Shine the Light on Lasering

January 1999


Shine the Light on Lasering

Protect yourself by checking each diamond for treatment

A requirement to disclose laser treatment goes into effect this month for members of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses. But you may want to check incoming shipments anyway to make sure the disclosure has passed from diamond manufacturer to dealer to jewelry manufacturer to you. A spot-check at different levels of the distribution channel in the fourth quarter found most people willing to comply. But unless you check the diamonds yourself, there's no way to be sure everyone has done his or her part, and even those who plan to comply say accidents happen.

What this means for you? The WFDB rule is just that – a rule, not a law. But it's an important standard that judges and juries will weigh if a consumer says you didn't disclose laser treatment, even if it merely eliminated an inclusion and isn't filled with a foreign substance.

Industry leaders encourage retailers to prepare for the worst. Check shipments. Establish a paper trail on every diamond you buy and sell. In particular, check engagement jewelry and other solitaires, says Lynn Diamond, executive director of the Diamond Promotion Service, New York, NY. "These stones are very visible and have emotional value to the customer," she says.

She also raises an important point WFDB delegates debated this summer (see Professional Jeweler,October 1998, p. 33): the ruling applies to any size of diamond. "Obviously, anything could be a problem, but pavé probably won't be an issue for most jewelers. You can't unset everything," says Diamond.

Some jewelers try. In Fayetteville, AR, Underwood Jewelers looks at everything – even pavé, says owner Bill Underwood. "We don't pay for anything until it passes through our lab."

Sales Advantage
Among upscale jewelers, refusing to sell lasered stones may be the newest way to distinguish yourself from chain stores. Retailer Lee Berg, for instance, compares a lasered diamond to a cheap suit. "A $200 suit may be a very good $200 suit, but its quality will never come close to that of a $2,000 suit," says Berg, whose Lee Michael Jewelers has seven stores in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. "We're selling to the customer who has that kind of interest in quality."

That sort of talk worries one East Coast jeweler who sells lasered diamonds. The jeweler, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explains the treatment to consumers but fears it may put him at a competitive disadvantage. The problem, he says, is the consumer may take the diamond to another jeweler for appraisal or repair and the second jeweler may say the diamond is no good. Then, even though the lasering was disclosed and the diamond was fairly priced, the customer is upset with the first jeweler.

Despite the risk, says the jeweler, only "an idiot" would turn away the customers who like what lasering makes possible: more affordable, attractive diamond jewelry.

Association Support
Several industry associations have their own policy on laser treatments or are developing one. The Diamond Dealers Club of New York City, for example, requires members to note lasering on invoices, says President Eli Haas.

The Manufacturing Jewelers & Suppliers of America's ethics committee will likely produce a formal policy on the matter this spring, says MJSA Chairman James Marquart.

And Jewelers of America's new code of ethics requiring disclosure will take effect in January 2000. Issues such as lasering also have increased demand for continuing education on the topic among JA's 11,000 members, says Chairman Matthew Runci.

– by Mark E. Dixon

Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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