Earlier this month the GIA (Gemological Institute of America), the world’s foremost independent authority on gemstones, took the unprecedented step to publicly announce that they are receiving more undisclosed synthetic diamonds at their grading laboratories. Acknowledging a truism that many in the jewelry trade had known about for years.
Undisclosed Synthetic Diamonds
Tom Moses, executive vice president of GIA laboratory and research, stated. “There clearly has been an increase in undisclosed synthetics. I can’t tell you how much the increase has been, but we have seen more in smaller sizes and in colored diamonds. This makes sense, they are being made more by more people. It’s only natural we would see an increase.”
GIA spokesperson Stephen Morisseau added. “The quantity of undisclosed synthetics remains a very small proportion of the diamonds submitted to GIA for grading and identification.”The amount of undisclosed diamonds coming through GIA labs had remained steady in previous years. Besides GIA’s recent discovery, the melee diamond industry (melee diamonds range from 0.001-0.18 carats) has found synthetics in their parcels for many years. The small size of melee diamonds makes it difficult to detect synthetics, and the low prices of these goods also makes testing more expensive than the actual cost of the goods.
It has been possible to make diamonds artificially since the 1950’s, but technological advances in recent years mean labs can now produce diamonds of any desired size and quantity. In every respect these synthetic diamonds are the same as diamonds that come out of the ground. Exactly the same chemical composition and mineral makeup. Consequently it is enormously difficult, perhaps impossible, to tell the difference between natural and man-made. This inability to guarantee that a diamond is naturally occurring could undermine the high prices still currently charged above those for synthetic diamonds.
Considering the huge logistical difficulties associated with diamond mining, it should come as no surprise to see the growth in synthetics continue as lab techniques become more refined. One prediction is that man made diamonds will corner a quarter of the whole diamond market in the next 20 years. Only last month the world’s largest synthetic diamond factory opened in Singapore. Lisa Bissell, CEO at Pure Grown Diamonds, the company who own this facility, said. “These diamonds come at a cost that is 30-40% less. The diamonds are identical to their mined counterparts with the only difference being their point of origin.”
Many will concede that this method of diamond production is a significant improvement on what went before. Parts of the mining industry have long been associated with controversy, through alleged exploitation of an impoverished workforce, to the more recent Blood Diamond horrors, where illegally mined stones have been used to fund civil wars in a number of African nations. Lab grown diamonds will have less difficulty in obtaining conflict-free certification.
Along with their natural beauty and amazing sparkle, diamonds have also relied upon their perceived scarcity to give them their unique symbolism and value. Only gem quality diamonds of the highest grades are truly rare, lower quality stones in small carat weights, as well as industrial diamonds are quite common. However,when the rarity factor dissolves, and gem quality diamonds can be produced in factory quantities by competing companies; it makes sense to believe the market price of the product could fall significantly in the coming years.
The appeal of a diamond as a center stone for an engagement ring has always been it’s rarity and its perceived supremacy over other gemstones. We’ve all been taught by commercials and marketing campaigns that a diamond is forever. We’ve been told continuously that nothing compares to a diamond and that only diamonds are pure symbols of loves. With the rise of man made diamonds, the days of hyper-inflated diamonds prices could be over.
Questions To Consider
Certain questions arise. If natural and synthetic diamonds cannot be told apart, how long will it be before the significant price gap between the two disappears? Will diamonds still hold the same allure if couples know that the stone they chose to demonstrate their love and commitment was made in a factory? Will couples perfect man made stones that don’t have the taint of an untraceable conflict diamond? Since the rise of unspecified synthetic diamonds has grown, will there be technology to ensure the reliability of a customer’s purchase?
Is it time to consider other gemstones options besides the colorless stone that has become the norm? What’s your take on this issue?