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Articles from DIAMONDS BY TYPE - SYNTHETIC / LAB-CREATED (30 Articles)


 









Synthetic diamond spotlight: what does the Aussie industry think?

Synthetic diamonds were a hot topic at the Sydney jewellery fair, with a panel discussion taking place to address how this sector is impacting the local market.

Synthetic diamonds have generated much attention in recent years and the reality is they are not only infiltrating the international market but the local market as well.

In light of this, a panel discussion, titled Natural vs Synthetic diamonds – the impact on our industry, was conducted during the Sydney International Jewellery Fair (IJF).

The hour-long symposium dealt with the many opportunities and threats synthetics pose to the Australian and New Zealand industry. Jeweller attended the event and this month provides readers with Part 1 of the discussion.

Moderator: Gary Fitz-Roy, Expertise Events managing director

Panellists: Bill Sechos, Gem Studies Laboratory director; George Proszkowiec, owner of Terrace Showcase Jewellers, JAA board director; Tony Smallwood, gemmologist and educator

THE PANEL

Bill Sechos
Bill Sechos
George Proszkowiec
George Proszkowiec
Tony Smallwood
Tony Smallwood
Gary Fitz-Roy (Moderator)
Gary Fitz-Roy (Moderator)

Gary Fitz-Roy:  Let’s set the scene by clarifying the types of synthetic diamonds that exist and the manufacturing methods used to produce these stones.

Bill Sechos: There are two main methods for actually manufacturing synthetic diamonds. One involves high pressures and high temperatures (HPHT) and the other one is called chemical vapour deposition (CVD). Each uses a different type of technique completely; however, both processes are capable of producing stones in sizes ranging from about 1 point to very large. The largest diamond produced by the HPHT method has been a 10-carat VVS2 and from the last time I read about it the biggest CVD created diamond weighed more than 3 carats.

Fitz-Roy: How readily available are synthetic diamonds at the moment in the Australian market?

Tony Smallwood: What we’re starting to find is that they’re already readily available in the Australian market. You can sign up to a number of different suppliers on the web and get an email once a week or so that tells you: “Look what is available in our current stock of synthetic diamonds. Please come visit us at the Hong Kong jewellery show to see them.”

Fitz-Roy: From a cost point of view, synthetic diamonds still seem to be up there at a reasonable cost. I guess the question that everyone will be interested in is if production ramps up will they become far cheaper or is the process as such that they will be kept up at a price similar to their natural counterparts?

TS: I think they will probably always remain, generally speaking, where the market puts them. The market hasn’t developed yet but at the end of the day, the market will eventually determine where the prices of these goods are going to be. At the present moment, we would say for the larger stones that the market price is somewhere around 60 to 70 per cent of the price of natural stones, and the same would probably apply for the smalls.

As I said, the market will always determine price so one of the things that comes to the forefront for me is that if the price of the stone is too good then be suspicious. I think that goes not only for diamonds but for other products too. So if someone is offering you a really good deal be aware, go do some research.

Fitz-Roy: There are concerns that undisclosed synthetics could be mixed with real diamonds. Is there a way of controlling or protecting that?

BS: In a word, no. At GSL, we have three spectrometers that allow us to investigate the provenance of a stone. There are some small synthetic screening devices that are portable and available for about US$600 (AU$795) to US$800 (AU$1,060) – which we also have at the laboratory.

To get a little bit technical, a white synthetic stone is Type II, and these screen devices actually determine whether it’s a Type II. If that happens then it could possibly be a natural stone but it could also be a treated white diamond or it could be a synthetic diamond. Essentially, these devices will say ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ – if it passes then you can be confident the stone is natural. If it fails then further testing is required, and that’s where more sophisticated equipment is needed such as the FTIR spectrometer that scans the diamond’s response in the mid-infrared, the UV-Vis-NIR spectrometer that operates essentially in the visible part of the spectrum and the Raman spectrometer that looks at the vibrational photoluminescence of the carbon atoms in the diamond. We have these at the laboratory now so we can actually do all of those sorts of things in-house.

Jewellers could perhaps use a smaller screening device in store or while at a trade fair or something like that, as they are in essence quite affordable, to warn them that what they’re looking at may be a potential synthetic. It is just a first warning though to say that this is a possible synthetic or a possible treated diamond – to go to the next level it has to be done on a stone-by-stone basis with other equipment.

George Proszkowiec: Adding to this from a retailer point of view, when the stones get too small it’s almost impossible for jewellers to tell if they’re synthetic – especially when mixed in parcels. The loupes, tweezers and mini microscopes just can’t identify the parcels or separate them by visual means.

The panel members offered insight into a range of issues relating to synthetics
The panel members offered insight into a range of issues relating to synthetics

Fitz-Roy: It seems every six months, A Current Affair or Today Tonight will run an exposé on the jewellery industry – whether it be for discounting, quality or something of that ilk. Looking ahead, do you think we could run into similar issues with synthetics? Is it avoidable?

GP: Anyone involved in the diamond business knows full well that the sector is built on trust and has been and continues to be, which is a good thing. In 2000, the threat of conflict, or blood diamonds, was addressed very quickly and comprehensively with the introduction of the Kimberley Process. The creation of a system of warranties – from mine through to the invoicing to retailers providing proof that the stones are conflict free – has maintained the trust and confidence in the industry.

I believe a similar disclosure process by the manufacturers through to the end-consumer is required for the production of either treated or synthetic diamonds. Further, I believe major organisations – whether it be the various buying groups or national bodies such as the JAA – have the view that a: retailers are advised only to buy from reputable suppliers and b: retailers should not request but rather demand declaration on all documentation for the goods that they’re buying. Now, is that policeable? No, except from the retailer’s point of view who is then responsible for on-selling it to the consumer and they’re liable if something isn’t correct. In my view, retail jewellers must make sure that they maintain that demand – not that request – for declaration in documentation and continue buying from reputable dealers.

Fitz-Roy: Do you think stones should be labelled in a shop window as ‘synthetic’ and ‘natural’?

GP: They absolutely should be labelled. If you walk past the jewellery stores in Antwerp, treaded diamonds are all labelled HPHT. I mean the market is responsible for labelling various things such as synthetic rubies and natural rubies, and I think the exact same thing applies to diamonds. The retailer of these stones must declare it to the consumer. This of course raises another issue about the education process as most consumers have no idea what ‘synthetic’ means but it’s the job of the retailer to develop those stories and explain what’s going on.   

*****

Part 2 of this discussion further examined the subject of declaration as well as the debate regarding who is responsible for testing and validating synthetic diamonds – retailer or supplier?

This is an edited version of the panel discussion that took place at the IJF on August 28, 2016. At the time, it was emphasised that each panellist volunteered to participate in the discussion and the views expressed should be treated as opinion rather than fact.










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Tuesday, 18 June, 2019 12:36pm
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