Rapaport Magazine

Count Me Out

Letter to Editor

By Rapaport
RAPAPORT... To the Editor,

At the recent CIBJO Congress in Cape Town, South Africa, terminology, nomenclature and disclosure were again discussed. There is now a new generation of younger delegates attending the Congresses, but they seem to cover the same old ground. As one who has been actively involved in these debates for well over a quarter of a century, I find it puzzling that almost everything has changed in our industry, except our prejudices.

We seem to have evolved our own language in the gem, diamond and pearl trade, assume that everybody understands what we are saying and, when problems arise, our immediate response is to “educate the end user, or the consumer.” But when we talk about educating the public, we are saying that six billion people should relearn the meaning of the words in the way that a few hundred thousand gemologists and people in our trade wish to use them. Surely, it should be the other way round.

Let me try to explain. Many in the trade now wish to use synonyms for the word “treated.” What they never question is why the word “treated” was picked in the first place as being the only correct term to use. We “treat” people who are sick, we “treat” worm-infected wood, we “treat” our guests to a party, we “treat” each other correctly. Telling a consumer that he is buying a treated ruby will make him think that he is buying a stone that was diseased at some time in the past. There is nothing special about the word treated. When we explain to the public how we in the trade use the word treated, we have to use some other word such as enhanced, or modified or processed for him to understand; no one word takes precedence over the others. There is no correct term in this instance.

The latest point of debate concerns synthetic diamonds and the correct term to use for them. I chaired the Diamond Commission at the CIBJO Congress in Cape Town. For three days before the meeting, I was canvassed by many in the trade to advocate the words they wanted to use. There were those who wanted only the word “synthetic” used. Others wanted “laboratory grown,” “man-made” and “laboratory created,” as well as “factory made.” Others wanted the word “cultured” to be used. When asked to justify their demands, some argued that the different terms could translate differently depending on the language —synthetic translates to artificial, man-made means made out of bodily human parts, man-made means crafted. Synthetic stones are not made in laboratories, but in factories. We cannot use the word synthetic because synthesis means bringing together two different substances. The laboratories complained that laboratory grown will make people think gemological laboratories make synthetic diamonds. The term cultured will confuse the public into thinking they are buying something real.

The only rational conclusion is that they are all wrong; or better, none are completely right; or, they are all correct if the end user understands that he is buying a man-made product and not a natural stone.

We have a further complication with the grading of synthetic stones. The trade has worked hard to convince the laboratories that they should produce “different” looking grading reports for synthetic diamonds, as opposed to those for natural stones. They should be in a different color, and the terminology used should be different between the two types — for example, the use of descriptive terms instead of letters to indicate color. This is commendable for the trade, but the assumption is made that the end user knows what a grading report for a natural stone looks like.

The end user will probably buy only one graded diamond in his life. It will be the first time he sees a grading report. He will not know that different colors are used as a differentiation; he will not know that a G-color stone is a white stone.

To tell a person, using a grading report, that he is buying a synthetic stone, all we have to do is write very clearly that it is a synthetic stone. To explain that term, we have to tell him that it is man-made, and so on. We must explain the word “cultured” if this term is used, and again, we have to use terms such as man-made and so on. So no one term is universally correct, and no term takes precedence over the other.

What will happen is that consumers will want a certificate to ensure that they are buying a natural diamond. Synthetic diamonds may need some sort of certificate to differentiate them from other man-made diamond simulants, such as cubic zirconia and moissanite.

If we really want to be a transparent trade, we must use language in the way that our customers understand. The trade may give guidelines, but for the trade to demand a unique terminology and unique methods of disclosure is presumptuous, unless we are willing to make the whole of society understand our usage of terms, which is an impossible task.

Harry Levy
Levy Gems Co.
London, England

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - May 2007. To subscribe click here.

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