De Beers to Release Synthetics Detector to Market

The answer to the problem of synthetic diamonds, most feel, is a “black box” that can separate the artificial from the natural. De Beers developed such a machine several years ago but kept it off the market because the company felt there wasn’t a need for such a device.

But following the September cover story in WIRED magazine—and the publicity it sparked—De Beers decided that the machine’s time had come. Called DiamondSure, it will be made available to jewelers next year, although marketing arrangements have not been completed.

Even De Beers admits DiamondSure is not a perfect device. On the plus side, it detects all known synthetics, including the new CVD stones from Boston’s Apollo. It also detects synthetic moissanite and can tell whether a stone is Type II—a sign that it could be HPHT-treated.

But its big flaw is that it flags 1% of natural stones as synthetics. De Beers says any stone flagged by DiamondSure should be sent to a gem lab, where a definitive identification can be made with the help of a second De Beers device, called DiamondView. A third De Beers device, DiamondPlus, can determine if the stone is HPHT-treated, but it’s also meant for labs rather than jewelers.

Chris Welbourn of De Beers’ Consumer Confidence (formerly Gem Defense) department says these issues are more important to the fancy colored diamond market, since producers of synthetics aren’t planning mass production of colorless gems. However, there are many fancy colored HPHT-treated stones. “Any fancy colored diamond should be viewed with suspicion these days,” Welbourn says.

Despite the now-higher profile of the diamond identification issue, the department’s Simon Lawson says De Beers is confident it has things under control.

“We are not in a panic,” says Lawson. “This is part of a structured program that we have had in place for a number of years.”

Also, he says, these issues must be put in perspective.

“[Apollo Diamond and Gemesis] are only doing a few thousand stones a year,” he notes. “The likelihood of a jeweler seeing a synthetic remains remote.”