February 1998

Gemstones & Pearls: Gemology


After the disclosure issue reared its ugly head following the "Dateline NBC" exposé, Professional Jeweler polled jewelers across the country for their reactions


After "Dateline NBC" aired a segment on the lack of colored gem treatment disclosure, jewelers across the country asked, "If this could happen at Tiffany or Fortunoff, could it happen to me?" Professional Jeweler polled retailers around the country to find how they respond when customers ask about treatment.

The program did prompt questions from consumers, says Linda Abell of Crescent Westwood Jewelers, Los Angeles. "It's very important not to get insulted if people question you," she says. "I just tell them, 'I understand your concerns, so let me alleviate them.'" She starts by explaining Crescent Westwood's 50-year history and its affiliation with the American Gem Society.

Then answer questions honestly, say jewelers. "We give customers general information and follow up with reassurance," says Cindy Calderone of Smith Jewelers, Redlands, CA. She tells customers situations like they saw on TV do happen, but not often. "We explain we've established a relationship with our suppliers the same as we've established with customers. 'We trust our suppliers, and we hope you trust us because you know us,'" she tells them.

Still, many jewelers are afraid they'll make an honest mistake. "Even though I try and educate myself about every possible gem treatment, my fear is that a small mistake could lead to a major and costly lawsuit," says one Midwestern jeweler.

While most jewelers polled wished the segment had never aired, at least one put a positive spin on the issue. "Hooray, hooray, hooray," says Jeff Kunz of Master Jewelers, Rochester, MN. "Disclosure is very important, but equally important is how you disclose. I do it positively by saying gemstones have long been treated, starting from when they were first cut - faceting is a form of enhancement to make a gem look better." He then explains that different techniques have progressed to make gemstones look good, and tells what the treatments are. "I am not afraid of disclosure, and I do it in a positive way," he says.


Make Disclosure Easier

  • Get educated. Take a gemology course and understand the basics of gemstone enhancement.
  • Understand the law. Be familiar with the FTC guidelines and have a copy of the American Gem Trade Association's dealer disclosure procedures as listed in the Gem Enhancement Manual.
  • Inform your staff. Share informational materials.
  • Don't fear disclosure. Disclose information in a positive, simple manner.
  • Reassure customers. Welcome their questions regarding disclosure.
  • Develop relationships. Find trustworthy suppliers.
  • Always check what you buy thoroughly.
  • Examine your merchandise. Send anything you suspect might have been treated to an accredited gemological laboratory.
  • Develop a policy. Deal clearly and fairly with mistakes.
  • Keep your customer's best interests at heart.


- by Robert Weldon, G.G.

Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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