Appraising Dateline

I feel that in Rob Bates’s article (see “Dateline NBC Tackles Appraisals,” JCK, September 2005, p. 44), he could have pointed out to Dateline that diamond prices have risen so drastically in the past couple of years, the purchase price would not have covered the diamond for the minimum of three years that some insurance companies require updates on appraisals. Some don’t even require updates at all; some automatically increase jewelry coverage annually. The $10-per-year-per-thousand insurance cost is not much for an individual to pay in order to have full protection. Because of the Internet and local competition, the going retail price in Charlotte for a GIA well-cut round diamond is 10 percent below the list. Do they suggest that three years from now the diamond could be purchased for the same price?

I realize the comments were not yours, but a response of some type should be made. An appraised amount (within reason) that is above the purchase price is necessary for the client’s protection. Regardless of our government’s report on inflation, it is much greater than they admit.

Buddy Simon, President, Karat Patch Jewelry Charlotte, N.C.

Conflict of Interest?

The press coverage of the lawsuit filed by Max Pincione against the Gemological Institute of America and Vivid Collection, which alleges “payments” made to GIA to have two stones “upgraded,” has caused me to think more deeply about the critical nature of our trade’s relationship with GIA and its Gem Trade Laboratory.

I offer no opinion or comment on the lawsuit. The lawsuit simply brings to mind the fact that if the GIA were to stumble, and the value-added of GIA documentation were ever to be brought into serious question, it would be a major quake adversely affecting the diamond and jewelry industry as a whole.

This being the case, I was stirred to review a letter I had received from the GIA Gem Trade Laboratory written on Dec. 11, 2000, by Thomas C. Yonelunas, CEO.

According to the letter, GTL clients could have confidence in the integrity of the lab because of the provisions of the GIA Professional Ethics and Conduct Compliance Statement. This statement demands that all employees avoid situations which conflict, in any way, with GIA’s ability to serve the industry with professional integrity.

The tone and quality of the statement were all very proper and reassuring.

Then the final paragraph of the letter took a troubling turn. After insisting that no employees be influenced by gifts, I was informed that if I had “a gesture of support” in mind that there was another way, “Please contact the development officer.”

Does this not bring us back to the question of conflict of interest? Perhaps the issue is not significant for diverse contributions of small donations, but the larger a donation the bigger the possible conflict. So, if a donor firm makes a sizable contribution to GIA for “research” does this not accrue directly to the benefit of GTL employees in better equipment, job security, facilities, etc.? GTL management and employees no doubt know who the firms are that have made major research donations benefiting the Lab. It is only human for them to be more predisposed to attend to a concern of the head of such a donor firm who places a call to discuss having the Lab take a second look at a stone he thinks has been graded incorrectly.

In this circumstance, honesty and professionalism have the heavy burden of rectitude over time in spite of potential conflict of interest rather than in the absence of it. I make no insinuation that this observation relates directly to Pincione vs. GIA; moreover, GTL may have managed not to slip so far, but I feel that it is in a position designed sooner or later to fail, rather than to succeed.

For the appearance of propriety, I respectfully request that GIA review its policy on contributions for “research,” which directly or indirectly benefit GTL. The maintenance of the current system of soliciting large contributions from major firms will only undermine the independence of the entire system of certifying stones and, ultimately, consumer confidence in our industry.

Sylvain Ringer, President, Andico Diamond Inc. New York

Pearls of Wisdom

I have spoken to many of my customers who either attended the Pearl Panel in Las Vegas or read the review of the presentation in JCK (see “Pearl Panel Discusses Trends, Prices, Detection,” JCK, September 2005, p. 52). There are a few issues I need to address, because some of the retailers now seem to be confused about the role of the cultured pearl in their inventory.

I was happy to see that my friend Eve Alfillé was on the panel of experts and featured in the article. Eve has a wonderful passion for pearls, and I admire her efforts to promote them within her community. Yet, with all due respect, even among the best of friends, disagreements are sometimes encountered. The gallery that Eve owns is a unique situation in that she has spent time and energy educating her clients about pearls.

It is fairly common for retailers to sell and promote the type of jewelry that they personally favor. Her customers have been cultivated to seek the unusual, which is fine. However, I am concerned some retailers got the wrong impression from the panel’s presentation and the published review. While I have no doubt that some “customers don’t want their mother’s classic look,” that is not the sentiment of the general population. Eve’s extensive experience and promotional ideas are most definitely an asset to be shared with the audience, but I would say that her gallery is the exception and not the norm, and a clearer picture of mainstream America should have been presented as well.

I disagree with the approach that people are not interested in the classic look of cultured pearls. Unusual shapes and different colors represent 8 percent to 10 percent of pearl sales throughout the United States, while the majority of sales continue to be generated from the traditional necklace. It has been common knowledge for decades that pearls are the classics that endure the test of time, and I am sure most pearl dealers and retailers will agree.

In addition, when Eve speaks of the different types of pearls she uses, such as the Kasumiga pearls, it should be noted that the availability of these pearls is extremely limited, and basically they have only a minuscule role in the U.S. pearl-trading market. She also makes a very bold statement that the “mabe pearl is dead.” The mabe pearl, which tends to be on a roller coaster ride going up and down as fashions change, may be dead in her gallery, but we are seeing increased interest in them, and they are appearing in many designer lines. While we have few requests for the traditional mabe earrings of the ’60s and ’70s, we have seen an increase in the demand for mabe pearls from designers across the country. Mabe pearls present a large look without the large price tag.

I understand that trends differ from area to area across the country, but when a panel convenes to discuss a topic with a group representing many different influencing factors, the material presented should be more diverse rather than focusing only on one aspect of the matter. The bottom line is fashions come and go, trends change like the days of the week, but pearls always will be classics that endure the test of time.

Avi Raz, A&Z Pearls Inc. Los Angeles

Helping Children

All of the wonderful work done on behalf of children by the jewelry industry truly makes my heart sing.

I am a current GIA student, having just completed the diamond program. Prior to enrolling with GIA, I served as the children’s ombudsman for the state of Oregon between 1990 and 2004 as well as Oregon’s ombudsman director for all of the human-services programs.

I am very proud to have chosen a new career where the well-being of others, especially children, is a focus. When I am once again earning an income, I hope to participate in these activities.

Congratulations and kudos to all who participate in the children’s charities.

Gin A. Denison, Keizer, Ore.