The conversation about synthetic diamonds has begun; the recent Jewellery Ireland presentation by SGL labs about the identification of colourless diamonds has brought an immediate awareness of their real presence in the market place.


Yes, synthetic diamonds are here but in fact they have been around for quit some time as coloured stones, providing an affordable alternative to their rare and prohibitively expensive natural coloured counterparts.


Synthetic diamonds are manufactured using two different methods; either using the HPHT (High Pressure High Temperature) method, which imitates natural processes, or CVD (Chemical Vapour Deposition) a method that has no equivalent in nature.

Synthetic diamonds are truly diamonds, having the same chemical, crystalline and physical properties with the same hardness, durability and the same abilities to reflect, refract and disperse light, showing all the beauty that we would expect from a natural diamond. Fortunately, both HPHT and CVD manufactured stones do have identifying characteristics, which distinguish them from one another and from stones formed in nature.

Approximately 98% of all diamonds found in nature are type 1a. Fortunately, currently most synthetic diamonds are type 2a and they can be distinguished by their unique ability to transmit SW 254nm. A diamond that transmits SW at this particular wavelength is most likely either a rare type 1a or a synthetic of either HPHT or CVD origin, if this is the case more advanced testing is then required to secure a positive determination of origin.  Many “black box” devices are being market with maker’s claims that they will identify synthetic diamonds. Most seem to be very expensive considering that they appear to do no more and have the same limitations as the SW filters described above. If however tempted to purchase one of these devices, you will need reference stones to insure it is working correctly, so you would be well advised to also purchase certified HPHT and CVD diamonds as control stones.


There also visual tests which can be used on suspect stones involving the gemmological microscope and crossed polars to observe strain patterns, effective use of these tests require training and experience.


I believe the best way the retailer can deal with the identification issue is to oblige the supplier, wholesaler or diamond dealer to state on his paperwork the origin of his stones. Every stone invoiced should have the descriptor; “natural”, “treated natural” or “synthetic” as the case may be, if the supplier is unwilling the there are others. But as diamond dealers deal in large volumes it is surely in their own best interests that they employ the appropriate technology and expertise to confirm the nature of their product.


Synthetic diamonds are inevitably going to become more commonplace and will become either a problem or an opportunity for the jewellery trade.

It is the writer’s opinion that synthetic diamonds should be viewed as nothing more or less than an entirely new product. They will establish their own price category and their own position in the market place, in the same way as has already happened with their coloured synthetic counterparts. While expensive to manufacture as production increases synthetic diamonds will come down in price, probably significantly, which will itself establish a new product price point niche which will help the retailer. They can be ignored only in the short term and no doubt the media, at some stage, will present synthetic diamonds as a problem. This is where the opportunity exists for members of the Association of Fine Jewellers. We are aware that a significant amount of diamond set jewellery,  (with no certainty of the nature of the diamonds) is being purchased by Irish consumers abroad in such place as Dubai and New York, Ultimately a consumer shopping abroad is wide open to being sold a Synthetic Diamonds as a Natural Diamond. Conversely they can purchase from an Association member who can demonstrate that AFJ members, through their supply chain be assured that a natural diamond is just that a natural diamond from one to three and a half billion years old. Members can also in the process take the initiative to educate the media and the general public in a preemptive fashion.


Synthetic diamonds are very current and thus cannot be ignored, in my opinion they present a very positive opportunity to promote the established trusted and educated Association of Fine Jewellers member in what is a difficult market place.


Diamond Terminology Guideline Infographic UK


Click here to view a Diamond Terminology Guideline Infographic UK

Let the conversation continue…