Signet Aims to Rubber-Stamp Synthetics Detectors

RAPAPORT… Signet Jewelers is planning to open a testing laboratory for
synthetic-diamond detectors to ensure its suppliers can confidently say they
are only dealing in natural stones.

The company has been working with United
Laboratories (UL), a product-testing firm, for the last nine months to create a facility
for vetting the synthetic-diamond-testing machines available on the market.

The move comes as the retailer accelerates its jewelry traceability
program, which it expanded earlier this year to cover diamond sourcing. The
company requires all its suppliers to ensure they do not provide lab-grown

The project is the same one that the Diamond Producers Association (DPA) has been developing, representatives from Signet and the DPA confirmed.

As a starting point, the U.S.-based retailer will use
devices from three recognized manufacturers: the International Institute
of Diamond Grading Research (IIDGR), a subsidiary of De Beers; the
Gemological Institute of America (GIA); and HRD Antwerp.

In time, however, Signet and UL plan to create a benchmark
for judging detection machines from around the world. There are about 16 such
products available – with more industry players planning market entries – and makers
of the technology include companies in the U.S., Europe, India and China.
Russia-based miner ALROSA plans to put out a product this year as well.

“Technology is coming from lots of companies and countries,”
said David Bouffard, Signet’s vice president of corporate affairs (pictured), pointing out
that some regions’ machines were not as reliable as those of the IIDGR, the GIA
and HRD.

“The concern is ensuring suppliers are working with
technology that actually works and detects natural diamonds,” Bouffard told Rapaport
on the sidelines of the Gem Jewellery Export Promotion Council’s
“Mines to Market” conference in Mumbai last week.

UL, headquartered in Northbrook, Illinois, tests a range of
consumer products based on criteria such as safety, compliance and
sustainability. Its jewelry and watch division offers diamond and jewelry
verification programs, as well as other quality-assurance and traceability

Signet unveiled its responsible diamond-sourcing protocol in
February 2016 to improve transparency in its supply chain, launching it in
earnest earlier this year. The retailer, which already had a similar sourcing
practice for gold, plans to extend the procedures to cover silver jewelry this
year and colored gemstones by the end of 2020, Bouffard said.

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