The Gemological Institute of America admits that it now takes as long as six weeks to get diamonds back from its labs—but doesn’t see that changing anytime soon.
Tom Moses, the GIA’s senior vice president of lab and research, tells JCK he’s hoping that, as input falls, more staffers come on board, and everyone works longer hours, the labs may be able to shave a week off its turnaround time around January.
“Within the next few months, we hope to turn the corner,” he says. “But it still won’t be where we want it to be or where clients expect it to be.”
Moses says the current problems began in April, when the diamond market was seeing huge price increases. What he calls “an intense surge” in diamonds left the lab with too much work to handle.
“We had a 40 percent increase in intake and that sustained through the summer,” he says. “We just had a red-hot industry in the first half of the year, and places like India are wanting certificates for smaller and smaller sizes. Diamonds are being certified today that we wouldn’t imagine 10 or 20 years ago.”
In addition, testing for treatments can slow things down.
“Treatments are becoming more and more challenging,” he says. “More stones are requiring testing and that increases the amount of time it takes to process them.”
Moses adds the situation is impacting GIA’s labs all over the world.
“We have added significant staff, and we have been working six, seven, days a week, 10, 12 hours a day,” he says. “We are doing everything we can to get control of this.”
The lab has also seen input dropping off lately, which should help eliminate some of the backlog, Moses says.
Ron Vanderlinden, co-chair of the Diamond Manufacturers and Importers Association of America’s gemological committee, says the market has been “hugely frustrated by the delays.”
“The last time we experienced something like this was years ago,” he says. “We all have our goods tied up there. It’s caught everyone by surprise.”
Still, he doesn’t want the GIA to compromise itself.
“The amount of testing they have to do for suspect diamonds slows things up,” he says. “But if just one suspect diamond gets out there, it’s a problem for all of us.”
Hertz Hasenfeld, the other gemological committee co-chair, also thinks it’s good GIA has been “holding the line” as far as standards.
“If they take half-trained or almost-trained gemologists and put them in there, and lower the quality of their work, that would be a disaster,” he says. “The last thing you want to see them do is cut corners to shorten delivery time.”