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Another step forward in an ongoing challenge

Diamond grading issues have been a hot topic in recent months, but a new ISO Standard could benefit the consumer and retailer. STELLA LAYTON, chief assay master at the Birmingham Assay Office, explains.

The industry has come a long way since we staged our first Great Debate at IJL in 2007.  Many members of our industry were shocked by headlines about dirty gold and conflict diamonds and there was mounting concern for the reputation of the industry and the treatment of both the environment and the people in our supply chain. Entitled “a brand without values has no value at all” the Great Debate strove to provoke thought and prompt action to address this. Over the past few years there has been huge progress and although the situation is still far from perfect the activities of international organisations such as the Responsible Jewellery Council, CIBJO, ARM, and Fairtrade have begun to make a difference. National trade associations, companies and individuals have supported the move for a more ethically responsible industry and attitudes, behaviour and standards have changed.

While that metamorphosis is still in progress the industry has faced a fresh ethical challenge which has been present for many years but which has worsened and finally been exposed during the past year. The deceptive practices being carried out by some elements of the diamond grading world are a new threat to our industry and there have been many words written and spoken on the subject recently. Like the environmental and humanitarian  situation a few years back, the industry ignores this challenge at its peril. The phrase “a brand without values has no value at all” is again extremely apt and beyond the talk and the exposures we need to prompt action.

The CIBJO Conference in Brazil in May recognised this. After much discussion it was acknowledged that while conference delegates, all deeply immersed in the jewellery industry, understood the situation and the requirements of a legitimate diamond lab, this may not always be the case. Whilst a small minority of jewellers are happy to sell clearly over-graded stones, other retailers buying “certificated stones”  in good faith could in fact be mis-selling to their customers without realising. While gemmological laboratories continue to be unregulated there is no common standard and the whole industry needs to be aware of this. More guidance and education is clearly required so that appropriate questions can be asked of gem labs to check their credentials.

For an independent  gemmological facility like AnchorCert Gem Lab, a division of Assay Office Birmingham, the whole situation is a constant issue. AnchorCert has no vested interest in the outcome of the grade and will only grade as it sees. Fortunately  for the UK trade AnchorCert are unswerving in their integrity and have also invested in the sophisticated equipment, and the expertise to go with it, to deliver accurate, informed reports on diamonds, coloured stones and pearls from their facility in Birmingham. The desire of Assay Office Birmingham to provide high quality, professional services to support the UK jewellery industry has ensured continued investment in the Gem Lab. If this were purely a stand-alone commercial concern the situation could be very different.

In the  circumstances setting standards for diamond grading is a subject close to our hearts and AnchorCert Gem Lab welcomes the recent publication of an ISO Standard entitled “Consumer Confidence in the diamond industry”. 

Published on 1st July, ISO Standard 18323:2015 is a refreshingly simple and concise document intended to help the consumer understand the different choices available to them. It will also serve as a useful reference for jewellers.

The Standard recognises that the jewellery industry relies upon consumer confidence and the document is “specifically designed to be understood by the consumer”. It seeks to “address the potential for confusion by setting out clear and accurate guidelines on accepted nomenclature”. Based on existing industry self-regulation, the definitions in the standard are pitched at exactly the right level for the consumer, avoiding deeply technical terminology which is neither appealing nor comprehensive but clearly defining the descriptions to be used. These include simple definitions of colour, cut and clarity. treated diamonds, synthetic diamonds which may also be described as laboratory-grown or laboratory–created diamonds, composite stones and much more.

There is nothing startling in the Standard; the terminology required is already used in established gemmological laboratories such as AnchorCert Gem Lab, who work to transparent international standards. As with all ISO standards this is not a mandatory requirement but it does lay down a benchmark for the whole industry to work to.  

The challenge now is to make the whole supply chain aware of this standard, to appreciate the need for and benefits of this document and to encourage its implementation as one of many steps on the way to improving the situation.

AnchorCert Academy, the new educational division of Assay Office Birmingham will be contributing to this by facilitating a seminar at IJL on Sunday 6th September. A panel will give a more detailed insight into the discrepancies in diamond grading and the impact this can have on consumers and businesses in our industry. Do come and contribute and help us to provoke thought and prompt action on this serious issue which is the next threat to consumer confidence in our industry.  

About Jewellery Focus Staff

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