By Michelle Graff
Michelle-blogEGL Platinum is not the first EGL-branded lab to speak out on this issue; EGL USA and EGL South Africa (EGL SA) issued similar statements several weeks ago when the Rapaport Group first announced its decision.

I see the labs’ point; over-grading by some shouldn’t overshadow the work of every lab with the initials EGL, and, to be fair, it seems the industry’s diamond trading platforms agree. Polygon, for example, made a decision to quit listing diamonds from EGL International but not EGL USA.

And so I called Martin Rapaport, chairman of the Rapaport Group, last week with one question on my mind: Would he consider relaxing the RapNet ban to allow for EGL reports from labs with a better track record? The short answer is no. He said consumers don’t understand the difference between the various EGL brands, and EGL labs that don’t want to be associated with over-grading need to change their names.

“If you want to be a legitimate laboratory you cannot use the same brand name” as a lab that’s over-grading, Martin Rapaport said. “Consumers … are not going to understand the difference between a good EGL and a bad EGL. Good EGLs need to change their name so they are not confused with bad EGLs.”

During the course of the conversation, I asked Rapaport about a rumor I’d heard recently that his group plans to issue grading reports in the near future. I mentioned that some had speculated that, perhaps, this was part of the reason for his decision to quit listing all EGL-graded diamonds.

He categorically denied that this has anything to do with why he chose to stop listing all EGL-graded diamonds. He did it to make a statement about over-grading and to separate his marketplace from marketplaces in which diamonds are misrepresented.  “I am not worried about what people say (about my intentions),” he told me. “I am worried our industry is supporting a bunch of liars and cheaters who defraud consumers. This industry isn’t fighting against people who are lying to consumers.”

(As for the grading report rumors, he said Rapaport Group, which has offered a range of gemological services since 2007 but never grading reports, likely will begin issuing grading reports for investment-grade diamonds only next year, but offered little detail on the program. “We will give free and fair announcement before we do something,” he said.)

During our conversation last week, Rapaport also told me that he thinks I, along with the rest of the trade press and industry organizations like the WFDB, JA, AGS and JVC, need to quit being neutral on the topic of over-graded diamonds and speak out against labs that are “lying to consumers.”

So, in writing this today, I would like to take a cue from a father of many (Martin Rapaport) and pass along a little (more) wisdom from a dad to two, my own father. It is one of my favorites from him, along with “do what you love and the money will come.”

His advice: those who are honest always come out ahead.

If you own a store, don’t sell diamonds to your customers with grading reports from any lab that you feel overstates the quality of the stones they grade, even if the store, or stores, down the street are doing it. A recent InStore column by Terry Chandler (who also calls upon a parent’s wisdom) advises the same.

In the short term, sales might be lost but, in the long term, larger headaches will be avoided. Case in point, the current consumer-brought lawsuits against Genesis Diamonds in Tennessee. Win or lose, do you really want to spend your store’s time and resources defending yourself in court?

You don’t have to take just my word for it. Listen to the advice of a fellow jeweler, Tom Daube, owner of Washington Diamond in Falls Church, Va.

Long before the current furor erupted, Daube added a page to his website explaining to customers why he has opted not to sell diamonds graded by any EGL lab. This page, he told me, has been up for nearly 10 years now.

When I found the web page, I called Daube to speak with him about his stance on EGL. One of my main questions was, has he lost sales to jewelers who sell over-graded diamonds? The answer was yes, but, “We have a very highly educated clientele and they respect our ethics,” Daube told me.

And, perhaps more importantly, “I sleep well at night,” he says. “I know I’ve done the right thing for my customers.”

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