DiamondNotes

AGS Plans Cut Grades for Fancy Shapes

The American Gem Society lab is known for its round brilliant cut grades, and now it plans to offer certs for fancy shapes as well. At the recent AGS Conclave in New Orleans, the lab’s board authorized director Peter Yantzer to develop a system for grading fancy-shaped diamond cuts. “Our goal is to develop an AGS ‘0’ [the highest cut grade] for fancies,” Yantzer says. But he concedes there are virtually no precedents for what he’s doing.

“I don’t know how we’re going to do it,” he says. “I have some ideas. We will look at the tens of thousands of stones in our database and try to determine guidelines. It’s a huge project, and it’ll be controversial. But I’m confident we can do it.”

Yantzer notes that the few fancy-shape cut systems in the past have measured the length-to-width ratio—an approach he wants to avoid. Instead, he plans to focus more on polish, symmetry, and proportion.

In other news, the lab is adding “girdle thickness at the mains” to its Diamond Quality Document. But Yantzer says it’s for information purposes only and will have no bearing on the cut grade.

The AGS lab has been the subject of controversy lately. A recent Gemological Institute of America study on brilliance criticized any system—such as AGS’s—that determines cut grades based on “a narrow range of parameters.” But Yantzer and other lab officials note that the study hasn’t hurt AGS’s business, which reportedly was up an astounding 100% in the first quarter of 1999.

Hearts on Fire Looking to Go Public

Hearts on Fire (formerly Di-Star) wants to be the second diamond company to go public. The Boston firm has hired William Blair of Chicago, an investment bank, to examine the prospect. “We need an equity infusion to keep up with our growth,” says company president Glenn Rothman. “The plan is to look hard at a public offering or a private placement.”

The only diamond company that’s currently public is Lazare Kaplan in New York, which like Hearts on Fire offers a “branded” Ideal cut.

Rothman says the company has ambitious plans for the second half of the year, including a new consumer video and a “limited-edition millennium diamond” with a time capsule, similar to what De Beers is offering. The centerpiece of Hearts on Fire’s millennium campaign will be a 10-ct. D-flawless stone, selling for $1 million retail, which will tour stores this year.

To date, nearly 300 stores are offering Hearts on Fire diamonds. The company wants to stop distribution at 400.

Oscar’s Jewels

Again this year, famous jewelers queued up to bejewel the stars at the Academy Awards show. Harry Winston and Asprey & Garrard were among the jewelers that took advantage of the invaluable prime-time advertising that comes from having a prominent presence at the Oscars.

Leading the charge was Harry Winston, with sales and loans totaling well over $50 million worth of jewels. Comedienne Whoopi Goldberg, the emcee for the event, wore a total of $41 million worth of jewelry over the course of the evening. She sported a $1 million fancy yellow marquise diamond bracelet, a $750,000 pair of diamond “chandelier” earrings, and a diamond ring she couldn’t help getting excited about, an emerald-cut diamond weighing 107.18 cts. and priced at $15 million. She wore the ring with a slave costume from the film Beloved, nominated for a Best Costume Design award. “I’m a slave to fashion,” she said.

“The Academy Awards collection is specially arranged by Ronald Winston,” says Carole Brodie, communications director for Harry Winston in New York. “Pulled from all of our international locations, these are the jewels which the house of Winston would like to show.”

The stars themselves ultimately choose what they wish to wear. “They are usually pretty definite about what they want,” says Brodie. “We can try to lead them into what we feel is most appropriate, but ultimately, the stars know what they are looking for.” Kim Basinger’s stylist, for example, was looking for small diamond drop earrings. “But I felt strongly that Kim would look better wearing something more substantial, which she did,” says Brodie.

“You have to know what they want, what their style is,” says Brodie. Sometimes the stylist will come in with three dresses, looking to see which jewels go well in order to be ready when the star makes her last-minute choice. Others may just look at which jewels are available. Some stars normally wear large amounts of jewelry. Others, like Helen Hunt, are minimalists, choosing “studs, maybe a bracelet,” says Brodie.

A month before the Oscars, Winston invites the stylists for the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress nominees for a preview of jewels. Also invited are former clients and “friends of the house” who have worn Winston jewels on loan in the past. Working with clothing designer Fred Hayman, Winston presents a jewelry fashion show to the Hollywood stylists.

At the Oscars show, Best Actress award winner Gwyneth Paltrow wore a stunning Harry Winston platinum and diamond choker ($160,000) and diamond floral cluster earrings ($25,000). “Gwyneth had actually chosen the necklace before the Beverly Hills preview, so it was not at the showing,” says Brodie. “Mr. Winston does hold back some jewels for selected people who he believes might be particularly interested in wearing a special item.”

Paltrow had been a friend of the house and is now a client. Her necklace, which was loaned to her for the evening, won rave reviews after the program. Brodie considers it “incredibly smashing, but also affordable. It’s not a million but it looks like a million.” Most people think they can’t afford Winston’s jewelry, with price tags upward of $1 million, but here’s a necklace that costs only $160,000. “She knew she was going to buy it,” says Brodie. “She fell madly in love with it the minute she tried it on.”

Brodie recalls delivering the necklace to Paltrow’s dressing room. “If you win, are you going to buy it?” she asked. Paltrow’s response was a resounding “Yes!” At the Vanity Fair party that followed, Brodie greeted Paltrow with Oscar in hand. Says Brodie, “She looked at me and screamed, ‘My daddy’s buying me the necklace!’ ”

No item generated more buzz than Jennifer Lopez’s 100-ct. diamond-and-platinum necklace, priced at $1 million. It was accompanied by 10-ct. t.w. diamond-and-platinum earrings ($100,000).

Pre-show host and presenter Geena Davis wore a 25-ct. D-flawless diamond-and-platinum ring ($2.6 million) along with 20-ct. t.w. diamond earrings ($45,000). Named the Geena Davis Earrings, they were custom-made just two days prior to the event.

Christina Ricci chose a straight-line 35-ct. diamond necklace ($350,000) to go with her 2-ct. diamond earrings ($10,000) and 17-ct. diamond bracelet ($100,000).

Edward Asprey flew in from London to personally dress the stars in his firm’s jewelry. Wearing Asprey’s jewels was Best Actress nominee Cate Blanchett, who selected the firm’s signature “Daisy” collection: amethyst bracelet ($19,390), amethyst earrings ($6,250), and multi-stone bracelet ($19,390), along with a few amethyst and diamond accessories ($5,900).

Best Supporting Actress nominee Lynn Redgrave knows how to choose jewelry. She selected an Asprey & Garrard marquise, pear-shaped, and round brilliant cut diamond-and-platinum necklace containing 131 diamonds, 59.61 cts. t.w. ($826,500); a pair of marquise, pear-shaped, and round diamond-and-platinum earrings with 14 diamonds, 11.27 cts. t.w. ($152,500); and a round and marquise diamond bracelet, 27.94 cts. t.w. ($160,000). The total value of the ensemble topped $1.125 million.

Celine Dion wore aquamarine and diamond earrings ($9,500); an antique diamond bracelet circa 1935, 75 cts. t.w. ($265,000); and a black-onyx-and-diamond ring ($18,000). Asprey & Garrard created the authentic “Heart of the Ocean” necklace featured in the film Titanic and worn by Dion at last year’s Oscars.

You don’t have to be in the movies to wear the jewels of the top jewelers. Mary Hart of TV’s “Entertainment Tonight” selected Asprey’s signature floral collection, including a seven-flower, diamond-set 18k white gold floral necklace ($59,250); a matching pair of diamond-set floral drop earrings ($21,700); and a matching five-flower, diamond-set floral link bracelet ($20,400). Total value: $101,350.

De Beers Slogan Author Dies at 83

Fifty-one years after she penned one of the most memorable advertising slogans of all time, the woman who coined the phrase “A Diamond Is Forever” has died. Mary Frances Gerety, former copywriter for the N.W. Ayer advertising agency, was 83 years old.

Gerety came up with the slogan in 1948 as something of a fluke. A Gemological Institute of America educational text reports her reminiscence: “I didn’t get all excited about it, and neither did anyone else.” She was working on the account late one night, struggling to come up with a slogan. Groggily, she scribbled something down, placed the paper on her nightstand, and went to bed. The following morning she picked up the paper and read her now-famous phrase. Said Gerety, “It was just a way of signing the ads. Sometimes I can’t believe that, of all the advertising I wrote, only four words stand out.”

Although the slogan was well-received in the United States, it took 12 years and a book before it was launched internationally. In 1956, Ian Fleming adapted the phrase for the title of his fourth James Bond novel, Diamonds Are Forever. In 1960, De Beers made the phrase its global slogan. It has been translated into 20 languages. Not until 1989 did

De Beers finally get around to honoring Gerety at a London ceremony. This March, Advertising Age magazine paid Gerety tribute, ranking “A Diamond Is Forever” as the No. 6 slogan of the century.

A DIAMOND IS FOREVER

Oppenheimer: ‘End U.S. Ban on De Beers’

The United States should review the antitrust laws that have barred De Beers from doing business here since the 1940s, company chairman Nicky Oppenheimer said recently.

Addressing an African business conference, Oppenheimer noted that while President Clinton says he wants to engage in more trade with Africa, antitrust laws exclude the continent’s biggest company. “I believe the attitude of the Justice Department is at odds with American foreign policy, which seeks to support the reconstruction and development of Africa,” he said. “[De Beers] makes no pretense that we aren’t seeking to manage the diamond market, to control supply, to manage prices, and to act collusively with our partners in the business. Despite all this, we believe that what we do is not only good for us and all producers of diamonds but is also in the interests of the consumer.”

Oppenheimer called American antitrust investigations “the equivalent of the Spanish Inquisition.” He expressed sympathy for fellow billionaire Bill Gates, who he said was going through a “trial by ordeal” at the hands of the Justice Department.

De Beers had a run-in with U.S. antitrust authorities in 1994, when it was charged with fixing the prices of industrial diamonds with General Electric. Since De Beers has no official U.S. presence, it never answered the charges. The Justice Department took General Electric to trial, where the case was thrown out of court. Yet, even though the investigation has been closed, De Beers executives say there are still warrants out for them. Many of them avoid traveling in the United States, even for vacations, for fear of arrest.

While De Beers currently has no official U.S. presence, it does have an ongoing U.S. marketing effort through an “independent-contractor” relationship with ad agency J. Walter Thompson. However, the antitrust climate has led to some strange rules regarding how agency and client interact. Officials from De Beers and the agency rarely talk on the phone and meet face-to-face only outside the United States.

Still, Oppenheimer has at least one prominent contact in the U.S. government—President Clinton visited Oppenheimer-owned properties during his trip to Africa in mid-1998.

New Yorkers Pass Moissanite Test

New York jewelers weren’t fooled by moissanite.

Recently, TV stations in Washington and Florida caught jewelers misidentifying synthetic moissanite. But in a piece of good news for jewelers, a national TV magazine show that’s done prior features on the industry failed to duplicate those results in New York.

The show sent a moissanite-carrying reporter to three New York jewelers, chosen at random, hoping they would identify it as a diamond. Unfortunately for the show, the jewelers all identified it properly. The program was quietly canceled. (For tips on moissanite detection, see jc06-072.)

Another Easy Way to Detect Moissanite

Still worried that moissanite will fool you or your staff? Besides picking up a loupe and spotting the obvious doubling of facet junctions, you can try another identification technique. Rediscovered by Scottish gemologist Alan Hodgkinson (of “Visual Optics” fame), the “shadow patterns” test is not a new method. It was designed originally to detect cubic zirconia and other less important diamond simulants, but the test fell out of use once it became easy to spot CZ.

The “shadow patterns” test is easy to perform. Just place a small glass container of water on a dark table. Immerse the stone face down into the water. Then shine a bright focused light at the stone directly from above and view the pattern of dispersive colors projected from the stone onto the table below. If you see short, somewhat dispersive colors, it’s diamond. If you observe long, very dispersive points surrounding the gem, the stone is moissanite.

EGL USA Goes High-Tech

Gem labs are using more scientific equipment than ever before to aid in the identification of natural and synthetic gems and to disclose enhancements. EGL USA, the U.S. headquarters for the European Gemological Laboratory in New York, has been expanding its services and facilities over the past three years. Now that the lab has obtained the SAS2000 spectrophotometer, it is charging into high-tech analysis. “I started investigating possible applications for the SAS2000 starting two years ago in Tucson,” remarks lab director Greg Sherman. “As an enthusiast of spectroscopy for gemological identification, I immediately knew this machine was for us.”

Developed by research scientist and gemologist Martin Haske, the SAS2000 is specifically designed to color-grade diamonds as well as identify gems and enhancements. “Even though the machine is capable of accurate color evaluation of colorless and near-colorless diamonds, we have found its greatest use to be in origin-of-color issues with fancy-color diamonds,” says Sherman. Unlike other spectrophotometers used in the trade, this one works at room temperature and costs thousands of dollars less than its counterparts. All of this is a huge benefit to the lab, situated in the heart of New York’s diamond district. Says Sherman, “By using Marty’s machine, we are able to make quick and confident conclusions regarding origin of color for fancy-color diamonds.”

The SAS2000 is also being used for gem identification. “There are other spectrophotometers on the market,” says Sherman. “However, there are none with a software program and database specifically designed for gem identification purposes.” EGL USA is not the first gem lab to use the device, but it’s the first to print the results on the gemstone-identification report. “I believe we are the first and only major laboratory to issue gemological reports showing a printed graph of the results produced by the SAS2000, thus providing graphic evidence for the retailer, consumer, etc., on the report to back up our conclusions,” says Sherman (see report above). “This fits nicely with our philosophy about full disclosure of all information to report users.”

What’s next in high-tech for EGL USA? “We are now in the pearl X-ray analysis game,” says Sherman. “Things are happening here!”