Integrity During a Time of Rapid Changes

The key challenge for our industry will be keeping up with the rapid pace of change and doing it with candor and transparency.

We are seeing increased globalization, new technologies that affect every step of gemstone processing, and more product choice than ever before. Increasing competition requires business plans that separate fads from trends and pinpoint emerging markets. A deep knowledge of the industry is essential but so is a business strategy that is robust yet flexible enough to respond to market forces that can change direction seemingly overnight.

To address these challenges, GIA has established the following priorities: Improve our responsiveness to our clients, shorten turnaround time in our laboratories, disseminate our research more widely to help the public and the industry keep abreast of new treatments and synthetics, develop educational programs in a variety of media that will serve students better throughout their careers, and strengthen our connection with our international constituents by expanding our services globally.

In all that we do, we have one key objective: Maintain the highest degree of integrity.

Integrity is the one overriding concept our industry must embrace as it addresses change. No single goal affects so many levels of the gem and jewelry industry as maintaining—and enhancing—public trust in what we do and how we do it. It is the cornerstone of our industry.

The need for integrity is most obvious in the processes and practices that directly affect consumer confidence, such as the proper grading of goods, full disclosure of treatments and synthetics, and fair pricing. To meet this need, GIA is introducing a new array of colored stone and pearl services, in addition to recent enhancements in its world-renowned diamond-grading reports.

The concept of integrity transcends what happens at the retail counter. We have seen how the exposure of inhumane conditions in western Africa during the 1990s impacted the diamond industry. In the days following Sept. 11, 2001, we read about concerns that trading in colored stones was funding terrorist activities.

As a result we are seeing, in effect, a steady evolution toward common, worldwide standards throughout the industry, from corporate governance and supply chain integrity to accurate grading and disclosure of gemstone properties.

Some standards are already well enforced, such as financial dealings and anti-money-laundering procedures through the USA Patriot Act, the European Union, and other jurisdictions.

Some standards remain a work in progress, due to the complexities of establishing global guidelines. For example, many companies are working hard to ensure the integrity of their supply chains against illicit gems and gems that were mined under substandard conditions. Unfortunately, this isn’t universal, and abuses open the entire industry to criticism from organizations whose mission is to expose such issues, sometimes unfairly.

Some standards are voluntary, which is where GIA has played a critical role. In fact, GIA’s diamond-grading system was adopted worldwide, because it provides a common language and process for the public and the industry.