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December 1999

Diamonds News

GE/POL: The Debate Continues

From a new consumer marketing campaign to a Jewelers Vigilance Committee letter to the Federal Trade Commission, GE/POL diamonds remain in the news

It was a busy month for Lazare Kaplan International, its subsidiary POL and the color-altered diamonds they introduced nine months ago. First came the news General Electric had confirmed to the Gemological Institute of America that its diamond-whitening process involves high temperature and high pressure (professionaljeweler.com, Daily News Archive, Sept. 29).

Many gemological experts say GE's statement confirms GE/POL should be identified as a treatment. GE calls the procedure a process, saying it's in the same category as routine manufacturing processes. In a letter to the FTC that reflects many industry opinions, however, Cecilia Gardner, executive director and general counsel of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, wrote: "Heat and high pressure ... is hardly a routine step in the diamond manufacturing process."

Gardner also asked the FTC to disregard GE's earlier request to exempt the GE/POL treatment from a proposed revision to the FTC Guides for the Jewelry Industry. The revision, if passed, would require disclosure of any treatment that affects a gem's value. GE said in its letter, however, the marketplace hadn't yet determined how GE/POL diamonds will be priced.

Gardner's assessment of the treatment was unequivocal: "No reasonable consumer would pay the same for a treated diamond as an untreated diamond of the same quality and color." (professionaljeweler.com, Daily News Archive, Oct. 7).

Consumer Research
A week later, Leon Tempelsman, president of LKI and POL, told an audience at Professional Jeweler's PrimeTime show in Las Vegas the company was still trying to decide whether to charge a premium or sell the diamonds for less than comparable untreated diamonds. He said research indicated some consumers would pay a premium while others would not (professionaljeweler.com, Daily News Archive, Oct. 14).

POL also announced it had retained MVI Marketing, Beverly Hills, CA, to create a consumer marketing campaign for GE/POL diamonds. POL will sell the diamonds only through authorized dealers, Tempelsman said.

Disclosure Dilemma
Tempelsman made clear to the PrimeTime audience POL feels a GE/POL inscription on the girdle of the diamonds constitutes enough disclosure to ensure they aren't passed off as untreated. Less than a week later, however, GIA announced it found yet another GE/POL diamond with the inscription erased from the girdle, further worrying jewelers the marking won't deter deception.
To add to gemologists' frustration, GIA published a report in the Oct. 1 issue of the Rapaport Report on the gemological features of the 900 GE/POL diamonds it examined. In the same issue, Tempelsman told Publisher Martin Rapaport the 900 diamonds were early samples and that some gemological features GIA identified are not found in later samples because the process has been improved.

This turn of events leaves gemologists still unable to definitively identify the treated diamonds if the GE/POL inscription is polished off. Some cling to the fact the majority of GE/POL diamonds are Type IIa and, thus, are very rare. But Tempelsman also announced subsequent batches of GE/POL diamonds will contain more of other diamond types. He also said GE continues its research and hopes to apply the treatment to a wider range of diamonds.

The answer for jewelers? Many experts believe telling all diamond customers the GE/POL treatment exists through a general disclosure statement is the only protection. You also should back up that statement with a guarantee you'll replace any diamond later found to be treated, according to resolutions issued this year by the presidents of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses. For advice on how to disclose GE/POL to your customers, see Professional Jeweler, October 1999, p. 197.

by Peggy Jo Donahue

GE/POL diamond



Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.



 

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