There was much interest worldwide when the International Grown Diamond Association (IGDA) was formed a short while ago. Now at last, it was thought, the global diamond industry had, as International Diamond Council (IDC) president Harry Levy said, a body it could talk to.
But when JCK news director Rob Bates interviewed Richard Garard, the IGDA’s secretary general, he proved to be ill prepared, displaying a lack of basic knowledge about accepted nomenclature, and an inability to answer a many of Bates’ basic, but important questions.
Industry veteran Chaim Even-Zohar’s analysis of the IGDA showed up flaws in the organisation’s structure as well as major transgressions against accepted nomenclature — starting with the IGDA’s name itself, going by Federal Trade Commision (FTC) guidelines — including those stipulated by the ISO Standard 18323 protocol, the IDC and CIBJO, the world jewellery confederation.
Most tellingly, however, the IGDA doesn’t seem to have done anything about the single biggest issue concerning lab-grown diamonds — their undisclosed mixing with parcels of natural stones. This has the potential to do terrible harm to the entire diamond industry. There is now even a clearly established illegal industry catering to the provision of lab-grown stones with fraudulently obtained laboratory certificates claiming they are natural.
If they are to establish themselves as a legitimate “go to” global trade body for lab-grown diamonds, the IGDA has, to begin with, bring every independent lab-grown diamond producer under its administrative umbrella. Having established that it truly represents the global industry, it has to establish a process pipeline audit system akin to the Kimberley Process (KP) that the natural diamond industry uses.
This audit system — call it the Global Lab-grown Diamond Protocol, for want of another name — has to bring in the technology companies that provide the equipment to manufacture lab-grown diamonds into its fold. There are a limited number of these companies and bringing them on board would not be an impossible task. None of the companies needs to disclose any proprietary technology or production techniques. They simply have to let the audit trail begin with the names of those firms who have bought their manufacturing equipment.
The idea is to establish a clearly separated production pipeline for lab-grown diamonds. That is essential for both the natural as well as lab-grown diamond industries to thrive side by side. Lab-grown diamonds are a perfectly legitimate product and they should establish their own successful marketplace. Right now, their route to market involves a great deal of surreptitious masquerading as natural stones. This is criminal behaviour and will do great harm not only to natural diamonds, but the lab-grown diamonds themselves if they are viewed in the public eye as a means swindling unsuspecting customers, rather than being a legitimate product category in their own right.
Right now, consumers in various markets happily buy fully disclosed, HPHT-treated diamonds. They would as happily buy diamonds that are created by the HPHT and CVD processes. They simply need to know and be given the right to choose the product they want.
Forming a global body isn’t going to achieve anything unless that body speaks with a clear voice to the whole world about the issues facing the industry.