Travis Lejman, President & CEO of Gemlab, giving a lecture on diamond screening.
Diamond Screening FAQs
As many have read or heard about in recent months, lab created diamonds in the market have become increasingly problematic. Review our Frequently Asked Questions below to learn more.
What Are Lab Created Diamonds?
Like many other lab created gemstones, these are specimens of nearly identical chemical, structural, and optical characteristics to their natural counterpart. Lab created diamonds are grown by two primary methods of synthesis: Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) and High Pressure, High Temperature (HPHT).
What Is The Difference Between CVD & HPHT?
Visually, not much. Although the processes vary in sophistication and subtle differences in the chemical end result, the look and feel are nearly the same.
CVD diamonds start off with a diamond seed plate, which is then introduced to a gas such as Methane, into a vacuum chamber, causing the molecules to break down and carbon atoms to accumulate to the existing seed plate.
HPHT created diamonds, as the name implies, utilizes high temperatures and immense amounts of pressure that more closely resembles the process of mother nature, but just a few million years faster.
How Long Have Diamonds Been Lab Created?
Many are surprised to learn that diamond synthesis has been going on since the 1950’s. General Electric was one of the first to successfully grow a diamond crystal using the HPHT method. This same method has continued to get better and better for the last six decades, improving the size and purity year after year. CVD synthetics are the relative new kid on the block that has continued to gain worldwide attention to researchers since the 1980s; however, the CVD method has only become a viable and commercial option in the last twenty years.
Isn’t There A Machine To Distinguish The Difference From Natural And Lab Created Diamonds?
In short, yes. Several, actually, but all with varying degrees of accuracy and focus. Some screening instruments are better at detecting HPHT but show inaccurate readings when filtering out CVDs or vice versa. Ultimately though, scientists hesitate to stake claim that there is a single machine that will infallibly give instantaneous results to the nature of origin. The nuances of how these different machines separate natural from man-made diamonds are a bit more complicated due to very small variances that continues to be researched around the world. Although we are seeing dozens of companies, all with their differing degree of claims of accuracy and efficiency, many of these “magical machines” are limited at best, and in many cases, unreliable. The hard truth is that no single machine will distinguish between lab created diamonds and their natural counterpart 100% of the time. There are simply too many variables to tell with existing technology. Some natural diamonds lack in one element or have an abundance of another. Some possess distinctive structural defects, while others do not. This essentially creates a considerable amount of possibilities to distinguish from the variances seen in lab created diamonds, often time giving no more than a hint of its exact origin. BUT, with a combination of methods, and continuing improvements with the “all-in-on” screeners, science is almost there, and with our methods of screening, we are up to 98% confident in our separation techniques.
How Would I know If My Diamond(s) Is/Are Natural?
To put it bluntly, you won’t. Unless your diamond is accompanied by a reputable lab report already, there is virtually no distinguishing characteristics that are observed to visually tell. A well-equipped laboratory is the only place suited to confidently distinguish the difference, and even then, many labs are not yet equipped with today’s improving technology. If you’re unsure, give us a call or send us an e-mail, and we’d be happy to discuss these options with you.
How Long Do These Tests Take?
Today, with our new equipment and advanced training and research, we can confidently let you know if your piece has any synthetic diamonds present within the duration of your appointment. This is in stark contrast to just a few months ago. We’ve had the technology to separate natural and lab created diamonds for almost a decade now, but the time required, not to mention the cost of analysis was simply too great to be a sustainable method up until now.
What Happens If I Find Out My Diamond Is Lab Created?
The golden question. The short answer is that it depends. Let’s say, for example, you purchased or received said diamond more than a year ago. It would be pretty difficult to convince the jeweler of fault after that amount of time has passed; however, jewelers are aware of the proverbial elephant in the room, and many have taken proper steps to mitigate such risks, as well as address these issues as science improves. The vast majority of the time, jewelers are just as unaware as you are, and no ill-intent was a factor. Many of these jewelers are eager to work with you to determine the best solution since they may not have been aware of the fact as well. Not to say there are not handfuls of jewelers who willingly pass off lab created diamonds as natural, but in most of the cases we’ve dealt with, it was simply a matter of technology not advancing quick enough to screen out these man-made diamonds, and often a fair remedy is had. But let’s say, for example, the jeweler disregards the concern. This is when legal advice is likely the next step. Our firm has built a wonderful relationship with the Jewelers Vigilance Committee (JVC) and often refer our clients to them for much needed legal advice under a “worst case scenario” situation. Again, if more clarification is required, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us, and we’d be more than happy to answer any questions or concerns you might have, as well as put you in contact with the proper team of experts.
But What If I Prefer Having a Lab Created Diamond?
That’s great! There is absolutely nothing wrong with lab created diamonds when they are disclosed as such and the price that was paid matches the current market. To be quite honest, lab created diamonds are an incredible option to save a fair amount of money for something cleaner, whiter, and purer than what a similar budget would allow for a natural diamond. Seriously, there’s zero visual difference between a natural and lab created diamond of equal quality. The only focus with the growing number of lab created diamonds should be on disclosure. Afterall, lab created gemstones such as: Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald, and many others have been around for over a century.
Okay, But How Much Cheaper Are Lab Created Diamonds?
Great question. The answer as of writing this will likely be in stark contrast in another six months. Since technology continues to advance, so does the efficiency, and therefore the cost gets cheaper. A year ago, the cost was roughly 50-70% of a natural diamond of equivalent quality. Today, it’s more like 35-50% and getting less and less so. Honestly, nobody truly knows where prices will level out. Although vast improvements in growing methods have rapidly become cheaper, we may find a roadblock to this exponential increase in efficiency, thus creating a much more steady, long-term pricing. Time will tell.