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Articles from DIAMOND GRADING / CERTIFICATION (73 Articles)

James Lehman, Lost River Diamonds
James Lehman, Lost River Diamonds

These are not white diamonds

One of the biggest difficulties I have working in this industry is dealing with jewellers who think all diamonds are the same. White diamond jewellery has played a central role in many businesses for many years, so I understand why some people think they can be treated in the same way as coloured diamonds.

The truth, however, is that they’re very different and require another mindset altogether. Let me try to explain.

Firstly, fancy-coloured diamonds make up about five per cent of gem-quality diamonds. To break this down further, fancy colours like pink make up less than 0.1 per cent (or one in 1000) of gem-quality coloured diamonds. Blues and reds even less – most of the fancy colours would be browns and yellows. Making matters even more complex, among the various colours that make up browns and yellows there are many modifying colours, such as green or orange or brown for yellow and yellow for browns.

By the time you work out all of these variations, it becomes clear how rare each one is. This is particularly relevant when trying to match up two stones that are the same colour, size and shape.

Now many jewellers will try to make a piece and then search for the coloured diamonds to fit. This often occurs because a customer has seen a piece with 12 matching pink diamonds of a specific colour and size. The customer then goes to their jeweller to ask for the exact same thing...and at a better price!

This is the beginning of a frustrating process both for the retailer and supplier. I get these requests constantly and find it upsetting because I want to be able to supply everyone who calls me with exactly what they need. I usually try to get as close as I can but when I tell the sales assistant who has been delegated the task of finding some of the world’s rarest diamonds, they say, “No, that is not what the customer wants.” I have spent many hours trying to explain why we do not have the exact number of the exact size in the exact colour that the customer saw.

Why bother when it can be so frustrating and difficult? Because that is the business we are in. We are here to supply something very special and unique.

The other main challenge is dealing with cut grades. Once again, these are not white diamonds! White and near white gem-quality diamonds are cut to get rid of the colour or make them look colourless. Coloured diamonds have to be cut to achieve the opposite, which is to enhance the colour.

The value of a coloured diamond is determined by the colour. As I have said many times with coloured diamonds, the 4Cs are carat weight, colour, colour and colour.

When you try to take the standard cuts for white diamonds and superimpose them onto a piece of coloured rough, you can easily destroy the diamond. If you were to cut a nice piece of yellow rough to RBC (round brilliant cut) white diamond parameters, you would lose the colour.

This is why we see so many coloured diamond certificates with cut descriptions that say things like modified cushion, modified square and modified brilliant cuts – these cuts are modified to enhance the colour and thus the value of the diamond.

I have owned two Argyle radiant-cut diamonds that were graded 1PP by Argyle, bought by a master coloured-diamond cutter, re-polished then sent to GIA to be re-graded as red diamonds. The red was in there all along; it took an experienced polisher to bring it out.

In the last 30 years, new colours and cuts have changed the market. Mass-produced white diamonds are now everywhere and largely represented on the internet. When internet marketers took over the supply of white diamonds from the jeweller, they de-valued these diamonds. Essentially, white diamonds have become a commodity and can be bought online like a pair of shoes or a loaf of bread.

And this is where increased demand for coloured diamonds comes into the equation – many jewellers have since learned that they’re able to supply a truly unique jewellery piece by offering coloured diamonds. The best results come from a collaboration between supplier and jeweller, combining the jeweller’s design and manufacturing skills with the supplier’s knowledge to create a specialised product.

It really is a specialised product – we do this not because it is easy but because it is not.

Name: James Lehman
Company: Lost River Diamonds
Position: director
Location: Perth, Western Australia
Years in industry: 17 years

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Tuesday, 10 December, 2019 05:22am
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