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November 1999

Diamonds : News

GIA Gets Confirmation from GE

High-temperature, high-pressure treatment is involved in GE POL enhanced-color diamonds

General Electric partially unlocked the secret of its GE POL diamonds in late September by confirming to the Gemological Institute of America that the diamonds' color is improved in a high-temperature, high-pressure process.

Researchers at GIA have been studying GE POL diamonds for several months trying to learn about the process, further details of which remain proprietary.

The diamonds are distributed by Pegasus Overseas Ltd., a subsidiary of Lazare Kaplan International, New York City. In an effort to avert worries, LKI announced in March it would offer the diamonds. But the secretiveness of the process raised concerns and yielded speculation on what it involves. "This effectively closes the door on the notion that a deep-cleaning mechanism is involved, at least as fully as we understand the process at this time," says GIA President Bill Boyajian.

Though GE confirmed GIA's suspicion that high-temperature, high-pressure is involved, Boyajian is reluctant to use the word "treatment" to describe the process. "We are trying to remain neutral, though we believe the industry will label this a treatment. But it is not part of normal processing as we know it; for example, as we understand processing in the bleaching or cleaning of a pearl. We are entering new territory, and GIA has to research and understand more."

GE Petitions FTC

Meanwhile, GE asked the FTC to refrain from imposing disclosure requirements on undetectable gem alterations such as GE POL. It made the request during the comment period on proposed amendments to the FTC Guides Guides for the Jewelry Industry. The FTC's proposal would require disclosure of all treatments that significantly affect a gem's value. At GIA's International Gemological Symposium in June, Martin Rapaport, publisher of the Rapaport Diamond Report, said the few GE POL diamonds then on the market were selling for about 15% less than unprocessed diamonds of comparable grade. If price discrepancies continue, the FTC's proposed change would require disclosure of the GE POL process.

In its letter to the FTC, however, GE argues "it's far too early to predict whether a price differential, if any, would be 'substantial'" or to tell how "the marketplace will ultimately judge the value of GE-processed diamonds."

Pegasus has agreed to have GIA laser-inscribe "GE POL" on the girdle of each processed diamond, and GE says this is a show of good faith about full disclosure. GE also says the FTC already has the authority to prosecute sellers who try to erase the GE POL mark. "Even were such an erasure to go undetected ... a consumer would not be exposed to a 'laser-drilling' type of injury," GE says. Because neither consumers nor jewelers who may buy back stones can detect the GE process as they would a laser-drilled diamond, a GE POL diamond won't cause financial loss, so the usual inequity between a consumer and a knowledgeable expert doesn't exist, it says.


Among GE's revealing statements in the letter
is a description of the GE POL process: "The process, conducted before final cutting and polishing, complements the many other physical processing steps to which a diamond is customarily subjected in its transformation from a rough diamond at the mine to a finished product." A footnote adds:

"There are many other processes that are performed in the manufacture of ... gem diamonds or gemstones that are taken for granted, without disclosure to the consumer. These include so-called 'green skin' removal and acid boiling ... no one is advocating routine disclosures for these types of processes, detectable or not. The GE process is much more akin to these routine manufacturing steps than to laser drilling or the other detectable treatments on which comment was requested."

by Peggy Jo Donahue and Robert Weldon

"The GE process is much more akin to ... routine manufacturing steps than to laser drilling..."

Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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