The story of DIAMONDS…pt. 2



In the 22 November 2008 issue of New Scientist, it was stated that Russell Hemley of the Geophysical Laboratory at the Carnegie Institution for Science had discovered a technique to make diamonds via microwaves which were indistinguishable from natural diamonds. Yufei Meng, a scientist from the same laboratory, claimed that after having sent these diamonds for diamond jewellery identification, they were not identified as different from natural diamonds. Such claims are often made for new synthetics, simulants, and treated stones, so it is important to validate how the stones were submitted for identification.

Properly-trained and equipped gemologists can distinguish between natural diamonds and synthetic diamonds. They can also identify the vast majority of treated natural diamonds, two exceptions being a small minority of HPHT-treated Type II diamonds and some artificially-irradiated green diamonds. “Perfect” crystals (at the atomic lattice level) have never been found to exist anywhere, so both natural and synthetic diamonds always possess characteristic imperfections, arising from the circumstances of their crystal growth, that allow them to be distinguished from each other.

Laboratories use techniques such as spectroscopy, microscopy and luminescence under shortwave ultraviolet light to determine a diamond’s origin. They also use specially-made machines to aid them in the identification process. Two screening machines are the DiamondSure and the DiamondView, both produced by the DTC and marketed by the GIA.

Several methods for identifying synthetic diamonds can be performed, depending on the method of production and the color of the diamond. CVD diamonds can usually be identified by an orange fluorescence. D-J colored diamonds can be screened through the Swiss Gemological Organization’s Diamond Spotter. Stones in the D-Z color range can be examined through the DiamondSure UV/visible spectrometer which is a tool developed by De Beers. Similarly, natural diamonds usually have minor imperfections and flaws, such as inclusions of foreign material, that are not seen in synthetic diamonds.

Controversial sources

In some of the more politically unstable central African and west African countries, revolutionary groups have taken control of diamond mines, using proceeds from diamond sales to finance their operations. Diamonds sold through this process are known as conflict diamonds or blood diamonds. Major diamond trading corporations continue to fund and fuel these conflicts by doing business with armed groups. In response to public concerns that their diamond purchases were contributing to war and human rights abuses in central and western Africa, the United Nations, the diamond industry and diamond-trading nations introduced the Kimberley Process in 2002. The Kimberley Process aims to ensure that conflict diamonds do not become intermixed with the diamonds not controlled by such rebel groups. This is done by requiring diamond-producing countries to provide proof that the money they make from selling the diamonds is not used to fund criminal or revolutionary activities. Although the Kimberley Process has been moderately successful in limiting the number of conflict diamonds entering the market, some still find their way in. 2–3% of all diamonds traded today are potentially conflict diamonds. Two major flaws still hinder the effectiveness of the Kimberley Process: (1) the relative ease of smuggling diamonds across African borders, and (2) the violent nature of diamond mining in nations that are not in a technical state of war and whose diamonds are therefore considered “clean.”

The Canadian Government has set up a body known as Canadian Diamond Code of Conduct to help authenticate Canadian diamonds. This is a very stringent tracking system of diamonds and helps protect the ‘conflict free’ label of Canadian diamonds.


One Response to “The story of DIAMONDS…pt. 2”

  1. Seems you’ve been watching discovery channel lately.

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