I swallowed the lump in my throat as my eyes peered upward. Surveying the Jewelry Exchange, on the corner of Sixth and E downtown, I felt small and insignificant. I gazed up at the eight-story building, which occupied a quarter of a city block. Alternating pinks the colors of smoked and grilled salmon, banded and trimmed with emerald green, gave the place an air of modernity, but the dusty fans and battered air conditioners in the windows betrayed the building’s age. I entered with trepidation. As my eyes darted over the directory, an armed guard asked if I needed assistance. “I’m looking for the Serengeti Company,” I stammered. “That would be on the fifth floor, ma’am.”
My out-of-placeness was enhanced by an intolerance for elevators; the upward motion left me dizzy. In an effort to regain my equilibrium, I focused on the chip in my diamond. The diamond in my engagement ring stood prominently on my small finger. It represented enduring love to me. The one-carat stone was a family heirloom; it came from a pair of earrings that had belonged to my husband’s grandmother.
For the ring, my husband had chosen a modified basket setting — which positioned the stone down low — with a single diamond baguette on either side. He must have remembered how I complained about modern rings, which set the diamond so high it seemed about to take off like a glittering rocket. He knew I preferred the old-fashioned. The stone itself had an old-fashioned cut, called a miner’s cut — the tip at the base was cut flat, so when you looked straight down into the gem, you saw a tiny circle, about a quarter of the size of a pinhead.
I thought my diamond invincible, like our love. I wore it while washing dishes or scrubbing toilets. I took it off only to squeeze ground beef and veal between my fingers as I made meatballs. Now, inexplicably, it was chipped. The perfect circle of the table was interrupted by a dimple that dropped down the side. It wasn’t like a pit or a pothole; rather, it was as if a plane had been sheared off. Even in its distress, my diamond was orderly and elegant. Still, it had been niggling me for months. I no longer noticed the reflected light; my eyes went directly to the imperfection. And so, I assumed, did everybody else’s. I had been sent to the Serengeti Company by a neighbor whose husband was a friend of the owner to get information on diamond repair.
I made it to the fifth floor and I found the Serengeti Company. The secretary buzzed me in and asked me to have a seat. Five minutes later, I was motioned into a back office. As the owner, Gene Dente, rose to greet me and reached out his large hand, my earlier feelings of puniness returned. I found myself remembering the first time I had attended a professional football game and how, once I’d descended from my seat in the nosebleed section to the first row, I’d been amazed at the size of the players. Dente did not have the girth of a football player, but his features and frame were commanding. His manner was professional and reserved, yet generous. I gave him the ring to examine.
“It’s got two chips,” he pointed out. “You have lots of choices to repair that stone. You could just take it and spin it so that the prongs would be on top of the chips and you wouldn’t notice them. Or you could polish it down by flattening and softening the problem areas. That would make the stone slightly out of round, however.
“Or if you wanted to, you could give it a total recut. The technology exists. The stone would be put upside-down on a spinning pedestal. As it spun, a laser beam would be shot through the stone and a software program would read the image. The program would then take the diameter between those two chips and tell you by formula what the stone would weigh if it were perfectly cut. If you recut it to ideal proportions, your value would go down in one way, because you’ve lost some material. But there’s an increase factor in the value of a perfectly cut stone — significantly higher than this stone. Cutting causes the stone to be more beautiful.”
I was intrigued. Was less really more? My thoughts left my diamond and its possible repair. I wanted a better look at the mysterious world of the Serengeti Company. I questioned Mr. Dente about diamond evaluation. “We really focus on four levels, which are the four C’s: color, clarity, cut, and the carat weight.” He offered explanations of each, starting with color: “Diamonds go from white all the way down to brown. We want to discern how much color is in a stone. The less color in the stone, the more potential it has to be beautiful. The more color a diamond has, the less rare it is, the less valuable and, theoretically, the less desirable.” Rarity, desirability, value, and beauty began to swirl in my mind, rubbing up against one another, arranging themselves this way and that, heightening my curiosity.
The degree of color is expressed through letter grades. “The designators start at D in the alphabet and go down to Z. The letter grades are translated into terms.” Dente pulled out a chart that pictured five stones of varying color labeled with letter grades. “See here, where it says colorless [D–F]; near colorless [G–J]; faint yellow [K–M] — that actually could be light gray or brown; very light yellow [N–R]; and light yellow [S–Z]. Although that says ‘light,’ if you look at it, it’s pretty doggoned yellow.
“We really have to use narrow parameters to give these evaluations. So even within these terms, there is variance. In the very high end of the term ‘near colorless’ — G — there is an absolutely white stone, while at the low end of the term — J — there is going to be a hint of yellow. Trace elements within the diamond cause the color variations. For example, nitrogen is not part of what causes a diamond to be created. So a diamond completely absent of nitrogen might be a D color.
“Now, after you get to the bottom of the alphabet and you come to Z, if you get any more color, you get into what are called fancy diamonds. Fancy diamonds can be almost any color — red, blue, green, pink, purple, orange, or yellow. It’s still a diamond; it just has trace elements in the atomic structure that create color. The higher the color rating in a fancy diamond, the more desirable, the more rare, and the more expensive.”
Beauty had dropped out of Dente’s list for a moment, and my mind fixed on rarity. I thought of my father, who seems to have a tale (tall or true) for every topic. I remembered his recounting the rumor of Russia’s stolen diamonds. Supposedly, he said, Joseph Stalin acquired millions and millions of dollars’ worth of diamonds. He had huge leather satchels full of them, and they are still at the Kremlin. They can’t be released onto the market because DeBeers would match them diamond for diamond and their value would plummet. As Dad told it, the rarity was at least partially manufactured.
The dollar value of the second C — clarity — is also affected by rarity. “Clarity speaks to imperfections in the stone, like a carbon speck, a cloud, a pinpoint, or a needle. A pinpoint might be a very microscopic speck of another included crystal. A cloud is a massed series of pinpoints that together make a body. A needle looks like a little straw needle went into the stone. There are a lot of different types of inclusions; we call them internal characteristics. The nature and type aren’t so important as the number of them, where they’re located, and the type per volume of the stone.”
Dente piqued my interest further when he explained how clarity is determined. “They take the diamond, put it under a microscope, and magnify it ten times. When it is magnified, the inclusions and their type are located. The diamond is then assigned a grade.” Again, we referred to a chart. This time, the ratings were given for flaws. “Flawless through internally flawless [F–IF] means that no inclusions are visible to an expert under ten times’ magnification. We then slide down the scale to very, very slight inclusion [VVS1–VVS2]. This refers to minute or extremely difficult to find inclusions under ten times’. Next is very slight inclusions [VS1–VS2], which are minor or difficult to find under ten times’. One more notch down, we have small inclusions [SI1–SI2], which are noticeable and relatively easy to find under ten times’.” The list finished up with imperfect [I1–I2] — inclusions so obvious they are visible to the naked eye.
“For the majority of these grades,” continued Dente, “the only way to see the difference is with a microscope. So the majority of the range doesn’t have much to do with beauty. It’s important only because each grade higher speaks to the rarity factor.”
The third C is carat weight. All diamonds are measured in carats. One carat is divided into 100 parts called points. One carat would be indicated numerically by 1.00, while one-half carat would be .50, and so on.
Dente’s face grew more intent as we dug into the fourth C, cut. “You cannot stress the cut enough. No matter how many times people talk about it, they haven’t talked about it enough. The objective with cutting and proportion is to maximize the stone’s potential to bring light to the surface of the stone. Every stone has its own inherent potential; by bringing the maximum amount of light to the surface, you’ve made the stone as beautiful as it’s capable of being.
“If you’re only trying to maximize the size of the stone” — that is, maximize carat weight — “then the proportions may be sacrificed. A person might make it a little heavier, or the angles a little steeper or more shallow. But if a stone is correctly proportioned, light will enter the top of the stone, reflect, reflect again, and come to the top of the surface. This will happen at every location.” No matter where light enters, it will be reflected through the top of the diamond. “If a stone is cut too deep or too shallow, light will escape out the bottom. Instead of light on the surface, you get a dark shadow. You get this little fisheye effect. For maximum light return, the proportions that they call ‘ideal’ are critical: every angle, the height and depth of the stone, how thick the girdle is, how big the table. All these issues are mathematically measurable in a stone, and we can tell you with absolute certainty if the stone will or will not reflect light.”
I thought of gaudy rocks on the fingers of brash, loud-voiced women in splashy outfits, women duped by the simplistic maxim “bigger is better,” boldly ignorant of the inferiority of their diamonds to smaller, more carefully crafted gems. Dente backed up my thoughts. “Say we have two rough uncut stones that weigh one carat each. The distance from point A to point B on the girdle is what we call the diameter. In a correctly proportioned stone, a one-carat diamond’s diameter is 6.5 millimeters. Now, say I take the second stone and make the diameter 5.9 millimeters — the same as a stone that should weigh three-quarters of a carat — but make it weigh one carat by carrying the weight vertically in the stone. The visual diameter of the stone is smaller, but it still weighs one carat. Two things happen when you put it in a ring: it looks smaller than it should, and, simultaneously, it isn’t reflecting light as well, because in order to make the stone deeper — and thus heavier — you’ve put angles on there that are insufficient to reflect light to its maximum potential. [Such a stone] might be worth 50 percent less than a one-carat stone that is cut to ideal proportions.
“If the second stone was perfectly proportioned, it might weigh three-quarters of a carat instead of one carat, and that is why it is valued at what a perfectly cut three-quarter carat stone would cost, instead of a one carat. The corrected weight is the basic premise behind every part of diamond evaluation.
“It’s no different than the Kelley Blue Book. It’s like an automobile: with a 1995 car, the base price that you work with is inherently more than a 1994 or 1993. If the car had a bad transmission, ripped upholstery, and broken U-joints, you would look at the book and say deduct, deduct, deduct. All those characteristics diminish value for one reason or another, and it’s the same with a diamond. Where you have make, model, and year of a car, we have color, clarity, and carat weight. Then all we have to do is look at the cutting and begin taking deductions. Every one of those characteristics has a dollar value, plus or minus.”
A car’s make, model, and year are easily assessed. Not so a diamond’s clarity, color, and weight. And cut — surely it’s hard to say when a diamond isn’t quite living up to its potential? It sounded like a playground for the gem-market equivalent of used-car dealers — “Look at the shine on this beauty. Extra-deep seat, European cut, the works. What’s it going to take to put this diamond on your finger today?” “Ours is a business where trust, integrity, and truth are paramount,” protested Dente, distancing himself from the plaid-jacketed salesmen of the used-car lot. “You’re dealing with customers who have to be able to rely on your information. When people look for diamonds from a jeweler, it’s pretty important to get [the trust issue] out of the way early.”
The industry turns to a third party in the hopes of ensuring honesty. “We use the Gemological Institute of America [gia] standard to certify our diamonds. I refer to them as the Supreme Court arbiter of quality. There are a lot of different laboratories out there, and there could be other reasons for using them, such as cost. If you have a $500 stone, it might be prudent to spend $35 to certify it versus the $120 to $150 that the gia might charge. But gia is the top of the field. They’re the single most accepted authority — a nonprofit organization which is beyond reproach. When you send gia a G-stone, the majority of the time you’ll get a G-stone certificate, whereas with some other labs, you might get it half the time.”
Through labs like the Gemological Institute of America, technology has taken the mystery out of diamonds. Once, diamonds were “kind of a mystical thing. You had to know somebody who knew somebody to really be comfortable that you were getting a great deal.” Today, the reliability of the grade certificates put out by laboratories lessens the customer’s dependence on the salesperson for assurance as to the diamond’s value.
The precise, universal grading system put an end to slippery descriptions and changing terminology. “When someone said years ago that a stone was a top Wisenthal color — or near colorless — that might cover four different color grades. From the top grade to the bottom grade, there might be a 40 percent variation in value.” The institute’s system allows people to “categorically set tight parameters around the difference between G, H, I, and J color,” all of which are called “near colorless.”
Which is not to say there is not still variation from store counter to store counter. Dente is a wholesaler, possessed of an eagle-eyed view of the San Diego retail market. “In some stores in San Diego, it’s almost like a car dealership. They have a very tough environment. They have sales managers, just like a car dealership, who are pushing people for performance, and nobody gets in that store without being pushed to the limit to close the sale. There are other stores where the customer’s comfort is more important than anything. They go at the customer’s pace; they answer questions, give information, try to bring the experience to a high level.”
This was all news to me. I did not even have my husband’s experience to vicariously turn to — he had inherited his stone and sidestepped the purchase issue. And while we are not quite as poor as church mice, we will be waiting at least until our ten-year anniversary before the words “diamond” and “shopping” make it into the same sentence. In fact, this was the first time I had set foot in a jewelers’ since ordering our plain platinum wedding bands.
Dente’s operating policy gives him a certain advantage with regard to price, as he explained: “I buy my merchandise for within 5 percent of what every other wholesaler buys his and within a couple percentage points of what retail stores could buy theirs for. The primary difference in price speaks more to a business philosophy and operating costs. If you’re lean and efficient, you can function and be profitable with a low margin, but if you have $6-a-square-foot rent, a $400,000 advertising budget, and ten salesmen’s salaries, then somewhere in that product price you have to have a margin sufficient to fuel your overhead. A store that wants the experience to be warm and comfortable has paid to have that environment. There are consumers who really want that and are willing to pay for it. There are consumers who don’t care about it and would rather save the money.”
And those consumers can skip the stores altogether and go to people like Dente. “We have a division that deals with the retail client, but I don’t have much involvement in it. I’m involved primarily with wholesale customers: manufacturers, designers, and dealers who resell the merchandise. Retail customers can certainly come here, but we’re not a very warm and fuzzy environment for a customer who doesn’t know what they want. We’re not set up for that; we don’t have a lot of samples to show them. Someone who comes in and says, ‘I want 16 of these and 20,000 of those’ — we’re streamlined to take care of them at low profit, low margins, and high efficiency. The consumer who comes and sees us is certainly going to be getting the best product at the lowest price, but for someone who’s shopping, we’re not going to be able to help them figure out what they’re looking for.”
Dente delved into how he acquires gems. “We’ve spent time in Africa and East Africa. Anywhere from dealing with cut stones in big cities in Africa, to going right out to the mines or into the bush to buy it from Africans who have dug it out of the river bottom, to everything in between. China, Thailand, different places in Europe, and most recently, back and forth from Colombia. That’s primarily for colored stones — rubies and emeralds — because DeBeers has a very organized system for the sale of diamonds. There is no system or organization that can control or systematize any part of the colored-stone business.”
“I’m not sure if it’s technically possible. I don’t think the technology exists the way it does for diamonds. For example, in a box of a thousand green emeralds, there might be two stones in there that match. In a box of a thousand diamonds, half of them are going to match something else in the box. Diamonds are a considerably simpler subject. With colored stones, color is super-hard to quantify.
“As for diamonds, we don’t need to pick up our merchandise anymore. We used to, but the information — the grading system — is so well understood, the parameters are so tight between each grade, and the certificates are so reliable, that our inventory is less than 2 percent of what it was ten years ago. I can go into a diamond cutter’s inventory in Belgium, Israel, or New York — or anywhere in the world — through my computer, look at his inventory, and pull the product I need without having to fly there. I can access billions of dollars’ worth of merchandise instead of going to my safe and looking at a million dollars’ worth of merchandise. So we have low inventory costs with diamonds, low costs in procuring the product. When a customer wants a one-carat HSI1 [H color, small inclusions 1] stone, there’s a million dollars’ worth of stones in the world that I can look at.” The only thing Dente has to look for is “the single stone with the best cut, because out of that gene pool, the stone with the best cut is going to give me the most fire and sparkle of any H stone on the market.”
The Gemological Institute of America has sucked the drama out of diamond purchase through its consistent grading. I asked Dente to reminisce about the days when he picked up his merchandise, hoping he’d indulge my romantic fantasies with tales of espionage and intrigue. He didn’t. He talked plain business. “A trip to Israel, Belgium, or New York, or any of the big cutting centers, is eight- to ten-hour days of looking at merchandise. It’s a concentration of cutters, dealers, and brokers. All the business is centralized, so that from one desk in one location, people are only 30 or 40 feet away from each other in other offices, bringing in and exchanging merchandise. It doesn’t go very far. It’s very tight; it’s a low-margin business. In the diamond business, 3 to 5 percent of the business is dealer-to-dealer, but it’s millions of dollars moving very quickly. In a retail store, merchandise might be in the store a month or maybe three years. There has to be a sufficient profit to justify having it unsold for that period of time.
“The number-one criterion for me is to buy something I know I can sell. If there’s a product out there that’s beautiful and a great bargain but it’s something that we don’t sell, like heart-shaped stones — they’re just not a regular item in our business — we don’t buy it. One- to five-carat round stones, on the other hand, are a very liquid item for us. With our low-margin business, we have to turn inventory quickly. We try to buy high-demand, very liquid merchandise. Within that first criterion, we try to buy quality merchandise that’s a good value for the money. We want the cutting to be fine and the stone to be beautiful. A stone may be tinted brown, and although the value is there, it’s not beautiful, so we don’t buy it. We may see 30 cutters a day and look at tens of millions of dollars’ worth of merchandise, and all we try to do is pick and detect what fits our business.”
Ever since Dente mentioned DeBeers, my memory had been sending up fragments of a DeBeers commercial: cascading violins, embracing silhouettes, “A diamond is forever.” I asked about DeBeers’ connection to the industry, and Dente’s grin let me know that my question was not unlike asking about Budweiser’s connection to the beer industry. “Well, first of all, DeBeers controls the majority of the world’s diamond production. They control it through contracts with the people or governments that own the mines. There are very few companies in the world that can buy huge quantities of diamond merchandise, pay for it in cash, and then hold it and sell it to the market as the market needs. It’s their ability to hold the merchandise that stabilizes the market. Without DeBeers, the diamond market would be a very chaotic place and the structure of value would be chaotic.
“When big new productions come online, it’s DeBeers’ ability to go in and buy this merchandise and put it in their vaults, rather than have it hit the market all at once, that keeps prices stable. It makes people feel safe and comfortable. If you’re a diamond dealer who’s buying from DeBeers, and you have a couple of million dollars tied up in merchandise, you don’t want to go to sleep with the idea that the value could go down.”
Like Budweiser, DeBeers advertises, though with a slightly more precise message than “drink Bud.” “DeBeers adjusts its overall ad campaign depending on the direction they want to go. They put forth pieces of information that help shape the world’s perception. A good example of that is, ‘How much should a person spend on an engagement ring or a diamond?’ DeBeers presents it in the fashion of a commonly asked question, along with what they view as the correct answer. [‘How else could two months’ salary last forever?’] This helps establish a person’s perception of what they should be spending.
“Their advertising also helps influence demand. Their current print advertising is heavily weighted with three stones in a ring, and demand for that item is increasing, because as people see the ad, they go, ‘Wow, that is beautiful. I’d like to have one of those.’ ” The demand for particular shapes is influenced in similar fashion. “When they’ve held back a big enough supply of a shape to fill a demand, then they shape the world’s perception and help create the demand for the shape they’re preparing to sell. They’ve gone through marquise and square and ovals. It’s no different than in the car business. When their ads feature silver cars, silver cars become pretty popular.”
My thoughts bounced between Africans digging the occasional diamond out of a stream and waspy silhouettes embracing as a diamond necklace burns brilliantly around a shadowy neck. I glanced down at my own diamond. I thought of my husband’s grandmother’s Irish ears bejeweled for a special occasion, an occasion I could not imagine. What trails had this diamond traveled? Dente took me along another path, a diamond’s journey from mine to velvet display case. The first leg, from the mines to DeBeers, is a short one. “Typically, diamonds are mined worldwide. A huge percentage — 90 percent plus — of all gem-quality diamonds mined worldwide go to DeBeers. DeBeers then takes all that merchandise into their central selling organization in London. They sort the rough stones into over 10,000 categories, covering color, clarity, and size of stone — what they perceive as the yield.
“From there, every six weeks, DeBeers has a site where the customer comes to see the stones. There are less than a hundred DeBeers customers worldwide. The customer then presents a check for a predetermined amount. DeBeers takes the check and hands over a box of stones. That is essentially the second transaction. The cutter [DeBeers’ customer] takes the box. If they wanted to open it and go through and say, ‘Gee, I’m not really happy with what I just bought,’ they’re certainly welcome to return it and get the check back. But that would probably be the last time they were invited to come to DeBeers. It’s not really a negotiating situation, as when you and I sit down and negotiate prices.
“Instead, each DeBeers customer has a representative, almost like a salesperson. They work for DeBeers, and their job is to become intimate with the customer’s business. Is he really good at selling squares? Is his business small goods or big goods? Does he predominantly want to cut only rounds? DeBeers tries to give an assortment of the size and quality at a price that’s going to make him successful. If they want to give him a little price increase, they just put a few less stones in the box. Then, when the cutter spreads out the price of the merchandise, there’s a little increase.
“The diamond would then go to the factory to be cut. On occasion, a certain percentage of the stones might be sold to somebody else for cutting, but basically the system is set up so that that box goes to that factory and is cut, polished, and faceted into a finished shape. From there, depending on the business philosophy, they may resell it directly to a manufacturer, or in some cases, directly to a retail store or wholesaler. If it is sold to a wholesaler like myself, he might sell it to a manufacturer or to a retail jewelry store or to a certain percentage of retail clients. At some point in time, it gets into the store, either as a loose stone or as a manufactured product.” That’s where the customer encounters it.
And if a stone is ideally cut, it might end up in San Diego. “The big cutting centers of the world are really Israel, Belgium, and New York for finer, bigger merchandise. All of the cutters in those major cities are fully aware that San Diego is probably number one, maybe number two as the city that is most aware of the importance of cutting. It’s the toughest diamond-buying market in the country with regard to cut. If you bring up the subject of cutting in any retail store, you’re going to get a blast of information. If you bring up that subject in the suburbs of Chicago or Dallas, you won’t have nearly the awareness level from retail stores there. As a result, the playing field that everybody here competes on is elevated far above the rest of the nation. When a salesperson is trying to sell to a retail jewelry store in San Diego, they’ve got to have better merchandise. Poorly proportioned stones are not going to sell; it’s not a liquid item for the retailer.”
I wondered how America’s Finest City had gotten such a lofty reputation, and another commercial wafted through my head — this one from the Diamond Source. Dente agreed. “I personally would say that the majority of the momentum on the subject of ideal cut was created by the Diamond Source. They spent astronomical amounts of money on advertising to drive that point home. They’ve done the consumer a tremendous favor, because now they’re aware enough to ask the question, which means the retailer has to be aware enough to answer and compete on that subject matter. Several stores do an outstanding job providing ideal-cut merchandise, along with reliable support documentation. In particular, the Diamond Source, Leo Hamel, and Charles Koll jewelers do a good job with the ideal-cut subject.”
Before I left, Dente urged upon me some advice to consumers: “If I were trying to impart information to someone who was diamond shopping, I’d talk about ideal cut, and then I would pound the information about the diameter of the stone as being critically important. That way, any time they’d go to buy a stone, they could say, ‘It’s a one-carat stone; how come it’s 6.1-millimeter diameter? It’s supposed to be 6.5.’ Then you’ve opened a Pandora’s box.”
More good advice: “First, I’d ask, ‘What do you want to spend?’ Then, what size, and what type diamond? Then we’d have to decide if it’s important that it’s white or not white, has flaws that can be seen with the naked eye or doesn’t. In my opinion, a G- or H-colored stone [both fall under the “near colorless” classification] with SI1 [small inclusions, relatively easy to find under ten times’ magnification] clarity is very fine quality. Then, in that gene pool of color and clarity, I’d want to find the stones that have the best cut. If I found an H that was cut nicer than a G, then that’s the stone I’d want, because that would give performance. Even more dramatic would be the difference between a VS1 and VS2 [very slight inclusions 1 and 2] stone with different cuts. Those are microscopic characteristics. Good cutting will bring light to the surface. ‘Sparkle, scintillation, fire, electric’ — all the fancy words that you hear people use to make a diamond sound sexy, that’s what we’re talking about. When two people look at their stones and one says, ‘Wow, why is yours so sparkly?’ it’s because one has a nicer cut.
“If you have an internally flawless stone and I have a VS2, but everything else is the same and my stone is cut nicer, my stone outperforms yours every time. Your microscopic characteristics don’t speak to performance and beauty. The money you’ve spent doesn’t equate to beauty in jewelry use. It might be great in a safe-deposit box, but on the ring, it’s not important.”
My ears full of information, I left Mr. Dente and the Serengeti Company. As I drove home, I chewed over my options. Spinning the diamond to hide the chips turned out not to be a remedy. My husband had already hidden a chip that way when he had the ring made. Recutting, though it would improve the stone’s value, felt to me like an incision in the family history— it would no longer be the same diamond he inherited. Polishing seemed the best option, even though it would leave me with a lopsided gem. When I got home, I put the ring in my jewelry box, where it awaits my decision.