Debbie Azar, co-founder and CEO of Gemological Science International (GSI), sat down with Professional Jeweller to talk all things GSI.

The lively conversation covered points such as plans for the opening of a new office, the organisation’s diamond-grading reports, and the importance of a ‘quality over quantity’ mindset in the industry now more than ever.

What is GSI and what is its purpose?


Gemological Science International (GSI) is one of the largest gemological organisations in the world with 13 laboratories globally. GSI focuses on research, education, grading and certification of natural diamonds and laboratory-grown diamonds as well as coloured gemstone identification and origin.

In early 2005, Mark Gershburg and I founded GSI together as a new and innovative lab designed to leverage new technologies, improve trade efficiencies, enhance consumers’ experience, and meet the rapidly changing needs of the jewellery industry in the 21st century.

We are committed to advancing gemological research and to offer educational programs for trade professionals at all levels.

What have you been doing over the last 12 months while the world has been shut down?

Since our laboratories are global we have had to manage them all accordingly. Some had to shut down for a bit, some had to work from home, and others remained open with limited staff.

During the down time, we were able to focus more on research and education. We developed some new educational initiatives that we launched in the beginning of the year, as well as some research articles that we plan to publish soon.

Do you have any forecasts for the coming year in the industry?

I hope the increase we have seen in the past months of diamonds and jewellery sales will continue.

After such a challenging year people want to continue to look for ways to treat and spoil themselves or loved ones and are buying jewellery and other luxury items.

Historically, gold and diamonds have always been associated with stability and for that reason I believe our industry will continue to see strong sales.

Can you explain GSI’s recent lab-grown diamond screening and detection service, and why it came about?

In March 2020 GSI was the first gemological laboratory to announce that it would start to disclose growth method and any post-growth enhancements (or lack thereof) on its grading reports for laboratory-grown diamonds.

As a result, all laboratory grown diamonds and jewellery that are submitted to GSI laboratories globally for certification go through a specific, controlled process.

In the past several months during our routine grading of laboratory-grown diamond jewellery, our team of experts have come across natural diamond melee mixed into lab-grown diamond jewellery on numerous occasions.

As an industry, we have trained our focus on the undisclosed laboratory-grown diamonds and their detection, especially melee.

It is counterintuitive to think about natural diamonds being mixed in with laboratory-grown diamonds. However, it’s something we are seeing more frequently.

Why exactly is it so important to provide transparency over this issue? Why do you think customers are increasingly demanding it?

Transparency for the post-COVID-19 consumer is going to be more important than ever. People will be monitoring and assessing each and every purchase with strict vigilance.

This pandemic, often compared to the Great Depression in its economic impact, has put things in perspective and has proven to many that quality over quantity reigns.

I think it’s important to provide transparency over this issue because we need to make sure that all diamonds and jewellery – natural or lab-grown – are accurately represented to the consumer.

We generally base disclosure on value. If something costs less, it is worth less. If something is worth less, it should not be represented as something worth more.

Natural diamonds being mixed in with laboratory-grown diamonds [is] something we are seeing more frequently.”

Think of it like buying leather shoes. If a shoe-buyer prefers leather, and they find out it is synthetic leather, they would be understandably upset.

If a shoe-buyer prefers leather but buys synthetic leather shoes because of the price point to then later discover their shoes were genuine leather, they would see it as a bonus.

However, if a shoe-buyer buys synthetic leather shoes because they are vegan, only to find out the shoes are leather later, they would be upset.

It is not for us to decide what the consumer prefers, but rather, it is our responsibility to disclose fully what they are considering buying so they can make a clear, informed choice.

Can you reveal any other future plans for GSI?

We are in the process of opening a new office! Our research team is also working on some articles about some of our advanced projects and research that will be published soon.

In addition, we have some new research projects in the pipeline that will be beneficial to the entire industry. We hope to announce more details in the coming weeks.

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