The following is an excerpt from an article published in Jeweller Magazine where I was asked some questions about certification and customer confidence.
The Fifth C: Certification
Rami Baron is Australia’s representative and executive council member to the World Federation of Diamond Bourses, as well as president of the Diamond Dealers Club of Australia. He believes retailers must remember exactly why a certificate is useful without falling into the trap of selling stones on paper value.
“Some grading labs use a reasonably-acceptable grading scale, and others are notorious for massively overgrading, so the question becomes how the trade is using these certificates – are we using them to enhance the sale to the consumer because we can now show the specific details of a diamond, or are we using them to bluff consumers?”
Baron insists that the most important use of independent certification is to determine the presence of treatments and enhancements, and that this sits above all other information included on the certificates.
“The average jeweller has no chance of identifying most treatments, so the most important thing about a certificate is that a lab with a great skill set and the right tools has guaranteed, for lack of a better word, that the stone is not an HPHT-created diamond or a synthetic, for example. Any certifying lab needs to have the toolset to be able to make that identification and then properly label their certificates so that everyone is aware,” he says, adding, “There’s nothing wrong with an HPHT stone, a laser-drilled stone or a synthetic as long as there is full disclosure and that buyers know what they are buying.”
The sixth C: Confidence
The sixth C is generally considered to be “confidence”, which can be interpreted in two different ways – firstly, that the customer has confidence in the retail process, including the knowledge and competence of the sales staff and also the abilities of any jewellers, gemmologists and graders who assist in the preparation of the product; secondly, that the customer has confidence that any diamond being sold by the retailer matches the description it carries, including the gemstone’s origin, dimensions, other values (colour, cut, carat and clarity), and valuation.
According to Baron, confidence is often mistaken as being solely about ethically-mined diamonds, an important global concern but really only half the definition. At a retail level, he believes confidence boils down to whether or not the consumer believes the purchase is a fair deal.
“Consumers may have read a little about conflict diamonds but that’s not what confidence is about to them,” he explains. “At retail level, confidence has to be about having the knowledge and communication to be able to satisfy a consumer’s needs and wants in line with their budget.”
To Baron, confidence extends way beyond conflict diamonds and certificates to encompass key issues of trust between retailers and consumers.
“It’s [confidence] certainly not limited to a certificate,” he says, admitting that people will still want to make sure what they are buying is equal to what has been graded, “but you don’t abrogate responsibility by providing a piece of paper”.
Knowing the diamonds are ethical is the job of the retailer, who should really be able to communicate this assurance without the need for additional proof, Baron continues: “Retailers must know the chain of custody that their diamonds take in their path to the consumer, and be able to ensure to the consumer that this chain is resilient and applicable.”
Given that “99 per cent of the industry” is committed to eliminating the opportunity for conflict diamonds to enter the pipeline, Baron believes consumers are far more concerned with getting the right deal than with any issues about conflict diamonds.
“We can’t all afford a D-flawless diamond, and we don’t all need one,” he says. “What we do need is to have confidence that any jewellery salesperson can align our needs, our budgets and our desires with the appropriate merchandise. The consumer wants a story and retailers who get too caught up in the characteristics of a diamond show a lack of knowledge and confidence in that story.”
To do this, retailers should be focusing on selling the romance, not the specifics. “When I want to buy a Louis Vuitton handbag, do I need to know in which exact factory it was made? Probably not. I just want to know that it was made ethically and I want the retailer to talk to me about the beauty of my purchase because I want to feel that I’m buying elegance,” Baron says.