Diamond Dealer

17 08 2010

Mark Hiroshi Willis is President of Diama diamond company. We discover his unique business model and entrepreneurial journey in Japan.

By Peter Harris

Like so many long-term residents in Japan, Mark Hiroshi Willis’ first job here, back in 1991, was teaching English. Although he enjoyed the job, Willis was a qualified gemologist and had always known that his professional future lay with diamonds. This brought him to a crossroads: find a job in the industry, or move to the countryside and perfect his Japanese language skills. His dilemma was quickly resolved however, when he landed a position with Indian diamond company Diminco as a De Beers ‘sightholder’ (purveyor of polishing services). Willis’ first role was in sales before he moved into buying, a privileged position for a non-family, non-Indian staff member. After a few years, hungering for work with bigger diamonds, he moved to another company, Allied Diamonds, a Belgium based sightholder with its own mine. He eventually took over the entire Japan operation, a move that included the acquisition of the jewelry wing of Mitsui & Co. This acquisition had a hint of personal irony for Willis, Mitsui being the company at which his mother had tried to organize him a position with when he first came to Japan.

In 2003, after a disagreement with his partners in Belgium, Willis decided it was time to go solo: “Also at that time I had just had a baby girl, and it was actually my wife who supported me and gave me the strength to start my own company. I had always wanted to have my own business from when I was a little kid, but to make the final decision is always the hardest. So with her support, I made the jump.”

From employee to entrepreneur
Initially, Willis’ new business, Diama, was concerned with what he had always done—diamond trading at the retail, wholesale and private dealer levels. When asked what was the hardest part about the decision to embark on an entrepreneurial venture, Willis is unequivocal about the importance of self-consciousness. “Once you decide that you are going to do it, once you know that this is what you are doing, that’s it; it’s all easier from there,” he says. He believes that after breaking the psychological barrier, everything happens almost by inertia.

While having Japanese skills has been beneficial, Willis doesn’t see fluency in the language as essential to setting up a business in Japan. “If you have the drive and the passion, you can get things done—people always say ‘if only I had the X level of language ability or Y amount of capital….’ but in reality, you just have to take the plunge and live the dream.” His feelings about the size and scope of his business are similar—he believes it takes just as much time and energy to build a small business, so why aim for less than building a big-brand multinational?

However, Willis has learned to expand the company as necessary. He has also learned to be nimble in terms of pace and strategy. A couple of years ago he had some large shows coming up and felt it was time to really expand. But the market took a turn for the worse. The current economic climate is bad for the diamond industry as consumers, prompted by global price hikes, are cutting back on luxury expenditure. At the industrial level, corporations are spending with noted caution and the diamond industry has been badly affected by the credit crunch, price hikes and labor issues. Sensing a change in the wind and frustrated by a sales team that was not reaching its full potential, Willis decided to cut down his operation as quickly as he had inflated it. He scaled back until it was just himself and his wife and as a result, although his company is smaller, his business is bigger and profit margins are healthy.

Engaging the market
So how is Diama managing to prosper at a time when many within the diamond industry are struggling? Firstly, the cutbacks helped, but hand-in-hand with this was Willis’ decision to create a niche side business— selling engagement rings to the expat community in Tokyo. Interestingly, it all started when an unsuspecting banker tried to pick up Willis’ wife—he and Willis ended up becoming friends and he later provided a few of the banker’s colleagues with engagement rings. Buying an engagement ring can be a daunting prospect, and not knowing Japanese or Tokyo can make it even harder. Thus, for foreign men with matrimony on their mind, the presence of an independent, English-speaking industry professional, who can get stones at wholesale prices, spread like wildfire. Willis is candid about his lack of need for marketing: “All my clients have come through word-of-mouth and to be honest, that suits me too.”

“Once you’ve crossed the line, it’s very difficult to go back to working for someone else”

Although he is still involved on the retail and wholesale side, private clients are gradually becoming Willis’ focus and he plans to use this base to launch his own, more diverse range of jewelry in the near future. And the job is obviously one that Willis enjoys. He organizes his own time, is privy to the romantic designs of budding husbands-to-be and often becomes friends with the couples, seeing them through from engagement to wedding. Willis explains, “I get to be part of some really heartwarming stories and have made great friends through my work.”

Would he ever go back to working for a company? “Not at all. Once you’ve crossed the line, it’s very difficult to go back to working for someone else. In fact, I almost don’t consider my job as working—I could look at diamonds all day long and have some amazing experiences, and if I wake up and think ‘today would be a good day to go on a bike ride with my daughter,’ I can.” JI


Indian Diamond Firm to Buy More From Miners, Bypassing De Beers

17 08 2010

Diamond India Ltd. plans to boost imports of rough diamonds directly from miners as De Beers, the world’s biggest supplier, may cut sales to a select group of customers, or so-called sightholders, in the South Asian nation.

The company may seek supplies from miners in Russia, Angola and Botswana to pare its reliance on the world’s biggest diamond company, Sanjay Kothari, chairman of the Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council that founded Diamond India, told reporters in Mumbai today.

“The government has advised us to widen our sources of supply and with De Beers planning to reduce the number of sightholders, we will speed up our efforts,” Kothari said. “We will be more aggressive in sourcing from other miners.”

Lower purchases from De Beers may help producers such as Rio Tinto Ltd. and Russia’s ZAO Alrosa to increase sales in the world’s second-fastest growing major economy. De Beers, supplier of more than half of the world’s rough diamonds, expects sales in India and China to grow more than 10 percent a year over the next few years as rising incomes fuel demand for jewelry.

Diamond Trading Co., the distribution unit of De Beers, may remove eight Indian sightholders from April 2008, while adding three new customers, Kothari said. Lynette Gould, a spokeswoman for De Beers in London, declined to comment before the Diamond Trading Co.’s new supply contract begins in April.

Shortage Predicted

DTC said last month its ventures in Botswana and Namibia will sell rough diamonds for the first time. The company sold all its rough diamonds through its London operation during the previous 2005-07 contract period. As many as 75 of the company’s 79 sightholders will be offered gems through London and South Africa, the company said Dec. 17.

“DTC’s move to consolidate business in a few hands will hit small and medium-sized processors and lead to a shortage in supplies of rough diamonds,” Kothari said.

India, which processes 11 out of every 12 of the world’s diamonds, imported rough diamonds worth $8.6 billion in the 11 months ended November, up 15 percent from a year ago. Exports of gems and jewelry in the April-November period rose 23 percent to $13.7 billion from a year ago, according to the Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council.

De Beers is 45 percent owned by London-based Anglo American Plc, 40 percent by the Oppenheimer family and 15 percent by Botswana’s government.

Gitanjali Gems buys Nakshatra brand

17 08 2010
MUMBAI: Jewellery firm Gitanjali Gems Ltd said on Monday its unit bought the Nakshatra brand from Diamond Trading Co, the rough diamond distribution arm of De Beers.

In a separate statement, it also said it bought diamond and jewellery manufacturer and distributor Brightest Circle Jewellery Pvt Ltd.

Financial details of the transactions were not available immediately.

JVC Provides Additional Guidance on De Beers Class Action Suit

17 08 2010

In a supplemental guidance on the De Beers class action suit, the Jewelers Vigilance Committee (JVC) is advising resellers that they can file for both diamond-only jewelry and jewelry containing diamonds and other gems in the same claim.

Resellers are being told to file an extra copy of pages 5 and 6 of the claim form because the guidance on the court-approved form requires that retailers should “check only one” when reporting purchases of either jewelry containing diamonds only, or diamonds and other gemstones.

In order to claim all qualified purchases, resellers should fill one copy of the two pages as “diamond only” and the second copy as “mixed jewelry.”

According to the JVC, in all events multiple printed forms can and should be used, as some in the trade will have multiple purchases that cannot physically fit on one printed form.

More Guidance for De Beers Case Claims

17 08 2010

The Jewelers Vigilance Committee continues to provide guidance for resellers who submit claims to the De Beers class action settlement fund. To submit a claim that includes all resellers’ purchases that qualify for compensation, resellers may have to make an extra copy of two particular pages of the form to claim both “diamond only” jewelry and jewelry containing “mixed stones.”

The guidance on the court-approved form (pages 5 and 6) developed by the parties to the suit states that the reseller should “check only one” when reporting purchases of either jewelry containing diamonds only, or mixed diamonds and other gemstones jewelry. However, JVC is advising that the reseller is not obligated to make such a choice, but can claim both “diamond only” jewelry and jewelry that contains both diamonds and other gemstones.

In order to claim all purchases that qualify, the reseller should either photocopy or download multiple copies of pages 5 and 6 of the claim form and fill in one copy as “diamond only” and the second copy as “mixed jewelry”. In all events, multiple printed forms can and should be used, as some in the trade will have multiple purchases that can’t physically fit on one printed form.

Settlement Info Available for Diamond Purchasers in De Beers Case

17 08 2010

RAPAPORT…   The notice and claims process has begun in a $295-million Proposed Settlement with De Beers in the United States. Both individual consumers and members of the diamond trade are eligible to make a claim under the proposed settlement.

The settlement covers a series of class action lawsuits, which allege that De Beers charged anti-competitive prices for the rough diamonds it sold. They also claim that De Beers monopolized the rough diamond market, and disseminated false and misleading advertising. The class action lawsuits only bring claims against De Beers.

Under the proposed settlement, a $295-million fund has been created. This settlement fund will be distributed to two groups, or classes, of purchasers: the Direct Purchaser Class and the Indirect Purchaser Class.

The Direct Purchaser Class includes persons or businesses, other than Diamond Trading Company sightholders, that purchased any gem diamond directly from De Beers, or one of its diamond mining competitors, between September 20, 1997, and March 31, 2006.

The Indirect Purchaser Class includes persons or businesses that purchased gem diamonds, diamond jewelry, or other products containing diamonds from someone other than De Beers or one of its mining competitors between January 1, 1994, and March 31, 2006. The Indirect Purchaser Class is further divided into two subclasses: The Consumer Subclass, which includes persons who purchased gem diamonds and diamond products for their own use or for a gift, and the Reseller Subclass, which are businesses which purchased gem diamonds and diamond products for resale.

“This proposed settlement will provide a cash benefit to consumers who purchased diamonds or diamond jewelry, and broad injunctive relief addressing the conduct alleged in the complaints,” said Josef Cooper of Cooper & Kirkham in San Francisco, California.

More details about the $295-million Proposed Settlement and how to file a claim are available at http://www.diamondsclassaction.com/ or by calling 1-800-760- 5431.

Joe Tabacco, of Berman DeValerio Pease Tabacco Burt & Pucillo in San Francisco, said,  “We are very pleased with the Proposed Settlement. After a number of years, we were finally able to achieve a very substantial settlement of these lawsuits. I encourage anyone who believes they may be a Class Member to call the claims administrator or visit the settlement website to get complete information about their rights. Retailers and others in the diamond trade are also eligible to file claims to share in the settlement.”

Class members do not need to do anything to stay in the Class, however they must submit a claim form by May 19, 2008 to participate in the Proposed Settlement. To receive a payment, you must complete a Claim Form. Claim Forms can be obtained by visiting http://www.diamondsclassaction.com/ or by calling 1-800-760-5431.

Those wishing to object or exclude themselves from the Proposed Settlement must do so no later than March 4, 2008. The Plan of Distribution and full details on how to properly file a claim, an objection, or exclusion request are available by visiting http://www.diamondsclassaction.com/ or by calling 1-800-760-5431.

The Court will hold an approval hearing on April 14, 2008. At that time, the Court will consider whether to approve the Proposed Settlement and award attorneys’ fees and costs. All potential Class Members are encouraged to visit http://www.diamondsclassaction.com/ or call 1-800-760-5431 to determine if they are a Class Member and to obtain information about their legal rights.

Diamond Cultured Club

17 08 2010

In 2003, Wired magazine heralded “the new diamond age,” noting that factories now can produce diamonds that are chemically identical to those produced in nature. It crowed that the stones soon would be as cheap as $5 per carat. “If you give a woman a choice between a 2.00 ct. stone and a 1.00 ct. stone and everything else is the same, including the price, what’s she gonna choose?” asked Gemesis Cultured Diamonds founder Car-ter Clarke in that article. “Does she care if it’s synthetic or not? Is anybody at a party going to walk up to her and ask, ‘Is that synthetic?’ There’s no way in hell. So I’ll bite your ass if she chooses the smaller one.”

To people in what now must be referred to as the mined industry, those were frightening words. And in the four years since, there have been many more articles along the same lines and a number of headline-making moves, including the hiring by Gemesis of De Beers veteran Joan Parker and the Gemological Institute of America’s decision to grade synthetic stones.

Yet, the lab-grown-diamond industry remains in its infancy, and many believe its threat has been greatly exaggerated. “Yes, there is more [synthetic] production,” De Beers executive director of external and corporate affairs Stephen Lussier told JCK. “But I don’t think it has impacted the diamond market in any way. Nothing has really changed. If anything, I’m more relaxed about it.”

Whatever the future holds for lab-grown stones (see sidebar, p. 79), as 2008 dawns, the threat from them is minimal. Here’s why:

They’re detectable. A recent article in Idex warned that certain stones from Boston’s Apollo Diamond Corp. had “escaped detection” from GIA and some “could not be detected.” GIA begged to differ. “Synthetics are grown in an entirely different environment than natural diamonds,” noted lab director Tom Moses. “That fundamental difference in growth allows those who have expertise in detection to exploit those growth differences. … I feel good about GIA’s ability to identify synthetics. We have not seen any synthetics that we have been unable to detect, even when that has been stated to be the case.”

Of course, detectable by GIA does not mean detectable by most jewelers. The stones are chemically identical to natural stones, which means visually identical. While there are visual clues that differentiate them from naturals, they generally require De Beers’ DiamondSure and DiamondView machines for a definitive identification.

Lussier says the ability to differentiate is the most important consideration: “If you look at the colored stones categories where synthetics have been around, the crucial issue is consumer confidence. The stronger the confidence, the stronger the business will be.”

They’re fancy colored. Almost all synthetic stones now in production are fancy colors. Gemesis produces yellow diamonds and next year will start manufacturing pinks and blues. Chatham Created Gems, whose diamonds are produced by an Asian partner, manufactures mostly pinks as well as some blues and yellows. Only Apollo, which uses a different process—chemical vapor deposition, as opposed to high pressure and temperature—is regularly producing colorless stones, mostly in the F—G/VS range and weighing about 0.33 to 0.50 cts. It, too, is branching into fancy colors.

Both Gemesis and Chatham say they can produce colorless stones, but at high price points, meaning they are not necessarily economical to produce. “They are too close [in price] to what you can buy from a natural-diamond wholesaler,” says Tom Chatham, president and chief executive officer of Chatham Created Gems. “We have such a demand for the pinks and blues, there is no sense in trying to buck the natural market in whites.”

Gemesis does plan to go into colorless stones “within a three- to five-year time frame,” executives say, but the company will produce only bigger stones, in the 4.00 to 10.00 ct. range in rough, sizes likely to be in short supply. But they won’t be “significantly cheaper” than naturals. The big problem, says Gemesis chief operating officer Clark McEwen, is that growing colorless stones requires eliminating nitrogen. But “nitrogen does all sorts of good things for the growth process,” he says. And when you remove it, diamonds grow smaller and slower.

They’re available in limited numbers. The day when a consumer will have Clarke’s choice between a natural and a synthetic remains far away. Certainly, all the producers are ramping up production. None will release production figures, but Chatham gets “up to” 1,000 cts. per month. Gemesis produces in “the tens of thousands” of carats annually and hopes to double production over the next few years. At present the company has “over 200” machines operating; a recent expansion will make room for hundreds more. Apollo produces “thousands of carats” annually and hopes to increase it to “tens of thousands,” says Bryant Linares, president and CEO of Apollo’s gemstone unit.

Those numbers are minuscule compared with mining production. “I don’t think we will ever catch up with the natural industry,” Chatham says. “That’s a billion carats a year.”

The most optimistic projection comes from Linares, who thinks Apollo can build “a mine-size capacity of a million carats of rough on an annual basis” in “less than a decade.”

They aren’t cheap. With production limited and costs high, prices are far steeper than originally predicted (never mind $5 per carat). Apollo originally said its colorless diamonds would sell for one-third less than natural diamonds. Now they sell for about 15 percent less.

The fancy colored stones being produced are significantly cheaper than natural fancy colored stones, whose prices can be astronomical. (On a tour of his factory, McEwen points to a red: “If that was a natural stone, it would be worth over a million dollars.”) But Gemesis sells yellow stones for only slightly less than the price of a comparable natural colorless stone. The pinks and blues will sell for slightly more.

“People pay $6,000 to $7,000 for our stones,” admits Gemesis president and CEO Stephen D. Lux. “They are not a cheap proposition, but they are a good value.”

Nomenclature and Other Issues

If pricing and other aspects haven’t met early expectations, it’s because the technology is still being fine-tuned. The notion of factory-produced diamonds may conjure images of an assembly line spitting them out like widgets, but manufacturers stress how unreliable their production is. “This is a natural growth process,” notes McEwen. “Just like when you grow tomatoes, they are not all the same. The qualities we produce are different, the shapes are different, just like in nature.”

“We are up against certain hurdles that the natural stone doesn’t have,” notes Chatham. “People expect us to dial in a bubble-gum pink stone and we can’t. We must have 100 shades of pink.” He adds, “We don’t make stones. We make an environment, and nature grows the crystal. It is a semi-controlled environment, but there is a lot going on that we don’t know.”

So, with the nightmare scenario of bucketsful of undetectable lab-grown discount diamonds not likely to unfold anytime soon, is the diamond industry ready to embrace this new category?

Chatham, who has fought his share of battles over his created gemstones, says he’s finding far more acceptance this time around. “The resistance is totally different than it was from ruby, emerald, or sapphire,” he says. “People totally understand what this is.”

Lux says GIA’s decision to issue reports for the stones gave the product “the biggest boost” it ever had. “We look at it as a watershed event,” he says. “It took a lot of resistance out of the trade. When the respected GIA came out and classified it as a diamond, it told the story for us.”

Even so, tension remains between the mined and created sectors. The mined sector isn’t happy that almost every article about synthetics refers to them as an “ethical alternative” to natural diamonds, since they avoid the blood diamond and environmental issues—even though no established human rights or environmental group has endorsed that position.

The diamond growers insist that this talk isn’t coming from them. Gemesis has even contractually forbidden its customers from discussing those topics (though designer Taryn Rose, who uses Gemesis stones in her new jewelry line, has brought them up numerous times). The Cultured Diamond Foundation, which Gemesis helped found, puts similar requirements on its members. “We want to take the high road, talking about the positives of our product and not the negatives of someone else’s,” says Lux.

The other two producers also say they’re not promoting these issues but admit they are driving much of their sales. “It’s not something we like to take advantage of, but there are companies that we sell to that do it on the premise that it’s a green product,” Chatham says. “I can’t say anything personally, because every chemical we use comes out of the ground. I tell that to them, but they still think it’s better than these big holes in Africa. We just go along with it.”

Then there is the seemingly endless debate over nomenclature. The mined industry opposes the word cultured, and Jewelers Vigilance Committee recently filed a petition—endorsed by other diamond and jewelry associations—with the Federal Trade Commission to prevent its use. It has even hired a top lobbying firm to press its case.

The diamond growers say they are not worried about the FTC’s decision, noting they use both cultured and other FTC-approved words such as lab-grown and man-made. “We would prefer to use the word cultured, but it’s not essential to our business,” says Lux.

Chatham says his father long ago signed a cease-and-desist order concerning the word cultured, so he doesn’t use it. “I have already put millions into the word created,” he says. But he calls the JVC petition “protectionism for the natural diamond industry.” He adds, “Why doesn’t the JVC go after all of these cubic zirconia sellers selling their product as synthetic?”

Meanwhile, those in the lab-grown camp have their own nomenclature issues. They are irritated that the “natural” industry keeps referring to their stones as synthetic—a phrase they think consumers hear as fake. There was a time when the diamond associations wanted to make the word mandatory, and GIA’s original synthetic reports used that term only. Both plans have been dropped, but the word still rankles. “Synthetic is so ridiculous,” says Linares. “My son’s got a football. It says synthetic leather. It’s vinyl. It’s purposely misleading.”

They also dislike De Beers’ statements, such as the one it recently sent to JCK, which compared lab-grown diamonds to “cubic zirconia and moissanite.”

Whatever the hard feelings, the producers say they shouldn’t be viewed as antagonists, and Gemesis notes that its jewelry often uses natural stones as accents. “We have no interest in bringing out something that will undercut the natural market,” says McEwen. “If it goes down, we go down. We have been careful to be part of this industry, and not adversarial to it.”

He, like other commentators, thinks synthetics production will supplement natural during expected shortages in the future. “The Argyle Mine has only 10 years left,” McEwen notes. “After that, a majority of pinks will be gone.”

So, can the two sectors learn to live together—like the lab-grown and natural diamonds in a Gemesis ring? “We consider ourselves part of the diamond industry,” says Lux. “Not the cultured diamond industry—the diamond industry.”

The FutureMan-made diamonds may not pose a threat now, but will they in the future?
At some point, mass-produced machine-manufactured diamonds will come on the market. But no one knows when. Some predict five years. Some think decades.
When the day comes, De Beers executives predict, the price will decline rapidly, since that’s what the price of new technology (like iPods) tends to do. “That’s the crucial issue,” says De Beers director of external and corporate affairs Stephen Lussier. “One product [the naturals] has long-term value, the other doesn’t.”
But people on the lab-grown side say they don’t expect the price to fall—nor do they want it to. “The machinery involved is very expensive and very big,” notes Tom Chatham, president and chief executive officer of Chatham Created Gems.
That machinery could change. Recently the Carnegie Institution announced a way to grow diamonds through microwave technology, which it claims can produce diamonds “in days.” But the current producers say they’ve investigated the alternative processes and are sticking with what they have.
Then there’s De Beers. The company’s Gem Defensive laboratories have been researching—and producing—synthetics for decades. It owns a major producer of industrial synthetics, Element Six. Journalist Chaim Even-Zohar has suggested that De Beers will start including lab-grown rough in its sightboxes by 2011—something De Beers has denied in the past.
What keeps this field dynamic is that industrial synthetic diamonds have widespread technical applications, so there is significant financial incentive in developing cheaper and better methods. Even Apollo is focused more on the industrial market than the gem market. “The gem market is just the tip of the iceberg,” says Chuck Meyer, president of Cultured Diamond Co., a consultant to the industry, a board advisor at Apollo, and a former vice president at Gemesis.
He is more certain than others that big changes are coming. “In a technologically driven area, things don’t mature arithmetically,” Meyer notes. “They grow exponentially.”
Adds Bryant Linares, president and CEO of Apollo’s gemstone unit: “There is a desire to crack this code. We are not the only smart people. Someone is going to figure out how to do it.”
The Reaction at RetailThe media are fascinated by lab-grown diamonds, and so, apparently, are customers. JCK spoke to numerous retailers carrying the stones, and their verdict was generally positive. Among their observations:
People often search specifically for synthetic diamonds. Bostonian Jewelers, Boston, is the only store in the world selling Apollo’s colorless lab-grown diamonds, and a lot of people find their store through the Internet, says store manager Alexandria Matossian. “We have people that fly in just to see them before they make their purchase,” she says.
Social issues matter. Even though the synthetics companies insist they are not promoting social or environmental issues, retailers say it’s a big reason customers are buying the stones. “A lot of people just feel more comfortable knowing it can’t be a blood diamond,” says Tania Qovadis, owner of Qovadis Jewelry in Los Angeles.
People love the technology. Ronnie Heller, president of Barons, a three-store California chain, notes, “The technology is fascinating to people—how it is grown with a seed, yet it’s still a diamond and does everything you want it to do.”
That angle is especially big in Boston, a high-tech hub. “When someone is in the semiconductor field, they know the technology,” says Matossian. “They love to see diamonds made with the technology they’ve been working with.”
They do best with colored diamond fans. “If someone is predisposed to yellow diamonds, they are very receptive to the whole idea,” notes Matt Meis, a San Diego designer who bills himself as The Wandering Jeweler, and sells jewelry from Pintura. “My clients who want a lab-grown intense yellow don’t have $15,000 to $20,000 to spend on the naturals.”
Price is not a huge factor. Monteca Confer-Beisel, manager of Confer’s Jewelers in Bellefonte, Pa., says the product’s look is a far bigger selling point. But when she tells customers the pink Chatham stone they are looking at “would go for $100,000 as a natural, they love that—particularly the women. Because who’s to know?”
Nevertheless, the stones cost more than most people expect. “Since it’s man-made, they think that this stuff should be really cheap,” Meis says.
One enduring problem is the Wired article from 2003, whose cover proclaimed the diamonds would be as cheap as $5 a carat. “That keeps popping up every time someone does a search,” says Matossian.
There is very little consumer resistance to them. Larry Blauweiss, of Fifth Avenue Designs, in Denver, “can’t say he never” had people shy away from created stones, but he says the overall response is positive. “When we explain to them it is a real diamond, it’s just grown in a lab, the acceptance is very strong.” He adds that having GIA reports “gives a lot of credibility to the product.”
Confers-Beisel likewise has received far fewer objections than she expected. “Nobody cares that they are created,” she says. “Some people don’t even ask what it means.”
Because they’re mostly fancy colors, they are primarily used in fashion pieces. “We wouldn’t sell it in an engagement ring,” says Confers-Beisel. “Men usually buy those, and they don’t like to buy created anything. It takes the romance out of it for guys. It’s like with moissanite—guys never want to touch it, but women will buy it for themselves.”
Despite occasional media coverage, some retailers feel consumers are not educated about the product, and hope for more publicity. That’s beginning to happen—Gemesis will have a 10-page spread in Town & Country this month.
Even so, the most frequent comment from retailers is that they want more stones, in bigger sizes, and in more familiar colors. “If the product was available in white stones,” says Blauweiss, “I have no doubt it would be going through the roof.”