GIA's Study: The Shot Heard Round the World

January 1999


GIA's Study: The Shot Heard Round the World

I've always been fascinated with events surrounding the first conflicts of the American Revolution in Lexington and Concord. The gunfire of those skirmishes was later immortalized by Ralph Waldo Emerson as the "shot heard round the world." But I wonder whether those tattered soldiers on that April day in 1775 knew their actions would lead to change that continues to profoundly influence political thought two centuries later.

Though it may seem overly dramatic to compare the Gemological Institute of America's new diamond cut study (see p. 32) to Lexington and Concord, I think it's safe to say jewelry industry historians will one day discuss the paper in the same reverential tones.

Like the shots at Lexington and Concord, GIA's study is the first volley in a battle to finally settle a long-standing argument over which proportions produce the most beautiful diamond. Like those soldiers, GIA is doing battle using entirely new methods. The American soldiers hid behind trees, introducing guerrilla warfare to the ramrod-straight British soldiers. GIA's tactics included a totally new approach to evaluating cut using the power of modern computers. Though a few other researchers have used computers to evaluate cut, none has done so with the thoroughness and the number of scientific controls used by GIA.

Such a sound approach by one of the world's most respected gemological institutions will advance our knowledge of diamond cut. For too long, companies have made claims about "this set of proportions" or "that range of parameters" – claims that could not be evaluated completely. When GIA is finished, there will be a sound foundation upon which to judge cut.

The good news for retail jewelers? For the time being, you can honestly continue to assure customers that various proportion combinations produce brilliant diamonds. You also can further your own knowledge of diamonds by reading GIA's research and comparing the proportions of the diamonds you sell to the proportions in the study.

What you can't do is use GIA's initial research to tell the whole story of a diamond's appearance. For that, you must wait for the rest of the study, which will include evaluations of cut's effect on scintillation and fire. GIA also will study the effect other factors, such as symmetry and color, have on a diamond's appearance.

At the end of the project, it's possible GIA will issue cut grades. If diamonds are given cut evaluations everyone agrees on, a completely blind, universal language could spring up that makes them finally a true commodity purchase.

But there is another possibility. GIA could conclude each diamond is a truly unique specimen with so many confounding characteristics affecting appearance that a grade simply won't work. If that's the case, consumers will still want to see the diamond in person before buying. They'll also appreciate the fact that cut is terribly complex and feel the need for help from a local jeweler to understand and make sense of this most complicated diamond quality. A chart on the Internet just won't be able to say it all.

Which outcome will it be? Only time – and more research – will tell.

– by Peggy Jo Donahue


Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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