Helzberg Diamonds to Join AGS

Helzberg Diamonds is in the process of joining the American Gem Society, the 234-store chain confirmed to JCK.

“Our culture and philosophy is in total alignment to that of the AGS: protection of the consumer; ensuring a well-trained, educated, and professional staff; and demonstrating the highest integrity in everything we do,” says Helzberg CEO Beryl Raff.

Observers see this as a sign that the mall retailer is moving upscale, and seeking a way to distinguish itself from competitors like Sterling. But one retailer—Brian Denney of Denney ­Jewelers in Springfield, Ill.—worries about AGS going “mass market” and lowering its ­standards. “Helzberg is purchasing a reputation built by others,” says Denney, who resigned from AGS in protest. “Ultimately, the reputation of the American Gem Society is derived not by the organization itself, but rather the firm members [and] their reputations.”

AGS executive director and CEO Ruth Batson counters that Helzberg will have to fulfill the same requirements that all other AGS members must meet. “The process of becoming a member firm involves input and voting from other AGS members.

It is a proven process with integrity,” she says, adding that Helzberg has “passed the application process and is currently earning almost 200 AGS titles to ­finalize their membership status.”

The Kansas City, Mo.–based Helzberg is owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Corp. The two other retail jewelers owned by Berkshire—Ben Bridge and Borsheims—are already AGS members.

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