Member to Member: Synthetic Diamonds—Threat or Opportunity?
Monday, December 10, 2018
"Member to Member" is written by AGS members for members, with the sole purpose of helping inform and educate on topics important to the jewelry industry.
By David Craig Rotenberg, ECGA
If you’re like me, you do not currently sell synthetic diamonds, nor do you have any intention of doing so in the future. Given the recent lifting of restrictions in Mumbai, the future may, in fact, be even more challenging. Nonetheless, because you’re in the business of gems and jewelry, you will most likely come into contact with synthetics—some honestly presented by the seller and some, unfortunately, not.
Gemstone appraising is already a highly-sensitive area, especially if your appraisal practice involves the taking in of the item to be appraised as opposed to conducting an overview right in front of the client. When you do any work on diamonds, you put yourself at risk. If more time is needed, which normally is the case, typical questions like “How do I know I’m getting my same diamond back?” are common. Inherent distrust abounds, so even the most reputable shop must take cautionary steps to avoid consumers claiming mishandling, switching, or even theft of their property.
What can you do to protect yourself? And what opportunities can you avail yourself of during the take-in process?
Don’t Assume Every Diamond is Natural
Whenever I take in a diamond for re-cutting, re-sizing, repair or appraisal, I honestly explain to the customer that, due to the existence of synthetic diamonds in the marketplace, we are told to typically use the assumption that the diamonds brought in by our customers are natural unless specified otherwise. We don’t want to place doubt as to the stone’s provenance, but, at the same time, I want the customer to understand that it’s possible that the “diamond” they bought 10 years ago may not live up to the original store’s hype. As professionals, our reputations are on the line. The problem with dealing with synthetics today is not unlike the early days of the “fracture-filled” or “clarity-enhanced” stones which were not as easy to spot with cursory reviews.
Test, Test, and More Testing
When providing an appraisal, I make sure to include boilerplate language that illustrates that due to the advent of synthetic diamonds, I strongly recommend testing. Chances are that your customer may not know anything about today’s latest “hot off the press” synthetic information. It’s up to us, as gemology and appraisal experts, to provide this information. With the proper examination tools and standard processing, most of us can quickly tell if the diamond is natural or suspect. We know if we can verify authenticity or need to refer for additional testing.
I suggest you stress full transparency by offering the customer a house scanner check, lab or Sarin report. You protect yourself and show that, for a small additional fee, you both can rest assured that the diamond is what the consumer believes it to be. If you do not have in-house testing equipment, I suggest you offer to send the item out to the lab for checking. By offering additional testing services, you provide a valuable service to the customer. You turn a possible “threat” into an opportunity for both and your customers, and further cement your relationship, establishing yourself as a consummate professional.
About the Author:
David Craig Rotenberg owns and operates David Craig Jewelers in Langhorne, PA. In 2017, he was awarded the title of Emeritus Certified Gemologist Appraiser (ECGA) by the American Gem Society (AGS). He is one of a handful of jewelers in the U.S. who received the CAPP certification in gemstones and jewelry from the International Society of Appraisers. Mr. Rotenberg is frequently sought by the media for his appraisal expertise and has been featured as such on various broadcast programs.
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