Chatham Sounds Off on Created Gems

Rob Bates’s recent piece on the cultured diamond (see ” ‘Cultured Diamonds’ Designation Ruled Illegal in Germany,” JCK, January 2005, p. 38) points to Apollo Diamond as “the other company manufacturing synthetics,” ignoring our leading position in this field. To date, we are producing over 1,000 cts. per month, a feat I am sure Gemesis is not anywhere near. Our company is the largest producer and seller of all created gemstones in the USA, and perhaps the world, and should be considered a source.

Now to the real reason for writing: Chatham has been intimately involved in the nomenclature discussions concerning created gemstones for over 40 years. Specific powers in New York were successful in getting the FTC on Carroll Chatham’s back in 1959 to force the use of the word “synthetic” on his then-emerging product, Chatham Cultured Emeralds. The same types of arguments were made then as now, comparing the crystal growth process to the culturing of pearls. If one were truly interested in following the dictionaries’ definitions of “cultured,” I think they would have a tougher time fitting pearl- manufacturing processes of today into that name vs. the crystal- growing processes used to make our products. There are no man-made seed balls inside a flux-grown diamond or emerald, and the resulting structure is identical to the natural. But, cultured pearls are here to stay, regardless of what goes into them.

Carroll Chatham chose not to argue with the FTC over the word “cultured” because it would involve divulging exactly how he “cultured” his emeralds. Instead he agreed to the word “created.” Those powers in New York hated this even more than “cultured” … but Chatham prevailed in a four-year court battle. I won’t divulge whom those “powers” were but suffice it to say they would be considered competitors.

The CIBJO doctrine has always considered crystal growth as a competitive, unwanted intruder into their personal businesses. They banned the word “created” and insisted on synthetic only … “so no one would be confused.” … And now it’s De Beers’ turn to put the spin on. It’s called damage control. Talk to pearl dealers, talk about synthetic pearls (which don’t exist). The real issue is competition.

And how do I know it’s the competition of created diamonds they fear instead of public confusion they claim to be concerned with? Look at what the colored-stone industry, and now the diamond industry, has done in their laboratories and see what they called these new discoveries: “natural.” “It’s just doing what Mother Nature could have, should have, or wanted to do all along, right, boys?” This nomenclature battle has never been about what’s good for the industry or the consuming public. It’s been all about protecting the pockets of stone dealers, both white and colored.

I wish Gemesis success with their fight in Germany; however, I fear De Beers has a lot more weight than a few Fifth Avenue retailers. I hope Mr. Lussier stays good and agitated by the proceedings.

Tom Chatham, President, CEO, Chatham Created Gems & Diamonds, San Francisco