Gem Labs Embracing The ‘Real’ Test
Reaching out to some of the trusted gemmological labs operating in India, we bring to you a well-rounded cover story on the impact of third-party diamond certification at the end-consumer level, challenges gripping the industry and future of the certification market in India.
In the recent years, the awareness for quality and certification about diamonds has grown manifold. As for ethical diamonds, it has become the cornerstone of many renowned global brands, such as Forevermark – whose each diamond has a unique inscription number and Rio Tinto Diamonds – whose ‘Chain of Custody’ programme provides a certificate of authenticity to the end-consumer. Not only miners and popular brands, today even the traditional jewellers are ensuring that benchmark diamond quality is a core part of their branding.
So, what has actually led to the rise of diamond certification in today’s jewellery world? According to experts, this change has largely been brought by the buying patterns of the modern-age consumer, who is increasingly conscious of the ethical and social aspects of their spending and want to know more about the origins of their diamonds. De Beers, in its 2018 ‘Diamond Insight Report’ has stated the fact that millennials and Gen Z consumers, both show a strong concern for social causes and responsible sourcing of diamonds.
Consumers – especially in the Indian market, rely on the ‘family jewellers’ for all occasions, be it weddings, anniversaries, birthdays or self-purchases. In this new information age, consumers are now much more aware and ask pertinent questions and almost always insist on a grading report.” Nirupa Bhatt, MD, GIA India
Highlighting the role of certification in context to the Indian market, Nirupa Bhatt, Managing Director, GIA India and the Middle East, said: “The gem and jewellery industry is one that works on trust. Consumers – especially in the Indian market, rely on the ‘family jewellers’ for all occasions, be it weddings, anniversaries, birthdays or self-purchases. In this new information age, consumers are now much more aware and ask pertinent questions and almost always insist on a grading report.”
Fostering consumer confidence
According to Ravi Chhabria, Managing Director, HRD Antwerp – India, certification is an additional tool that gives jewellers a sort of international trademark to sell. “Jewellers are basically selling their own brands. They may have excellent brands and may have earned a very good reputation for themselves. But today’s youngsters want to have a certificate from an independent party that assures them of quality. Therefore, there is huge demand for certification today in India and here, we are an independent third party whose certification adds on to the confidence of the jeweller. Although the jeweller gives his guarantee, he needs a backing of an international company which also assures the same quality,” he explained
“Today’s youngsters want to have a certificate from an independent party that assures them of quality. Therefore, there is huge demand for certification today in India and here, we are an independent third party whose certification adds on to the confidence of the jeweller.” Ravi Chhabria, MD India, HRD Antwerp
Today, gem labs are leaving no stone unturned to make sure that both, the buyers and sellers, should be equipped with more scientific knowledge, concern and passion for diamonds than ever before.
“It is vital for consumers to realise the importance of independent grading and identification reports. GIA India informs and educates jewellers and their staff on a regular basis through education seminars and training programmes which help them educate and engage consumers further. In 2018, we’ve reached out to more than 8,000 members of the trade, including many tier-II and tier-III locations.These initiatives also help jewellers understand the importance of third-party grading reports as well as the significance of disclosure,” shared Nirupa Bhatt.
The art & science of grading
Diamond grading is a complex process, part science and part art. Elaborating more on the subject, Nirupa Bhatt said that “Diamond grading requires research-based science and excellent judgement – some might say a mix of science and art. Diamonds grow in the earth under extreme temperature and pressure over millions of years, billions of years ago. Studying diamonds and how they interacted with other elements surrounding them give us insight into the history of the earth and enables us to understand diamond quality characteristics. GIA pursues extensive scientific research to gather and analyse data on gemstones through the work of 50+ full-time research scientists. Diamond grading is also an art because as a gift of nature, mankind has spent decades perfecting cutting and polishing diamonds to bring out the best in this lovely gemstone.”
According to her, until the middle of the twentieth century, there was no agreed-upon standard by which diamonds could be judged and described. “GIA created the now globally accepted standard for describing diamonds. Today, the 4Cs of Diamond Quality -Cut, Color, Clarity, and Carat Weight – is the universal method for assessing the quality of any diamond, anywhere in the world. The creation of the 4Cs meant two very important things: diamond quality could be communicated in a universal language, and diamond customers could now know exactly what they were about to purchase,” she shared.
The challenge of traceability
Maintaining a transparent diamond supply chain is among the most prominent issues being talked about in the industry right now. With the entry of lab-grown diamonds, gem labs have not only embraced the latest technology and equipment for identification and detection, they have also inculcated stringent practices to reinforce confidence in the diamond supply chain.
Riddhish Parekh, Commercial Director – India, HRD Antwerp informed that there is a lot of development happening in the lab-grown diamond sector that makes all the laboratories to be on their toes. “The industry has to accept and acknowledge the fact that there is a parallel market of synthetic diamonds, which is growing at a very fast pace. Moreover, lab-grown diamonds are promoted as being eco-friendly, which is appealing to the new generation especially the millennials and Gen Z because they are highly concerned about Mother Nature. If the manufacturers keep on marketing synthetics this way, then they’ll surely find a lot of new buyers and you’ll see a lot of lab-grown diamonds being traded in our industry and being passed on to the end-consumers. There was a time when people were mixing such goods but now people are declaring that these are lab-grown diamonds and price them accordingly,” he added.
Today, the diamond industry has turned to technology to trace diamonds’ origins and record who has handled the stones. Here too the end consumer’s role comes into play, as they want to know where the diamonds come from and what their origins are.
Bhatt says that a large pool of buyers today seem to be interested in the provenance of the diamond they’re thinking of buying. “Provenance has become an important distinction for natural diamonds. A growing number of consumers today wish to see the journey of a diamond. GIA is working with mining companies, diamond manufacturers and retailers to help them tell that story. To help meet this need of the market and consumers, GIA is in the process of introducing the Diamond Origin Report service, which can confirm a diamond’s country of origin,” she opined.
Elaborating more on the Diamond Origin Report, Susan Jacques, GIA President and CEO, has recently stated that “In recent years, there has been a growing demand for transparency and traceability in the diamond industry. Consumers want to know the origin of products and their socio-economic and environmental impact. The GIA Diamond Origin Report fits perfectly with GIA’s mission of educating and protecting the public and ensuring their trust in gems and jewellery. Consumers purchasing one of Mother Nature’s greatest treasures, a natural diamond formed more than a billion years ago, will now know more about their diamond’s journey and the positive impact it has on the communities in the countries where diamonds are discovered,” she said.
The Next Step
For HRD Antwerp, the latest focus right now is on differentiation and the speed of differentiation between lab-grown and natural diamonds. “At HRD, we have a division which is dedicated hundred per cent into the research and development of identification and detection technology. We have come up with our new differentiation equipment M-Screen+ through which one can identify lab-grown diamonds between half pointers to 20 pointers. The speed of this machine to identity diamonds is around 15,000 stones per hour. Fortunately for us, many international laboratories have also opted to buy this machine because it helps them in analysing different stones which do not pass through various other instruments. Our other machine D-Tech is a very compact machine where you get clear distinction between lab-grown and natural diamonds,” revealed Parekh.
According to Nirupa Bhatt, the Indian gem and jewellery industry is poised to take great advantage of the need for world-class jewellery demand across the world. “GIA India will continue to support the need for independent and objective assessment of diamonds to enable one of the biggest diamond exporting nations of the world help meet the world’s growing demand. The need for transparency and traceability is now more important than ever. Consumers today are aware of the wide variety of choices available in the market and seek globally-accepted quality assurance such as a GIA grading report to offer them the peace of mind,” she summed up.
Quite obviously, with the emergence of technology and advancement in stone treatments the differentiation process will get more difficult. And it will be crucial for labs to upskill their technology and upgrade their competency to maintain consumer confidence in diamonds.