Here We Go Again…

Diamonds are again in the media spotlight, creating confusion for consumers and angst for the jewelry industry. And, once again, the angst comes not from the issue itself so much as the sensationalized way it’s been addressed.

The cover story of the September issue of WIRED magazine features a diamond-clad model, while the screaming headline “The New Diamond Age” implies that the industry is about to change radically. The article addresses recent developments in the carbon vapor deposit (CVD) method of creating synthetic diamond (see Diamond Notes, p. 46). And a recent episode of Good Morning America did its level best to scare would-be consumers into believing there’s a synthetic-diamond hoodwink waiting to happen at every jeweler’s counter. (See “Up Front,” p. 26.)

“[W]ith only a typical jeweler’s tools, these experts couldn’t tell which of our stones was the ringer,” GMA‘s Greg Hunter warned ominously. No kidding. Of course the “typical jewelers’ tools”—loupe, diamond tester, and microscope—can’t detect a synthetic stone, any more than a doctor can diagnose a serious illness using only a stethoscope and a tongue depressor. The fact that the proper equipment can detect synthetic stones was mentioned (the news is supposed to be accurate, isn’t it?) but was glossed over and given a negative spin. Pity the poor consumer who has to send a stone to a gemological lab. Pity also the poor patient who has to get an X-ray to determine why he feels bad.

There’s no point crying foul, angry as these reports make us. If it’s any consolation, we who are members of the media as well as part of the jewelry industry get even angrier because we see the principles of ethical journalism—to which we do our best to adhere—being thrown out the window. Unfortunately, sensationalism sells. Ratings affect the bottom line, and in far too many instances the bottom line has become more important than ethics and truth.

This industry can’t force the media to change their approach, but we can change how we react. The development of gem-quality synthetic diamonds in commercially viable sizes and quantities is a watershed event that could have serious implications for our industry on many fronts. But the public front—i.e., the issue of trustworthiness and whether these stones will slip unnoticed into the supply chain—is the easiest to address.

The solution to media mudslinging is to be proactive and to behave in a manner that leaves no room for criticism. The key players in the CVD issue have done so. The stones are clearly marked (to someone who has the proper equipment), and the manufacturers are cooperating with gem labs to ensure proper identification techniques are understood.

A retail jeweler’s responsibility is to know with whom he or she is doing business, make sure all suppliers understand that full disclosure of CVD stones or any treatment of any stone is mandatory in order to make the sale, and cease doing business with any supplier that doesn’t provide full disclosure. Jewelers also have to be able to comfortably and without apology explain to customers—in layman’s terms—the processes of both synthetic gem creation and gem treatment, and how both differ from natural untreated gems.

Whether the advent of CVD diamonds will dramatically alter the fortunes of the diamond industry is a topic for future discussion. Thankfully, however, the issue of whether it’s going to further erode public trust is something we can take care of right away.

hschupak@reedbusiness.com