Rating the Gem/Jewelry Forums
by Richard W. Wise, G.G.
One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don't do anything at all
Go ask Alice
When she's ten feet tall”
The Jefferson Airplane
The Internet is a fund of information. And, as some say, the Internet is free; grass roots democracy, freedom of speech in action. You can say anything about anything. The fact is, this so-called freedom is somewhat illusory. Freedom of speech implies the freedom to be heard. Without that what have you got or as the British philosopher Berkeley once asked: “If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one to hear it fall, does it make any noise”?
The freedom to be heard, aye that is the issue! Recently the search engine, Google, kowtowed to the China’s Communist government, agreeing to restrict content available through Google’s Chinese search engine. What do you suppose a Chinese citizen will get when he googles “free speech?” What a perfect segue into a discussion of online gem forums:
Gem/Jewelry Forums have been sprung up all over the net like brown fungi after a summer rain. The major forums are; Pricescope, Diamondtalk, Gemologyonline and Pearl-Guide. Each of these sites claim to be online communities advocating the rights of the consumer and promoting a free exchange of ideas and information. Some are part of for profit websites and some are non-profit. Are they really all they claim to be? What’s a consumer to believe? The quick answer, like fungi some are edible and others will upset your tummy, lets try and separate the mushrooms from their less palatable cousins, the toadstools.
”When men on the chessboard
get up and tell you where to go
And you've just had some kind of mushroom
And your mind is moving low
Go ask Alice I think she'll know”
Size and Rank:
Of the four forums under review, Pricescope, according to Alexa ranks number at 35,120; way ahead number two, Diamondtalk at 102,139. Pearl-Guide is a close third at 113,210 followed by the newest forum Gemologyonline with an overall site rank of 521,632. Rank, however, is a bit misleading. All four of the forums under review declined in rank over the past three months and that may be a seasonal anomaly, vacations and so forth. Reach, a measure of forum users per million actual Internet users may be better. Pricescope’s reach is 30 users per million, Diamondtalk is second at 9.5 followed by Pearl-Guide at 7.5 and Gemologyonline at 1.5.
The Shill Factor:
Problem: open up a website and lots of people will join up, some with agendas different from those who pay to play. Solution: Add some “community rules” and a moderator, an all-powerful Wizard who determines who gets to say what. The what, may revolve around what the site is selling. Long story short: forums can pretty much be divided into two broad categories; true communities and shill-sites, the former interested in a free exchange of ideas, the latter interested in using the forum as a lure to rope in the unsuspecting and covert them into buyers.
www,Diamondtalk.com personifies the term: shill site. Better not voice an independent opinion on Diamondtalk. I found myself defending one poor pilgrim who had the audacity to disagree with one of the paying “experts”. Immediately the vultures descended and proceeded to rip large gobbets of warm flesh from the soft parts of the poor pilgrim’s body. Diamondtalk is a for profit enterprise with two classes of members, those who pay and those who don’t and if you ain’t one of the first, say something nice or better, just shut-up and buy!
The paying “experts” and the owners of Diamondtalk use handles to hide their identity. Looked the website up on Alexa.com, the site is owned by a post office box and after several inquires I found a rather shadowy figure named Nathan. Tried to reach Nathan for six months, got one returned phone call. I was busy, my secretary took the call, he rudely refused to give his full name or a call back number. Checked with one of the paying members, he didn’t know Nathan’s last name either.
The moderator is the censor at the gate. He decides what gets posted and what does not. Some state their names but others like a medieval executioner, hide behind a mask or “handle”. What are the people at Diamondtalk trying to hide? Most us evaluate information based on the person giving it and his credentials. When I suggested that to the moderator, I was told to “believe and trust” him or her, that the forum members on Diamondtalk were smart enough to evaluate information without any of that.
Diamondtalk doesn’t want outside experts, particularly those who offer dissenting opinions. Though they have not banned me, my posts are “monitored”, reviewed before they are posted and my signature is disallowed because I list myself as a graduate gemologist and author. If I type in my credentials, they are deleted. Links to free online chapters of my book were also deleted. Credentials are termed “borderline spam” on Diamondtalk.
My advice: A real toadstool. If you value civility or are looking for a free and unbiased exchange of information, forgetabout Diamondtalk.
www.Pricescope.com is the 800 pound gorilla of the gem forums, the highest rated gem/jewelry forum on the internet. It is a commercial website and its professional members sell gems and jewelry. It has, in the past, posted some excellent content and has a lively forum with several knowledgeable members.
The owner is one Leonid Charny who also serves as moderator and he does not hide behind a handle. Leonid who styles himself a consumer advocate is something of a mother hen and like all mothers he has his favorite offspring. If you misbehave you will get a scolding from Leonid and if you persist you will be banned. Leonid is always alert for “commercial” postings meaning those postings that are not from people who pay to post commercial messages.
About six months ago, I was banned from Pricescope for mentioning and posting a link to a new non-profit forum. For Leonid the true search for knowledge can only take place on Pricescope. The mere mention of a world outside can get you banned and many have been. The pounding of boots on the stairway at midnight, a knock on the door and you disappear. Unlike most I did not go quietly with my tail tucked between my legs, I announced my banning on several other forums. Recently, Mr. Charny banned two members simply for mentioning my name.
Pricescope’s average reach has declined 27% in the past three months. Due, I think, to the moderator’s quixotic and heavy handed policies, many of the more knowledgeable members, miners, cutters and gemologists and knowledgeable civilians have either opted out or been banned. For those members wondering about absent friends, they have probably been banned. As a result the level of discourse has declined and the forum has become a bit of a bore. The most popular thread in the Colored Stone sub-forum this past year: “Show me your colored stone eye-candy.”
My advice: You can get some good information on Pricescope but if you are in the biz or are looking for a truly free exchange of ideas and opinions without big brother constantly looking over your shoulder, you will find Pricescope frustrating. Pricescope still has a few interesting and knowledgeable members but it is in decline with fewer and fewer talking more and more and saying less and less. Not yet a toadstool but it looks like they are working on it.
The first thing that strikes you about Pearl-Guide is its chutzpah. Despite the fact that the owner sells pearls, little or nothing is off-limits on pearl guide. All the dirty laundry of the pearl business is aired on the forum. One of the most active and knowledgeable members, a non-professional, irreverently refers to cultured pearls as “pearl-plated beads.” A great community, gemologists, pearl farmers, amateur beaders and civilians, all are welcome. Its an interesting mix and the content is stimulating. Pearl-Guide works because it is as advertised, truly free and open with a remarkable level of civility despite occasionally strong differences of opinion.
My Advice: An edible mushroom, if you are a professional and take a bite out of this one baby, you may have to rethink your inventory mix. If pearls are your thing, you can just lurk and learn, bookmark it, Danno!
www.Gemologyonline.com has only been up for about a year. The forum is similar in format to Pricescope and Diamondtalk with sub-forums covering diamonds, colored stones and various gemological and general topics. The owner is Barbara Voltaire is a professional gemologist with a Graduate Gemologist (GG) and is also a Fellow of the Gemological Association of Great Britain (FGA). The moderator, “snizzy”, is a recent G.G. Both use handles but everyone knows who they are.
Many of the “Brotherhood of the Banned”, folks who were booted off Pricescope or Diamondtalk or simply quit in disgust have found a home at Gemologyonline and the forum is all the richer for it. It is s true community with an excellent mix of professionals, miners, cutters, gemologists, jewelers and civilians.
The site is dominated by a group of young eager gemologists. The content is excellent. Recently several of the members cooperated on a thread about andesine, the current darling of the shopping channels. Gems were photographed and tested and the findings posted. The result: absolutely the most authoritative piece on this gem family available anywhere, just the antidote for the misconceptions and outright consumer disinformation currently being retailed on T.V.
My Advice: Deliciously edible fungi, easily digestible. If you are a consumer with a question and a willingness to learn or a professional with a desire to mix with other enthusiastic gemologists, Gemologyonline is the forum for you.
There are several other forums online, www.diamondchitchat.com, www.buyingadiamond.com and www.yourgemologist.com. and i’m sure I have missed a few. The first two are relatively small and the third is owned by the International School of Gemology (ISG) and its focus is mainly on its students though it is open to others.
When logic and proportion
Have fallen softly dead
And the White Knight is talking backwards
And the Red Queen's 'Off with her head!'
Remember what the Dormouse said.
Feed your Head, feed your Head!
Heraclites, the ancient Greek philosopher said it best: “You can’t step into the same river twice.” Everything is in flux, change is the only constant. Had he lived today rather than the 5th century BC, he could have been describing the internet. If you go by Alexa ratings all the forums are in decline. What does that mean, damned if I know! Perhaps a new type of information delivery is just over the horizon. One thing is sure, knowledge is power and whatever the source, people will always attempt to restrict information for their own purposes. After all, the gem business has believed that the ignorant buyer is the best buyer for two thousand years. The real challenge is, as always, separating the wheat from the chaff. Hope this helps. Stay tuned…