Wanted: A Synthetic Melee Detector

Given recent reports that synthetic melee is being sold undetected, the question is: How should the industry handle this?

The good news is that De Beers has developed what it bills as a synthetic melee detector. But I made a goof in my post last week; De Beers is not at this time offering the device to the trade at large, only to its clients (who are currently testing it). That’s disappointing—and I do hope the company, which knows how important consumer confidence is to this business, will share this device with the rest of the industry, or at least with the main gem labs.

The Gemological Institute of America, for its part, has talked about a synthetic melee detector in the past, but then backed away. It doesn’t seem to have changed that, but is working on improving its lab instrumentation, according to spokesman Stephen Morisseau. 

For now, the best option for dealers is to have your stones checked by a lab. GIA has a “low-cost” service that can detect if a stone is natural (which you can read about here).  New York City lab Analytical Gemology & Jewelry has long talked about its batch testing method, and it just sent out a new release about it. And the International Gemological Institute also offers screening and batch testing services.

However, warns IGI co-CEO Roland Lorie, in addition to not usually being economical to screen melee and pointers, it can take awhile. 

“To detect five pointers and up, is rather easy,” he says. “But under five pointers, it takes more time to check. You wouldn’t think it, but it is more expensive to check a three carater than a three pointer. We can do it. But it takes time, until we find equipment that is fast and accurate and can replace human work.” 

Still, Lorie questions whether the industry should be getting so worked up about this.

“I think all the talk is exaggerated,” he says. “For the moment, I consider this a panic without fundamentals. We have checked a lot of melee in the last week and everything is okay. We are seeing much less than we hear about. We see synthetics here and there in a ring sometimes.”

GIA has seen “no appreciable upturn in the number of synthetics, disclosed or not, submitted for grading,” Morisseau says. De Beers also says it hasn’t found any undisclosed stones in what its clients have screened. 

But none of this means we should be complacent here; even a few scattered incidents—and there clearly have been at least a few scattered incidents—are too many.

“The industry needs to take thing in hand,” says Lorie. “We probably have waited too long; we all knew this was coming. But hopefully now people will react a bit. Synthetic diamonds are a genuine market, but it needs to be done carefully. The worst thing for everyone is that we have a scenario where consumers don’t trust the product anymore.

“With time, the equipment will improve. It’s like a computer. You have a virus, and then you get the antivirus,” he says.


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JCK News Director