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Diamonds, Gemstones

Articles from DIAMONDS BY TYPE - SYNTHETIC / LAB-CREATED (99 Articles)

Providing synthetic diamonds are sold with full disclosure and guarantees from a reliable supply chain, there should be no issue
Providing synthetic diamonds are sold with full disclosure and guarantees from a reliable supply chain, there should be no issue

Synthetic diamonds are not the enemy

Do lab-created diamonds really damage the industry “brand” or do they offer an alternative solution for eco-friendly or budget conscious consumers? Megan Austin reports.

Suppose there is a customer who desires a high-quality diamond that is guaranteed to be conflict-free, has easily traceable origins and leaves a low carbon footprint. Suppose also that the customer wants a bargain, a discount off other comparable diamonds. If this customer was offered a lab-created diamond, would their opinion change?

Jewellery retailers who are in the habit of selling diamonds with a story, embellishing the mystery and romance associated with naturally-mined diamonds, may shiver at the notion that a lab-created diamond can cover all of the above customer requirements; however, there are retailers out there who already see that science has reached the point where it can produce lab-created diamonds that tick all the boxes.

Recent media publicity regarding reports of undisclosed synthetic diamonds in the marketplace have created a general sense of caution and uncertainty in the jewellery industry and the wider general public.

Further concerns have been raised by jewellers and consumers regarding appropriate terminology, disclosure and detection.

All of these concerns are understandable; however, it’s important to note that there are specific terms that tend to create confusion. These require clarification. For instance, the word “fake” is often mistakenly used to describe something that is an imitation, something “not real”, when it actually refers to any material that is incorrectly represented.

Synthetic diamonds have the same chemical composition, physical properties and structure as their natural counterparts but have been manufactured in a laboratory; artificial or man-made gems have also been manufactured in a laboratory but have no known natural counterpart; imitations or simulants may be natural, artificial or synthetic and are used to imitate the appearance of a gemstone but do not share the same properties – cubic zirconia is an imitation of diamond, for example.

Fortunately key industry bodies have established strict guidelines regarding terminology and disclosure that are designed to protect businesses and consumers.

These guidelines specify the use of the terms ”cultured”, “imitation”, “synthetic” and “created” in relation to natural, laboratory-made and artificial gemstones. Failure to disclose that gemstones are not natural is a breach of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) rules.

According to The World Jewellery Confederation (CIBJO), synthetic diamonds may be called ”laboratory-grown”, ”laboratory-created ” or “synthetic” diamonds.

As far as detection is concerned, there is no doubt that the current synthetics present some challenges; however, they can still be identified using advanced spectroscopic techniques available in a fully-equipped gemmological laboratory – two specialised instruments, the DiamondSure and the DiamondView, have been developed by De Beers to assist with detection.

For businesses with clients who are inclined to marvel at the wonder of science, perhaps the cutting edge technology and sophisticated equipment used to create synthetic diamonds will win them over but it is not the technology but the marketing of lab-created diamonds that is most crucial to their success.

Providing synthetic diamonds are sold with full disclosure and guarantees from a reliable supply chain, there should be no issue. In fact, synthetics will most likely develop into their own niche market, comfortably co-existing with naturally-mined diamonds.

Megan Austin

Megan Austin FGAA FGA Dip DT BA, is a gemmologist and registered valuer. She operates Megan Austin Valuations.

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