By Hannah Connorton
Carlsbad, Calif.--The Gemological Institute of America has changed how it communicates lab service time, now letting customers know the exact date a stone will be shipped or ready for pickup.

A change instituted last Thursday, the GIA now publishes the location where a gem will be graded and gives a service-specific “return date,” the date by which stones and reports will be ready for pickup or shipment. 

Return date replaces “turnaround time,” the GIA’s previous method of expressing service time that accounted only for the number of business days it took to process a stone. Turnaround time did not take weekends or holidays into account and did not state the exact day the stone would be shipped or ready for pickup. 

Return dates also will be divided by weight ranges, to expedite the grading of larger stones. For example, D to Z diamonds received in New York the week of May 5 will be returned May 16 if the diamond is 4 carats or more; May 30 if 2 to 3.99 carats; and June 20 if 1 to 1.49 carats. 

“What the GIA has always done is reserve some capacity in the lab for larger stones, 4 carats and over, and now we’ve extended that to other sizes,” GIA spokesman Stephen Morisseau said. “We think this practice, combined with our Fast Track program, is what we can do now to address client concerns about elevated service times.”

Morisseau said increased service times at the GIA’s labs prompted the change. 

The lab’s intake has increased 70 percent since the beginning of 2013 and while productivity is up 35 percent, the lab is still getting more 25 percent more stones than it can process every day. 

The GIA is hiring 50 percent more graders, moving into a more efficient grading space in the new International Gem Tower in New York and expanding operations in Bangkok, Hong Kong and Mumbai. 

Still, getting up to speed to handle the increased volume of submissions will take time, and the new way the lab is expressing service time aims to more accurately inform clients when they can expect to receive their stones.

“We’re looking at ways we can make the return time more transparent and easier to understand so (clients) can better plan when they’ll be getting stones back with a report,” Morisseau said. 

In addition, the lab’s “Fast Track” program remains intact. Announced last August, Fast Track allows 10 percent of clients’ stones to be graded and returned to them within three weeks, regardless of size. That 10 percent figure is based on a client’s first quarter 2014 submissions. 

Additional information on lab grading and reports can be found on the GIA website.

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