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On a Handshake

I hope this finds you well. My recent trip to the Tucson gem shows after three years away was exhilarating for many reasons. Of course, the gems…. Rows and rows of sparkling colors from all over the globe calling my name. Fanta orange, hot pink, grassy green, plum, turquoise… so many gems and so many possibilities. At one point, I was standing in the middle of a tent looking at all the countries represented at the show… Sri Lanka, Italy, France, Africa, (Kenya, Tanzania,) India, Australia, Germany, China, Brazil, Colombia, Mozambique, New Zealand, Madagascar, United States) The tent was humming with commerce, and I just wished the world at large could run this smoothly.

Then there were the seminars: in-depth presentations by industry experts from mining to color trends, gem treatments, metals markets, and gem cutters… It’s a field day for gem geeks like me. And the dinners and the laughter… The jewelry industry is a big, generally warm-hearted place full of people doing each other all kinds of favors based on trust.


This industry still runs on handshakes. One chooses some stones, gets a memo (a record of what you took with prices), takes the stones, and is trusted to send the payment upon return home. The first thing I do after I unpack is write checks.

My diamond dealer and his partner routinely take diamonds out of their shared vault without writing anything down. A text is sent but that’s it.

If I need to show a client a range of stones, the dealer will send me a big box full to show. I return what isn’t chosen along with a check for what was selected.

It’s a code of honor and, of course, one’s conduct and professionalism go a long way towards making this happen but, after thousands of years, a handshake is still the norm. I marvel at this phenomenon, especially since there is such a high dollar value attached to gemstones. To be sure, there are bad payers and dishonorable people who pay late without explanation or disappear altogether. They lose their reputation (if they ever had a good one) and are unwelcome. Dealers share that information so no one else gets stiffed.