In the passing away of K.T. Ramachandran, the Chief Gemmologist of the Gemmological Institute of India (GII), I lost someone I considered a rock of integrity that had stood fast in a swamp of loose ethics, billion-dollar scams and uncertain times in the Indian gem and jewellery industry.
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There has been a lot of speculation and doomsday predicting in the wake of the De Beers announcement that it was launching its own synthetic jewellery line. Much of the reaction is driven by genuine fear. As an industry, we have been battling the insidious devaluation of our product by the undisclosed mixing of synthetics in parcels of natural diamonds.
The only product I know of that doesn’t really need continuous promotions is bread. This is one product that will sell itself even in the most adverse market conditions simply because it is essential for human survival. For every other manufactured thing, it is a constant battle for survival in a crowded marketplace.
As someone who has only recently started and is trying to make her mark on the gem and jewellery industry, I have realised that this field can be as much of a rat race as anything else. Following trends, developing designs that are relevant and monitoring price-points — all these are characteristic parts of the process of mass producing commercial jewellery.
The diamond industry has for decades, done business with a truly international pipeline — diamonds are mined in some continents, sorted and distributed through centres elsewhere, cut and polished in yet other places, set into jewellery in centres that could be in a fourth geographic location and finally consumed in bulk in places like the US, Japan and China — the first two having had nothing to do with the process pipeline whatsoever.
In world unsettled by political and economic upheavals, with looming trade wars and protectionist rhetoric, the one key factor necessary for the gem and jewellery industry, that is international by its very nature, to maintain its equilibrium and power forward successfully, is confidence.
Brace yourselves. The massive financial fraud (so far they’ve unearthed $1.8 billion but it looks like there’s more to come) involving Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi looks like snowballing into something much bigger — a knockout punch for the industry as far as consumer confidence is concerned.
It was December 2008 and I was having lunch with Mark Boston and his wife Milly at the Four Seasons hotel in Mumbai. Mark and Milly had moved there after the terrorist attack on the Taj Mahal hotel, where they usually stayed.