A Lab for Color

April 1998

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 treatments.

Competitors React
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.


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