GIA to Issue Reports for Synthetic Diamonds

The Gemological Institute of America’s famed grading lab is planning to issue grading reports for synthetic diamonds, GIA chairman Ralph Destino said at the World Diamond Congress in Israel.

Destino’s initial announcement said the reports will be a different color (yellow) from GIA’s reports for natural diamonds, and that the synthetic stones will have the word “synthetic” inscribed on their girdles. Destino also said the word “synthetic” will appear nine times on the report.

“GIA is a public benefit not-for-profit organization, and we take that obligation seriously,” Destino said. “The greater the disclosure, the greater the consumer confidence.”

He said that by grading the stones, GIA will see more of them than it would if it issued only identification reports, as it now does.

Destino noted that by issuing reports, GIA can “control the nomenclature. Some of the chaps producing these stones would like to call them cultured or man-made. Here we can call them pure and simple ‘synthetic.’”

He also noted that “our lawyers tell us as a public-benefit corporation, we could be acting in restraint of trade by failing to grade these stones and be legally vulnerable.”

Meanwhile, the announcement received a mixed reaction from manufacturers of synthetics.

Tom Chatham of Chatham Created Gems, whose family’s battles over nomenclature go back some 60 years, protested the use of the term “synthetic” in GIA’s grading reports.

“If the GIA truly has an official obligation to inform the public (and I think they do) and to provide information needed to make an informed decision, why would the GIA use a word so misunderstood by the trade and the consuming public?” he asked in a letter to acting GIA president Donna Baker. “Wouldn’t ‘Man-Made’ be more clearly understood? Or ‘Lab-Created?’”

Chatham continued, “If this decision stands, it will become obvious to me and my colleagues that the decision to inscribe created diamonds with the word ‘synthetic’ is a thinly veiled attempt to suppress the public’s understanding of what these products truly are: diamonds.”

Carter Clarke, co-chairman of Gemesis, a Sarasota, Fla., manufacturer of fancy yellow synthetic diamonds labeled “cultured,” agreed: “The fact that it is identified in some way as being man made would appear to be enough. Obviously, we do not like the word ‘synthetic’ since we feel it is misleading to the consumer. It is our belief that most consumers equate synthetic to fake. … But, at least, getting our stones graded by GIA is a step in the right direction.”

In response to the criticism, GIA president Donna Baker told JCK that the reports are being delayed until GIA hears from all stakeholders.

“GIA is going to continue the dialogue with individuals and companies on all sides of the synthetics question,” she said. “I think the reactions from different segments on all sides of this question were particularly strong. So we will take a step back, and we will consider carefully all of the views before going forward. We’ll continue the dialogue so that no one is surprised.”

Destino’s announcement caused the World Federation of Diamond Bourses to reverse the decision it made two years ago opposing reports for synthetic diamonds.

Later, at a press conference at the World Congress, leaders of the WFDB and International Diamond Manufacturers Association said they had no problem with the reports as long as the word “synthetic” was used. Some also suggested GIA use different nomenclature for color and clarity.