Are Synthetic Diamonds Detectable?

Idexonline has a very interesting memo from Chaim Even-Zohar this week, claiming that Apollo has worked out its technical snafus and will start to produce synthetics on a large scale soon. This kind of thing, of course, has been said before (even from Apollo), but it’s worth noting.

As I remarked below, what is particularly interesting about this is that Apollo produces colorless stones, as opposed to the fancy-colored stones produced by other lab-grown gem manufacturers.

But what raised eyebrows in the Memo was this section, about whether scientists can tell these stones apart from naturals:

Apollo was reluctant to discuss the ability of GIA, De Beers or other organizations to detect whether a diamond is Apollo or natural … I was shown pink, orange, and -brown polished diamonds which were said to have escaped detection by available gemological equipment.

In the total range of goods, there are certain categories where the cultured origins are easier to detect, while in others, it is virtually impossible. 

It is clear, however, that irrespective of statements to the contrary, today some of Apollo’s cultured polished diamonds cannot be detected as such. 

Obviously, this would be of great concern, and potentially a huge threat to consumer confidence. (As it stands today, it’s mostly gem labs, rather than jewelers, that can tell lab-grown diamonds apart.)

So is it true some of these diamonds are undetectable? Well, we spoke to Tom Moses, GIA lab director, and he was pretty confident that it wasn’t…

Synthetics, whether grown by CVD [what Apollo uses] or any process, are grown in an entirely different environment than natural diamonds. That fundamental difference in growth allows those who have expertise in detection to exploit those growth differences …

I feel good about GIA’s ability to identify synthetics. We have not seen any synthetics that we have been unable to detect, even when that has been stated to be the case. I am sure Apollo’s technology is evolving, but GIA and De Beers and some of the other institutions are also evolving their technology. It is not a static process but we have been making sure that we have been dynamic and diligent in this area of detection.

Both Bob and Brian [Linares, of Apollo] are advocates of detection. As responsible as they are, I would assume they would have informed us about something new. GIA may not know all the methodology and techniques that are involved in growing, but we have a pretty good understanding of the differences between natural and synthetic diamonds.

Is it possible that detection is evolving and changing? Yes. But I don’t believe there are stones that are non-detectable.

Good to hear, even if Apollo may not agree. One other note: Apollo says it is producing melee. Melee is not often submitted to a lab. That, without a doubt, would make it less likely to be detected.

JCK News Director