International Gemological Institute (IGI) is the world’s largest independent laboratory for testing and grading gemstones and fine jewellery. Established in 1975, IGI has now extended its operations to 10 commercial centres worldwide including Mumbai. Manoj Ahuja spoke to IGI India Managing Director, Tehmasp Printer. Excerpts:
Q. Tell us about IGI’s operations in India.
IGI started its laboratory in Mumbai on November 1999. Over the period of six years, it has grown to a team of 135 qualified gemologists who are involved in grading of coloured stones, loose diamonds and mounted jewellery. We have now tied up with over 50 showrooms in India.
Q. With Indians preferring gold jewellery, don’t you think the market for diamond jewellery is rather limited?
For thousands of years, we have been buying gold. Lack of awareness was holding back the consumers from buying diamond jewellery. In the past few years, IGI and DTC have created so much awareness that the consumers are no longer ignorant of diamond jewelleries. Diamond also makes a lot of investment sense as it has appreciated 10 percent year-on-year for the past few years and at the same time you can wear it around your neck, unlike a stock certificate.
Q. But diamonds are out of reach of most Indians.
It’s a myth. A small piece of diamond jewellery starts from just Rs 2,500. But people have fears related to the quality and it basically stems from the lack of knowledge.
Q. What’s IGI’s role in alleviating this fear?
First of all, a customer wants to know whether it is actually a diamond and if it’s a treated one. Then whether it is synthetic or natural. This is where the IGI comes in. We don’t just provide a certificate, but mental peace to the jewellers and the buyers. We associate only with large and reputed showrooms, which obviously are not fly-by-night operators. Then our highly trained gemologists grade the diamonds so that the customer can be rest assured that the diamond jewellery is of the quality that he or she has paid for.”
Q. What is Indian market worth?
There are no exact figures, but a guesstimate is that the Indian market is roughly worth one billion dollars. MP’s share will be around 7-8 percent.
Q. Is the global diamond production stagnating?
No. Exploration is going on but obviously supply is not matching the demand. See, you have to understand that exploration and extraction of diamonds is not an easy process.