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THE REAL STORY ABOUT SYNTHETIC COLORED DIAMONDS:  A non-issue for WCM clients.


Ever since the Wired Magazine article appeared in September, 2003, I have received many questions about the new processes for manufacturing colored diamonds in the laboratory.  For the experts in the diamond industry, some of whom I utilize for the sourcing of WCM fancy colored diamonds, this was old news and nothing for potential buyers to be concerned about.  I have included excerpts from articles by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) on this very subject, because if anyone is going to detect a synthetic, manmade "fake" diamond it is going to be this world-renown colored diamond grading service.  Since existing and new detection technologies will always be available to separate "natural" from synthetic colored diamonds, in the not-inconsequential opinions of both GIA and DeBeers experts, clients of Wexford Capital Management can always be assured that they are purchasing a colored diamond created by conditions that required extreme heat and pressure over millions of years in the totally natural setting of Nature.  

We guarantee that the WCM Fancy Colored Diamond you are purchasing is totally natural, and has been certified by GIA as a naturally occurring gem.  In the extremely remote possibility that a synthetic colored diamond gets through the multiple layers of analysis at WCM, we will repurchase the diamond from you at your cost plus interest of 10% per annum.  We are that confident that the GIA certified colored diamonds that we offer to discerning clients are the real, unaltered colored gems that are so rarely found in Nature.

And now from the real experts in the colored diamond grading and certification industry, GIA:

September 19, 2003

Thoughts from the President: Gem Synthetic Diamond

by William E. Boyajian, GIA President

The recent article on synthetic diamonds in Wired magazine (September issue) has garnered a great deal of attention by the major print media and television networks over the past several weeks.

Gem synthetic diamond is an intriguing product, and the finished goods are certainly attractive materials. They should be. They have all the same optical, physical and chemical properties of natural diamond. Visually – even to the most experienced gemologists – they are indistinguishable from natural diamond.

Fortunately, we at GIA have stayed well ahead of the technology curve on synthetic diamonds for seven decades. Our first encounter came in the 1930s, when a scientist claimed he had created synthetic diamond. Through good science and hard work, GIA founder Robert M. Shipley and his son Robert Jr. proved the claim to be false.

In 1955, General Electric Co. scientists created the first-ever synthetic (industrial quality) diamonds, which we later characterized. And when GE announced the first cuttable gem-quality synthetic diamonds in 1970, we quickly provided identification criteria. Then, in the 1980s, when Sumitomo Corp. started selling gem synthetic diamond crystals for use as "heat sinks" in electronic equipment, we broke the news to the world with an in-depth 1986 article that clearly characterized the material and provided for conclusive identification of it. The following year, we worked intensely with De Beers’ research staff and reported on their synthetic diamonds, all produced for experimental purposes. Since then, we have reported regularly on synthetic diamonds in Gems & Gemology, including a comprehensive wall chart for the separation of natural from synthetic diamonds in 1995 and a landmark 1996 article by De Beers researchers on their detection instrumentation. To this day, we continue to keep the trade and the public informed—and confident—about our ability to detect gem synthetic diamonds, with an article in the Winter 2002 G&G (months before the Wired article) characterizing the new Gemesis synthetic diamonds and an August Insider report on the new single-crystal diamonds grown by chemical vapor deposition.

I hope that the media reports on synthetic diamonds mention the fact that the major laboratories can conclusively identify gem synthetic diamonds, that most of the material produced is still small and yellow in color, and that the sum of all commercially produced gem synthetic diamonds is but a minute portion of the entire worldwide diamond market.

For years, we have stated that there is nothing inherently wrong with synthetic diamonds. They are attractive and will no doubt find a market niche if they can be produced in sufficient quantities to warrant the huge investment necessary to create and sustain demand at appealing price points. Our view has remained consistent: The key is proper identification and distinction from natural diamond, as well as full disclosure in the marketplace. While the barrier to commercially produced gem synthetic diamond has been broken, our ability to identify the product has not. It is critical that we keep it so.

Gemesis Laboratory-Created Diamonds
Winter, 2002, Gems & Gemology
James E. Shigley, Reza Abbaschian, and Carter Clarke

High-quality yellow, orange-yellow, and yellow-orange laboratory-created type Ib diamond crystals up to 3.5 ct are being produced commercially by the Gemesis Corp. of Sarasota, Florida. In some samples, color zoning (yellow and narrower colorless zones) and a weak UV fluorescence pattern (a small green cross-shaped zone combined with an overall weak orange luminescence) provide means of identification; when present, metallic inclusions also indicate laboratory growth. Some samples lack these diagnostic visual features, but all of these Gemesis synthetic diamonds can be identified by advanced instrumentation such as the De Beers DiamondView luminescence imaging system and EDXRF chemical analysis.


August 08, 2003

From Gems & Gemology: Facetable Laboratory-Created Diamonds Grown by Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD)

These three laboratory-grown diamonds (weighing 0.28, 0.14, and 0.31-ct., from left to right) were produced by chemical vapor deposition (CVD). Courtesy of Apollo Diamond Inc.

High pressure is normally essential for the formation of gem-quality diamonds, whether in the Earth’s interior or in the laboratory. However, growth of synthetic diamond by chemical vapor deposition (CVD) techniques, which do not require high pressure, is drawing increased attention worldwide. The possible use of this technique to coat gemstones with polycrystalline CVD synthetic diamond was discussed by E. Fritsch et al. ("A preliminary gemological study of synthetic diamond thin films," Summer 1989 Gems & Gemology, pp. 84–90), but until recently, the technique has not seen much use in the gem industry due to the difficulty of growing single crystals that are large enough to be faceted. This may now be changing.

Using a patented CVD process (U.S. patent no. 6,582,513), Apollo Diamond Inc. of Boston, Mass., has successfully grown facetable laboratory-created diamonds. Four crystals (0.34-0.87 ct.) and four faceted samples (0.14-0.31 ct.) were submitted to the GIA Gem Laboratory for examination. The faceted samples ranged from faint brown to dark brown (see figure). Clarity was equivalent to VS1 to SI2; some small and irregularly shaped gray-black inclusions were observed in some samples, due to deposition of diamond-like carbon or graphite (as suggested by Raman spectroscopy). Characteristic strain patterns were observed, which were different from those seen in natural diamonds. Also, since no flux is employed in the growth process, the metallic inclusions typically seen in synthetic diamonds grown by HPHT processes are not present in CVD laboratory-grown diamonds. All of the samples fluoresced a very weak yellow-orange to long-wave UV radiation, and a weak to moderate yellow-orange to short-wave UV. As a characteristic feature, the CVD synthetic diamonds displayed strong red fluorescence while exposed to high-energy UV radiation in the De Beers DiamondView.

Infrared absorption spectra showed that the CVD laboratory-created diamonds were type IIa, and some contained trace amounts of isolated nitrogen. Photoluminescence spectra suggested the presence of N-V centers, indicated by very strong emission peaks at 575 nm and 637 nm. Also observed were features such as H-related absorption at 3123 cm-1 in the mid-infrared range and a relatively strong photoluminescence emission at 737 nm due to trace impurities of silicon.

According to Apollo, gem-quality crystals weighing up to 3 carats could become available in the near future. Apollo is cooperating closely with the GIA Gem Laboratory to ensure that these CVD laboratory-grown diamonds are correctly identified before being introduced into the market. Gemological and spectroscopic studies of additional samples will be reported in a future article.

This entry was prepared by Wuyi Wang, Matt Hall, and Tom Moses of the GIA Gem Laboratory, New York, and Jim Shigley of GIA Research, Carlsbad; the photo is by Elizabeth Schrader. For more on these CVD laboratory-grown diamonds, as well as other gem materials from around the world, see the Gem News International section in the upcoming Fall 2003 issue of Gems & Gemology. To subscribe, visit Gems & Gemology online. Or contact Circulation Coordinator Debbie Ortiz at dortiz@gia.edu, or call toll free 800-421-7250, ext. 7142. Outside the U.S. and Canada, call 760-603-4000, ext. 7142.


As new detection technologies are developed for identifying synthetic or manmade colored diamonds, I will post them on this site to assure clients that GIA science is in step, if not one step ahead, of the science of laboratory fabrication.  Regardless of price and similarities, there is no material that matches the unique characteristics of natural colored diamonds nor their extreme rarity.