Buyer Be Very Wary
Updated: Aug 11
We all like to think that we are moderately intelligent consumers. If we are unfamiliar with a product, we have our smart phones and computers to use as a reference and we 'Google' sources and check out ratings.
I am not particularly knowledgeable about computers and my source for IT advice is my oldest son who is in the IT business. I do not spend too much time learning about the newest upgrades in drives, ports, gigabytes, terabytes, Ram etc. My first encounter with computers in college involved fortran & cobol (ancient languages) along with a fist full of punch cards.
I recently went to purchase a new computer and the store associate was more interested in selling me the extra warranty, extra tech assistance, extra software and they said very little about the features and benefits of the actual computer. I was prepared to make a purchase that day, but the failure to address my needs, left me using my old one, which has been temporarily repaired via duct tape.
Jewelry consumers fall into two groups. Those who are trusting and those who are skeptical. The jewelry industry has tried to institute checks and balances for consumers to trust them. Along comes fracture filling, laser drilling, High Temperature High Pressure (HTHP), glass doping,moissanite etc and now the laboratory grown (LG) Chemical Vapor Disposition (CVD) diamond. It is challenging for me as a gemologist to keep up to date on new developments in the industry, I can image a consumer is totally confused.
The lab grown diamond has been in existence since GE produced one in 1954. It has mainly stayed in its lane for industrial use for many years. New methods of producing purer, whiter, clearer diamonds have a more recent history. CVD, 'Chemical Vapor Disposition' (not to be confused with the COViD virus), has improved and become less expensive. The turn of the 21st century has seen a growth in better quality lab created diamonds. They have found their way to the retail market and every retail purchase involving diamonds (clear or fancy colors) could now be suspect.
Is it good or bad? I personally do not think it is either, yet it can be both, depending on how it is represented. They are marketed as conflict free, and carbon neutral. Those are good attributes, but do you know where they are coming from? Many are made in Russia, India and China and they do not reveal their country of origin. Making diamonds in a lab is a very energy intensive procedure. Is it really carbon neutral?
I think there is room in the jewelry industry for new products. However, ALL products should be represented correctly and any production methods, treatments, fillings, radiation enhancements etc. MUST be disclosed at the point of sale.
The picture to the right is of a ring that I screened using a Yehuda, 'Sherlock Holmes' diamond screener. The glowing red stones are suspected laboratory grown diamonds. This past week I have seen over a dozen pieces of jewelry which clients have purchased from an on line retailer, which were set with suspicious diamond melee. Some had combinations of natural and lab grown in the same pave' set piece of jewelry.
My little lab does not include an NCIS type, Abby operated, mass spectrometer which could definitively detect a laboratory or enhanced diamond, and this screening device is not inexpensive. For my humble purposes it is accurate enough to weed out likely suspects.
My professional advice to jewelry consumers is to ask the seller plainly, "Are these diamonds lab grown or natural? "Have any gems in this piece of jewelry been enhanced in any other way then cutting and polishing?" If the price and style appeals to you and nothing is natural, there is nothing wrong with making the purchase. It is essential that the jewelry industry maintains professional standards to keep the confidence of the public, but I want to alert consumer's to be cautious of the minority of sellers who may take advantage of a client who isn't a Graduate Gemologist.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires a seller to divulge gem treatments and origins and specifically requires that laboratory created diamonds are identified as such. To muddy the waters even further, this spring's issue of Gems & Gemology includes an article by Troy Ardon and Garrett McElhenny, "CVD Layer Grown on Natural Diamonds" They received a .64 ct modified cushion cut, fancy grayish, greenish, blue diamond at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and by extensive testing, found that it had a natural diamond pavilion and a lab grown, 200 micron thick, addition to the crown of the diamond.
Where's NCIS's Abby Sciuto when you need her? She could use her 'Mass Spec' and identify the usual and not so usual suspects. As consumers, doing so many transactions with online retailers, we need to be asking the right questions before we let go of our credit card numbers. Shop online and in your local jewelry stores, but ask the right questions. They say hindsight is 2020, but try not to have a reason to have buyer's remorse. I don't know about you but I cannot wait until 2020 is in my hindsight!