Accentuate the Positive

April 1998


Accentuate the Positive

When it comes to gemstone enhancements and synthetics, our industry is positively grim. Of course, when television personality Diane Sawyer finds out her own beautiful ruby necklace is made up of undisclosed synthetics, it's easy to see why no one is smiling. I kept wondering if Mike Nichols, her famously funny husband, was still able to smile. Or did some jeweler reel from his chewing out the day after she revealed on national television that her necklace was synthetic? Will a wickedly funny movie skewering jewelers be on director Nichols' short list next year?

I know I appear to be making light of something we all consider to be very serious. But if we don't laugh, we'll cry. I'd rather laugh and do something than cry and do nothing.

There are so many factors to think about. First, you have to be vigilant about the many gemstone treatments, synthetics and imitations, with more coming every day. We at Professional Jeweler pledge to report on the latest developments and on efforts to root out the jerks who try to deceive you. Keep reading, taking courses and learning. A good defense is better than the ostrich approach.

Next, there is the training issue. In all the television exposés, there are discouraging examples of clueless sales associates, along with the intentional deceivers. View training as a learning opportunity; a lot of today's treatments and synthetics are truly amazing, involving advances in technology, science and gemology that probably would boggle the mind of a gemstone pioneer such as Robert Shipley.

You can engage your staff in a fact-finding mission using today's on-line research capabilities. Get each sales associate to research a treatment by computer during work hours, then hold weekly meetings to share the results. I know – who has time? Other retail industries don't have so much to learn, right? Wrong. Think of the fast food industry. Remember when environmentalists went after McDonald's because of its styrofoam boxes? Your burgers aren't as hot now, but McDonald's learned. What about the nutritionists? Fast food chains answered their health concerns with salads, grilling and other innovations. Every industry has to keep educated and respond to people's concerns.

The most important issue concerning gemstone treatments, however, is being examined by a new Jewelers of America task force. The industry needs to ban the negative connotation we've all given treatments. JA Education Director Bev Hori told me she'd like us all to stop using the loaded word "disclosure" in favor of a more neutral or positive term. Today's treatments, when explained honestly, are often fascinating stories that can be explained as part of a range of choices. Consumers will need some time to stop viewing treatments and synthetics with suspicion because that's how we've all viewed them for so long. But treatments and synthetics are here to stay, especially given consumers' clear interest in quality merchandise that's also a good value. A beautiful treated gemstone, in the eyes of many consumers, is better than a lousy untreated one.

by Peggy Jo Donahue

Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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