In May 2012, a single mother came to Bradley’s Jewelers in Fort Myers, Fla., to sell a 2.02 ct. round brilliant-cut diamond ring from a broken engagement. She wound up getting even more heartache.
Turns out her H-color, VS2-quality rock—the specs stated on an appraisal by a local competitor, as well as on an international grading report—was actually a fracture-filled J-color, SI2 stone. And it was worth far less than the original $22,500 purchase price.
“I’ve always known there were differences in every laboratory, but I didn’t realize the subterfuge,” says Bradley’s Jewelers co-owner Brad Congress. “There is a blind allegiance by stores to the documentation instead of analyzing the diamond for what it really is.”
Since he wanted to help out the woman, Congress asked four other dealer friends to drop by to scrutinize the rock: Three offered her nothing; one offered $500 out of pity. Livid that the woman had been duped, Congress showed her the diamond under the microscope and explained the differences between that stone and the stone her fiancé had paid for.
Armed with that information, she took the diamond back to the original sellers and gave them a lesson they won’t soon forget. Under the store’s microscope, she pointed out the purplish-pink flash in the fracture-filled gem, as well as the exaggerated color. In the end, she received a refund of $13,500—what Congress would have paid her had the diamond been the quality stated on the grading report.
“She had a case for fraud and could have done a significant amount of damage,” adds Congress.
From that point forward, Brad and his wife, fellow co-owner Colbi, went on a mission to educate and protect the diamond-buying public. They coined the term diamonditis—“when your diamond does not match your paperwork because of inaccurate grading,” Brad explains—and started a media campaign to get the word out.
He aired radio ads about diamonditis on multiple stations. He gave radio and television interviews; he spoke to groups like the Fort Myers Woman’s Community Club and a local chapter of the Florida Bar Association chapter—not to mention the clients in his store on a daily basis; he brainstormed with other jewelers on ways to combat the fraud. Plus, he reached out to local politicians in an effort to instigate change in the wording of Federal Trade Commission guidelines.
Bradley’s Jewelers owner Brad Congress discusses “diamonditis” on local TV.
When diamonditis strikes, Brad advises peers to swiftly remedy the scenario by diagnosing the true quality of the diamond in question and holding its source accountable.
“When I talk to vendors, I ask them point-blank, ‘Do you agree with the paperwork?’” he says. If not, he doesn’t want the stone—and he suggests other retailers turn away these rocks, too, to avoid being burned.
Three years ago, a client who had just purchased a Rolex asked to see some Asscher-cut diamonds. Brad made some calls and gave the buyer some quotes (before seeing the stones)—then was forced to backpedal on price, size, and quality once they were actually in hand. A 5.04 ct. H-color VS1 stone turned out to be a 4.93 ct. J-color SI2—amounting to a 20 percent price difference. “When I told the buyer the truth, that killed the sale,” he says. “This was not the same stone that had been represented to me over the phone, and the client was very confused. He really didn’t trust me at that point—even though I was honest with him. I learned the hard way. I have to analyze the stones. And now when I call up a diamond supplier, I tell them they need to have the stones in their hands or have eyeballed it to be sure the stone is close to the grade given.”
He also encourages clients to buy stones with North American documentation to better protect themselves. Alternatively, sell the diamond without paperwork and represent it accurately with a quality appraisal from your staff graduate gemologist or from an independent appraiser/gemologist.
“If you have documentation from a lab in North America, at least clients can seek compensation,” he explains. “But overseas grading certificates will not be recognized or hold up in court here. There’s almost no recourse.”