Diamonds not always a buyer’s best friend, dispute shows

Founded in Tel Aviv in 1974 and now with eight offices worldwide, EGL (European Gemological Laboratory) is the target in a lawsuit in US courts after claims of “over-grading” diamonds, certifying them as being worth more than they really are – a charge the service vehemently denies.

Whether the issue for EGL’s alleged over-certification of the diamonds is fraud – or the result of a decades-old difference of opinion on how to fix and rate the value of stones – will be for the courts to decide.

EGL suffered the latest blow this week when Martin Rapaport, chairman of the Rapaport Group, which publishes an authoritative diamond price list and table that is considered the standard for diamond pricing in the US, said that his service would no longer list stones evaluated and certified by EGL for the all-important “four C’s” that determine the value of a diamond – carat, color, clarity and cut. In a statement, Rapaport said that his service “is opposed to the misrepresentation of diamond quality. The over-grading of diamonds is an unfair practice that destroys consumer confidence and the legitimacy of the diamond industry.”

The brouhaha stems from a series of lawsuits against Genesis Diamonds, a retailer in Nashville, brought by several customers who claim they were sold overpriced diamonds. In one case, a customer paid $135,000 for two stones, one weighing 3.01 carats and the second 3.04 carats, rated as “excellent” and “very good” cuts by EGL. But another appraisal placed the stones a grade lower, at “very good” and “good.” That appraisal valued them at just $22,500. The case was covered on a local Nashville television station, which highlighted the issue of the EGL report. Since then, other suits have been filed against Genesis.

But EGL CEO Guy D. Benhamou said that the reports got it all wrong — the issue is not fraud, but subjective interpretations of what constitutes a “good” diamond. In a statement, Benhamou said that “it is well known that since gemology is not an exact science, the same diamond sent to several gem labs could produce different grading results. You can receive different grades for the same diamond from several different labs. That does not mean that any of the diamond labs made a mistake, it is simply in the nature of the business. Any diamond grader and lab will tell you that.”

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