Parsing Diamond Quality

Shakespeare penned these immortal lines in Romeo and Juliet: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other word would smell as sweet.”

Currently there is a swelling chorus from some in the diamond community at wholesale and retail to add a new diamond quality in the SI category. It’s being promoted as SI3. Undoubtedly, this demand is sparked by the negative connotation associated with “I” goods. So a clever marketer figured that parsing existing diamond qualities would be the way around the problem (or, in today’s politically correct climate, “issue”).

This reflects a wider societal problem: an unwillingness to pass judgment. Everything is relative. Judgmental is bad. “Can’t we just get along?” “Let’s get this behind us and move on.” “It depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is.” Each of these contemporary statements illustrates our world’s difficulty with the clear meaning of words and standards.

There is a significant difference between marketing a product and using technical terms to describe the product, and it’s bad business to confuse the two. When Richard Liddicoat established the various diamond grades at the Gemological Institute of America, his objective was to define the language that industry professionals would use to communicate. The terminology became part of the standards that industry professionals around the world use to evaluate diamonds. Clear terminology is essential.

I spent more than eight years at ArtCarved in sales and marketing management, and three of those years as president. During that time, the company faced the continual problem of marketing different diamond grades. It was always a matter of price pressure from the sales organization. The price pressure in turn came from ArtCarved’s retail jewelry clients. Rather than trying to change the quality grades, the company offered different product names to the various grades offered. Over a period of time the grades changed from Americana (VS goods) to Eternal (SI goods) to some other name that reflected the market’s demand for “I” goods. Keepsake followed the same course with its various quality grades.

It’s good marketing to develop new products to reflect the customer’s demands for quality and price. It’s good marketing to give products names. They are easy for sales personnel and consumers to remember. They have a certain panache to them.

From a technical perspective, confusing or running quality grades into one another is just plain wrong. It is not smart marketing. It is not smart retailing. It is bad business. Once again, it suggests that jewelers and the jewelry industry play games with objective standards by which the products are evaluated by knowledgeable professionals. What’s next? VVS3 and VVS4 ? VS3 and VS4 ? Let’s not go there.

A rose by any other word would smell as sweet, but an SI3 is just a plain old “I” dressed up as a rose. And that just doesn’t pass the smell test!