Spin vs. Fact
Cecilia Gardner, executive director and general counsel of the
Jewelers Vigilance Committee, warned me in October to beware
of the "spin" that would be placed on GE/POL-treated
diamonds once POL hired a marketing firm to present them to the
U.S. market. Her warning boils down to this fact: It's very important
to jewelers' understanding of this new product that they distinguish
the positive marketing message from the unvarnished facts.
Gardner, who represents JVC, the legal guardian of the jewelry
industry, says that because GE/POL-treated diamonds can't yet
be identified gemologically, they can end up deceiving consumers
if the GE/POL inscription is polished off the girdle. But POL
has introduced these diamonds as fully disclosable because of
this inscription. General Electric, developer of the treatment,
went even further in describing GE/POL diamonds as simply "helped
along" by a "process" that's similar to other
routine steps in the diamond manufacturing process.
I've never seen anyone do a better job at ethically making
a positive out of a perceived negative than Liz Chatelain, the
MVI Marketing president who is charged with designing the GE/POL
consumer campaign. Her job of convincing consumers that brown
diamonds are pretty was a masterful expression of how beauty
is in the eye of the beholder. I also admire her work in transforming
Wilkerson & Associates, a company once thought of morbidly
as "undertakers" because it helps jewelers go out of
business, into a company described as "the dream-maker"
because it helps jewelers maximize their assets so they can retire
comfortably. Chatelain knows there are usually two ways to look
at every glass, half empty or half full.
Regarding GE/POL, she's got her work cut out for her so as
not to fall into an "Emperor's New Clothes" situation,
because some statements GE and POL have made are just plain untrue.
Like the child who shouted "But he's wearing no clothes!"
consumers are likely to see through any promotion that tries
to convince them the sky is green when they know it's blue. So
as the GE/POL consumer campaign unfolds and you consider whether
to carry these treated diamonds, be clear on two facts:
- GE/POL diamonds are treated, not "processed." The
latter suggests a step akin to cutting and polishing. The high
pressure and high temperatures applied to these diamonds constitute
treatment as this industry has always described it (see any colored
gem dealer for corroboration).
- GE/POL diamonds even if they're sold with a Gemological
Institute of America certificate, a girdle inscription and a
GE guarantee can still be a deception threat because no
one can yet independently detect any definitive gemological red
flags from the treatment. POL's plans to sell the diamonds through
authorized retailers guarantees only that the first sale will
be above-board. After that, the inscription can be erased. The
incentive to do that is huge because these diamonds have been
transformed into the rarest and most expensive color grades.
Make no mistake, unscrupulous people will continue to erase the
Retailers have every right to sell GE/POL-treated diamonds,
as long as they do so with full, truthful disclosure. But remain
clear that until gemologists can detect them independently, you're
releasing into the marketplace a treated diamond that cannot
be detected if its inscription is removed.
by Peggy Jo Johnson
Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.