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Banning Synthetics in Bourses Will Only Push Them Further Underground

The need to create and keep consumer confidence is something of a buzzword in the gem and jewellery industry. Today, with small, lab-grown diamonds being mixed undisclosed with parcels of natural rough, there is a heightened sense of urgency in the quest for consumer assurance measures. After all, it takes a one single stone set in a piece of jewellery to be discovered at a later date to be lab-grown and consumer confidence in our entire industry will come crashing down on our heads.

The recent banning of the dealing in synthetic diamonds on the floor of the Israel Diamond Exchange (IDE) and anywhere on the premises of the Bharat Diamond Bourse (BDB) is a natural outcome of the heightened worry. I understand where the decision-makers in both these bourses are coming from.

Unfortunately, I think it’s not necessarily the right approach. For its own safety, the global diamond industry should ensure that the trading of synthetics stays within the established systems that govern and regulate the trade of all diamonds and gemstones. Synthetics are a legitimate product and should be given a legitimate channel to move through the processing pipeline. The question I have for those who support the ban is, when in history, has a ban ever kept the bad guys from doing wrong?

These diamonds, regardless of how you call them — synthetics, man made or lab-grown — by themselves are not a danger. They are a perfectly legitimate product. The danger to the industry is when unethical people try to pass them off as being natural stones. Which is why in my view, setting up distinct, clearly demarcated channels for lab grown diamond trading within the bourses will encourage the more open trading and dealing in synthetics. This may lessen the temptation to do deals secretly — which actually increases the likelihood of undisclosed synthetics being mixed with parcels of natural rough.

Manufacture of synthetic diamonds via the
Chemical Vapour Deposition (CVD) method

Keeping lab grown diamonds within legitimate channels would also encourage the practice of using industry-standard practices in the testing and certification of parcels. This again is another vital point. Just because a gem-testing laboratory has a gemologist and a microscope in its offices, it doesn’t mean it is equipped to test for and successfully detect synthetics. This requires really sophisticated — and very expensive — equipment and a staff of experts in the field. The sophistication and cost mean that only the really engaged laboratories have the needed equipment and personnel. The diamond and gemstone industry needs to be able to discern and differentiate between the truly engaged laboratories and those who simply constitute the “froth”.

The danger posed by undisclosed synthetics increases exponentially when the industry is unable to make the distinction between a competent and fully equipped lab and one that will simply go through the motions and print an official-looking certificate, that could be a ticking time bomb that will go off the moment someone has the stone rechecked by a competent lab.

There is one more development that is a direct result of the lab-grown diamonds “problem”: We can see a proliferation of new instruments claiming to be a ‘miracle cure’ for diamond identification on the cheap.

A lot of these claims are lacking in any scientific or practical foundation, and a lot of these instruments don’t do the job. In reality they jeopardise our industry even more by creating an illusion of testing. I think the manufacturers of these instruments have to present some actual data to prove that they can do the job.

To sum up, I think the diamond and gemstone industries should do everything to ensure that the processing and trading of lab created stones is carried out in an open and regulated environment. This will actually lessen the danger to the industry as a whole. And finally, the industry should take the trouble to educate itself and make a clear distinction between genuinely engaged and committed laboratories and the dozens of ill-equipped and poorly trained ones that in themselves pose another great danger to us all.

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