By Anthony Noto – Reporter, New York Business Journal
The blockbuster sale of Tiffany & Co. to luxury conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton illustrates how the jewelry industry is doing, according to Debbie Azar, a New York-based gemological scientist.
“The $16 billion deal is a great indicator as to how strong the diamond and jewelry industry is and that consumers continue to spend on diamonds and jewelry, especially in the United States,” she told me.
One corner of the industry that’s shining bright is the synthetic space, or lab-grown diamonds, Azar added.
Over at Gemological Science International (GSI), co-founder and President Azar is busy improving techniques on how to screen and detect both natural and lab-grown diamonds.
GSI certifies for many brands including Kleinfeld’s Fine Jewelry, Vera Wang Love, First Light by Leo Schachter, Radiant Star and Rock Solid Diamonds, with jewelry sold at many big-name retailers — Kay Jewelers, Zale Corp., Fred Meyer Jewelers, Helzberg Diamonds, Reeds Jewelers, Michael Hill Jewelers and Charms Diamond Centre to name a few.
Below, Azar — who started out in Manhattan’s diamond district on 47th Street — delves into her expertise, the latest gem trends, and responsible sourcing:
How did you first get involved in the jewelry industry?
I started in this industry completely by accident. In a short period of time, I got to know more about the diamond industry and all the good diamonds do around the world. I knew I wanted to stay and be a part of it all. In 2005, GSI co-founder Mark Gershburg and I saw the need for a new and modern gemological organization that embraced the traditions of the past while utilizing the technology and automation of the new era.
GSI was recently accepted into the Forbes New York Business Council. What’s this distinction mean?
It’s an honor to be accepted and recognized by the Forbes Business Council. We look forward to using the platform to show off the latest advancements in the global diamond industry and the gemological field. Additionally, we plan to use this opportunity to build awareness and educate consumers about diamonds, gemstones and our industry as a whole.
What are the latest trends in the jewelry industry?
Transparency is a trend. Today’s consumer wants to know more about their diamonds and where their diamonds came from. GSI was one of the first laboratories to offer a “Mines to Market” report, which tells you all about your diamond journey from the mine to the showcase including where it was mined, cut and polished.
Another trend, that never goes out of style, is social responsibility. Diamonds bolster economies around the world in locations where they are mined, polished and where jewelry is manufactured. The diamond industry provides a magnitude of social and economic benefits to the regions where we operate.
The global diamond and jewelry industry provides high quality and safe local employment in these areas and quantifies the economic wealth created for the local communities through local sourcing of goods and services and through government revenues in turn responsibly invested in infrastructure, education, and healthcare.
Any advice for someone searching for a diamond?
Buying a diamond can be overwhelming. The good news is that there’s a diamond for every budget. Do your homework first either online or in-store where you can get an idea of different styles, sizes and price ranges. The 4 C’s of diamonds — cut, color, clarity, and carat weight — play an important part here since it’s a main factor for the pricing.
This is why a grading report from a legitimate and independent gemological laboratory like GSI is important in order to make an informed decision and ultimately provide you with peace of mind. Nothing is more important than ensuring consumer confidence in the fine jewelry category. That’s why responsible sourcing is something that our global industry takes very seriously.
How do you ensure responsible sourcing?
One example, where we’ve had great success, is through self-regulation by various industry organizations. One key organization is the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC), on which I am proud to serve as a board member. It’s a global standards-setting organization that requires members to follow a strict code of practices and audits its members through independent, third-party auditors. Its code of practices and guidelines are in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Due Diligence Guidelines which highlights human rights.
How are lab-grown diamonds graded? Is it the same as regular diamonds?
GSI issues grading reports for both natural diamonds and lab-grown diamonds. Lab-grown diamonds and natural diamonds are graded to the same scale using the “4 C’s.” It’s important to understand the difference between both, and the purpose of your purchase. It’s important to do your research and ask questions before your purchase so you understand exactly what you are getting.
GSI has 13 labs across the globe (US, India, Israel, Dubai, Hong Kong, Belgium, and Botswana). Where it will head to next?
GSI is continuing to grow globally and we are always looking for new talent and hiring. A lot of our growth is happening in many countries where we currently operate and have laboratories. We have broadened our laboratories and service offerings and continue to expand in research and education.
Posted Dec 2, 2019, 8:55 am EST Updated Dec 3, 2019, 10:48 am EST by New York Business Journal.