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Hi, question for David about his HW experience

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Sharon101

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Hi David, I remember you saying that you graded diamonds for HW once apon a time. Did you actually choose which ones were going to be bought, or grade them after they were bought? Also, what can you tell us about the HW way of choosing a diamond !!!!! How do they get their settings so fine?

Any interesting stories to share?
 

Rockdiamond

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Thanks Sharon!

In the 1970's Harry Winston was the largest polished loose diamond company in the world.
They bought rough and polished it- smaller stones were polished overseas, but the important stones were cut on the fourth floor of the flagship store on 56th Street and Fifth Avenue.

The fifth floor was the area where polished diamonds were graded, and orders filled.
It was an incredible operation- very tight security- and paperwork procedures.
They had a double blind system.
A group of workers that were responsible for storing and shipping the diamonds were not taught to grade.
The graders, on the other hand, were not told the prices of the diamonds they were grading.
This was done for security purposes.

Way in the back there was a tiny room that housed "the school"
Winston would hire young kids- 18-21 years old- and train them to assort and grade diamonds.
There was room for about 24 kids in the school.
The starting pay was $95 a week.
Even in 1976 that was chump change.
But if you stayed and passed an approval period, within a year you were making as much as $150 a week.
The program was great, because Winston needed graders- so this way they were able to hand pick people and teach them how they wanted the grading to be done.
If you made it 6 months ( many didn't) you were already grading diamonds and making money for HW


I'll get into a little more about how grading was taught in a bit......
 

purrfectpear

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So these high school grads didn''t get any training through GIA?

Wild. My first ex husband had a jewelry store in 1969 and we had three GIA grads, so I know the GIA was active then.
 

Rockdiamond

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That's interesting Purrfect!
I would say that GIA was already active when I started at Winston in '76 for sure- but not nearly as active as now.
When we looked at the stones back then, it was before GIA would if, if they were submitting back then.
I have a few calls out to check on that.

Interesting point though- as it also shows the different methods of learning about diamonds.
Taking the GIA course on Diamonds, or becoming a GG is really the first step.


I was going describe how they taught us to grade diamonds.....

We started off with a small pile of .03ct diamonds. Single cut diamonds. Say 3 carats, or about 100 stones.
Part of the interview to get in involved a manual dexterity test.
Basically, you sat down in a room with a guy who put some really teeny diamonds on this pad.
He had a loupe and tweezers.
He showed me how to pick up a small diamond, and how to examine it with the tweezers.
Then handed me the loupe and tweezers.
I was able to pick up the diamond immediately otherwise I wouldn't even be here . I'd have stayed at community college and gone on to play Weddings and Bar Mitzvas.

Anyway- even to this day, it's very clear how some people are good with a loupe and tweezers, and others have a tough time.
Could be that manual dexterity should not be taken into account if you want to be a gemologist, but if you wanted to be able to grade diamonds quickly- which would be handy if you consider we're talking about diamonds that weigh as little as 1/2point.
Even those little guys get assorted, and the D-E-F VS well cut ones go for big money.

Back to the 100 stones.
They were single cut diamonds.
We were told to pick up each diamond and look at it.
When I picked up the first one, it was really nice- very clean, but there was a small speck.
This was a "B" clarity- roughly equivalent to VS1.
In fact, all the stones 100 stones were from the inventory, and had already been graded as "B" clarity.
We were told to pick up each and every one.
If we could find any of them that had no specs, spots, feathers, or any other imperfection, it was to be put in a pile on the left side.
Any stone that seemed to have more than a tiny speck or feather or whatever, was to be placed in a pile on the right side.
The work was checked by the more advanced "students" in the school.
If they disagreed they would either show you what you missed, or tell you what you saw was not severe enough to kick the diamond to the next grade. But there were also a percentage of mistakes we found. Those stones were put in the correct parcel. So as we learned, we were actually checking over the grading and weeding out mistakes for Winston.

After a few hundred of those, we got a group of stones that had seemed to be more imperfect than the ones from the first few days.
We were no going to re-assort some parcels of "C" quality diamonds.
These were roughly equivalent to SI1.

Personally I loved it when we got to "D " quality. If you're louping hundreds of diamonds a day, finding imperfection can actually be ....fun??

The stones worse than D were called "D Special" which had like, ten subcategories- that was all manner of imperfect diamonds.

Anyway, for a week or so, we worked on going over parcels of D quality. By this time, you were expected to have picked up some speed- so that you could look at hundreds- possibly over a thousand stones a day.
After about a month, we handed a parcel of stones that was unassorted- straight from one of Winston's factories.
When I looked started picking up the diamonds, it was easy to see which was an A, B,C, D, or D special.
After all, we'd spent weeks looking at each quality separately.
 

shimmer

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Wow, that is just fascinating! Thank you for sharing, David.
 

strmrdr

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David,

Interesting.
That is a problem with America today way to few employers are willing to train people and bring them up into a trade.

Thanks for sharing!
 

Rockdiamond

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I agree Karl- but things were so much simpler back then.
Even things like health insurance are a huge issue for every company today.
Even though the world''s jewelry business is not a huge one compared to say, automobiles, I am still proud of the fact that jewelry manufactured in America rivals the best produced anywhere in the world.

It''s possible to manufacture beautiful jewelry in China, where labor is a fraction what it is here- yet there are still many strong American companies.
 

purrfectpear

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That''s really interesting.

So when someone purchased a Harry Winston diamond solitaire they were graded by HW, or were they just priced without a specific mention of grade? I guess I''m asking what did the consumers get told about their ring?

I can''t imagine sitting at a bench tweezing melee all day
What happens when one shoots out into the room, do you get up and chase it, or do they just sweep at the end of the day?
 

isaku5

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Absolutely fascinating!! The fact that you stayed with such a task for months on end is even better; it speaks volumes about your work ethic.


Thanks for taking the time to share.
 

Rockdiamond

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You're so very welcome Isabel!
Actually, I did that for over two years!
When you're 19-20, and 21, sitting grading little rocks could make you want to jump out the window onto fifth avenue. Or smash a diamond. If you wedge a little guy, say .01ct into the part of the tweezers there the metal comes together- then step on it, the little diamond will shatter.
Not that I would ever do such a thing, or ever saw anyone else do such a thing.

There was the time that one girl, who was dating some guy, and was angry at same guy, decided to get even when, at the end of the day- after assorting a whole bunch of .02ct diamonds- you've got five nice heaps of diamonds, A, B, C, D, D special- and with one flick of the tweezers, a day's work down the drain.....


We did drop them- and we did have to get down on hands an knees to find them.


Purrfect...
I don;t believe specific grades were discussed in the salon on Fifth Avenue....but again- I'll have to check on that.... a lot of the old folks from those days are unfortunately unreachable.

Once we got to full cuts, we learned the full grading system.
I can tell you that the Winston grading system rivalled GIA's for intricacy and detail.

6 2 3 4 9 5 7 8, and 8 Special
6=IF
2=VVS2
3= VVS2
4=VS1
9=VS2
5=SI1
7=SI2
8=all manner of imperfect diamonds. For example 8A, was like an SI3. Although that's not a GIA grade, it certainly could be

Colors were assigned on a more straightforward basis.
1=D
2=E
3=F
4=G
5=H-I
6=J
7=K

So, a 61 was a D/Internally Flawless.
74 was equivalent to a K/VS1

I think the house of Winston, in those days, had a group of wholesale buyers that knew how to use the Winston system to order the quality and price point they needed.
I don't think that many consumers were asking for GIA reports in 1976.
I worked there till 1979.
Mr Winston Passed away in late 1978.
The tides were moving in a different direction in the diamond business anyway.
By 1981, the diamond school was no more, and Winston no longer was number one in wholesale diamond sales.
 

asforhim

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I LOVE HW... great thread!!!!

HW is the premier diamond house... hands down!

I hope they stay that way since the brothers sold the business
 

glitterata

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David, this is fascinating--thank you for posting your memories!

How did you learn to grade colors? Was it the same method as clarity?

And why did they assign numbers to the clarities in such a peculiar order?
 

Brown.Eyed.Girl

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Wow David, thank you so much for taking the time to post all of this. It is really fascinating - and what a great opportunity back then to learn. In a perfect world, we would have many many more such business taking the time to train the employees to that level.
 

diagem

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Date: 2/25/2009 11:58:51 PM
Author: asforhim
I LOVE HW... great thread!!!!

HW is the premier diamond house... hands down!

I hope they stay that way since the brothers sold the business
You mean..., luckily the brothers (well one of them) sold the business otherwise the HW brand would be 6 feet under today...
 

pyramid

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Thank you for telling your experiences David, very interesting to read this.

Do you know why they grouped H-I colour together?
 

Catmom

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How interesting David! How amazing and tedious it must have been to learn to grade. I think besides having to have great dexterity you must also have had some great eyesight!
 

coda72

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Date: 2/25/2009 9:15:38 PM
Author: strmrdr
David,

Interesting.
That is a problem with America today way to few employers are willing to train people and bring them up into a trade.

Thanks for sharing!
Thank you, David, for the information you shared, it was very interesting.

Strm, I run a small business, and I prefer to hire people without experience so I can train them the way I want things to be done. I have two employees that I trained that are my best, most loyal employees.
 

Rockdiamond

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Date: 2/26/2009 12:31:17 AM
Author: glitterata
David, this is fascinating--thank you for posting your memories!

How did you learn to grade colors? Was it the same method as clarity?

And why did they assign numbers to the clarities in such a peculiar order?
You're welcome everyone!! It's been my pleasure thinking about my time at HW

Great question glitterata!

Color grading was done by a different team of graders- all women, and only done before 1pm using a combination of fluorescent and natural lighting.
It was believed that women had a better eye for color.
BTW- I was incorrect in my memory of the specifics of the color grading scale- I've been talking to a few old buddies- I'll make the corrections later....

In terms of the clarity, and the nomenclature- I personally believe it was designed NOT to be easy to understand.

If the buyer knew Winston's scale, they would order using the grades.
But if a guy said- show me some $1500 one carat stones, the salesman could just say- "Oh, that's going to be a 53b"- without getting into specifics about the fact that the stones would be SI clarity.
 

Sharon101

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David, thanks for your wonderful account of how things worked at HW way back then!!!!

I could listen for ever about all the anicdotes and inside info.

I do like your style of writing, the level of detail and your way with words.

Did you ever get into the selling....or were you just kept in the basement!!!!!! (j/k)

Any funny selling stories to share?

Also, does any one diamond from those days stand out in your memory.

And can you tell us anything about how they set so well with such beautiful designs and precision.
 

NeverEndingUpgrade

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Date: 2/26/2009 2:03:30 PM
Author: Rockdiamond
You're welcome everyone!! It's been my pleasure thinking about my time at HW

Great question glitterata!

Color grading was done by a different team of graders- all women, and only done before 1pm using a combination of fluorescent and natural lighting.
It was believed that women had a better eye for color.
BTW- I was incorrect in my memory of the specifics of the color grading scale- I've been talking to a few old buddies- I'll make the corrections later....

In terms of the clarity, and the nomenclature- I personally believe it was designed NOT to be easy to understand.

If the buyer knew Winston's scale, they would order using the grades.
But if a guy said- show me some $1500 one carat stones, the salesman could just say- 'Oh, that's going to be a 53b'- without getting into specifics about the fact that the stones would be SI clarity.
David, how did cut quality figure into the picture? Or were all HW diamonds considered Ideal cuts? Here on PS we are very aware of it. Judging by the offerings on your site, you were trained in cut quality at some point. I would love to be able to say, "I just need a 53b" without going into all the details we go into now!
 

Rockdiamond

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Michelle- one of the first things they taught us was how to properly use a loupe.
When you use it correctly there''s far less eye strain.
Basically, you have to make sure to keep the eye not looking into the loupe open. You might have an urge to close the other eye to to focus in with the eye looking through the loupe. That''s a mistake. Once you get used to keeping the other eye open, it becomes quite natural.
The main thing is having the diamond and loupe the proper distance from each other, and both of those as close as you want to your eye. The loupe is self correcting. That is to say, if you wear glasses, you can take them off to use the loupe- you''ll simply find the distance between loupe and diamond that is in focus.

You develop a method of holding the loupe and tweezers so that one hand is braced against another- and both can be braced against the nose or forehead. This way you can pick up stones and they will be in focus as soon as you put the tweezers and loupe in position. So you can pick up a whole bunch of stones in an hour, or year, or ten years- which was how some days felt.

Sharon- thank you so much for this thread!
It''s fun to remember learning all this stuff.

You asked about a memorable stone.
Well, at the school, we were treated to looking at some of the really landmark stones.

One that comes to mind is a 90 carat D Internally Flawless- but I believe GIA gave it VVS1- and that was a problem.
Anyway, the stone was amazing.
I remember ten carat emerald cuts.
Many large rounds.



Neverendingupgrade- that''s a great question.
IN terms of cut- there were a small percentage of off makes- they were relegated to the promotional qualities regardless of color and clarity.
The training for cut involved looking at literally hundreds of thousands of diamonds.
It started with single cuts- where it''s easy to see if a stone is too deep ( dark center), or too shallow ( fisheye).
Also a single cut''s symmetry is far easier to gauge- eight top corners, eight pavilions.
When we went to full cuts, we learned more about the additional faceting- after working with single cuts- which are the basis of full cut diamonds- everything seemed to follow suit, albeit with more facets to see.

We were taught what to look for in terms of cut. Since Winston''s make was very consistent, it was more about segregating the rare off made stones.
 

fleur-de-lis

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One of the greatest and most intriguing threads I''ve read on this board. The humanity of the experience is fascinating.

Wow, David. Thank you for sharing your experience with us; both the style and the content are gripping. Very cool!
 

NeverEndingUpgrade

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Date: 2/26/2009 10:59:43 PM
Author: Rockdiamond

Neverendingupgrade- that''s a great question.
IN terms of cut- there were a small percentage of off makes- they were relegated to the promotional qualities regardless of color and clarity.
The training for cut involved looking at literally hundreds of thousands of diamonds.
It started with single cuts- where it''s easy to see if a stone is too deep ( dark center), or too shallow ( fisheye).
Also a single cut''s symmetry is far easier to gauge- eight top corners, eight pavilions.
When we went to full cuts, we learned more about the additional faceting- after working with single cuts- which are the basis of full cut diamonds- everything seemed to follow suit, albeit with more facets to see.

We were taught what to look for in terms of cut. Since Winston''s make was very consistent, it was more about segregating the rare off made stones.
Interesting. I would have assumed that it was the other way around, with well-cut stones being more rare than the off-made ones. Does that mean that someone else picked out the better cut ones before coming to you, or was diamond cutting already very consistent back then?
 

Hudson_Hawk

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This thread is fascinating. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I can''t wait to read more!
 

Rockdiamond

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You''re welcome - and thank you Judah!!

Also thanks to everyone else who''s particiapted!

Date: 2/27/2009 11:37:13 AM
Author: NeverEndingUpgrade

Date: 2/26/2009 10:59:43 PM
Author: Rockdiamond

Neverendingupgrade- that''s a great question.
IN terms of cut- there were a small percentage of off makes- they were relegated to the promotional qualities regardless of color and clarity.
The training for cut involved looking at literally hundreds of thousands of diamonds.
It started with single cuts- where it''s easy to see if a stone is too deep ( dark center), or too shallow ( fisheye).
Also a single cut''s symmetry is far easier to gauge- eight top corners, eight pavilions.
When we went to full cuts, we learned more about the additional faceting- after working with single cuts- which are the basis of full cut diamonds- everything seemed to follow suit, albeit with more facets to see.

We were taught what to look for in terms of cut. Since Winston''s make was very consistent, it was more about segregating the rare off made stones.
Interesting. I would have assumed that it was the other way around, with well-cut stones being more rare than the off-made ones. Does that mean that someone else picked out the better cut ones before coming to you, or was diamond cutting already very consistent back then?
Good point!
There''s no question that modern tools make the world''s diamond cutting factories way more consistent.
But even back then, there were factories that produced incredibly well cut diamonds consistently.
If we were looking over the average cutting of stones in 1976, we''d see a lot more off makes than we''d see today- but Winston was, after all Harry Winston- so the average was a nicely made stone.
Part of the job of an assorter/grader at Winston was to ensure that the makes were consistent.
Remember too that grading .10ct stones is a different procedure than larger stones.
For example, it''s common to assort smaller goods into groupings.
D-E- and F are one color. VVS1-2, and VS1 are frequently grouped together.
With make, or cut, you''d want consistency- but we weren''t using sarin reports.
Part of the reason my outlook is different than a lot of the experts here has to do with my training which involved the need to grade the cut of a diamond using only a loupe and tweezers.
 

Catmom

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Date: 2/26/2009 10:59:43 PM
Author: Rockdiamond

Michelle- one of the first things they taught us was how to properly use a loupe.
When you use it correctly there''s far less eye strain.
Basically, you have to make sure to keep the eye not looking into the loupe open. You might have an urge to close the other eye to to focus in with the eye looking through the loupe. That''s a mistake. Once you get used to keeping the other eye open, it becomes quite natural.
The main thing is having the diamond and loupe the proper distance from each other, and both of those as close as you want to your eye. The loupe is self correcting. That is to say, if you wear glasses, you can take them off to use the loupe- you''ll simply find the distance between loupe and diamond that is in focus.

You develop a method of holding the loupe and tweezers so that one hand is braced against another- and both can be braced against the nose or forehead. This way you can pick up stones and they will be in focus as soon as you put the tweezers and loupe in position. So you can pick up a whole bunch of stones in an hour, or year, or ten years- which was how some days felt.
Thanks David! That''s my problem, I always want to close my other eye when looking through the loupe. I''m going to have to practice keeping it open. This thread is so fascinating!
 
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