At Press Time
A Lab for Color
AGTA's newest venture will be a laboratory for gem dealers, by gem
dealers with a world-class gemologist at the helm
Service quick and accurate is the premise behind the
American Gem Trade Association's plan to establish a gem certification lab
in New York City's jewelry district by this summer.
"Our members tell us other labs are not fast enough, have questionable
lab practices, are not affordable or are not properly equipped to handle
their needs," says AGTA President Nanette Forester. AGTA hopes to address
these concerns with its lab, which will be open to members of the trade,
including retailers, and will handle only colored gemstones, not diamonds.
The new lab will provide such services as separation of synthetic vs. natural
gems, identification of fillers and determination of origin. Fees were undetermined
at press time.
Dr. Kenneth Scarratt, a gemologist and scientist who worked with the
Gemmological Association of Great Britain, the Gemological Institute of
America and most recently the Asian Institute of Gemmological Sciences,
will lead the AGTA lab. When AIGS closed during the recent financial crisis
in Thailand, where it was headquartered, AGTA officials took advantage of
Scarratt's new-found availability. Scarratt is widely credited for advances
in gemological know-how, particularly in detecting synthetics and identifying
The AGTA lab has raised a few eyebrows. "A lab run by AGTA will have
a major conflict of interest since it will grade gems sent in by its own
members," says C.R. "Cap" Beesley, owner of the American
Gemological Laboratories, an independent lab in New York City. "It's
an attempt to legitimize things that shouldn't be legitimized."
One AGTA official who doesn't want to be named publicly defends the plan.
"There is no conflict of interest until it occurs," the official
says. "We are after good science. We will challenge anyone regarding
the calls we make on our certificates." AGTA will institute several
safeguards, including forming an impartial board of directors and concealing
the identity of a gem's owner from lab technicians.
GIA President William Boyajian says competition among labs could translate
into better services for everyone. "I've been preaching the importance
of color for over a decade now," he says. "I am committed to making
a huge statement in color, though of course we will never give up an inch
on diamonds. The development of a new lab, if anything, has provided us
with more motivation and credibility."
GIA, which tried unsuccessfully to acquire AIGS last year, doesn't discount
the possibility of eventual cooperation between laboratories. "We will
always keep our lines of communication open," he says.
by Robert Weldon, G.G. Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.