Nomenclature Controversy

After years of arguing over nomenclature issues and spending millions of dollars in advertising to remedy negative impressions, I have concluded that the biggest problem the created gemstone producers have in this industry are journalists who refuse to report in an accurate and unbiased manner.

I have just finished reading “Gemology’s Outer Limits” (JCK, June 1999, p. 126) by Rob Bates. I tried to help Rob before the story was written, and he ignored my input. He also did not accurately quote me or follow recognized gemological definitions.

It is no wonder our industry is filled with nomenclature problems when reporters use words and phrases because they sound good but are misleading. I refer to the word “annealing.” I corrected Rob before he wrote the piece, and I corrected him after. Who came up with the word annealing? Rob said it was De Beers. That’s like asking the “natural colored stone” dealers, an oxymoron itself, what word they like for treatments that change a 5-cent stone to a $500 stone. “Enhancement”? Sounds great.

Annealing has nothing to do with diamonds; it never did and does not today. Annealing, while it rolls off the tongue nicely, is applicable only to metals and glass and specifically refers to the process of removing stress. Nowhere in the dictionary does it refer to removing color in diamonds.

Further on, the author states that this treatment changes the “molecular structure” of a diamond “but doesn’t add anything artificial to the stone.” He is taking a quantum leap of journalistic license with that statement.

Journalists and the trade magazines they work for have a responsibility to the industry they serve to be accurate and unbiased. Making up new definitions and coining fancy words is how we got the nomenclature problems in the first place.

In regard to the inaccurate quoting, my diamond project has not been “shelved for now.” It has had problems getting up to speed in building the pilot model we need to go to the street and raise the $50 million required to be in full production. Slowed down? Sure. Shelved? No.

Furthermore, why can’t magazines extend the same courtesy and positive unbiased writing skills they do for the pearl industry, as in “cultured” pearl? Rarely has an industry product been so maligned by language as the created gemstone has. The negative word “synthetic” was used 40 times in a three-page story! And to add insult to injury, I am now a “synthetic gem whiz” and “all synthetics are artificial.” Gee, thanks.

It is writing like this that is damaging and maligning the efforts of a growing jewelry category, created gemstones. Does the magazine want us to fail in business? How many ads and speeches will it take to erase the effect of so many negative “synthetic” imprints in the minds of your readers? Did Carroll Chatham waste four years of his life winning the right to use the term “created” only to have trade magazines totally ignore that benchmark? Is there something I am missing here? High-pressure-treated diamonds are just “annealed”; cooked and irradiated stones are only “enhanced”; cultured pearls of any type or quality are just “pearls”; but a Chatham created gemstone, or any other lab-grown gemstone, can only be a “synthetic.” I think I get the point. Thanks.

Tom Chatham President

Chatham Created Gems Inc.

San Francisco

Rob Bates responds:

Mr. Chatham says that I “made up” and “coined” the word “annealing.” In fact, the term is in the GIA Diamond Dictionary and has been used by executives from De Beers—most recently by Gary Ralfe at the World Federation of Diamond Bourses Presidents’ Meeting in Moscow in July.

As for why we used “synthetic,” it is not because our “magazine wants [him] to fail in business” or because I am “biased,” but because it is a recognized term, used by the leading experts in the field. Chatham complains that I call synthetic diamonds “artificial” (“Made by man rather than occurring in nature”—American Heritage Dictionary), but he doesn’t quote the complete sentence, which I repeat here: “By contrast, synthetics are all artificial—although they are diamonds, just grown in the lab, not in nature.”

Mr. Chatham complains of “misquoting” but objects to only one sentence out of many. I’m not sure there’s much linguistic difference between what I reported (“shelved for now—although Chatham says he’s still interested”) and what he acknowledges (“problems getting up to speed in building the pilot model we need to go to the street and raise the $50 million required to be in full production. Slowed down? Sure.”), but now the record stands corrected.

The other terms that appear in Mr. Chatham’s letter—“enhancements” and “cultured”— don’t appear in my article, so I’m puzzled why he chose to bring them up here.

Staying Safe

Outstanding! That’s the only way that I can describe the June issue’s special section titled “Protecting Yourself.” I congratulate writers Barbara Spector, Bill Shuster, and Miles Epstein for their balanced and comprehensive presentation of this topic. Not only that, but also the articles were interesting. The use of real-life stories made them fast reads with hard-hitting lessons.

The editor’s page article entitled “The One Thing Jewelers Shouldn’t Carry” was icing on the cake. It summarized all the key points of the gun issue, from both perspectives, and arrived at the only safe conclusion: Don’t buy a gun, buy insurance.

We hope that many jewelers read and consider the statistics, examples, and perspectives presented in the June issue and come to the very same conclusion: “No amount of merchandise is worth the life of a single innocent person.”

Sue Fritz Director, Corporate Communications Jewelers Mutual Insurance Co. Neenah, Wis.

Get Ready for New TV Exposés

The International Gemological Symposium in San Diego last June was surprising. Fear and anger were everywhere. That was because of one thing: the General Electric-Lazare Kaplan processed diamonds (see “Mystery Diamond Treatment Dominates GIA Symposium,” p. 92).

GIA called for calm, but I have a warning. The annealing of diamonds, which I think is what GE is doing, has been around since the 1970s, and it’s possible that diamond dealers have been annealing and not disclosing for a long time. Moreover, the Russians have been aggressively annealing for the last three years.

This is relevant to independent jewelers because exposés on the TV newsmagazines are inevitable this Christmas season. This is a juicy story for the likes of Diane Sawyer. What will you tell the local media when they call for reaction and comment? Prepare your spin on annealing now, and be ready to defend your integrity.

Henry F. Kennedy Freehold, N.J.

(Kennedy, who has given lectures on diamonds at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, stages in-store diamond exhibits for jewelers.)


The article “De Beers Appoints New Millennium Sightholders” (JCK, June 1999, p. 21), misstated the number of limited-edition De Beers Millennium diamonds. The correct number is 20,000.

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