Natural Diamonds: An “Intruder” in the Laboratory-Grown Supply Chain
Last May, I wrote a Memo about the need for full disclosure on grading reports issued by gemological laboratories when it comes to post-growth treatments of laboratory-grown diamonds. That has not changed. What is changing is an emerging pattern of “undisclosed” natural diamonds being mixed with laboratory-grown diamonds in jewelry. It is a new and different conversation to have around disclosures, testing, and ethics.
All laboratory-grown diamonds submitted to us for certification go through a specific, controlled process. In the past several months during our routine grading of laboratory-grown diamond jewelry, our team of experts has come across natural diamond melee mixed into lab-grown diamond jewelry on numerous occasions. Laboratory-grown diamond jewelry with “undisclosed” natural diamonds is a new occurrence that we are starting to see with more frequency.
As an industry, we have trained our focus on the undisclosed laboratory-grown diamonds and their detection, especially melee. It is counterintuitive to think about natural diamonds being mixed in with laboratory-grown diamonds. As an industry what do we do about it?
Some may argue that a consumer buying a piece of laboratory-grown diamond jewelry is getting an “upgrade” if they have a few natural diamonds sprinkled in with their laboratory-grown diamonds. But what if that consumer does not want natural diamonds?
We generally base disclosure around value (just like FTC Guidelines do). If something costs less, it is worth less. If something is worth less, it should not be represented as something worth more. It is Consumer Protection 101. But what if a laboratory-grown diamond is worth more to that customer because of the perceived social or economic impacts? (I am not making the case for or against laboratory-grown or natural diamonds here, just making a case for perceived value.) What if a jewelry buyer truly does not want a natural diamond?
Think of it like buying leather shoes. If a shoe-buyer prefers leather, and they find out it is synthetic leather, they would be understandably upset. If a shoe-buyer prefers leather but buys synthetic leather shoes because of the price point, then later discovers their shoes were genuine leather, they would see it as a bonus. If a vegan shoe-buyer buys synthetic leather shoes then find out they are leather, they would be upset. It is not for us to decide what the consumer prefers, but rather, our responsibility to disclose fully what they are considering buying so they can make a clear, informed choice.
I maintain that it is absolutely necessary for retailers to have a process in place to ensure that the diamonds and jewelry they are selling are accurately represented to the consumer. That’s why we have decided to expand our jewelry screening and testing services to include lab-grown diamond jewelry and will continue to report on emerging trends in the detection of laboratory-grown diamond jewelry. As consumers ask for more transparency, we are charged with providing robust, clear reporting that ensures their trust and upholds the standards of our industry.
About Gemological Science International (GSI)
Gemological Science International (GSI) is one of the largest gemological organizations in the world. Founded in 2005 in New York City, it has since grown to have 13 gemological laboratory facilities spanning four continents. Utilizing leading-edge processes and proprietary technologies, GSI provides manufacturers and retailers globally with a wide range of gemstone identification and grading services. The company is committed to advancing gemological research through its Research Center, and it offers gemological educational programs for trade professionals and the general public at all levels.
Debbie Azar is an experienced executive with extensive knowledge of the jewelry and gem lab industries. Her entrepreneurial skills and clarity of vision have helped GSI achieve rapid and continuous growth worldwide.
She began her industry career by starting her own successful costume jewelry business. She then expanded her knowledge of the industry with sales, marketing and business development roles at several companies. In 2005, she joined Mark Gershburg to establish GSI. Ms. Azar is an active member of myriad industry organizations and charities; she currently serves as a Board Member of Jewelers for Children. She is also a Forbes Business Council member.
Her strengths include working directly with retail chains and stores to help build their business and brands. She is widely known in the industry for her commitment to meeting customer needs.