Tangerines cost more than oranges
How does a professional appraiser reconcile the current situation with its sometimes significant grading differences in a way that is credible and faithful to our obligation to avoid bias? It isn’t difficult, but it may require a shift in how we think about grades and how we report our findings. First, be clear that the grades we provide are simply our opinions based on our training, limiting conditions, and the comparators we have at hand. They aren’t facts and they aren’t ‘GIA grades.’ Point out there can be legitimate differences in opinion between competent graders. Try to explain each lab has its own criteria for a given grade and they aren’t always comparable to another lab’s or to your own.
Second, trust the markets to make important distinctions. Diamonds with no grading reports usually sell for less than stones that have them. The ‘pedigree’ of each laboratory is reflected in the pricing differences for diamonds accompanied by reports. Even consumers researching online can see the price disparities for diamonds that seem to have the ‘same grades,’ but from different laboratories. Finally, always provide enough information in your appraisal to allow users to understand the grades and the value. My appraisals of any diamonds accompanied by reports always include my grade opinions alongside those of the laboratory’s. I disclose the basis of my grades (e.g. GIA training and master stones, etc) and the fact the value is based on market activity for diamonds with grading reports from that specific laboratory.
No more ostriches
As an industry, we can’t ignore the confusion created by the current state of affairs. Pointing fingers, complaining, and hoping it will go away are counterproductive and ineffectual reactions. It would be economic suicide for any major grading laboratory to suddenly stop using the D ““ Z colour grading nomenclature and attempt to market its own proprietary grades. If we’re honest about it, there is a lot of money being made at every level of the industry specifically because of the way things have evolved.
I suggested that solutions to the problem were difficult; perhaps difficult to enact would be more accurate. One elegant solution I’ve read about involved development of a common set of methods and standards enforced by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Getting all the labs and other concerned parties onboard has proven virtually impossible. My own feeble-minded ideas are for all trade members to preface every grade with a descriptor such as ‘Brand-X H-SI-2,’ or perhaps for the preeminent force who created the system to reclaim it, maybe by altering its reports by adding ‘GIA’ as a prefix, for instance ‘GIA-H.’ Regardless of how it happens, the change toward greater transparency will undoubtedly be slow and difficult, but in my opinion necessary, if we’re to retain the public’s trust.
I’m just one person with a very small business, yet I make it a point to share my understanding of the idiosyncratic nature of diamond grades and grading reports with every consumer with whom I interact. If each of us did the same, the markets might eventually reflect a different reality and we would have fewer confused and irate clients. Hey, a guy can dream,
Mark T. Cartwright, ISA CAPP, ICGA, CSM-NAJA, GG (GIA) is president of The Gem Lab, I.C.G.A., an independent American Gem Society (AGS)-accredited gem laboratory. He has been a jewellery designer, goldsmith, gemmologist, and appraiser for more than a quarter century. Cartwright can be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.