Richard Garard (pictured) is stepping down as the head of the International Grown Diamond Association (IGDA), the group he helped found in 2016.
Joanna Park-Tonks, founder of lab-grown diamond brand Chelsea Rocks, has been appointed the new president of the group, and Louis Price, chief operating officer of M. Geller, will serve as vice president.
Both positions are open-ended and unpaid.
The group will continue to be based in Garard’s Morrisville, N.C., office, and Garard will continue on to serve on its board.
Before founding her lab-grown brand, Park-Tonks previously worked at management consultancy Accenture, as well as at Christie’s, De Beers Diamond Jewellers, and for De Beers’ Diamond Information Center and Central Selling Organisation.
The lab-grown “industry needs to move from a trade status to a professional status,” Park-Tonks tells JCK. “I hope to bring people together with a common clarity of vision and purpose.”
Her main goal is to stop the “value erosion” of lab-grown.
“If we flood the market with cheap commodity product and insist on comparing ourselves with Rapaport pricing, this is not a position of strength,” she says. “I want to work very hard on improving the luxury cache of created diamonds. We mustn’t just describe lab-growns in cold technical terms, but focus on why people buy diamonds, both mined and lab-grown.”
Citing her past experience with De Beers and Christie’s, she says she has “no truck” with those who bash mined diamonds and wants to “be respectful” of that industry.
“I think the conversation has moved on.… I’m not interested in denigrating dialogue with anyone, least of all our mined diamond counterparts. I know how they have worked to change the dialogue. We need to view ourselves as cousins, and keep a collegial rapport.”
She hopes to attract more retailers and equipment manufacturers to the group, which has suffered from a persistent lack of funds.
Park-Tonks also hopes to eventually introduce an audit process, to ensure that members comply with the group’s standards.
“We will be raising the question: What does it mean to be an IGDA member?” she says.
In an email, Garard says Park-Tonks hopes to focus on “three Rs”: representation (“presenting a collective professional voice for the industry”), relationships (“member and industry networking”), and research (“the dissemination of fair, honest, and accurate information and market insights about lab-grown diamonds to trade and consumers alike”).
Chelsea Rocks is currently based in Vienna, but Park-Tonks says she will move to the United Kingdom to run the group. She also hopes to hold a networking event for London members next year.
In a supplied bio, Park-Tonks paid tribute to Garard, who “worked with the Federal Trade Commission to ensure a fair ruling” about lab-grown diamonds. In the email, Garard thanked Marty Hurwitz, CEO of MVI Marketing, who helped rejuvenate the IGDA post-pandemic and will continue to act as a board adviser.
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