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
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).
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,
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.
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
Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.