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 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."
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.
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.