MAKING DISCLOSURE THE ISSSUE
In the aftermath of the "Dateline" episode,
the industry speaks out
In the wake of a television news program on gem treatment disclosure,
the American Gem Trade Association planned to hold a meeting of representatives
of the world's most prominent laboratories and leaders of the international
gem community at this month's Tucson GemFair.
On the agenda: discussion of the need for consistent reporting and phrasing
of the myriad treatments used in gemstones. AGTA also plans to schedule
conferences designed to maintain a dialogue on treatment issues.
"Dateline NBC" aired a segment titled "Romancing the Stone"
at the height of the Christmas shopping season. The segment showed gem treatments
addressed carelessly or not at all in the selling process at such prestigious
jewelry stores as Bailey Banks & Biddle, Fortunoff and Tiffany &
Co. Captured on hidden camera, sales associates sold treated gems without
disclosure - even with obvious prompting from the "Dateline" customers.
Whether the lack of disclosure stemmed from ignorance or malice, the
report shed light on an obvious problem. "We have encouraged our members
to tell their clients the purpose of AGTA is the ethical promotion of natural
colored gems," AGTA President Nanette Forrester and AGTA Executive
Director Douglas Hucker wrote in a letter to members.
Programs such as "Dateline" can help the gem and jewelry industry,
says Bill Boyajian, president of the Gemological Institute of America. "We
ask ourselves 'should we all do a better job in educating salespeople?"
Absolutely," he says. "It is a call for more work and more effort."
GIA is already headed in that direction with the debut of a new sales associate
course, which will provide a basic and affordable education.
"We are conducting a year-long study about fracture-filling in emeralds
that will soon be published in Ge see if and what definitive statements
can be made." Boyajian says Colombian gems & Gemology</i>."
he says. "We are making exhaustive durability tests tom dealers have
made a significant donation of emeralds to GIA to help conduct this study.
In turn, GIA plans to play a major educational role in Colombia when the
country hosts a worldwide emerald conference later this month.
C.R. "Cap" Beesley of American Gemological Laboratories, New
York City, advised "Dateline" personnel during filming of the
segment and was the only industry member to play a prominent role on the
air. He admits the program was "somewhat sensational," though
he points out consumers are largely forgotten in the discussion. "They
have a right to know about any gem they are buying," he says.
The Gemstone Standards Commission, an organization founded by Beesley
and made up of prominent gem dealers and retailers, has been putting pressure
on gemological labs to deal with the issue of disclosure. Beesley says that
as a result of his Gemstone Standards Commission meetings, major institutions
such as Sotheby's and Christie's auction houses have asked him and his associates
to train their staffs to properly disclose gem treatments to consumers.
Beesley says GSC's goals are to gain wider knowledge of treatment detection,
disseminate detection information and find a way for the trade to minimize
or eliminate potential lawsuits.
- by Robert Weldon, G.G. Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.