Your Turn

Members of the jewelry industry are invited to submit their views, in long or short form, to George Holmes, JCK, 201 King of Prussia Rd., Radnor, PA 19089; fax (610) 964-4481, e-mail gholmes@chilton.net.

Protecting Jewelers’ Profits

Editor’s note: The following is a letter sent to Martin Rapaport of Rapaport Diamond Report.

We received with interest your request that we participate in a survey of marks that we apply to our finished diamond and precious stone jewelry which we sell exclusively to thousands of fine independently owned retail jewelers nation-wide. We note that the results of the survey are to be published in the Jewelers’ Circular Keystone, the Rapaport Diamond Report and other publications.

We decline to participate in your survey and would encourage all other jewelry manufacturers to do the same. We decline over concern that your survey of marks in the finished diamond jewelry industry will in the long run perform the same service as your Rapaport Diamond Report has done for the loose diamond industry. We speak specifically about the disastrous effect it has had on the ability of independently owned retail jewelers to profitably sell loose diamonds.

Your Rapaport Diamond Report, information from which as well as actual copies thereof having made their way into the public domain, has made the loose diamond business into a commodity industry in which the consumer goes from store to store looking for who is willing to sell a diamond at the least possible profit. Publication of your Diamond Report is no doubt highly profitable for your business, but highly damaging to the independently owned retail jeweler.

Watch and giftware sales are only marginally profitable for most independently owned retail jewelers, leaving only the sale of finished fine diamond and precious stone jewelry as a strong center of profitability for them. Undermining this profit center, while maybe very profitable from your point of view, would weaken the retail jewelers of this country and we do not see this as beneficial to anyone involved in our industry.

Lewis E. Sternberg, President Kaspar & Esh Long Island City, N.Y.

More on ‘Dateline’

The following is a copy of an e-mail letter sent to NBC Dateline in response to its program about fracture filling of gemstones and its disclosure. The only response received from Dateline was a form e-mail.

I viewed your show on the evening of Friday, November 21 about the problem of treated and enhanced colored gemstones. It was a good show and one that needed to be presented … especially since the colored gemstone, jewelry, and diamond trade has kept its head in the sand regarding disclosure.

I was, however, disappointed that Dateline only told part of the story. Yes, the proper disclosure of gemstone treatments is a major problem … however, there are many individual gemstone dealers and retail stores who do disclose to their clients all treatments and enhancements applied to any gemstone that they sell.

There are, as well, several trade organizations that require their members to disclose. These include the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) and the International Colored Stone Association (ICA). These organizations have spent a tremendous amount of time and money educating the trade, so that the retailer can properly educate and inform the consumer.

The AGTA in conjunction with other trade organizations publishes a manual for the trade. This manual describes the treatments used today and designates the minimum disclosure required by its members. These rules exceed the FTC guidelines for the disclosure of treatments and enhancements of gemstones.

The ICA, which just concluded its biannual conference in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, passed a resolution requiring its members internationally to disclose treatments. Disclosure is one of the most important issues for our trade, an issue that is almost always discussed at every major meeting.

Why, after spending so much time and money scaring the consumer, did you not take on the equally important responsibility of educating your audience? The consumer needs to know where to find and how to make sure that they are buying from a legitimate and honest retailer.

I have been a colored gemstone importer since 1981. I am an active member in both the AGTA and ICA. At the Brazilian conference, my main goal was to get the rules regarding disclosure passed. My company imports rough and faceted gemstones from Africa, South America and Asia. I feel it is very important that the proper information be provided to the consumer, whether the source be the retailer or the media.

The following are what I believe are the major errors in your story:

  • Dateline did not inform the consumer that, if it was not for gemstone treatments, the majority of Americans could not afford to buy the beautiful gemstones they own.

  • You did not present the jeweler’s side of the story regarding the fracture-filled emerald. Many of us are familiar with this case and your presentation was not fair or accurate.

  • The story indicated that oiling of emeralds was the accepted treatment and therefore OK. This is not the case! Oiling is one of the oldest treatments. This does not make it the best nor acceptable. There are many legitimate arguments in favor of Opticon or other methods of fracture filling stones over oil that is to the consumer’s advantage.

  • Full disclosure of all treatments and enhancements must always be made to the consumer regardless as to whether or not a specific treatment is “accepted” by the trade. This point was not made.

  • There was no substantial attempt by Dateline to profile the people, companies and organizations who are working hard at combating the deceptive practices in our trade.

  • There is not evidence, by the content of your show, that you contacted other legitimate colored stone dealers, retailers and trade organizations to discover what we are doing to protect, educate and inform the rest of the trade and ultimately the consumer.

This is not only a problem of the gemstone trade. Many (not all) of your examples were probably due to poor training of the sales staff in larger chain stores. This is the same problem you will find buying any retail item today. Stores are now merchandisers working on a slimmer profit and they do not take the time, nor do they care to train their staff. (I have found this problem buying cell phones, electronics, food, clothing, etc.)

Hopefully, in the future, when Dateline reports on issues relating to the consumer and consumer confidence, Dateline will commit itself to more thorough research. Especially by trying to determine if there is a pro-active membership, of that particular trade, who are actively engaged in trying to solve the particular problem that Dateline is reporting on.

Dana Schorr Schorr Marketing and Sales Santa Barbara, Calif.

EMERALD TREATMENT

Is the treatment of emeralds something new? In my over forty years in this trade, it is common knowledge that emeralds usually have been exposed to some form of enhancement in one form or another. This is not earth shattering news.

It is also common knowledge these forms of treatment are not forever. For example, oiling of emeralds is a treatment for emerald that is effective for a finite period of time and has been utilized by the industry for decades. In fact, I know of retailers that call their clients, advising them to visit their store, to see if their emerald needs to be re-oiled. A way to have consumers come back to your store.

Of late, new fillers, commonly referred to as “Opticon,” have been used by the emerald industry, in order to have the same effect, if not better, than oil, with an allegedly longer life span. It has been reported by treaters that fracture filling of emeralds will not only enhance the overall look of the emerald, [but also] will strengthen the stone itself, thereby causing the stone to be more durable than if it were not treated. If the treatment dissipates it should be re-treated.

It is our experience at I.G.I. that most of the emeralds that we test currently are “clarity enhanced.” That is, a foreign substance with a similar refractive index to that of emerald is introduced into surface-reaching features, resulting in reduced visibility of the surface-reaching characteristics. Typically, the substances used are oils or resins, either natural or synthetic, and it is not uncommon for more than one substance to be applied to an emerald. When an emerald or other gem material is submitted to I.G.I.’s Laboratory, along with the identification the laboratory discloses any treatment that is detected.

In the case of emeralds, it has been our experience, to date, that there is no non-destructive way of determining the specifics of the treatment substances or methods that have been used. Some limited advances in this area were recently reported by Hanni, Kiefert and Chalain in the Journal of Gemmology (Volume 25, no. 6, April 1997), and I.G.I. is currently involved in a research project investigating both the possibility of identifying filling substances and the relative durability of such treatments. It is our understanding from D. Kiefert of Swiss Gemmological Institute that a 70% to 80% success rate in identification of the fracture fillings [has] been achieved through the use of a Raman Microscope.

When clarity enhancement is detected in emeralds it is disclosed on I.G.I. reports with the comment: “Evidence of clarity enhancement is present.”

The end result to the consumer is that one would be able to afford to purchase a natural emerald that has been treated for less money than a similar stone not treated. A consumer with a limited budget is now able to afford an emerald that is treated. Could you imagine how limited the emerald industry would be if every emerald sold must not be treated? One might compare it to how limited the pearl industry was prior to culturing pearls. Yes, a seller of pearl must disclose if a pearl is natural or cultured per FTC. Another comparison would be the development of lab created emeralds, rubies and sapphires. The demand by the public for a popular priced counterpart of a natural stone to that of a created stone exists, thereby giving the consumer a choice. Of course, the jeweler must explain to the consumer what they are purchasing.

The majority of rubies and sapphires have been heat treated. How much more affordable is a treated stone to a similar stone not treated. If in the event of heating corundum, glass fills fractures open to the surface of the stone, intentionally or not, the answer is, inform the client. In other words, educate the client with regard to treatments.

The very nature of the word “disclose” implies something is possibly being hidden; my suggestion would be to explain, educate and inform the consumer regarding treatments. Allow the potential purchaser to make a choice, to purchase a treated or not treated stone. Know that some treatments are stable and some are not. Educate yourself, your employees and your customers. Professional jewelers must take responsibility for what they are selling.

What needs to be understood is that treatment must be disclosed to all parties, starting from the source. Secondly, if you are going to sell emer- alds, you must be responsible for knowing what you are selling. That is, if you do not have the knowledge to distinguish if an emerald is treated or not, submit the stone to an established gemological institute … Thirdly, have the seller of the stone disclose on the invoice any and all treatments or no treatments. This is standard procedure for AGTA members.

In summary, emeralds are here to stay. I do not see these treatments as a negative, if properly disclosed. The ability of the emerald industry to sell more emeralds than ever before is possible. Why not? Emeralds have never looked better.

Jerry Ehrenwald GG, ASA, ISA, AAA, NAJA International Gemmological Institute, New York, N.Y.

Buying Locally

A monthly magazine touting ideas for marketing executives, hence Potentials in Marketing, just released the results of a fairly large and scientifically conducted study. According to this study, $22.8 billion were unleashed by Corporate and Industrial America last year for motivational purposes. It is also a contention of this study that these results reflect merely 26% of total potential participants!

Probably of greatest interest is that 35% of this entire figure was generated when Corporate America ventured through the doors of retailers across the nation in order to purchase merchandise for motivational purposes!! This statistic was featured under the subtitle of a “A Troubling Trend.” According to an executive of the Society of Incentive & Travel Executives, incentive users purchase merchandise from local retailers because, “They find it comfortable and convenient, but they’re not taking advantage of the right opportunities.”

I would love to know if your readers find it troubling that Corporate America, which often receives tax considerations and abatements subsidized by local business, spent more than $7.6 billion at local retail establishments throughout the nation! I, for one, find it highly encouraging as should each and every retail jeweler sitting upon this gold mine.

As I reached the end of this article, which in essence should mark a “beginning” for all of us even peripherally involved in the retail jewelry industry, the gloves came off. The sponsors of this study have concluded that a major education campaign aimed at Corporate and Industrial America is next on their agenda. The obvious purpose is to encourage companies to by-pass retailers by dealing direct with incentive organizations.

Every retail jewelry store in America is worth more than just the sum of its departments! Regardless of how well timepieces, replacement services, engagement rings and precious gems are moving, who can afford to overlook or neglect this particular niche?

Yes, my company does owe its existence to providing everything need-ed to not only retain the corporate business that actively seeks you out, but to encourage and satisfy more corporate business as well. It is important to remember that Talisman did not instigate this plight in order to provide for itself the opportunity to sell a solution! The solution is free. This “plight” is a direct result of Corporate and Industrial America’s desire to do business on a local level.

Susan E. Wolford Talisman Grand Rapids, Mich.