With increasing reports of synthetic diamonds being passed off as natural, De Beers is warning its clients that selling lab-grown diamonds without noting their origin “threatens consumer confidence in diamonds” and “may be a criminal offense.”
“While we believe the undisclosed trading of synthetics is confined to a very small portion of the global industry, there is clearly heightened concern around the issue,” De Beers CEO Philippe Mellier told clients in a letter. “As a Sightholder, you need to know what you are buying and selling. Ignorance cannot be an excuse and we must all take the necessary steps to protect our reputations.”
He notes that selling synthetic diamonds without the appropriate modifiers—which in the United States include “man-made,” “lab-grown,” “(company)-created” and “synthetic”—is a violation of the company’s best practice principles. It advises clients to buy only from suppliers they trust, and report any fraudulently sold man-made stone to the relevant authorities.
An accompanying booklet on “Undisclosed Synthetics: What You Need to Know” includes further details on the company’s Automated Melee Screening device, which is being sold by the De Beers-owned International Institute of Diamond Grading & Research.
The machine screens stones from 0.20 cts down to 0.01 cts., De Beers says, and can screen an average of up to 360 stones an hour. While the machine can detect if a stone is nonnatural, it does not screen for treated stones, it said.
Sightholders must pay $25,000 per year to lease the device, totaling $75,000 over three years. Deliveries will start in March 2014.
De Beers spokeswoman Lynette Gould says that currently the device is being sold only to its clients, though a “wider release is under discussion.”
The company also seemed to dismiss lab-grown diamonds on a consumer level.
“Our extensive consumer insight research repeatedly shows that when it comes to life’s most important moments, consumers want natural diamonds,” wrote Mellier. “Only the inherently rare gem that nature created billions of years ago is precious enough to serve as this powerful symbol.”
But it does add they could find a place in the industry, noting “low-value synthetic ruby and emerald jewelry has existed for decades in the sub-$200 retail price point.”