With clients now forced to wait as long as four months to have their gems graded and returned, the Gemological Institute of America announced a new suite of measures designed to decrease its labs’ much-derided turnaround time.
Clearly, the long waits are a problem: According to the GIA site, diamonds under 1 ct. submitted at its Carlsbad, Calif., and New York City labs won’t be returned until August, or three months from now. Customers at the Mumbai; Hong Kong; Bangkok; Johannesburg; and Gaborone, Botswana, labs have longer than four-month waits. Colored stone and pearl submissions have lesser holdups, as do submitters at the appointment-only Israeli lab. But in most cases, customers shouldn’t expect to get their stones back any earlier than May 30—a one-month wait.
Spokesman Stephen Morisseau says that, since the end of 2012, lab submissions have increased 70 percent. And while the GIA has increased its capacity by 35 percent, every day it receives 25 percent more submissions than it has capacity for.
The lab is trying to reduce the long hitches by hiring as many as 50 percent more staff. But that can be time-consuming, Morisseau admits.
“There is not a huge pool of trained diamond graders out there,” Morisseau says. “They have to be found, they have to be trained.”
It’s also breaking down the waits by weight, so bigger stones will see lesser delays. For instance, at the GIA’s two U.S. labs, clients can expect 4 ct.-and-larger stones back by May 16.
It’s also continuing its Fast Track program, where clients can get expedited service for 10 percent of their submissions.
And finally, it’s representing the turnaround times in a different way. Where it used to estimate the time in business days, which required consumers to figure out the math in their heads and subtract things like weekends and holidays, now it gives an estimated return date, which does not include shipping time, Morisseau says.