Grading Reports: A New Opportunity

The long-term effects of the GIA-grading- report scandal remain to be experienced. Many in the trade are waiting for the other shoe to drop. So far, we’ve seen the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal give the story prominent coverage. The other shoe will be if 60 Minutes uses the opportunity to “expose” yet another example of dishonesty in the jewelry business.

The mess gives retail jewelers an opportunity to rethink their brand positioning and the importance and use of grading reports. There is an opportunity here to focus on the jeweler’s own technical competence as the primary unique selling proposition (USP), as opposed to the use of lab reports.

Here are some ideas to consider:

One:Address the question of nomenclature. Grading reports are not certificates. Yet, using the word “certificate” or “cert” is second nature to many in the business. A grading report is one grader’s evaluation of a diamond. Neither the lab nor the grader certifies the precision of the grading report. It is an informed evaluation by a trained individual. It’s an opinion. In contrast, your qualifications can be much more specific and impressive.

Two:Recognize that your store and your reputation are why consumers walk through your front door in the first place. Your brand name is the unique selling proposition, or should be. Your store—not a lab—is the ultimate guarantor of the products you sell. The story line to the consumer could go like this: “I am a graduate of (GIA, AGS, DCA) and have X years’ experience evaluating diamonds. I personally inspect and independently grade all the diamond and gemstone products that come into my store to ensure that they’re what I want. Every diamond I purchase is first graded by me and is verified by an independent third-party laboratory. Additionally, all the members of my staff have taken and passed rigorous diamond-grading courses from (GIA, AGS, DCA). We do all this to assure every customer that knowledgeable, competent, independent appraisals are performed on the diamond products we sell.”

How is it possible that the grading report has become the USP instead of your reputation for trust, integrity, quality, and service? You let it happen. It’s time to refocus the message on your USP, not the lab’s.

Three:Review and update your own credentials and those of your staff. Professional credentials provide your staff with knowledge and confidence as well as a powerful competitive weapon in positioning your store’s marketing message. To think that you can rely on courses taken years ago is a delusion. It’s time to consider a continuing-education program.

As has been said for politics, advertising, and sales: They’re all local. A scandal affecting a national gem-grading laboratory need not affect your store—if you have the right story.