Did Newsweek Synthetic Story Get It Wrong?

Newsweek InternationalEdition recently made a splash with a big cover story on synthetic diamonds—but some say the magazine got it wrong when it contended certain synthetics were “undetectable.”

The article—which, at press time, has not run in Newsweek‘s domestic editions—contended that the two De Beers synthetic-testing machines, DiamondSure and DiamondView, are “stumped” by synthetics created by chemical vapor deposition, the technology used by Boston’s Apollo Diamond Inc.

In fact, says Jerry Ehrenwald of the International Gemmological Institute, whose lab was featured in the article, CVDs can be detected by the machines—and the reporter saw it happen.

“We put the CVD on DiamondView and it said ‘refer to next test,'” he says. “The reporter assumed that meant it stumped the machine. He didn’t understand that it has to go through a series of tests.”

When the stone was put on the second device, DiamondSure, “it showed 100 percent unequivocally it was a synthetic,” Ehrenwald says.

Ehrenwald also objected to a headline in the story that said, “Man-made are now so perfect they stump the experts.”

The stones did fool two 47th Street jewelers, Ehrenwald notes. But the people at IGI, he said, passed every test.

An IGI letter to the editor on these topics was posted on Newsweek‘s Web site and will appear in an upcoming issue.

De Beers was so concerned about the article that it put out a statement by DTC’s executive director of marketing, Stephen Lussier, which said: “All synthetic stones are detectable. The DiamondSure and DiamondView developed by the DTC have been tested extensively, and we are confident that they can identify all synthetics and will continue to be able to do so.”

The rest of the article was mostly the standard ruminations on how synthetics could mean the end of the industry as we know it. But its final paragraph took some by surprise when it raised the possibility of De Beers’ producing gem synthetics.

“The company has been developing its own CVD technology and is closely studying high-pressure techniques,” the article said. “Should gem-quality synthetics puncture the diamond market, De Beers will most likely be well placed to enter the market, with greater resources than any other player.”

Lussier responded: “In our view and based on research that we have commissioned to date, the big opportunity for synthetics would seem to be in the industrial sector. It is very disappointing that Newsweek choose to ignore our views and incorrectly claim that instead we might enter the synthetic gem market.”

At press time, the article was posted on www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6920717/site/newsweek/.