When dealing with diamonds, one can never be too sure. In nature it takes billions of years to produce a diamond, while a laboratory can grow one in days and to the untrained eye, it looks that same, that’s why De Beers doesn’t only just have humans to check for the authenticity of a stone, but machines as well.
For De Beers, it’s fundamental to protecting its reputation as the world’s leading diamond firm by value, and holder of a roughly 20% share of the market for genuine rough diamonds, to be able to tell the difference between a genuine diamond and a synthetic one while guaranteeing that all its own mined diamonds are natural. They also authenticate diamonds for third parties and make money from selling their detection equipment.
“Synthetic is a man-made product. It’s not a gem. It’s not a beautiful product. It’s not about love and affection and emotion. And it’s not unique and it’s not mysterious, and that’s everything that a diamond is,” said Jonathan Kendall, president of De Beers’ International Institute of Diamond Grading and Research.
The difference is more than emotional, though. Synthetic diamonds have no investment value and it sell for an estimated 30% less than the real thing. That, and it being very easy to produce with increasingly sophisticated technology which makes it hard to determine its authenticity, drives industry-wide demand for the means to determine whether a stone was created in the earth’s mantle or is man-made. Any retailer who was caught passing off the fake stone as natural would be charged of fraud.
At the moment, synthetic diamond makes up less than 1% of the market, but its production is growing and it is clear that the industry is concerned. It’s because of this that De Beers has invested 30 million pounds on their detection technology over the last two decades.
“There is no clear demand for synthetics. Our concern is undisclosed synthetics that are pushed into the natural pipeline. That’s our concern and what we determine to make sure that both the trade and consumers can always be confident they’re buying natural diamond,” Kendall said. “For the diamond business, the one thing you don’t want is for consumers to lose trust.”
Staffs at a De Beers laboratory in Maidenhead, west of London, say they can determine with 100% accuracy whether a diamond is natural or synthetic. Although De Beers itself has a unit that makes synthetic diamonds, it is strictly for industrial usages like drilling and cutting and all their rough diamonds used for jewelries are real.
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