For those of you who missed it, Martin Rapaport published his New Year’s message on January 17.
In his article, Mr. Rapaport elected to ‘rant’ – as my colleague Gary Roskin characterized it – exclusively about the threat of synthetic or lab-grown diamonds (LGDs) to the gem and jewelry supply chain and the lack of disclosure regarding the value retention of LGDs to the end-consumer.
“Many — if not most — in our trade are operating dishonestly and unethically by failing to make a full disclosure about the value retention of synthetic diamonds.” He also reported that a “detailed submission to the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) requesting full-disclosure standards for synthetic diamonds” had not received any attention.
Let’s face it: LGDs are now part of our industry’s landscape. Predictions are that by 2025, LGD-set jewelry may capture more than 15 percent of the global jewelry consumer market. They will remain part of the pallet of gemstones – natural and man-made – that consumers can choose from.
Many years ago, Harry Levy, then president of the London Diamond Bourse and Chairman of the International Diamond Council (IDC), suggested that the diamond industry take a page from the history books of the colored gemstone industry and trade. He pointed out that the synthetic counterparts of ruby, sapphire, and emerald have been available since the late 19th century. Have these synthetic counterparts of those Big Three and those of other valuable gemstones ruined the colored gemstone market? Not at all. On the contrary: they have enhanced the uniqueness of colored stones, the importance of their ‘genetic makeup,’ and their origin. Prices of colored gemstones continue to rise, while their synthetics cost just a few cents to many dollars.
Of course, the diamond industry and trade arrived late at the lab-grown game. Due to its relative insulation, the diamond trade continued to engage in ‘horizontal thinking,’ i.e., it was only concerned with its own momentary wellbeing, screaming its head off against LGDs, instead of facing that the industry’s axis was tilting from horizontal to vertical.
Rapaport was never among those who screamed. As early as 2007, after Gemesis’ lab-grown hit the market, he warned that synthetic diamonds were here to stay. He said this during the “Mines to Market” conference in India, where IDMA President Ronnie VanderLinden delivered a talk about the lab-grown market. Few in the trade heeded Rapaport’s call. Instead of engaging and bringing the synthetic producers and traders into the fold to include and regulate them – as the American Gem Trade Association had done many decades earlier – the World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFBD), the Diamond Producers Association (DPA), and other organizations continued to fight and alienate the LGD producers, providing the latter with the attention and downstream market exposure they so much craved and needed.
Coming back to Martin’s submission to RJC – I am puzzled. In cooperation with the IDC and the World Jewellery Confederation (CIBJO), ISO (The International Organization for Standardization) issued standard 18323 [https://www.iso.org/standard/62163.html] for diamonds and specifically for “the nomenclature to be used by those involved in the buying and selling of diamonds, treated diamonds, synthetic diamonds, composite diamonds and imitations of diamonds.”
In the USA, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published its last update to the FTC Jewelry Guides in a 160-pages long document. True, it’s a long read, but it’s all there. There is no need to reinvent the wheel or create another set of ‘wheels.’
In closing, I fully share Martin’s frustration regarding the traders’ and retailers’ selling of LGDs without full disclosure and not including information about value retention. But we do not need new rules to halt those fraudulent practices and reach a consensus on how to battle this. All parties need to get together and agree on toeing the rules we already have in place.
Is that too much to ask? In German, one says “Die Hoffnung stirbt zuletzt.” Literally: hope is the last thing to die. The saying takes a more optimistic turn in English: Hope springs eternal!