Gemstones & Pearls:News
Synthetics Sold as Naturals
TV program visits jewelry departments
Millions of viewers watched in February as ABC's "Primetime Live"
spent $13,000 for "real" gemstone jewelry that was in fact synthetic
and worth closer to $8,000.
As in past "exposés," the TV program focused mostly
on department and discount stores rather than independent jewelry stores.
And the most recent program didn't draw distinctions between synthetic and
fake stones and always referred to natural gems as "real." But
the report did show that some jewelry salespeople either don't know or don't
want consumers to know about synthetics.
"There is nothing wrong with buying a synthetic stone, if you know
that's what you're buying," said host Diane Sawyer.
But her staff found salespeople at certain Service Merchandise, J.C.
Penney and Berg-dorf Goodman stores and several unnamed independent retailers
who said emeralds, sapphires, tanzanites and rubies in jewelry they bought
were "real." Subsequent in-vestigation by Eric Freedman of Freed-man's
Jewelers, Long Island, NY, president of the American Gem Society, and appraiser
Cos Altobelli found many of the stones to be synthetic. A double-check by
the GIA Gem Trade Laboratories confirmed that finding.
When confronted, some retailers blamed suppliers; others said they made
a mistake. Service Merchandise and J.C. Penney acknowledged the mistakes
and said they would increase training.
Sawyer concluded with this advice: buy from respected retailers, ask
about synthetics, request written statements and have items checked independently.
by Michael Thompson
Capitalize on Controversy
Eric Freedman, president of the American Gem Society, offers these tips
to capitalize on controversies in the wake of TV exposés:
- Guarantee your natural gems in writing. Even if you don't offer refunds
for anything else, make an exception in this category and then advertise
- If you are a gemologist, advertise a free appraisal day. It's a service
that will bring in new customers who will look to you for integrity.
- If you sell synthetics, explain the positives that man-made gems
simulate the best qualities of the natural at more attainable prices.
- Accurately mark and price synthetics.
by Liz Smutko
Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.