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Calls to put up centers to test precious stones gain ground.

Summary: Recent calls for the establishment of testing centers "to examine precious stones and maintain records on them" reflects the poor product knowledge that a sizable proportion of jewelers and clients have of precious stones. While it is forgivable for a client, because gemology is a highly specialist area, it is far less so for a retail or investment jeweler.

It is trust that has traditionally underpinned the jewelry industry. Trust of the retailer in his supplier and of the client in the retailer; where there is trust is also something that can be abused and broken. Sadly, it frequently is. In the case of precious metals, England introduced the hallmarking system as a proof positive that the yellow metal used as currency was gold of a certain standard. That was not to protect the public, but to ensure that the monarch's tax collectors collected only genuine gold of a known standard as tribute. To forge a quality mark (the 'hallmark') was punishable by death and remained so until relatively recently. The UK hallmark is still, after 700 years in existence, the most respected assurance in the world that a piece of silver, gold or platinum is what it alleges to be. There is, however, no such widely accepted and government backed standard that attracts draconian retribution in the case of precious stones. The best semi-official reassurance comes from independent gemological associations such as the Gemmological Association (GA) in the UK and the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). In the case of diamonds particularly there are many independent gemologists who will validate stone for a fee and defend their opinion in court if need be. Alongside these individuals, mega-traders such as De Beers will certificate stones as genuine. A second element that impinges on the quality of product knowledge of both client and jeweler is the advances in chemistry that have fueled the rise of simulant stones and even man-made genuine ones. In brief, a diamond can be made from any piece of carbon -- once famously from a carbonized sandwich. All that is needed is very high temperature and pressure and the carbon crystallizes into a genuine but man-made diamond. A simulant, however, is a stone made from something other than the materials of a natural stone yet carefully controlled to look like the genuine article. Turquoise, opal, amber, sapphire -- all are regularly simulated. Diamond has a legion of simulants, many easily detectable. One however, Moissanite, is not easy to detect and is a very different case. It is the hardest simulant yet, far harder than sapphire. It has light reflective and optical properties that actually exceed those of diamond and can be (and is) made in industrial quantity. It is easily identifiable given the right equipment, but to the eye and most tests the average jeweler is able or willing to apply, even if he knows them, it is a formidably deceptive material. It is also apparently in Saudi Arabia. A source said that in early 2007 a saleswoman from the Far East sold some $75 million of cut Moissanite into the Saudi wholesale market. A Moissanite wholesaler at the 2007 Mumbai jewelry fair confirmed this. There was no implication that the Moissanite was sold as anything other than what it was. The question is this: How many jewelers in Saudi Arabia who use diamonds in their range innocently bought Moissanite from trusted wholesalers who themselves might have been deceived? In the five years since the alleged sale of this simulant into the Kingdom's market, my casual trawling of retail jewelers' windows has never revealed a sign advertising Moissanite jewellery. So if it is being sold here, what is it being sold as? Thus, full circle to the pillars of product knowledge and trust. If it is the case that Moissanite is out on the Kingdom's market and not identified as such either through ignorance or by design, then there has never a better time to establish a properly accredited gem-lab and draconian laws that punish those who knowingly deceive clients with simulants. The pillar of the jewelry trade, trust, depends on it.

Copyright: Arab News 2012 All rights reserved.

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Publication:Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Date:Jan 16, 2012
Words:699
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