Takeaway No. 5: There is a standard for saying something is “green.” This has been covered before but came up during the forum, so I thought it was worth a brief mention here.

Many lab-grown diamond companies describe their diamonds in advertising as being “green” or “eco-friendly” and use words such as “greenhouse” or “foundry” to try to shape consumers’ perception of the product.

In reality, however, these gemstones are made in what is most accurately described as a factory--a factory that burns fossil fuel to function.

Because of this, the Federal Trade Commission, which has an entire guide dedicated solely to environmental marketing claims, might view claims of lab-grown diamonds being “green” or “eco-friendly” as a bit of a stretch.

As such, the JVC’s Gardner recommended that such claims be avoided.
Michelle Graffis the editor-in-chief at National Jeweler, directing the publication’s coverage both online and in print.

The Latest

WatchesMay 23, 2022
Steven Kaiser, Watch Industry Veteran and Beloved Mentor, Dies at 68

Kaiser, whose illustrious career spanned decades, died suddenly on Friday.

IndependentsMay 23, 2022
Long’s Jewelers to Open New Location

The family-owned jeweler is relocating its Braintree, Massachusetts, store to a new space.

IndependentsMay 23, 2022
Luxury Goods Veteran Olivier Stip Joins Chicago Jeweler CD Peacock

He will step into the retailer’s newly created role of chief development officer.

Brought to you by
Dive into GIA’s Pearl Expertise

When it comes to knowing the identity and quality of your pearls, count on GIA as your independent pearl experts.

GradingMay 23, 2022
Gem-A Launches Digital Entry-Level Gemology Course

GemIntro is meant to give a broad introduction to gems and gemology.

Weekly QuizMay 19, 2022
This Week’s Quiz
Test your knowledge of the latest jewelry news with this quick test.
Take the Quiz
Recorded WebinarsMay 20, 2022
Watch: Responsible Sourcing and the Gold Supply Chain

Three industry experts discuss “recycled” gold vs. mined, their challenges and benefits, and how jewelers can navigate the area.

FinancialsMay 20, 2022
Richemont’s 2022 Jewelry Sales in the Americas Nearly Double

Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Buccellati put on stellar performances.

Brought to you by
A.I. Grading is Changing Conversations at the Retail Counter

Advanced technology levels the playing field, helping jewelers give customers what they want.

AuctionsMay 20, 2022
Piece of the Week: ‘Birds in Flight’ by Oscar Heyman

The New York jeweler made this incredible, colorful Art Deco bracelet featuring tropical birds in 1927.

SurveysMay 19, 2022
5 Predictions for Jewelry Retail in the Second Half of 2022

From a slowdown in sales growth to rising costs, Fruchtman Marketing outlines its expectations for the second half of the year.

MajorsMay 19, 2022
As It Nears 75, Here’s How Grandview Klein Stays Competitive

Once a part of Julius Klein Group, the diamond company combines its direct supply and cutting expertise with a keen eye to the future.

SourcingMay 19, 2022
De Beers’ Rough Sales Up 21% So Far This Year

One analyst cited rising diamond prices and the sanctions on Alrosa as contributing factors.

CollectionsMay 19, 2022
Brilliant Earth Collaborates with Jade Trau

The two have partnered on a capsule collection.

MajorsMay 19, 2022
Jewelers Mutual Adds 2 Industry Veterans to Its Board

John A. Green of retailer Lux Bond & Green and Niveet Nagpal of Omi Privé have joined the board of directors as of May 18.

FinancialsMay 18, 2022
Watches of Switzerland’s Jewelry Sales More Than Doubled in Q4

The retailer also said demand for Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet watches continues to exceed its supply.

AuctionsMay 18, 2022
Jewels from Bette Midler Are Headed to Bonhams

The auction house’s upcoming sale also includes collections from American heiresses.

IndependentsMay 18, 2022
Jeweler Lewis Baribault Celebrates 50th Work Anniversary

The Connecticut jeweler reflected on five decades in the industry and what the future holds for the family business.

Events & AwardsMay 18, 2022
Visit A Mine in New Jersey With WJA New York Metro

The chapter has organized a day trip to the Sterling Hill Mine and Museum in Ogdensburg on Saturday, May 21.

SourcingMay 17, 2022
A New Source in Tanzania Is Producing Cobalt-Blue Spinel

The stones come from a deposit close to Mahenge and have been on the market for several months.

SourcingMay 17, 2022
‘Pop’ the Question With Stephanie Gottlieb’s New Diamond Cut

The jewelry designer is partnering with popcorn brand Angie’s Boomchickapop on a whimsical diamond cut.

ColumnistsMay 17, 2022
What You Need to Know About the Google Analytics 4 Rollout

In the latest article from The Smart Lab, Emmanuel Raheb outlines the website changes jewelers can expect with this new software.

TechnologyMay 17, 2022
Virtual Diamond Boutique Uncorks the ‘Sales Genie’

The new app allows salespeople to quickly and easily access a lot of inventory.

Events & AwardsMay 17, 2022
‘Cartier and Islamic Art’ Exhibition Opens in Dallas

Following its Paris debut, “Cartier and Islamic Art: In Search of Modernity” has landed at the Dallas Museum of Art.

IndependentsMay 16, 2022
Mejuri Plans to Triple Its Store Count This Year

The fine jewelry brand expects to open 17 new locations, mostly in North America.

IndependentsMay 16, 2022
Karats Jewelers Plans Expansion Into 30,000-Square-Foot Store

The Kansas retailer is aiming for a fall 2023 opening.

MajorsMay 16, 2022
Pandora Announces Plans to Build Third Factory, First Outside Thailand

It will be located in Vietnam’s Binh Duong Province, and construction is slated to start early next year.

IndependentsMay 16, 2022
MJSA Has Released its 2022 Buyer’s Guide

It’s full of hundreds of contacts for jewelry-making supplies and services.

×

This site uses cookies to give you the best online experience. By continuing to use & browse this site, we assume you agree to our Privacy Policy