Donna Baker’s Departure and the Future of the GIA

Some thoughts on Donna Baker’s departure from the GIA:

Like most people I have spoken to, I have no idea why Donna Baker resigned. The stated reason—disagreements over the future direction of GIA—raises more questions than it answers. Obviously, rumors are flying, but I have a reason to believe more information will eventually come out. (People are welcome to email with any info; confidentiality assured.)

Baker was by all accounts a competent and capable businesswoman who brought a lot of order to an organization once in turmoil. Her leaving strikes me as mighty unfortunate, as this is still an organization living in the shadow of the unpleasant events that occurred there a number of years ago.

As far as where GIA is now, there is a lot of industry concern over the GIA lab’s international expansion, which Baker spearheaded. The chatter in the market is that there are quality control problems at some overseas labs. Given all the other issues in the lab sector, the last thing we need are reports of problems at the market leader and most-respected lab. Before GIA opens up any new labs, let us hope it finds a way to increase industry confidence about the current ones. 

(On this issue, GIA spokesman Stephen Morrisseau offers: “Stones submitted to GIA for grading are randomly and anonymously distributed within our nine laboratories. Up to 50 percent of stones submitted to a location may be fully or partially graded in a different GIA laboratory. Our laboratories use the same standards, procedures and equipment to ensure consistency across all locations.”)

On a related subject, perhaps it’s time for the GIA to open up all its labs to independent review and see them judged against existing standards, like ISO.  Even if that doesn’t change anything, and perhaps it won’t, it would set a notable example that, hopefully, other industry labs would follow.

Finally, in recent years, the trade has thought of GIA mostly as a business, and an extremely profitable and successful one. But it is also a non-profit education and research institution that works for the good of the industry and the public—a public benefit corporation, as they say. That hasn’t gone away, but with all the talk of labs and expansion, GIA’s public mission does seem like it’s been pushed a little in the background. 

Perhaps current board of governors chair Susan M. Jacques—president and CEO of Borsheims—who has stepped in as GIA’s interim president and CEO and who I know has a real commitment to doing good things in the world, can find a way to emphasize that aspect as well.

JCK News Director