National Jeweler Network

Grading

GIA’s synthetic detection device debuts

By Michelle Graff

January 28, 2014


With its software loaded onto an attached PC or Mac, the DiamondCheck scans stones and displays one of three results on the computer’s screen: the diamond inserted is a natural diamond, is a diamond but needs further testing, or is not a diamond at all.

New York--The Gemological Institute of America has developed, and will sell to the trade, a screening device for the detection of lab-grown as well as high-pressure, high-temperature (HPHT) treated diamonds.

Unveiled to members of the trade press Monday at the GIA’s New York laboratory, the table-top device, called the DiamondCheck, is about the size of a toaster oven and can be used to test diamonds from one point to 10 carats in size.

It takes a single stone at a time. The diamond is inserted table down via a small black hatch that slides open at the top of the device, which is a Thermo Scientific Fourier transform infrared spectrometer loaded with GIA software developed using years of diamond data.

The machine gives users one of three results about the inserted stone: it is a natural diamond; it is a diamond but should be referred to a lab for further testing because it could be synthetic or treated; or it is non-diamond material such as moissanite or cubic zirconia, though the device does not specify the type of material.

GIA Senior Vice President of Laboratory and Research Tom Moses said Monday that the device is 100 percent accurate if used properly.

The GIA is leasing the DiamondCheck to eight bourses worldwide at no cost, beginning this week with the New York bourse and then going on to bourses in major trading centers worldwide including Tel Aviv, Johannesburg, Shanghai and Dubai, among others.

In addition, GIA Instruments will sell the DiamondCheck, which is priced at $23,900, to interested members of the trade and any bourses that require more than one machine. Moses said a number of diamond dealers and “major retailers” have inquired about buying the device, though he declined to give any specific names.

In exchange for the devices, the bourses, which will operate the DiamondCheck using an internal employee trained by the GIA, will send the machines’ data to the GIA, which will use it to broaden its understanding on the type and number of synthetics on the market.

The undisclosed mixing of synthetics with natural, mined diamonds, in melee specifically, has been an issue in the trade for the past several years, particularly after a parcel of hundreds of undisclosed synthetics turned up at the International Gemological Institute’s facility in Antwerp in the spring of 2012.

Yet the truth is that no one entity has any hard data about the quantity of synthetics on the market, and the technology for growing diamonds is constantly evolving.

Moses mentioned Monday that the GIA recently came across a diamond grown using the CVD process that was Type Ia. Up until that point, lab-grown diamonds were Type IIa.

“What we get back from this is more spectra, more experience,” said GIA board member and scientist Rodney Ewing, the Frank Stanton professor in nuclear security at Stanford University.

The GIA’s DiamondCheck device joins other synthetic detection devices already on the market.

In the late 1990s, De Beers’ research and development arm introduced the DiamondSure and DiamondView machines, which are used in grading labs worldwide, including at the GIA.

The diamond miner and marketer also developed a synthetic melee detector in recent years that can batch test melee.

A De Beers spokeswoman said Tuesday that the company is now in the process of manufacturing the Automated Melee Screening Device and will lease it to sightholders in the second quarter and provide one to the International Institute of Diamond Grading & Research laboratory in Antwerp later in the year, which would be open to the general trade.

While the DiamondCheck can test diamonds as small as one point and generally takes less than 10 seconds to scan a stone, the machine’s one-at-a-time loading function is not ideal for dealers wanting to test large parcels of melee.

Moses said the GIA could add an automatic feed capability to the DiamondCheck in the future, making it easier to test large batches of melee.

For now, though, the lab focused on immediately supplying a tool to help alleviate market fears about undisclosed synthetics entering the supply pipeline. “We really wanted to come up with a solution that we could get out to the industry as soon as possible,” Moses said.