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How certain clues can help weed out synthetics from natural diamonds

By Hemdeep Patel

The topic of a gemmology column appearing in the December 2011 issue of Jewellery Business centred on the likely probability of undisclosed synthetic diamonds making their way into the diamond pipeline. Barely six months later, International Gemological Institute (IGI) in Antwerp discovered 600 undisclosed synthetics in a parcel of approximately 1000 diamonds ranging in size from .30 points to .70 points.

Though there may have been a sense of relief at finding these stones before they were used in finished jewellery, it was only by chance they ended up at a laboratory. The word in trade circles was the dealer had been unable to sell the goods as a parcel and decided to obtain reports for each diamond for individual sale. Further, reports say his was a cut from a much larger parcel of diamonds. So it can be easily deduced many of the remaining undisclosed stones likely managed to get into the jewellery market and into the hands of unsuspecting consumers.

As this news made its way through the jewellery industry, it served as a wakeup call for manufacturing and trading markets. Companies responded by putting various safeguards in place to protect their inventory and reputation from the possibility of synthetic diamonds making their way into their stock. This mostly took the form of strengthening their internal procedures and consolidating their purchasing to only those manufacturers who were able to assure their diamonds were natural. Other methods included sourcing rough from big-name companies like De Beers or Alrosa or buying diamonds accompanied by reports from reputable laboratories capable of identifying synthetics. In effect, the response to the threat was the traditional ‘know your source’ methodology.

The Canadian gemmological landscape can be broken into two distinct sectors. One is the business of reporting and analyzing gemstones and diamonds, while the second is the appraisal of diamonds, gemstones, and jewellery for the purpose of facilitating or completing a sale. Though many gemmological laboratories in Canada have put into place procedures for screening for synthetics, it is the second sector that can raise concern, given the high-cost equipment needed to identify lab-grown diamonds.

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As such, one course of action is to focus on implementing methods to conclusively test for natural diamonds in the colour range of D to L. Despite the fact lab-grown and natural diamonds share identical chemical properties, the key identifying features that separate the two are derived from the differences resulting from where and how crystals are grown.

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