August 19, 2019
janc19 challengedetection
At the JA National Convention, July 28-29, attendees heard from experts on the jewelry industry’s latest hot topic: lab-grown diamonds. Sessions covered the challenges and opportunities with this disruptive product category. In this 2-part article, we’ll share the expert advice culled from the Convention on how jewelers can navigate this new product and some of its challenges. First, let’s talk detection.

Many retailers envision lab-grown diamonds a threat to both industry standards and their own businesses. No matter where your opinions fall on the lab-grown diamonds subject, experts at the Convention expressed that retailers need to have the discussion of how to integrate diamond detection into their business.

The session, “Solving the Challenge of Lab-Grown Diamond Detection,” featured a panel of experts from companies spearheading diamond detection innovation including AGS Laboratories, De Beers and GIA, Gemological Science International (GSI) and Project Assure. Panelists shared solutions for retailers’ primary concerns: detection, transparency and consumer confidence when it comes to the diamonds they are buying.

Detection

Whether you choose to sell lab-grown diamonds or not, industry speakers strongly encouraged having access to detection technology. While UV light can be used by retailers to check the transparency and quality of a diamond, Thomas Gelb of Project Assure, urges that this test is not thorough enough on its own. To address best practices with lab-grown diamonds, JA created a Guide for Jewelers on Laboratory-Grown Diamonds for its members.

While there are several companies that offer detection lab services – including our panelists -- diamond detection technology has advanced to allow jewelers to have their own in-house detection device if a company can afford the time and cost (equipment can range from $500 for basic detection machinery to $77,000 for HRD Antwerp’s screener).

The Convention featured several accessible detection devices in its Diamond Detection Lab, including:

  • GIA iD100® ($4,995) with advanced spectroscopic technology can distinguish natural diamonds from synthetic (HPHT and CVD) diamonds and diamond simulants and is practically the size of a hand.
  • SGL’s Dia Screen can test both loose and mounted diamonds, distinguishing natural diamonds from its counter parts, in less than 10-15 seconds.
  • Yehuda’s Sherlock Holmes 2.0 CVD and HPHT Lab-Grown Diamond Detector ($6,495) is a small, portable device that identifies mounted and unmounted diamonds in bulk.
  • HRD Antwerp’s D-Tect give you confidence to complete the difficult task of differentiating natural and laboratory grown diamonds in your store. It’s one of the mid-sized devices that doesn’t require you to send stones to a laboratory for final identification.
  • Presidium has a sampling of screening and detection products from handled “pen” screeners to its Synthetic Diamond Screener II ($899).

The panelists agreed that retailers who invest in in-house detection should consider the additional efforts this can require of their staff.

Understanding that lab-grown diamonds could become more complex and difficult to detect, it is vital for the industry to invest in detection machines and lab services now. Head of Technology for De Beers Faried Sallie states, “As lab-grown diamonds mature, we need to be prepared for new types of man-made diamonds.”

Additionally, the panel discussed the possibility of media spotlighting detection challenges in the near future. Experts agree that information on lab-grown diamonds – including widespread access detection machines – could fall into consumers’ hands and hurt the industry’s image if detection is not made a priority through all phases of the supply chain.

Transparency in Sourcing

While the sudden infiltration of man-made diamonds can seem daunting when trying to uphold an honest reputation, Head of Technology for De Beers Faried Sallie reassures that these diamonds should not be painted as a threat. Instead, retailers should be open to understanding and weighing the opportunities and challenges in lab-grown.

Debbie Azar, co-founder and president of GSI, believes that every parcel should be tested in order to keep the industry’s reputation transparent and ethical.

Jason Quick, executive director for AGS Laboratories, adds that education is equally as important as the physical testing. He suggests that lab-grown is “more about understanding than testing a lot,” and retailers should work to implement an educational program on man-made diamonds for their staff.

Additionally, it’s important to note that responsibility is not one-sided: retailers need to know their suppliers and where they are sourcing their diamonds. Azar warns that “natural dealers are getting into lab-grown . . . contamination could become an issue.”

Retailers should be vigilant about their sources by sending their diamonds to labs, owning their own detection technology or requiring their suppliers to send through labs.

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