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Unifying role is the main objective of the National Gemological Association

15 july 2019

yuriy_shelementyev_xx.jpgYuri Shelementiev runs the Gemological Centre (GC) at the Moscow State University and is a president of the National Gemological Association (NGA) uniting the gemologists of Russia. The head of the MSU’ GC and the NGA answered the R&P’s questions about the today’s trends in the international and Russian gemology as well as about the state of the Russian jewellery market.

Over recent years, the NGA established at your initiative is active in organizing mineralogical tours, holding international gemological and jewellery conferences and workshops. How successfully are your plans being implemented?

Gemological tours started even in the days of the students’ field-periods at the MSU from 1999 to 2004 in the Urals, where the students-gemologists made themselves familiar with the colour stone deposits. Gradually, the interest to the trips picked up, their geography became wider and their various formats appeared. There are countries where stones are mined, there are markets for loose stones, trade centres, international exhibitions, there are countries with a developed consumption culture, and at the last, the gemological conferences are held. If our course leaver goes with us to several trips, all of them will be useful to him as all of them are on different subjects. In 2018, one hundred persons joined us. The growing popularity of these tours is attributed to the combination of their passion for stones and their passion for travelling.

What topics and issues were discussed at the recent International Mediterranean Gemological and Jewellery Conference in Cyprus? What new was there?

The Conference in Cyprus was the fifth Mediterranean edition and, first of all, it was focused on gem processing - both rough and polished diamonds. As usually, much attention was paid to synthetic diamonds and the serious challenges they cause. One important feature includes practical workshops on various subjects, work with stone collections and, certainly, informal communication with the colleagues from other countries. Practically immediately after our return from the conference, in some days, we could discuss the most interesting issues at the meeting of our gemological association, NGA. We will do our best to hold an international conference in Russia next year notwithstanding that we are not a Mediterranean country.

Were the state of the Russia’s jewellery trade and the current trends discussed?

The state of the Russia’s jewellery industry and trade, unfortunately, is not the most positive topic. Over several years, there is a slowdown in the country. It is not connected with the lower interest in jewellery but it directly depends on the purchasing power of the population and the affordability of luxury items to the Russians. In scale production, at factories, there exists a maximum value of stones or ‘gem inserts,’ as the jewelers say. The value is so low that high-end stones are not purchased at all. Most of the jewellery is exactly like that now. And there exists an important trend – the buyers hold back on impulse purchases, they choose more carefully and show a better knowledge of goods.

Much interesting is happening in the laboratory gemological practice. Could you tell us about this?

There are always many cases, and we can tell that all kinds of stones are brought to the gemological laboratory, including those found in the gardens while turning up the soil. We can often see that people value the stones that have no market value at all. For those people, some particular stones mean a kind of a private event and the related memories. So, there exists their emotional value that has nothing to do with the market value.

We can speak about two trends. First, the synthetics are increasingly becoming more sophisticated to be detected, first of all, the synthetic diamonds. The antique cut stones appear, polished diamonds that can ‘cheat’ portable detectors of low-nitrogen diamonds, as well as ‘sandwich’ stones where half of the stone is natural and the other half is a layer of a grown synthetic stone. The second trend: the population tries to sell stones and jewellery purchased earlier, so, gradually, a secondary market is being formed where pawnshops play the main role. People think that they can sell these stones and get much money, they check the stone genuineness in the laboratory and find out that everything is not so bright, and the brand premium will not return when selling the item on the secondary market as some stones underwent treatment and the polished diamond characteristics were overestimated. This is how the customers’ confidence in jewelers declines when they understand that their investments in their jewellery were not always successful.

Tell us about new GemAcademy’s education programmes – what are your plans for the future?

The GemAcademy has short academic programmes that last shorter than the courses at the MSU. Nowadays, people value their time, they want to get knowledge faster and in a concentrated form. We carry out training courses for sellers working at the brand jewellery stores, short courses in emeralds, rubies and sapphires. The courses in jewellery design are gaining popularity. There are projects to carry out courses in English for foreign participants, as well as a joint project of a course with the Octonus Company on the evaluation of the polished diamond optical characteristics and beauty.

The national Gemological Association now has 550 members. The unifying role and building up of the professional community are the main objectives of the NGA, and we successfully work towards achieving them. At the last Junwex show in Moscow, we hold an NGA mini-conference, and one more is scheduled to be held in autumn. Presentations of studies, education programmes and new equipment allow the NGA members to continuously improve their professional level.

By the way, how successful was the presentation of the portable ALROSA Diamond Inspector? Have the gemologists appraised its efficiency and prospects?

The device created by the ALROSA specialists is actively promoted by the company, first of all, as a protection device in the natural diamond market. It takes an intermediate position between very simple detectors and high-end ones used for laboratory screening. At the MSU, this detector was tested, including for detecting complicated stones, and I can tell you that the detector has not made a single mistake. However, there is a limitation: low-nitrogen stones still require a further diagnostic assessment.

Galina Semyonova, Rough&Polished