JCK Las Vegas: Panel Debates Grading Lab Standards

The consumer is being hurt by different standards among diamond grading
laboratories, participants at a June 5 Rapaport forum on diamond certification
agreed.

“Should there be industry policing regarding labs that are three color
grades off?” forum moderator Martin Rapaport asked. “That kind of abuse is very
problematic. The issue is industry self-regulation. We need to say, if you are
two colors off, that is not acceptable. Right now, there is no red line.”

Don Palmieri, president of the Gem Certification and Assurance Lab
(GCAL), feared the industry is “in a race to the bottom.”

“We are cheating the consumer when you tell them the diamond is a one or
two color grades better than it is,” he said. “If this was 18 karat gold and it
was stamped 14 karat, everyone would be screaming bloody murder.”

But Jerry Ehrenwald, owner of the International Gemological Institute,
noted that most diamond grading remains subjective.

“There are differences of opinion among labs, sometimes even among graders
in the same lab,” he said. “It’s the retailer’s responsibility to use a lab he
feels is responsible.”

One possible solution: Gems graded electronically. “Within the next
decade, we will have machines that can grade color and clarity,” Ehrenwald
predicted. “And, eventually, that will wipe out all the labs.”

Another issue: can all labs detect treatments? Rapaport said he was
examining jewelry in one noted retailer, “and I looked at the fancy yellow melee,
and I said: There is no way those are not treated.”

Peter Yantzer, executive director of the AGS Laboratory, said “all
top-tier labs” have sophisticated gemological screening processes.

“With
synthetics and HPHT, we can identify them 99 percent of the time,” he said. “But when it comes
to melee, it’s not cost-effective.”