The Assay Office Birmingham’s academy director, Marion Wilson, led a discussion at International Jewellery London 2015 on the problems the industry face today regarding diamond grading.
Highlighting how untrustworthy diamond grading affects the whole industry she called on London Diamond Bourse president Harry Levy, Swag Jeweller’s head of buying Adam Gillary, F. Hinds director and diamond buyer Andrew Hinds and White Pine’s UK head of valuation Marie Chalmers to discuss the issues they face.
Harry Levy kicked off with a brief history of diamond grading, explaining how at first it was just a means of communicating with local diamond buyers, but soon became an international thing and in turn, an international problem.
As more laboratories started grading diamonds, the more variety of grades became available. With no industry regulations for grading diamonds, laboratories were – and still are – able to grade softly.
At the recent WFDB conference held in Israel it was suggested that EGL are the worst culprit.
Andrew Hinds explained how bad diamond grading affects his business in a mass market High Street jeweller. He said that the problem is customers will go around jewellers and see different certificates of what they see as the same grade and different prices, but the reality is some have been given a more generous grade than a trustworthy diamond grader – like the GIA – would give.
“We need to educate everybody and persuade as many as possible to do the right thing,” Hinds said. “We feel there is a language of grades that is half understood, but the chances of them [customers] understanding that different laboratories grade differently is small and therefore they get enticed by lower prices and higher grades.”
Retailers who are using trustworthy diamond graders are losing out to those who stock stones that look better on paper but not in appearance.
Adam Gillary expressed the same concerns and suggested that it is up to those along the supply chain that do question the grade a diamond has been given to not buy the stone, or rip up the certificate and sell it as uncertified.
“It’s a big mater of trust,” Gillary. “It’s about honesty and integrity with customers as well.”
Both Hinds and Gillary said F. Hinds and Swag would refuse a stone if it has been oversold.
Marie Chalmers spoke of her experience in a business that recycles diamonds. White Pine is one of the largest recycled buyers. Chalmers explained how the company only works with buyers who are GIA trained.
The biggest problem she faces as someone who meets customers to values their diamonds is that often she has to break it to them that the stone is not what the certificate they have says it is.
Chalmers said: “The problem I face is when I deal with the public the consumer has a piece of paper and I have to tell them it’s not accurate. Then they ask why they should believe me and I have a lot of work to do to persuade them.”
She added: “9 out of 10 customers will then say they will never buy a diamond again.”
When customers find out that there are issues within diamond grading, they lose trust in retailers and in the beauty of the stone itself. This is not a nice experience for the retailer or the customer.
Wilson summed up from these comments saying that one of the biggest down falls with diamond grading is that there are no industry standards and that other hands in the supply chain need a better understanding of these issues.
Levy explained: “The trade hasn’t educated itself or the consumer and that is where we are at fault.” He went on to say that although it is not a popular opinion he believes that perhaps it is time for technology to grade diamonds.
Gillary agreed saying “it shouldn’t be that difficult to tell the colour of a stone”.
Hinds added: “I think we will really struggle to get consumers to question diamonds s they don’t buy diamonds enough. We have to start from the centre, with bodies such as CIBJO.”
Wilson concluded by asking the question – could we ever go back to selling a stone on beauty and not a grade?
All the panellist said that this was extremely unlikely but agreed that something needs to change.