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Synthetic diamond spotlight: part 2

Synthetic diamonds are in focus again with part 2 of a panel discussion tackling the sector's impact on the Australian industry. 

The panel, titled Natural vs Synthetic diamonds – the impact on our industry, covered basic synthetic diamond characteristics and touched on some of the more complex issues facing the industry such as declaration, testing and validating.

These matters are further explored in Part 2, where the panellists and audience members bear their knowledge on various topics.

Moderator: Gary Fitz-Roy, Expertise Events managing director

Panellists: Bill Sechos, Gem Studies Laboratory director; George Proszkowiec, Terrace Showcase Jewellers owner, JAA board director; Tony Smallwood, gemmologist and educator

Participants from the audience: Rami Baron, Diamond Dealers Club of Australia president; Robin Sobel, Protea Diamonds managing director



Bill Sechos
Bill Sechos
George Proszkowiec
George Proszkowiec
Tony Smallwood
Tony Smallwood

Rami Baron
Rami Baron
Robin Sobel
Robin Sobel
Gary Fitz-Roy (Moderator)
Gary Fitz-Roy (Moderator)


George Proszkowiec: I’d like to pose a question to the audience, particularly suppliers at the coalface selling diamonds. Who should be responsible to test and validate diamonds? Should it be the jewellery retailer selling to the consumer or should it be the diamond supplier selling to the jewellery retailer?

Robin Sobel: I believe that most diamond suppliers will actually tell people they’re selling a synthetic – whether it be HTHP, whether it be fracture-filled, whether it be drilled and filled, whether it be colour treated. With this in mind, I think testing and validating is up to the retailers who are buying stones from the shonky wholesalers because you don’t know what’s mixed into a parcel. I’ve picked up parcels that have been mixed [natural with undisclosed synthetics].

Anything that comes in from India can be mixed if you don’t know who you’re buying from. I believe it’s up to the retailer to mention that they buy from a legitimate dealer and make sure they’re selling the consumer the right product, because what’s going to happen is people are going to buy online and then they start reselling it second-hand and that comes into the market as well. Our problems will occur in a few years from now when these synthetic stones come back on the second-hand market or when a TV show like A Current Affair finds out about it and blows it out of proportion.

Gary Fitz-Roy: Thank you Robin. Rami would you like to add to that?

Rami Baron: First of all Robin, I don’t think you can lend the blame to any country or place where the diamond is being manufactured if one is insinuating fraudulent behaviour because that’s about the morality of the dealer themselves. Putting that aside, the World Federation Diamond Bourses (WFDB) has developed a strict code of practice that states that the supplier is responsible [for testing and validating] as they sell it on to the retailer or amongst other suppliers.

There’s actually a time limit placed on it of one month and the concept is that within one month the purchaser has the ability to have those stones tested – and if they find that something is incorrect, they can go back to the original person that they purchased it from and they have to make good as a refund or exchange on whatever the goods are.

The most honourable guys are getting caught with melee stones that are mixed with synthetics – that’s the problem. We have excellent sorting machines, which is great, but there is still a percentage out there that are a problem. You can imagine the issue when parcels go in and out of an office so many times – identifying where the matter originated is a nightmare.

The issue clearly from what I’m seeing time and time again is that as a retailer you’re developing trust with your supplier. In Australia, if the supplier in any matter or form betrays that trust or doesn’t do the due diligence on the goods they sell to the retailer then they should be responsible. You cannot hold the retailer accountable and the retailer has a case to go back to the supplier and demand a refund and exchange because it’s their face to the consumer and we will destroy our industry locally or worldwide – it doesn’t matter where you look – if we don’t protect the retailer. So it is the job of the supplier who’s at the forefront of taking that responsibility, in my opinion.

Fitz-Roy: What would be the legalities in the local market? Could an independent jeweller, for example, be sued for misrepresentation on the sale of a product and what ramifications could this have on the industry?

GP: I purposely posed the previous question because if we buy a motor vehicle or a fridge or any other consumer product, be it from Peru or New Zealand, the law is that the goods have to perform to certain standards that are mandated by government. We don’t have that in the diamond industry. Is it something we would like? Possibly, but I can’t see it happening. So it’s dependent on us to make sure that we police ourselves so that’s why I posed the question.

With respect to the diamond suppliers, I love you dearly but I still say and believe very strongly, and this is my opinion, that any testing responsibility should not fall on the retailer because they will never ever be geared up to it. Even if the [testing] machinery is inexpensive, they’ll never have the expertise to protect the industry. I believe that the ‘diamond delivery’ should be doing the necessary testing to protect themselves because the diamond industry is built on trust and I would hate to see that trust destroyed.

Let’s back-peddle a little to five, 10 years ago with fracture filling and laser drilling. Has there been an impact commercially in a negative sense? Has there been a lot of publicity? Actually no, which is very interesting because I think generally speaking it is disclosed. It’s an important point to remember in relation to the two processes of creating synthetic diamonds.

Fitz-Roy: Could it be that down the track retailers will have a separate section in their store for synthetic diamonds just like stores may have a section for say, fashion jewellery or rose gold jewellery?

GP: Yes. A lot of us have been to international fairs and have gone to high-end gemstone dealers and we’ve seen Burmese rubies of three, four or five carat that are guaranteed to be untreated. These are the most magnificent, collectible gemstones in the world. Will they ever be affected by price? No; however, every day of the week, major retailers are selling synthetic emeralds, rubies, sapphires. Is there a place in the market for those? Definitely.

It’s beginning to cross over into diamonds too. The Robbins Brothers for example, is a chain of bridal jewellers that we [Showcase Jewellers buying group] visited recently in California. They’ve got brands within their bridal system, within the beautiful delivery of their store, but they also have a section of fully disclosed synthetic diamonds. Do they sell? Yes they do. Is it a big part of their business?

Not huge but they are in the market.

Fitz-Roy: Does the audience have questions for the panellists?

RB: A question to Bill and Tony. There have been a lot of arguments and discussions that the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) is using the same sort of certificate for grading synthetic diamonds as they use for natural diamonds. Do you think in Australia, the laboratories are going to follow the same approach and use the same certification? Or do you think that the push from the National Council of Jewellery Valuers and those grading diamonds will change the certificates quite dramatically so that it’s very clear to the consumer?

Bill Sechos: That’s an issue that I haven’t really thought about in terms of how our laboratory is concerned – it’s something that we haven’t really come across as yet. At the moment we have our normal diamond grading certificate and we also have a gemstone report. If they [synthetics] start to become common and the demand for reports becomes a valid consideration then Gem Studies Laboratory (GSL) will put synthetic diamonds into a different kind of report that says that they are a synthetic diamond and grade them if required.

Tony Smallwood: I would like to see all laboratories do that [grade separately] and make a substantial difference. One of the things that I have noticed in looking at the certificates for not just diamonds but also for coloured gemstones – and not just from the GIA but from other laboratories as well – is that we all say we believe in disclosure and want disclosure all the time but we are often not prepared, I believe, to put it right up front as a headline statement that the stone is what it is – either an artificial product or has had a treatment applied to it. I don’t believe that the laboratories have always made disclosure obvious. When you look at some older coloured gemstone certificates, you have to hunt through the certificate and description in order to find out what the treatment is. In general, the laboratories are beginning to change. I believe that’s a job the industry needs to push and we need to be able to point it out to people in common places and common language. If there is any treatment or if the item is not natural, it must be disclosed. So let’s all get on board and start to fix this situation. 


This is an edited version of the panel discussion that took place at the IJF on August 28, 2016. At the time, it was emphasised that each participant volunteered to take part in the discussion and the views expressed should be treated as opinion rather than fact. Part 1 of the discussion can be viewed here

Saturday, 16 February, 2019 10:23am
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