30-Year De Beers Veteran Joins Gemesis

Joan Parker, a 30-year veteran and well-known figure in the diamond industry, has joined Gemesis, the Sarasota, Fla.-based manufacturer of synthetic diamonds. Her role is to be an ambassador and advisor and help the company raise its profile and position itself as the premiere supplier of man-made diamond products.

Parker spent the bulk of her career as director of the Diamond Information Center, the public relations arm of De Beers in the United States, operating through the company’s advertising agencies N.W. Ayer, and, later, J. Walter Thompson. She left the DIC in 2002 to handle public relations for De Beers LV Ltd., the then-new De Beers/LVMH retail store venture. She left that position in June 2006 and has been working as a consultant in the luxury industry, primarily with shoe designer Taryn Rose.

In an announcement that took many by surprise, Parker said she didn’t feel at all strange promoting man-made diamonds after all her time at De Beers. “I still feel part of the diamond industry and consider myself part of the diamond industry,” she told JCK in an exclusive interview prior to the public announcement April 16 in Basel, Switzerland. “I don’t think of these as synthetic; I think of them as lab-grown versus mined [diamonds.]

“This role is very exciting and entrepreneurial,” she continued. “Gemesis has great integrity. We’re not out to bash mined diamonds. In fact, we’ll be combining Gemesis products with mined diamonds.”

The bulk of Gemesis’s production are fancy yellows which, Parker says, are slated to sell for about 1/3 the price of comparable natural stones. “They look just like mined diamonds, but they cost less.”

Cost is the primary appeal of the lab-grown stones, she told JCK. The increasing popularity of fancy color diamonds, combined with the company’s ability to begin distributing on a much wider scale than in the past, makes the stones much more accessible and expands the universe of people who can afford them. She expects the product to be mainly a fashion sale, not a bridal sale.

“I think this is a huge opportunity. It’s already getting picked up by the press,” she said, citing one article in Wired magazine and another slated to come out in Vanity Fair.
Stephen Lux, president and CEO of Gemesis, told JCK he expects Gemesis diamonds to play a significant role in the industry, and that Parker will have a key role in advising both him and the company’s board.

“Actions like GIA’s decision to begin grading [our] diamonds puts us on the map,” he said. “The missing ingredient for me was consumer awareness, and capitalizing on the media we’ve gotten. Joan’s experience and credibility is exactly what we need and I look forward to having her as an ambassador for many years to come.”