Diamonds are a very complex product due to their high degree
of quality and price differentiation. There are thousands of shape, size,
color, clarity and cut combinations traded in markets with restricted price and
availability information. In this environment, sellers are most often better
informed than buyers. In many instances, sellers utilize the inherent lack of
transparency to take advantage of buyers.
Essentially, there are two ways to cheat the customer: quality
and price. While many sellers will not lie outright to customers, most avoid
disclosing negative information. In many instances, buyers do not properly
investigate the authenticity of the products they sell nor the integrity of
their sources. They assume that the diamonds or jewelry products they buy and
sell are legitimate, when in fact they are not. A culture of “don’t ask, don’t
tell” has permeated the jewelry industry and evolved into a finger-pointing
game of “I didn’t know I was selling a treated, synthetic or under-carat
product” when the inevitable fraud, deception and misrepresentation is
Traditionally, the diamond industry has been built on trust.
But it’s now time to ask the hard questions. Can we trust our fellow diamond
dealers? Can we assume that the products we buy are legitimate? Can diamond
companies operating at the edge of profitability afford to be honest?
Let’s look at the facts.
- In the past few months, International Gemological
Institute (IGI) has confirmed that over 500 synthetic CVD diamonds have been
traded by legitimate companies without disclosure. Many thousands more are
undoubtedly in the market.
- Diamonds are being double and triple treated not just for
enhancement, but to deceive grading laboratories that sometimes do not catch
the treatments and grade the diamonds as natural.
- Diamond cutters are recutting lower-quality diamonds to
match higher-quality grading reports and selling them in the trade.
- Marange diamonds are routinely sold in violation of Office
of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctions along with other diamonds involved
in human rights abuses.
It’s time to recognize the truth. Diamonds and the people
who sell them have lost their “innocent until proven guilty” status. Diamond
dealers and jewelers do not have the right to assume the legitimacy of the
products they sell. It’s time for the jewelry trade to stop playing the “don’t
ask, don’t tell” game of false legitimacy. Trust without verification is a
The way forward requires implementation of the following
- Everyone is responsible for what they buy and sell.
- Buyers must proactively investigate the legitimacy of
their supply chain and verify the authenticity of the products they sell.
- Full and fair disclosure about product authenticity and
legitimacy must be made in writing.
Responsibility requires that sellers provide an immediate,
full, cash refund in the event of misrepresentation. Claims of “I did not know”
are unacceptable and a sign that the suppliers did not properly verify the
legitimacy of their supply chain and/or properly disclose limitations of
Buyers are also responsible for what they buy and are well
advised to require their suppliers to make a commitment of authenticity by
writing “Natural Untreated Diamonds” on all invoices. While the invoice
statement may shift the financial responsibility, it does not solve the ethical
and reputational problem. What woman wants to hear that her diamond is
synthetic, especially after paying full retail price?
Frankly, it’s time for buyers to be proactive and have “The
Talk” with their suppliers regarding their supply chain. If your supplier is
unwilling to investigate his supply chain for the products he sells to you
and/or is unwilling to provide a written guarantee of the authenticity and
legitimacy of the diamonds he is selling you, it’s time to get another
The Rapaport Group is moving forward with our efforts to
support and enable an ethical jewelry supply chain. These efforts include our
Campaign for Ethical Jewelry at ethicalpledge.com and plans for the ethical
diamond certification. We will also be introducing new RapNet trading rules and
identification procedures designed to enforce ethical trading and fair
While advanced laboratory technology and procedures may help
us verify the authenticity of some diamonds, they cannot prevent the thieves in
our midst from coming up with new ways to cheat us and our customers. Many of
us are excellent at sorting diamonds. It’s time we got excellent at sorting the
people we do business with and separate the good people from the bad people.
It’s time for you to call your supplier and find out where your diamonds come
The diamond business isn’t really about diamonds; it’s about
the people in the diamond business. It’s about consumer confidence in the
integrity of the trade. For in the end, after all is said and done, our
diamonds are only as good as we are.
Article from the Rapaport Magazine - June 2012. To subscribe click here.