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Synthetics Dominate Top 10 Stories of the Year

Undisclosed lab-grown diamonds got readers clicking in 2017. So did auctions, the GIA, and a carat-eating dog.

Dec 21, 2017 5:00 AM   By Joshua Freedman
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Global news followers will likely remember 2017 as the year of sexual-harassment claims, the fall of Robert Mugabe, and Donald Trump’s entry into power. But many in the diamond trade had their minds focused on topics far closer to home, judging by what they were clicking on this year.

Readers of Diamonds.net were most drawn to articles that were likely to strike fear into their hearts. And at the moment, few things keep traders up at night more than the threat of undisclosed synthetics. Topping the list of most-read stories on Diamonds.net this year were four separate stories about the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) identifying stones that laboratories had produced using chemical vapor deposition (CVD) or High Pressure-High Temperature (HPHT).

Findings from the Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair in March were a popular read, with Rapaport’s news editor and senior analyst Avi Krawitz discussing five key trends emerging from the show. Auctions of large and storied diamonds also caught readers’ attention, as usual — and it was an especially strong year for that sector.

Finally, the list would not be complete without a mention of poor Bear, the Labrador that sheepishly ate its owner’s Forevermark diamond. The pooch made the list by the skin of its teeth.

Here are the top 10 most read stories on Diamonds.net in 2017:

1. GIA Finds Significant Undisclosed Synthetics

March 7

The unusual thing about this story was the sheer scale. The GIA often finds small quantities of undisclosed synthetics, but this was a parcel of 323 melee diamonds, of which 101 stones proved to be from a CVD lab. Someone had submitted the goods to the GIA’s Melee Analysis Service, a relatively new offering aimed at ensuring synthetics and treated diamonds don’t get into the supply chain unmarked.

Give me a quote: “This is the first time we have seen such a significant percentage of CVD melee mixed with natural melee,” said Wuyi Wang, the GIA’s director of research and development.

2. GIA Finds Baffling Flaw in CVD Diamond

July 2

Synthetics came up again here, though this item had full disclosure. Gemologists at the GIA’s Carlsbad laboratory, to which the diamond had been submitted for a synthetic colored-diamond grading report, found the stone contained an “H4 defect” usually present in natural diamonds. This was the first time the GIA had identified such a feature in a CVD diamond: The type of nitrogen impurity that results in this phenomenon is very hard to recreate in a lab.

Give me a quote: “H4… is a mature aggregate of nitrogen that is very difficult to achieve in synthetic diamond growth or even post-growth treatment,” wrote gemologists at the GIA.

3. GIA Spots Natural Diamond with CVD Blue Layer

May 4

Imitation is the best form of flattery — but few natural colored-diamond dealers will enjoy this particular compliment. In this case, a manufacturer placed a CVD coating onto a 0.33-carat natural diamond to make it appear blue. Shockingly, the diamond had previously received a fancy-blue grade from a lab. However, the GIA’s New York team noticed several characteristics that helped identify it as a natural-synthetic hybrid.

Give me a quote: “Examination of this fancy-colored composite diamond indicated that similar challenges could exist for colorless and near-colorless diamonds,” the GIA lab note read.

4. GIA Finds Synthetic Diamond with Forged Inscription

November 13

Fraud, synthetics, grading reports and the GIA — this story had almost everything diamond traders worry about. In a rare case, fraudsters had imitated the GIA code on a 1.76-carat HPHT stone’s girdle, making it seem that it was in fact a 1.74-carat diamond that had received a genuine grading report from the institute in 2015. Gemologists busted the scam, as certain traits betrayed the stone as synthetic, plus the font used for the inscription was wrong.

Give me a quote: “It is important for the industry and public to exercise caution, because these types of misleading practices do occur,” experts at the lab noted.

5. 5 Lessons from the Hong Kong Show

March 7

Everyone likes lists. That’s why you’re reading this one. So it’s unsurprising that Rapaport’s five takeaways from the March Hong Kong exhibition got a lot of attention. Those lessons in brief: Retailers are owning less inventory; Hong Kong jewelers are seeking lower-priced diamonds; Chinese buyers have tighter budgets; synthetics suppliers are getting more prominence; and trade shows are no longer where the deals happen.

Give me a quote: “The show model has passed its peak in terms of generating new business and excitement,” commented Jeremy Medding, owner of EMA Diamonds.

6. The GIA’s Forays into Diamond Tracking

June 29

The GIA is trying to make it easier for traders to manage their inventory and trace diamonds. To that end, it adopted Radio Frequency Identification technology to help locate stones. The lab is also working with Alrosa to pilot “digital fingerprinting,” tracking goods all the way along the supply chain. To turn this into a story-telling exercise that attracts consumers, the institute also created a mobile application that provides the user with both the grading report and the stone’s provenance.

Give me a quote: “Too often, the jeweler forgets to tell the story,” Matt Crimmin, the GIA’s vice president of lab operations, told Rapaport News.

7. Christie’s to Auction 163ct. D-Flawless Diamond

September 28

There was a distinct story to this massive stone. Lucapa Diamond Company dug the 404.20-carat rough up in Angola last year. De Grisogono and Nemesis International formed a partnership to buy and process it into a 163.41-carat polished stone. De Grisogono then unveiled it within a spectacular necklace, which, it later revealed, is transformable into a bracelet. Spoiler alert: The piece ended up selling for $33.7 million at Christie’s Geneva auction in November.

Give me a quote: “Over our 251-year history, Christie’s has had the privilege of handling the world’s rarest and most historic diamonds. The sensational 163.41-carat, perfect diamond suspended from an elegant emerald and diamond necklace propels De Grisogono into a class of their own,” said Rahul Kadakia, Christie’s international head of jewels.

8. Pink Diamond Smashes Records with $71M Sale

April 4

This diamond was just as remarkable as the 163-carater, with news of its sale falling only marginally behind in eighth place. The Rapaport News team had an informal sweepstake on how much the 59.60-carat, fancy vivid pink, internally flawless Pink Star diamond would sell for, and this reporter humbly notes he got it spot on. Strangely, the world record of $71.2 million wasn’t the highest price this stone had fetched: A bidder won it for $83.2 million at Sotheby’s in 2013, but defaulted.

Give me a quote: “The extraordinary size of this 59.60-carat diamond, paired with its richness of color, surpasses any known pink diamond recorded in history,” said David Bennett, chairman of Sotheby’s jewelry division.

9. Flea-Market Ring Fetches $848K

June 8

This diamond ring had something of a rags-to-riches narrative. The seller at Sotheby’s had bought it for $13 (GBP 10) at a car-boot sale — the British equivalent of a flea market — in the 1980s, assuming it was a piece of costume jewelry. It turned out to be a real 26.29-carat, VVS2-clarity diamond. The stone adopted the name the “Tenner,” after its original price.

Give me a quote: “It was only in the past few months that the owner decided to see if the ring had any value, and asked Sotheby’s to appraise it. Much to the owner’s surprise, the ring turned out to be a genuine cushion-shaped diamond,” the auctioneer said.

10. Diamond in the Ruff: Dog Eats $16K Ring

July 18

Diamantaires deal with labs a lot, but not usually this type: A dog named Bear managed to get hold of a GIA-graded, brilliant-cut, 1.3-carat, G-color, VVS1-clarity Forevermark diamond, and eat it for dinner. Bear’s British owner noticed his wife’s $16,000 engagement ring was gone, and took the pet for an x-ray, which showed the outline of an unmistakable item. It came out naturally, but needed cleaning.

Give me a quote: “They’ve eaten carpet, socks, but never a diamond,” said the dog’s owner, recalling how stunned the veterinary surgeon had been.
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