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December 1999


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 inscriptions.

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.


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