The news that Susan Jacques will become president and CEO of the Gemological Institute of America was extremely well-received in the industry. Jacques had been serving as interim chief, and people inside and outside the GIA had long speculated that she was the front-runner for the position; the only question was whether she wanted it, since she already had a pretty good job as CEO of Borsheim’s. (Interestingly, the Borsheim’s job made her relocate to Omaha from California. Now she’s moving back.)
Not only does Jacques have, like her predecessor, a business background, but she also has a clear love of the industry and familiarity with its players. She has three decades of experience at jewelry retail, so she knows how important the lab and its reports are to people in this business. She also will be an excellent industry spokesperson.
Jacques believes in industry service and has served on the board of just about every industry group that’s out there. My blog post about how profitable the GIA lab is was not, shall we say, too well-received by some at the GIA. But a lot of outside observers told me they agreed that an education and research institution and a wildly profitable lab are not necessarily the best fit. A lot of the trade now views the GIA mostly as a business; I hope Jacques will return it to its roots as a public-benefit corporation, at least perception-wise.
I should also note that Jacques cares deeply about social issues, and it will be worth watching to see if GIA becomes more active in that aspect of the industry. Yes, currently it seems like an odd fit for GIA to get involved with issues like blood diamonds. But GIA’s mission is increasing consumer confidence in gems and jewelry, and that certainly qualifies. And GIA scientists have participated in things like the 2000 White House conference on the origin of diamonds. So perhaps there is more that can be done, particularly on issues like gem origin and tracking (which could also be useful for more traditional GIA issues, like synthetics and treatments).
Heading the GIA is one of the most prestigious and important jobs in our industry, and Jacques is one of our trade’s most accomplished executives. She has the potential to be a great leader for GIA, and our industry. Anyone that can answer to Warren Buffett can probably answer to the equally demanding jewelry trade. We wish her the best of the luck.
(By the way, I am reliably told that Jacques’ predecessor, Donna Baker, just got another job—outside the industry, at a California health care company. We wish her the best of luck as well.)