Synthetics Sold as Naturals

April 1998

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 it.
  • 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.


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