February 1998


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.


Shedding light

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.


Industry involvement

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.


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