RAPAPORT... De Beers is confident that its technology detects all synthetic diamonds. During a correspondence with Rapaport, De Beers head of technologies, Dr. Simon Lawson, refuted claims by Yossi Kuzi of EGL Hong Kong that De Beers DiamondSure™ and DiamondView™ systems did not detect a synthetic type IaAB diamond. Lawson further stated that, “De Beers extensive research into heat treatment of synthetic diamond material gives us confidence that pure type IaAB synthetics cannot be produced.”
In communication with Rapaport, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) supported De Beers statement and the efficacy of its equipment. “We felt the stone shown was likely natural so we are in full support of the De Beers response,” said Tom Moses, GIA’s senior vice-president of laboratory and research.
The statements by De Beers and GIA dismiss a February 17, 2014 press release by Diamond Services, a Hong Kong-based diamond company associated with EGL Asia. The press release claimed that Diamond Services’ newly developed DiamaTest™ machine detected a synthetic type IaAB diamond that was not detected by the De Beers technology.
“Recently, we acquired a parcel of synthetic diamonds from one of the growers for research purposes,” Kuzi said. “One of the stones in the parcel, a 0.138-carat stone, turned out to be a type IaAB synthetic diamond. The DiamaTest machine easily identified it as synthetic. However, the [De Beers] DiamondSure identified it as a natural stone!”
In a formal response, De Beers said that based on its extensive research over many years, it is confident that pure type IaAB synthetics cannot be produced. The nitrogen aggregation sequence that leads to the production of a pure type IaAB natural diamond cannot be exactly replicated in a laboratory and there is a good theoretical and experimental understanding of why this is the case. The algorithm used within the DiamondSure machines takes account of the possibility of heat treatments being applied to synthetics and refers such stones for further testing, the company explained (download and read De Beers full technical explanation).
De Beers markets three systems to detect synthetic and treated diamonds. Lawson explained that the DiamondSure provides the initial screening to pick out the type II diamonds, which could possibly include synthetics. Subsequently, the DiamondView enables the identification of each diamond as natural or synthetic. If it is a natural diamond, it can still be tested for being a treated natural diamond – high pressure, high temperature (HPHT) treatment – with the DiamondPlus™.
Lawson stressed that De Beers is also very confident it can effectively detect treated diamonds – both the primary treatment and any subsequent treatments done to hide the initial treatment. “In isolated cases, we err on the side of caution and classify the diamond as undetermined,” he said.
Lawson noted that while De Beers hasn’t physically seen the type IaAB stone in question, it based its conclusions on images from the DiamondView. Kuzi said the stone has been sent to HRD Antwerp for further testing and that he is awaiting HRD’s assessment. HRD confirmed that it received the stone late this week but it was too soon to provide an analysis.
De Beers assurances are encouraging for a diamond market that has been challenged by undisclosed synthetic diamonds being mixed in parcels of natural diamonds. While the issue of synthetic diamonds is not new, it has become more prevalent in the past two years amid reports of undisclosed synthetics entering the market under the guise of natural stones.
In mid-2012, the International Gemological Institute (IGI) received several hundred chemical vapor deposition (CVD) synthetic diamonds at its labs in Antwerp and Mumbai to be certified as natural diamonds. Again in 2013, there were persistent reports that large amounts of synthetic lab-grown diamonds were being mixed with natural diamonds in parcels of melee and diamonds below 1-carat.
These reports prompted De Beers and the GIA to make their detection instruments available to the market, and service providers to the industry, including Rapaport Group, to make the machines available for use in the various trading centers. GIA has since installed its DiamondCheck™ system in the bourses in Antwerp, Dubai, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, New York, Shanghai, Tel Aviv and Tokyo.
Tom Moses, GIA’s senior vice-president of laboratory and research, said the DiamondCheck device, which is able to examine diamonds from 1 point to 10 carats, is 100 percent accurate. DiamondCheck labels a sample as “natural,” “nondiamond,” or “further lab testing for treatment or synthetics” when the initial finding is inconclusive. The system provides 100 percent assurance for most natural or untreated diamonds with no false positives.
Technology has enabled a higher quality of synthetic products to be made that more closely resemble a greater array of natural diamonds. It is vital that technology to detect synthetics remains ahead of the curve. Any discrepancy in the technology would suggest an inability of the industry to effectively detect and differentiate synthetic from natural diamonds.
De Beers asserts that it is ahead of the curve. Its confidence, along with the GIA’s, calls into question the EGL Asia-Diamond Services press release.
If the type IaAB stone is indeed natural, as De Beers and GIA believes, it raises the question of what the industry should do about false claims that synthetic diamonds are not detectable. It should be clear that such claims undermine trade and consumer confidence in diamonds.
As Lawson suggests for detecting synthetics and treated diamonds, it’s best to err on the side of caution. When it comes to technological advances, one must surely rely on scientific evidence to back up any claims of what is likely to be available on the market today. Any unsubstantiated claim is irresponsible and leads to unnecessary confusion. The industry takes comfort from De Beers assurances that current technology is completely reliable when it comes to detecting synthetic diamonds.
The accuracy of the available technology to effectively detect synthetics is vital to the integrity of the industry. Detection is one of the 4Ds required to ensure that the diamonds the industry is selling are natural, as outlined by Martin Rapaport, chairman of the Rapaport Group, in a recent paper about synthetic diamonds (see Sinthetics, published in the December 2013 issue of Rapaport Magazine).
“The key to resolving the challenges presented by synthetic diamonds is our ability to differentiate natural diamonds from synthetic diamonds,” Rapaport wrote. “Differentiation is reliant on detection, disclosure and documentation…. Simply put, without the 4Ds, you don’t have the 4Cs.”
The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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