AGTA responds to Dateline

There has been considerable concern within the last few days regarding the consequences of the Dateline show “Romancing the Stone,” which aired on Nov. 21 on NBC. We all were disappointed with the content of the show, as well as the timing.

While there are numerous points of dispute over the content of the program, I think we must keep in mind the nature of the beast with which we are dealing. Dateline is a “newsmagazine” format show which tends to sensationalize issues, make selective presentations of facts and rely heavily on emotional content rather than an objective reporting of the facts.

This does not, however, lessen the show’s potential impact on our businesses. Please understand that the office of the AGTA and the Board of Directors has been aware from the beginning that the show was in the offing, and we tried repeatedly to be allowed to provide input toward its content. We worked directly with the show’s producers on a constant basis, even to the extent of informing them of our concerns by way of certified mail.

It is always disappointing to see our industry presented as an unflattering caricature, yet arguing the program’s salient misstatement of facts or criticizing its slanted approach probably won’t do us much good, if any. We must, however, do everything we can to combat the potential negative fallout from this unfortunate event. We have and we will continue to request that Dateline air AGTA’s official response to the show. We have encouraged our members to remind their clients that the purpose of the AGTA is the ethical promotion of natural colored gemstones. The reason jewelers and manufacturers should seek out AGTA members as a source of colored gems is because they are assured of getting the enhancement information they need to make a proper presentation of colored gemstones to their customers.

AGTA appreciates that Dateline did indeed shop at several jewelry firms of undeniably excellent repute and, unfortunately, they were not given the proper enhancement information. If there is a valid point that was made by the show, it is that there are many individuals working on the front lines in our industry who are not disclosing gemstone enhancements properly, if at all. While most of us would argue that this omission results from a lack of knowledge rather than from an attempt to deceive the customer, we cannot deny that it is obviously happening and that it is obviously wrong. Retail jewelers must correct this situation if colored gemstones are to maintain their appropriate status within the jewelry consumer’s consciousness.

AGTA requires its members to disclose any treatments to a gemstone on all commercial documents, using the industry accepted code listed in the Gem Enhancement Manual if the information is too unwieldy to write out in full. The Manual was printed in our 1998 Source Directory and mailed to 28,000 members of our industry. We are additionally attempting to enlighten our customers, jewelers and manufacturers, through the presentation of several seminars and hands-on displays at the Tucson GemFair which address both the identification and the proper presentation of enhancement information at the consumer level.

Also at the GemFair, we will have a gemstone enhancement disclosure brochure available for jewelers to use as an over-the-counter sales tool. In the near future we will have completed our How to Sell Colored Gemstones & Cultured Pearls Manual, targeted to the jewelry sales associate. We will continue to work unilaterally… [and] with other organizations within our industry to develop educational materials that the industry can use to understand and promote the proper disclosure of all gemstone treatments.

It is interesting to note that it was exclusively retail jewelers whom Dateline chose to single out for its shopping spree. One can almost imagine the collective sigh of relief from the colored gemstone wholesale industry mingling with the occasional pronouncement that “retailers just aren’t doing their job.” While it would be easy to say that the responsibility of disclosure in our industry falls squarely on the shoulders of the retail jeweler, this would also ignore the fact that an open discussion and disclosure of treatments has been entirely lacking in our industry as a whole.

At the AGTA GemFair in Tucson this February, we will convene a meeting of all of the most prominent gem laboratories of the world, along with the leaders of the international gem community. The purpose of this summit is to address the industry’s need for consistent reporting and phraseology with respect to the myriad of treatments that are being used in gemstones, and to establish a mechanism for regular conferences whereby this dialog can be maintained. We desperately need to encourage the scientific and academic representatives of our community to develop better, simpler and less expensive techniques for us to be able to recognize and discriminate between the many enhancements we encounter.

We must all agree to make a concerted effort to focus our industry’s resources to implement an ongoing educational forum directed to the consumer. Once the consumer is made aware of the prevalence and the benign nature of enhancement in gemstones, and can appreciate the accepted parallels that exist in other luxury items, our lives will become much less complicated. Then we can return to the time when showing a client a special colored gemstone was an event filled with joy and pleasure rather than one fraught with apprehension and trepidation.

Nanette Forester, board of directors Douglas Hucker, executive director American Gem Trade Association III