Retailers Sound Off on Lab-Grown Diamonds, Sourcing

December 19, 2017  |  Rachelle Bergstein  |  SPONSORED BY: Diamond Producers Association

Retailers weigh in with their insights on lab-grown diamonds, responsible sourcing, and more.

“We use natural, responsibly sourced diamonds because we believe there is one world we live in, and we’d better take care of it. It’s everybody’s responsibility, and we work very hard to ensure that the things we do and the vendors that supply us have the same philosophy. Most of our vendors are members of the Responsible Jewellery Council [RJC], and we deal with sightholders when it comes to diamonds, almost exclusively.

We’ve been a Forevermark jeweler for over four years. Forevermark and De Beers are passionate about conservation and repatriating on the grounds where they mine. For every acre De Beers mines, they repatriate five acres. We respect that a lot, and that’s why we continue to work with them.

“Mining has gotten a bad rap, which historically may have been true, but it’s just not true anymore. That message has to get out to the consumer. Young people today are rightly very conscientious about keeping the world environmentally safe. We want to let them know that we believe in that and are part of it.

“I also want them to know that lab-grown diamonds are sending out a message that’s not accurate: ‘Lab-grown is green, and mining is not.’ It’s absolutely wrong. It takes an awful lot of energy to grow lab-grown diamonds. There are a lot of things being done now to keep mining as clean as possible and to clean up after the process is done. Millions of people have jobs they wouldn’t have if it weren’t for mining, so there’s a great story to be told, and honestly, I don’t think the industry is doing a good enough job of telling it.”

Harvey Rovinsky

Owner Bernie Robbins Jewelers, New Jersey & Pennsylvania

“Much of our business comes from millennials, particularly young couples choosing an engagement ring. They come in the store together and want to be engaged in the entire process of sourcing and designing their rings. They really like to learn.

“What we provide has become what I call a gemological service. We try to fully educate our customers. The GIA is 10 minutes away, and we encourage them to go. They ask a lot of questions and are concerned about the source of their diamonds.

“A normal question is, ‘How can we be sure we don’t have a blood diamond?’ Those are the words they choose, unfortunately. We tell them we would never sell them anything we wouldn’t be comfortable wearing ourselves. We provide information on the different jewelry associations we deal with and the companies we do business with. We tell them the companies we work with have made ethical pledges to be a part of those organizations. We share as much information as we can from the trade.

We are up-front; if you want 100% certainty of your source, you should buy a Canadian diamond. We provide the GIA report, which adds a level of comfort. If they still have concerns, sometimes we suggest using a recycled diamond from a family member. Other times, we’ll talk about colored stones from Australia.

“We work hard for our customers. It is no longer a sales flip. It adds about 30 to 45 minutes to a sale. It’s a lot of time, but we enjoy it…They become forever customers, and all of our customers have referred someone to us.”

Gracie Hays

Co-Owner, The Gem Garden, San Marcos, California

“Responsible sourcing is a vital topic in the trade today and amongst consumers. At its root it means knowing what your goods are and where they come from and ultimately passing along that confidence and peace of mind to your customer.

Responsible sourcing encompasses compliance with the Kimberley Process, Dodd Frank Conflict Minerals provision, Anti Money Laundering laws, Made in the USA claims, testing for lab- grown stones, social impact assessments, meeting the FTC ‘green guides’ for environmental claims, as well as newer, broader sourcing standards set by leading companies like Signet which require quality control throughout the supply chain.

Focusing on the lab-grown topic, the FTC advises that a seller cannot use the word “diamond” to describe a lab-grown product unless the word is immediately proceeded by the word “laboratory-grown,” “laboratory-created,” “synthetic,” or “(manufacturer name)-created.”

Describing laboratory-grown diamonds as “real” is considered unfair or deceptive, per the FTC Guides. This is because “real,” denotes a natural, mined diamond and laboratory-created diamonds are man-made. Describing a synthetic diamond as a “cultured diamond,” without the specific qualifying language specified by The Guides to make clear that the gemstone is man-made is considered unfair or deceptive.

In the Green Guides, the FTC has set clear rules against making broad, unsubstantiated “green” or “eco-friendly” claims. To date, we are unaware of any substantiation of the eco-friendly claims being made by laboratory-created diamond producers.”

Tiffany Stevens

President and CEO, Jewelers Vigilance Committee (JVC)

Retailer insights into synthetic diamonds

To ensure that communication with retailers is targeted and effective, the Diamond Producers Association (DPA) commissioned a retailer survey earlier this year of 250 US chains and independents, online and offline. Here’s what it found with regards to synthetic diamonds:

1.The retailers had a fairly high awareness of synthetics — under either of the most common names for them (synthetic diamonds, laboratory-grown diamonds) — but still weren’t entirely clear as to what they were and how they were made. In particular, there was almost unanimous surprise that it takes no more than a few weeks to manufacture them.

2. Most of the retailers do not sell synthetics, and a large majority said they would “not likely sell” or “absolutely wouldn’t sell” them in the next 12 months. For those, the main reasons were lack of consumer interest (38%), and reputational concerns (45%) — i.e., that carrying them would harm the store’s image.

3. A large majority agreed strongly/somewhat with the following statements: “Synthetics will have a worse retail value than natural diamonds, or no resale value”; “it would be good to have a natural mark on natural diamonds to clearly identify them”; and “I worry that I might inadvertently buy undisclosed synthetic diamonds.”

4. Those who do sell synthetics vary in how they display and disclose them in-store. Most have a marked, separate section, though a worrying number put them in the same space as real diamond jewelry, while some only offer them on demand and do not display them.


Retailers Sound Off on Lab-Grown Diamonds, Sourcing

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