Mumbai: There is a sense of disbelief among the diamond czars of India as news is slowly percolating about the resignation of Thomas C Yonelunas, CEO of the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) Laboratory following review of policies and practices at the GIA lab. Four GIA staffers have been sacked as well. Thomas M Moses, G.G., has been named the new head of the GIA Lab and will replace Yonelunas.
The review was initiated as a result of a lawsuit filed in the spring of 2005 by New York jeweler Max Pincione, which named GIA as one of four defendants.
Pincione, in his lawsuit filed against the GIA lab, Vivid Collection and two others had alleged that GIA had upgraded certified diamonds in return for payment. The case raised uproar in the diamond industry.
The importance of the GIA cannot be understated. The world over, GIA certificates are used as a proof of the quality of top grade diamonds. In India, thousands of diamonds which are sent all the way to the US for GIA certification.
However, the Indian diamond industry is hopeful that there will be no crisis of credibility.
Mehul Choksi, CEO of Geetanjali Group said that while news of the resignation of Thomas C Yonelunas was shocking, GIA as an institute was dependable. “GIA is known for integrity and credibility. I think GIA will come out stronger from this,” said Choksi.
Bakul Mehta, chairman of the Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council of India (GJEPC) while welcoming the internal investigation conducted by the GIA board hoped that there would be greater transparency in the grading system of all laboratories.
GIA has defended itself vehemently. In a statement issued on Wednesday at Carlsbad in California, Ralph Destino, chairman of GIA’s board of governors, said that the board was deeply disturbed by the claims asserted in the complaint.
“We felt that we had a responsibility to ourselves, our clients, and the public not only to look into them but to also thoroughly examine all lab practices. That is precisely what we have done. The review found that new measures to to fortify various facets of the grading process. The board added that Yonelunas was not implicated in any violations of GIA’s professional ethics and conduct compliance statement.