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A Salesperson Finds Himself Between a Lab-Grown Diamond and a Hard Place

A salesperson finds himself between a lab-grown diamond and a hard place.

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SAMANTHA AND DANIEL Webb were expecting their first child in the coming fall. No doubt, the past few years had been eventful for the high school sweethearts who married in 2015, shortly after Daniel’s law school graduation.

ABOUT REAL DEAL

Real Deal is a fictional scenario designed to read like real-life business events. The businesses and people mentioned in this story should not be confused with actual jewelry businesses and people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kate Peterson is president and CEO of Performance Concepts, a management consultancy for jewelers. Email her at [email protected]

Daniel’s landing a job as a staff attorney with an international forensic accounting firm was a dream for the couple, especially since it was the same firm that employed Samantha Webb, CPA, as a senior manager. They knew that with offices throughout the U.S., a move or two in the course of their careers with the company was a virtual certainty — but it wasn’t at all scary for them. Innate curiosity and a spirit of adventure had brought them together as kids, and those same characteristics certainly kept life interesting for them now.

Back in January, the company asked the couple to move from their home in the Chicago suburbs to southwest Florida, where Samantha would be a new managing director in their largest U.S. office. Of course, the relocation included a supervisory position for Daniel in the legal department as well. Shortly after settling into their new home, Daniel and Samantha learned that along with all of the other recent changes in their life, they would also be welcoming a long-awaited new addition to their family.

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When Samantha jokingly mentioned a “push present” after several weeks of harsh morning sickness, Daniel decided it was time to start planning. He knew that Sam had always wanted a pair of “grown up” diamond stud earrings (as she called them) to replace the half-carat total weight pair her parents had given her for her high school graduation. He also knew that Sam had admired the earrings their new neighbor Jack had gotten for his wife (and Sam’s new best friend) Kayla last Christmas. Daniel took the opportunity to ask Kayla for advice and information to help with his decision while she was waiting for Sam in advance of a Saturday afternoon baby-shopping adventure.

Kayla said that Jack had bought her earrings from Maxwell’s, a well-known and highly respected jeweler in town. She told Daniel what she remembered about the details (color, clarity, carat weight and price) of her husband’s purchase, though she was not with him when he bought the earrings. She also recommended that Daniel specify his interest in seeing only natural diamonds, since it seemed that so many places were advertising lab-grown stones, and she knew that Kayla would want the “real thing.” Armed with everything he needed to know, Daniel visited Maxwell’s looking for a pair of 1.5-carat total weight cushion-shaped natural diamond studs matching the excellent cut, G, VS2 quality specs of Kayla’s.

Daniel told Chris, the Maxwell’s salesman, exactly what he was looking for, and Chris was more than happy to show him a beautiful pair of diamond studs that matched his size and quality specifications precisely. Daniel was quite surprised, however, when he saw the $8,200 price tag. He’d expected to pay a little more than the $3,500 Kayla said Jack had spent, but more than double the price was well beyond what he had planned.

Daniel told Chris the story of how he came to Maxwell’s and about Kayla’s earrings. He asked how there could be so dramatic a difference in price. In search of a reasonable explanation, Chris checked the store’s client history for details on that original purchase. The information in the record indicated that, while Jack had looked at a natural diamond pair, he’d eventually bought lab-grown diamonds of the same quality, and he’d actually spent $2,600 for them. Chris noted that he had a like pair of lab-grown studs in stock, but he was more than a little confused about how to handle the situation. While he wanted to satisfy Daniel’s needs and make the sale, he was very concerned about violating the confidentiality of his original customer.

The Big Questions

  • What are Chris’ options at this point?
  • He needs to make a very quick decision, and he knows that if he simply shows Daniel the lab-grown studs for comparison, it will be clear that Kayla’s earrings are not what she believes them to be. Can he explain the difference in price without divulging the details of Jack’s purchase?
Troy L.
Irvine, CA

This recently happened, and I explained that when your friends come in and purchase a diamond, lab-grown or natural, if you ask them, it is still a diamond and it is up to them to disclose its true origins.

Amy C.
Grove, OK

This is actually a pretty common situation and getting more so with lab diamonds being so prevalent. I would explain to the customer that the prices of natural diamonds are simply not possible below a certain price point, regardless of what anyone suggests. I would not mention any other customers’ purchases, but you could show them the list of available diamonds matching the grade on a site like Polygon (you can adjust the visible price upwards as you wish). They usually understand at this point and make their own conclusions about the neighbor.

Jennifer F.
Colorado Springs, CO

All you can do in this scenario is show the client natural diamond studs and lab-grown diamond studs and let them extract whatever information they choose to from there. We tell clients that lab-grown and natural diamonds have an identical crystal structure, and it is up to them to make the choice about what they are comfortable spending and why. As sure as clients can be of what they think they want to buy (or own), it’s best to not divulge anything but facts of what IS available in their price point. And it’s okay to say, “We don’t carry natural diamond studs at the price you are seeking, and we never have. That’s why we carry this amazing selection of lab-grown diamond studs.”

Marcus M.
Midland, TX

This is why I hate lab-grown diamonds and refuse to stock them. The confusion and distrust the costumers will have in a situation like this will only become more common. Chris needs to be up front with Daniel and educate him on the difference without providing details of his neighbor’s purchase. Let Daniel figure out what happened on his own. It sounds like his neighbor pulled a fast one on his wife, and that’s unfortunate, but that’s on him and not the jewelry store, unless they misled him to begin with. Lab-growns cause problems … plain and simple.

Jo G.
Oconomowoc, WI

The line about “she would want the real deal” told me this is a setup question regarding how do you feel about lab-grown. The second part is lying husbands, and if you have been in this business any length of time, you have run across one or a dozen of these. I wouldn’t worry about divulging secrets. He has studied law and is married to an accountant, so he is smarter than the average bear. I sell what my customer wants. They want diamonds without diamond pricing, okay, lab-grown it is. Very few people really care about natural versus lab, only the natural diamond dealers, and in their desperate attempt to stay in the game with inflated inventory, they really care. The client wants diamonds. Big diamonds. Show natural and lab-grown in matching color and clarity and let them decide what suits them best. I have seen so many disgusting diamond earrings that color and clarity only slightly matter. Size and price are what it comes down to.

Anne H.
Mechanicsburg, PA

Chris should tell Daniel that customers misremember information about their jewelry all the time. When you’re in the middle of buying jewelry, every little detail consumes your mind. After the purchase, real life gets in the way and those details that seemed so important fade into the mist of memory! Without going into explicit detail, he can say that the price seems to be more in line with lab-grown than mined diamonds. So either the price she remembers was inaccurate, or the origin of the diamonds was inaccurate. If Daniel wants mined diamonds, he’s going to have to pony up. If he wants the good price, he should get the lab-grown.

Michael J.
Port Charlotte, FL

Finally, a rather easy one! Chris simply offers what he has: “I have a pair of natural diamonds for X dollars or a pair of lab-grown diamonds for Y dollars.” Chris can explain that he can’t divulge the specifics of Jack’s purchase, but that Daniel is free to infer what he wants; what he does with that inference is up to him. Kayla never mentioned whether she had natural diamonds or not, only that Daniel should look at naturals.

Peter T.
Show Low, AZ

Chris should feign ignorance. He should profess that he doesn’t know about the friend’s purchase, then just talk about what is available today.

Jim D.
Kingston, NH

A perfect example of why I only sell natural diamonds. Chris is screwed, blued and tattooed. He has no way out of this situation without looking like a schmuck and losing two clients with one opening of his mouth. Not only that, but Jack could be in for a very difficult time with Kayla when the truth comes out that he cheaped out. Kayla will be embarrassed and might look pretentious. Lies always have a way of coming out, and karma can be very nasty. Maxwell’s could be the biggest loser.

What’s the Brain Squad?

If you’re the owner or top manager of a U.S. jewelry store, you’re invited to join the INSTORE Brain Squad. By taking one five-minute quiz a month, you can get a free t-shirt, be featured prominently in this magazine, and make your voice heard on key issues affecting the jewelry industry. Good deal, right? Sign up here.

Kate Peterson is president and CEO of Performance Concepts, a management consultancy for jewelers. Email her at kat[email protected].

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