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The Future of Diamonds

Natural? Synthetic? Treated? The industry faces the challenge of identifying a “real” diamond. The Accredited Gemologists Association conference held in Las Vegas during the jewelry show tried to find some answers.

By Joyce Kauf


Only a diamond can compete with a diamond — not a wannabe,” said Alex Grizenko, chief executive officer (CEO), Lucent Diamonds, in his introduction to the Accredited Gemologists Association (AGA) conference, “Through the Looking Glass — The Future of Diamonds.” However, natural diamonds now coexist in the market with treated and synthetic diamonds, “ugly ducklings that through the magic of technology become swans.”

Grizenko emphasized the need for proper identification, noting that labs will play a more important role in the future. Citing the synthetic stones that have been submitted to IGI labs, he asked, “Is this a crisis or the alarm clock ringing?” His remarks set the stage for the May 31 discussion by a panel of industry experts who addressed issues of supply, technology and disclosure at the Las Vegas conference.

Howard Coopersmith, a registered professional gemologist, saw a cloudy future with mines that are old and small, where exploration is high risk and expensive. With a 10-year to 15-year lead time from discovery to production, demand for diamonds “will far outstrip production in the next 10 to 20 years,” he said.

Sonny Pope, general manager of Suncrest Diamonds, pointed out that high pressure-high temperature (HPHT) technology could enhance the color and clarity of the two-thirds of mined diamonds that are not being used for jewelry. “HPHT diamonds can be made commercially viable if we got our arms around the colored diamond industry,“ he said.

Ya’akov Almor, partner in MarketDirect Business Communications Ltd., explained that the industry is working to develop a consumer-friendly definition of irradiated diamonds. He advocated educating the public and suggested using  “unambiguous language” on identification reports and creating a special format for those certs.

Dr. Robert C. Linares, founder of Apollo Diamonds, is a codeveloper of chemical vapor disposition (CVD) diamonds. While labs can create diamonds with high-purity, D to F color, the economic incentive for larger gemstones will come from the biomedical and semiconductor industries. Still, he noted, “Diamonds will never be made as cheaply as moissanite or cubic zirconia (CZ) — never going to happen.”

Tom Chatham, CEO, Chatham Created Gems & Diamonds, asserted,  “Lab-created diamonds are the only chance the industry has to survive.” Citing the “certainty of diamond depletion and prices that will go out of reach,” he said the trade needs to “set aside its preconceived notions of what the consumer wants.”

Dr. James Shigley, a distinguished research fellow at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), said the expansion of an information database is critical given the challenges facing the industry. Among those challenges:

  • Natural versus artificial radiation — exposure of diamonds in the earth for millions of years compared to days for HPHT diamonds.
  • Greater understanding of lattice defects to help determine if certain defects appear together in natural or synthetic diamonds.
  • Multistep treatments, in which subsequent steps remove evidence of earlier steps.
  • Melees may be natural, synthetic, treated or imitation diamonds.

Martin Rapaport, chairman of the Rapaport Group, told the audience, “With all due respect to the new technologies, just sell the stuff!” However, he cautioned that the industry must be concerned with the value of authenticity, the problem of misrepresentation and the ability to provide the “real thing” to the person who wants it.

“What is the most important information on a GIA cert?” Rapaport asked. His answer: the date — since distinguishing between a natural and synthetic diamond is dependent on the technology available at that time. Advising the audience “not to play labs,” he said the solution is “detection, disclosure and differentiation.”

Announcing plans to introduce Rapaport ethical diamond certification later in 2012, Rapaport advised drawing a red line to separate those who support ethical certification and engage in ethical competition from others in the industry. “You are responsible for what you buy and sell,” he concluded.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - July 2012. To subscribe click here.

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