Two veteran industry executives plan to launch a new “marketing-oriented” association for the lab-grown diamond industry at JCK Las Vegas in June.
Spearheading the proposed organization are Michael Barlerin, who formerly headed the World Gold Council in the Americas, as well as Chris Casey (pictured), former publisher of National Jeweler and head of NPD’s luxury division. Barlerin currently heads the Silver Promotion Service.
The duo is “currently in the process of identifying a number of participants for a committee to assist in the development of the mission statement, organizational structure, and key initial areas of focus for the new association,” says Casey.
He declined further comment, but said that the group hopes to provide more information by the end of this month.
There is already an overarching group for lab-grown diamonds, the International Grown Diamond Association (IGDA), which was formed in February 2016. Yet, the IGDA has a small budget—its 2017 tax returns show only $45,000 in revenue.
In an interview last Thursday following the release of an IGDA-commissioned report on lab-grown diamonds from MVI Marketing, group secretary Richard Garard admits it hasn’t done much by way of promotion.
“We haven’t been able to promote the way that I would have liked from a budget standpoint,” he says. “Most retailers and wholesalers are promoting themselves rather than putting excess funds into an association that will provide an overall umbrella. Right now, we are doing all that we can to educate and promote.”
His group recently added three members, bringing its membership to 50, he says.
“We have the support of our members and we have some momentum going,” he says. “I think our involvement with the Federal Trade Commission helped very much in creating those new guidelines. We are providing a service.”
The IGDA’s current three-person board all have a connection to IIA Technologies, the diamond grower based in Singapore. IIA CEO Vishal Mehta is the group’s president. Garard’s company, Morrisville, N.C.–based Microwave Enterprises, calls itself IIA’s North American distributor. Vice president Rene Florencio heads Golcondia, another IIA distributor.
Garard says the group hopes to get “broader participation” after a meeting this summer.
“We are in a position to start expanding,” says Garard. “A number of organizations now have the strength and depth to want to do it. It was [originally] hard to get a time commitment.”
He notes that the IGDA is run by volunteers, including him.
“There are not too many crazy people who are trying to run two companies [Lambda Technologies and Microwave] and still do this,” he says.
CORRECTION: This article has been corrected to note that Michael Barlerin still works with the Silver Promotion Service.
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