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What’s in a name? The use of historical terminology to describe colour

Business is business

When a fringe lab uses a historical descriptor like ‘cornflower blue,’ consumers believe the stone is on par with ones described as such by reputable labs.

Labs have always felt pressure from dealers to name exceptional stones. One main reason they might have succumbed is that labs catering to the precious gemstone industry are not the same as a university research lab or government lab. By that I mean they don’t receive public money. Instead, they are businesses that serve the trade. The ‘big’ labs and the smaller ones, as well, have a challenging job of maintaining their integrity, while accommodating the base that sustains them.

To better understand the sentiment and reasoning behind this trend, in addition to surveying fellow valuers, I spoke to the principals of two reputable gem labs: Christopher Smith, who heads American Gemological Laboratories (AGL), and Richard Hughes from Lotus Gemology. Both had compelling points of view, but were polar opposite. Hughes said it is difficult to remain competitive without attempting to satisfy the trade, while Smith said he believes using historical terminology actually limits business. To put this in perspective, Lotus joins GIA, Swiss Gemmological Institute (SSEF), Asian Institute of Gemological Sciences (AIGS), and Gübelin Gem Lab in using these terms. In contrast, AGL does not.

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