Richard S. Garard, CEO of equipment manufacturer Microwave Enterprises, was recently appointed secretary general of the International Grown Diamond Association, the just-formed umbrella organization for the lab-grown diamond industry. For now, the group will operate out of his company’s Morrisville, N.C.–based office. In this interview, Garard talks with JCK about why the group came about, the age-old controversies over nomenclature, and why he believes that the traditional industry should not fear man-made gems.
JCK: What are the goals of the new group?
Richard Garard: To properly represent and the grown diamond industry, to be clear about the properties, the material itself, and to help grow the industry.
Do you expect to hire professional staff?
Eventually, yes, but not in the near term.
What do you think the industry needs to know about the lab-grown diamond business?
This is add-on market for the industry. For the foreseeable future, we are a small portion of diamond output. I don’t think we are going to replaced mined diamonds, but consumers will have a choice over whether they want a mine-grown diamond or lab-grown diamond. For the industrial and scientific fields, they need the consistency that is available through producing diamonds in the lab.
Will this new group be focused on the gem or industrial markets?
Both. Most of our members are currently pursuing the gem business. But that is because there is a market there. Going forward [when natural supply declines], there will a void that needs to be filled. There is also significant potential in the industrial and scientific markets. We will do both, certainly. The initial market, the gem industry, is where most of our companies are.
Yet some of the bigger companies in the industrial sector—such as Element Six or U.S. Synthetic—are not currently members.
We welcome all grown-diamond brands. It is an open platform. All members must agree to our code of ethics and best-practice principles. Any grown diamond company that wishes to join is welcome to do so. No one is restricted. But we do look to them to have a like mind.
Those companies use the word synthetic. Yet, your code calls this term “incorrect and misleading.” Would that prevent them from joining?
One of our objectives is to have proper terminology. If you look at the website or talk to any of our members, you will note that the word synthetic is not a welcome word. It is tied to products like moissanite and cubic zirconia. Each applicant will have to take that into consideration. Having proper, accurate terminology is something that the founding members believe in.