In conversation with Sriram Natarajan, Managing Director of GIA India
Sriram Natarajan, Managing Director of GIA India
Do you think the COVID-19 crisis has created more difficulties for GIA or you see it as an opportunity for taking major steps?
The COVID-19 crisis is unlike anything GIA has witnessed or experienced in its nearly 90-year history. In times like this, GIA’s mission to ensure public trust in gems and jewellery has been a guiding force. As an eternal optimist, I believe that there is a silver lining to every cloud. As an Institute, this has given us an opportunity to prioritise and focus on key initiatives. We continue to meet the needs of the Indian gem and jewellery industry by providing accurate and independent grading reports and services.
In this lockdown period, GIA India has also remained connected with the trade and employees through complimentary knowledge webinars and retail sales associate training programmes. We have received positive responses and will continue to make knowledge accessible for the trade. While this is a difficult period for the entire gem and jewellery industry, I am confident that the industry will emerge stronger as it has displayed resilience in the past.
According to you, what are the key trends for the diamond sector in the new decade?
There are and will continue to exist several key trends in the diamond industry – the one I believe has gained prominence is provenance. Consumers now, more than ever, have a heightened awareness of sustainably and ethically sourced products. The GIA Diamond Origin Service is a step forward in this direction. Using GIA’s decades of research, the Diamond Origin Report service scientifically matches a polished diamond to its original rough, confirming the country of origin information provided by the miner.
GIA Diamond Origin Service – Origin App, Diamond Origin Report and Origin Book
I also strongly believe that the next few years will be key for the widespread adoption of digital initiatives such as blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI). GIA is already committed to these as a part of the Institute’s digital transformation efforts. In 2018 GIA collaborated with Chow Tai Fook to deliver secure digital diamond grading reports to consumers for the first time using blockchain technology powered by IBM. These reports deliver a secure and permanent record of grading results, with a registration of report sent to customer’s email or phone number. Recently, we announced that GIA has joined forces with IBM Research once again to develop an advanced AI system designed to revolutionise diamond clarity grading. With these initiatives, GIA is uniquely positioned to leverage these new-age technologies and set a new bar in diamond grading.
Accurate diamond identification also remains of continued importance for the trade as well as consumers. GIA has been at the forefront of this through development of screening and identification services and instruments. In addition, GIA helps spread awareness among consumers about the importance of third-party grading reports and also offering a wide range of gemmological education programmes and courses for jewellers. These initiatives are backed by GIA’s decades of research.
What is GIA’s position on laboratory-grown diamonds? Do you believe the two markets can co-exist or will laboratory-grown diamonds eat into the market share of natural diamonds?
We believe that natural and laboratory-grown diamonds will coexist and both will have a market of their own. Laboratory-grown diamonds may have the benefit of affordability. The story of a natural diamond is unique – a product that was formed a billion years ago, several hundred miles under the earth, brought to the surface by volcanic activity, and a natural resource that’s depleting over time.
Consumer awareness and interest in laboratory-grown diamonds is growing. In response to this, GIA recently announced a decision to report specific 4Cs colour and clarity grades in its new digital reports for laboratory-grown diamonds, replacing the currently-used descriptive terms and grade ranges. We believe the growth of laboratory-grown diamonds will expand the overall diamond market and bring in new customers. Ensuring consumers’ trust with GIA’s reliable, independent and authoritative grading reports for all diamonds benefits the public and the entire gem and jewellery industry.
GIA has also been developing instruments and services to identify and screen laboratory-grown diamonds. The GIA iD100® gem testing device helps distinguish natural diamonds from laboratory-grown (HPHT and CVD) diamonds and diamond simulants in loose and mounted settings, and the GIA Melee Analysis Service separates natural diamonds from simulants, laboratory-grown and HPHT-treated natural diamonds.
GIA iD100® Gem Testing Device
GIA Melee Analysis Service
What is your opinion about the recently concluded Jewellery & Gem Virtual Exhibition?
GIA India has been participating in tradeshows organised by Informa Markets (formerly UBM) for many years. Their tradeshows have served as important events for domestic buyers to prepare for the upcoming seasons. We welcomed Informa’s decision to organise a virtual tradeshow given the COVID-19 situation, and were excited to be a part of it. I believe that the virtual exhibition served as a unique platform for GIA to share knowledge as well as connect with our existing clients and prospects. GIA India also organised a complimentary seminar on the topic, “4Cs of Diamond Quality” on Aug. 20, 2020, at 6:30 p.m., at the Jewellery & Gem Virtual Exhibition.