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Rapaport Day at JCK Addresses 'New Realities'

Jun 7, 2011 2:03 PM   By Ricci Dipshan
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RAPAPORT... The JCK Las Vegas show opened Sunday with the annual Rapaport Conference hosted by Martin Rapaport, chairman of the Rapport Group, who delivered a speech on the state of the diamond industry.

“There is no normal,” Rapaport said describing a world that is “as complicated as it’s going to get,” one where the United States is no longer the “top player” in the diamond and jewelry industry. The explosive growth in China and India, he added, is driving diamond demand and leading to higher prices.

Globalization, technology and social networks have also created new realities and markets for new products.  Rapaport argued that companies that “surf the wave of change” and think strategically-- not operationally -- can succeed.  He also stressed the need to “support value by free, fair, honest, transparent, efficient and competitive markets,” and to create diamonds with “spiritual sparkle.”   

At the Rapaport Diamond Certification Conference, the challenges and future of certification and laboratories were discussed at length.  Rapaport hosted industry speakers including Peter Yantzer, executive director of American Gem Society (AGS) Laboratories, Jerry Ehrenwald, president of IGI North and South America, Ronnie VanderLinden, vice president of the Diamond Manufacturers & Importers Association of America (DMIA), and Don Palmieri, president of the Gem Certification and Assurance Lab (GCAL).

Rapaport opened the discussion by asking what the state of standards and certification was, and what needs to be done to improve these.  Many agreed that although the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) establishes a standard for the industry to follow, the growth of a variety of labs in the past 30 years has created many conflicting certifications that pander to the market.  “I don’t think it’s something [the labs] want to stop necessarily – when times are tough, retailers can make 10 or 20 percent extra [with more favorable certifications],” said Palmieri.  

Those on the panel conceded that all certification methods are going to be subjective unless greater technology is developed.  Ehrenwald was optimistic of this happening within the near future.  “Eventually within the next decade we will have machines that can grade color, clarity, and size,” he said.  There was consensus that there needs to be a communal effort to police laboratories so that they all adhere to similar standards and do not mislead customers.

The Rapaport Fair Trade Conference, held in the mid-afternoon, looked closely at how some in the industry were advancing fair trade ideas and discussed ways in which others might take up the more socially conscious practices.  “The issue of establishing fair and ethical trade in the diamond industry is probably one of the most important things you can imagine,” said Rapaport.

Session speakers included Toby Pomeroy, eco- friendly designer and founder of Toby Pomeroy, Eric Braunwart, president of Columbia Gem House, and John Hall, general manager of corporate relations for Rio Tinto.

There was  broad agreement on the need for transparency in all aspects of the supply chain before any real change could happen. “The only way we are going to address these issues is to be more upfront, more open about that,” said Braunwart.  Pomeroy added that fair trade is truly fair trade only when “we know where it was mined, we know where it was refined, and we know when it was sold.”

Rapaport asserted that the industry will start to promote sustainable fair trade only when there are economic incentives behind the effort – despite their good intentions, he argued, companies would be more motivated by profit, than altruism.  Indeed, agreed Hall, the consumer base was ripe for this type of change.  

“People are concerned about the origins of the things they buy – that certainly is a trend,” he said. “And this is a trend that is here to stay and particularly in the jewelry industry we need to very aware of how we approach this.” 
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Tags: AGS Laboratories, China, Design Center Top 50 Retailer Awards, Don Palmieri, economic, Eric Braunwart, gcal, Globalization, growth, IGI North and South America, India, JCK, JCK Las Vegas, Jerry Ehrenwald, jewelers, John Hall, of Gem Certification and Assurance Lab, President of Columbia Gem House, Rapaport, Rapaport Conference, Rapaport Diamond Certification Conference, Rapaport Fair Trade Conference, Ricci Dipshan, Rio Tinto, RJC Chain-of-Custody Certification event, Toby Pomeroy, u.s., World's Fair Cultural Ceremony
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