A popular game show would have three people all say that they were someone and the contestant would try to find out who was the real person. Technology has created many new diamonds and diamond lookalikes. “What is a real diamond?” is a difficult question these days. And the problem of separating a fully natural diamond from all the modern possibilities is quite demanding. So what is a real diamond?
Let’s start with the older diamond look a likes, (CZ, GGG, YAG, Synthetic corundum and spinal, Glass) or simulants are quite easy to separate. The diamond tester and understanding gem properties make choosing the diamond an easy task with these older lookalikes. Apathy and sloppy observation can let one of the older lookalikes get by, but generally the profession is dealing with these well known simulants easily.
The diamond tester (thermal inertia testers) is the front line in finding diamond fakes or look a likes. Modern science has developed a man made gem that can fake out the standard diamond tester. Moissanite is lab-created, silicon carbide, and it gives a positive reading on a diamond tester. But science fights back with a Moissanite tester. This instrument has the ability to identify Moissanite.
More on Moissanite
Moissanite also has some gemological properties (it is a DR stone while diamond is a SR stone) that help identify it, but labs are working to change the nature of the stone. It has a Mohs hardness of 9.25, excellent toughness, refractive index of 2.65, dispersion of 0.0104, and a specific gravity of 3.21. More creative uses of this man made gem are in the pipeline.
The Big Bad Synthetic
In the gem world we use words with particular meanings. Synthetic is one of those words. Synthetic, in the gem world, means made of the same chemicals (elements) and crystal design as nature but is man made. So, a synthetic diamond is the same chemistry (carbon element) and crystal structure (cubic) as natural diamond but made in a factory. Yes, they can make synthetic diamonds and have for many years now. Most are used in the manufacturing of tools like diamond tip drills.
Synthetic diamond crystal big and pretty enough for jewelry has been made since the 1950’s. But, it just costs too much to justify using them. The technology is becoming more cost effective, and some synthetic diamonds are entering the market place now. Since they are the same chemistry as natural diamond, there is no easy test to use to separate them apart. Gemologists must use all their experience and training to find the smallest of clues to determine if the stone is of natural or manufactured origin. It can be done well with careful observation.
Keep in mind, however, that the vast majority of lab grown or synthetic diamond producers responsibly disclose that their diamonds are man-made. Many of them even laser inscribe the girdle of each diamond to leave no doubt of its origin. There are certainly unsavory characters out there who try to pass off their synthetic diamonds as natural, but gemology labs and major diamond suppliers have sophisticated equipment in place to help them catch these impostors before they reach the marketplace. If you’re interested you can learn more about how to tell if a diamond is lab grown.
Synthetic gems are not new to the jewelry profession. Synthetic colored stones have been around for over a 100 years. The impact was dramatic in the beginning then adjustments were made and the new gem found it place. Lab grown diamonds are now finding their place as a viable option for customers who are looking for environmental sustainability and a modest price break. You can learn more about if a lab grown diamond is right for me.
When is a natural diamond not natural any more?
Not every diamond is created equal. Nature makes some diamonds so beautiful it will take your breath away. Other diamonds should we say are unappealing to down right ugly. Now if science could take a ugly cheap diamond and perform some magic and make it a good looking diamond that would be something. It might not be magic but some companies now have the ability to change ugly into nice diamonds.
Exactly how the companies are doing this process is a closely guarded secret. But the theory is basically recreating nature’s diamond forming process and changing the stone. The companies are using a high pressure, high temperature (HPHT) process to change the atomic structure of a diamond.
There are two common changes companies are performing today. First they are taking diamonds that are naturally lower color and making them more colorless. Next they can take a diamond and make them have intense colors. The colors they are making are somewhat unusual for the diamond trade. The common colors are a bright green and yellow/orange stones. Some call the colors antifreeze looking.
Is this process a simple treatment of a natural stone or is it the manufacturing of a diamond using some natural elements? Regardless of way the industry calls it, I feel strongly that the customer must be told. I disclose all treatments and modification of a gem to all my clients and it should be an industry practice.
Natural diamonds have a mystique that goes beyond their history and marketing. The uniqueness of the gem only reinforces the symbol of two unique people joining in love to take the pressures of life and making a bright and shining life together.