Last updateTue, 19 Mar 2019 7pm

Retailer Roundtable: How do you prevent unknowingly selling (or buying) undisclosed lab-grown/synthetic diamonds?

RR Cauley

“I know my sources for diamonds. I’ve been dealing with them for many years and deal almost exclusively in diamonds accompanied by a grading report. My policy is every diamond I sell that weighs one carat or more comes with a GIA grading report - I’m a stickler for GIA reports. I do a lot of custom work, so I order goods from vendors I know and trust. Typically, I’ll source multiple diamonds for a single customer. We’ll take the time to look at each one under a gemological microscope to teach them about diamonds and to examine each diamond in greater detail and find the diamond the customer likes the most for their custom piece. Plus, I’ve been in jewelry retail since high school. I’m 58 now, and I’m a graduate gemologist. I can identify a lot of diamond treatments and fakes. But, I will admit, properly identifying lab-grown diamonds is pretty tricky. If equipment is out there to identify them it sure would be helpful to jewelers. But to my knowledge it doesn’t exist. Some customers have asked for lab-grown, synthetic diamonds. These goods have girdle inscriptions and paperwork, so the customer is getting what they requested. I have sold these goods upon request. When it comes to buying diamonds, if I’m not sure, I don’t buy it. It’s that simple.”

John Cauley, owner
John Cauley Jeweler
Mobile, AL


RR Druxman“We’ve been buying from the public for about 45 years. In more recent years we’ve established a strict policy of buying diamonds from the public only if these diamonds are accompanied by a grading report and laser inscription. If the customer only has a grading report, we’ll consider buying the diamond. If the grading report offers us enough data - such as the diamond’s measurement, plotting diagram, and other key pieces of information - that’s enough for us to determine the diamond is what the customer says it is. If the customer is selling or trading in a diamond weighing one carat or more, with girdle inscription and a diamond grading report, that’s the ideal situation. We prefer diamond grading reports from customers and vendors to come from the main three labs - GIA, EGL USA and AGS. And, any loose diamond of half-carat or larger from a vendor must have a grading report. We have to be more on top of these matters as more and more customers are asking for lab-grown diamonds. I’d say it’s about 10 to 15 percent of our loose diamond inventory now. There’s definitely an increased interest in lab-grown diamonds.”

Jason Druxman, Diamond Stud-President
Avenue Jewelers
Appleton, WI


RR Scott“I am currently and for the foreseeable future, personally, against selling lab-grown diamonds. I had a customer ask for one. Doing my due diligence, I searched my normal suppliers for lab-grown diamonds and quickly realized they are currently very close on par with the general prices of natural diamonds. There are too many shysters out there already, and to have another shyster come along is just not something we need to represent in an industry where it’s hard enough to get people to trust us in the first place. In my mind, these stones hold no value. They’re the proverbial car of the ‘diamond’ world.  You will purchase one for $3,000 one day, the next day that same stone could be available for $1,000 or less.  As far as preventing our business from selling or buying such a thing, we’ve cut back on our over-the-counter trigger-pull buys and have been picky about who and what we purchase.  We’ve been sourcing more goods from our well trusted suppliers who we know will not pull the wool over our eyes. Until there is a tool to accurately test for man-made qualities in a diamond, we need to be extremely mindful of our purchases to protect our customer and ourselves and as always, we need to keep up on our own education and make sure we’re all on the up and up on what to look for.”

Katie Scott, sales associate
Dekker’s Jewelry Store
Zeeland, MI


RR Wulf“We don’t buy or sell without paperwork. We have been dealing with the same reputable diamond dealers for many years and always insist that larger diamond be accompanied by a diamond grading report. When buying from the public, we only purchase diamonds of 1-carat or larger. And, we insist that the diamond be accompanied by a diamond grading report from either GIA or EGL. It’s a policy that was established in 2015. The previous owner didn’t have such a policy in place. Unfortunately, we learned this sort of lesson the hard way many years ago when the previous owner mistakenly purchased a moissanite thinking it was a diamond. When I bought the store three years ago, this policy change was one of the first management decisions I made. Without the technology to detect lab-grown diamonds, when buying from the public, round brilliants are the big concern. If a customer brings in an old European cut, there’s a very good chance it’s a mined diamond as lab-grown/synthetic diamonds are mostly rounds. These are diamonds we usually buy and re-cut.”

Cullen Wulf, owner
AaLand Diamond Jewelers
Merrillville, IN


“We don’t buy from the public, so that eliminates part of this problem. But we do buy estate jewelry, which we have examined by a professional appraiser. With vendors we don’t have any way to protect ourselves to be honest. As a rule we carry higher-end jewelry instead of mass-produced pieces, which is another level of protection I guess. We do our best to deal with reliable and reputable dealers. We deal mainly with RJO vendors, and some vendors outside of that buying group. By buying from RJO vendors, that gives us a lot of certainty and confidence in the diamond we purchase. Stuller, Overnight Mountings and Mercury Rings are just a few of the vendors we deal with from RJO. In looking at this matter from the big picture view, this issue will continue to be a challenge for retail jewelers as long as Americans want the bling-bling look without the high cost. Manufacturers can’t make a high-end looking piece at a price Americans are willing spend, like what they see on QVC. And, we can’t test each and every diamond in a micro-pavé piece. It just isn’t realistic. These are the challenges we all face.” 

Cheryl Burchell, owner
Cheryl Burchell Goldsmiths
Coeur d’Alene, ID


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