It's been said that the only constant in life is change. The world of gemmology is no exception and I have seen the industry change and transform over the fifty years that I have been involved in this business.
In fact, our involvement in the gem and jewellery business stretches back to the year 1872 when Balage Porolis de Silva, my great grandfather (who incidentally was a jeweller) started a jewellery shop on the banks of the Singapore River.
My father was a medical doctor and being a man of science, felt that I would benefit from learning the science of gemstones and learning to identify and evaluate natural and synthetic stones. I spent a good part of my youth in Idar-Oberstein, a small town in the south west of Germany, training to be a gemmologist before joining the family business.
One of the first people I got to know in Germany was Masashi Furuya, a fellow student enrolled with the Gemmological Institute of Germany. Masashi’s family was also in the jewellery business and he too was training to be a gemmologist. What impressed me most was how passionate he was about gems and gemmology and how keen he was to learn. We became fast friends and this friendship deepened with time; so when I decided to set up a gem lab in Sri Lanka, I asked him to be our partner.
Gemmological Institute of Colombo (GIC) was set up in 2005 as I saw a gap in the market and a growing demand for gemstone testing and evaluation. The business started out slowly but grew steadily and today GIC has established itself as a leading name for gem testing and appraisals in Sri Lanka.
It was not so long ago that skills and simple optical instruments were the “tools of the trade”, but these days, the technology to produce synthetic stones has become so alarmingly sophisticated that it would be near impossible to detect lab-grown gemstones without having specialised equipment. Other unethical trade practices include mixing synthetic stones with natural ones. This is one of the challenges that the industry will face and as the quality of synthetic stones improves, detecting them will only get increasingly more difficult and this will necessitate having specialised equipment in place.
Though having up-to-date testing equipment allows us to stay on top of our game and is an important component in this business, I believe what ultimately sets us apart is our People.
Like our other businesses within the BP de Silva Group, I strongly believe that the capability, strength and quality of our team plays a critical role in the future success of the company. Thus, a lot of care is placed on recruiting the right talent and once on board, in upgrading his or her skills.
We invest heavily in building an “A Team”, one that is not only capable and effective but is made up of people who are passionate about the business, who are willing to learn and upgrade themselves and importantly, people who show absolute integrity.
Another competitive advantage we have is our long-standing affiliation with Japan German Lab, previously helmed by Masashi and now by his son, Masaki.We are very fortunate to be able to tap on the collective expertise of Masaki-san and his team in Japan, whether it be to get a second opinion on a piece of gem that we are testing or to train our gemmologists. Having access to resources such as this is invaluable and allows our clients even greater assurance on the accuracy of our certification services.
As competition intensifies with new entrants and more gem labs being set up all over Sri Lanka, it is not uncommon for some of the industry players to drop their fees in a race for market share. This is not viable in the longer term in view of the investments that is needed to be made into the business and these companies may have to contend with using outdated equipment in the course of work, which is not ideal.
Today, almost one and a half centuries later, the lessons of our founder still drive us forward. In keeping with the spirit of BP de Silva, we are committed to upholding the highest standards of integrity and professionalism as we continue to offer value to our clients.