Identifying GE POL Diamonds

When the color-treated Pegasus stones (Pegasus Overseas Limited is the Antwerp entity marketing them) were released on the market by Lazare Kaplan International, the company said no one could tell them from normal diamonds, sparking an industry uproar. But now it seems the stones may have telltale signs after all.

In this month’s Gems & Gemology, GIA is due to release information on how to detect the Pegasus process, but only in certain types of stones. “We think we’ve made some progress,” GIA’s Tom Moses says. “But it’s still an uphill struggle.”

Meanwhile, after looking at a small number of GE-POL diamonds, JCK has uncovered what could be an identifiable feature in case the inscription is polished off. (All Pegasus diamonds are inscribed with the acronym “GE POL” by the GIA lab. “GE” stands for General Electric, which developed and owned the process, and “POL” for Pegasus Overseas Limited.) You’ll need a good gemological microscope and a pair of Polaroid plates.

Most of Lazare Kaplan’s Pegasus diamonds are type IIa. These are diamonds with no visible trace elements to cause color. Some think they receive color from their growth structure, or graining. The pattern in which this growth commonly occurs is called tatami graining (as in Japanese tatami mats). These tightly interwoven grain lines can be seen under magnification when the stone is placed between two crossed Polaroid plates. This graining can be the flag for a type-IIa diamond—a potentially treated stone. All the Pegasus diamonds JCK has looked at so far have shown tatami graining.

After you’ve located tatami graining, the next feature to look for is the associated internal strain colors. If you see no obvious strain colors, you may have uncovered a treated diamond.

Stephen Hofer, author of Collecting and Classifying Coloured Diamonds and an expert on graining, has researched the tatami-graining pattern and the strain-color phenomenon. He’s found that iridescent colors are apparent when the crystal is under great strain. Most type-IIa light champagne diamonds will show obvious tatami strain colored graining. When heat is applied, the strain is relieved and the iridescent colors disappear.

Moderate heat treatment (less than 1,850°C and greater than 1,400°C) can relieve the strain of a type-IIa diamond. If General Electric is using light champagne diamonds, relieving the strain of these stones during its “processing,” this could explain why we have noticed no obvious strain colors within the tatami graining of the GE POL diamonds.

But when we contacted GIA’s chief gemologist, John Koivula, he was dubious. He said tatami graining is “not a completely helpful indicator. It’s only a clue that the diamond should be checked out further.” He also feels that graining, with or without strain color, “doesn’t constitute proof of treatment.”

Granted, only about 2% of the world’s diamonds are type IIa, and a smaller percentage of these are actually gem-quality. So the chance of your seeing a type IIa diamond is rather slim. And of course not every type-IIa diamond has been enhanced by General Electric. But if you start seeing numerous type-IIa diamonds—and observing the tatami graining with no apparent strain colors in high-color-grade diamonds—you at least have a signal that it’s time to send the stones to GIA. As they say: “When in doubt, send it out.”—Gary Roskin and Rob Bates

De Beers Bullish On Branding

De Beers wants to go ahead with marketing “branded” stones, executives said recently. The company has expanded the controversial test marketing from English retailer Boodle & Dunthorne to other stores in the Manchester area. “This is an extension of the pilot test,” says De Beers spokesman Robin Walker. “It’s to test the reaction if more than one prestige jeweler sells the De Beers product.”

At a news conference, managing director Gary Ralfe indicated that De Beers intends to expand the project further. “If we get our brand into the market, it should create the sort of hype and excitement that will increase demand for diamond jewelry,” said Ralfe. “We’ve formed a team to scope out how we may use [branding] in a way that helps De Beers and its stakeholders but at the same time doesn’t hurt other people in the industry.”

Initial reaction to the branded diamonds was strongly positive, Ralfe said. “We understand that, given the opportunity, consumers—particularly the men, interestingly enough—like the branded version better than the unbranded version, and that retailers are able to get a premium for the De Beers brand.”

Ralfe also noted for the first time that the American antitrust situation could play a role in deciding where to go with branding. “This is a matter fraught with a lot of legal obstacles, which we need to approach with great care.” De Beers has long had no presence in the United States because it fears antitrust prosecution.—Rob Bates

De Beers Unveils A ‘Mind-Blowing’ Flawless Beauty

In London, De Beers re-cently gave the press a preview of its “Millennium Collection” of ultra-rare stones, including one diamond that former chairman Harry Oppenheimer considered “the most beautiful” he’d ever seen.

That stone is the Millennium Star, a 203.04-ct., D-flawless pear-shape purchased by a De Beers buying office in the Republic of Congo. The Steinmetz Group spent five months cutting and polishing it. “That stone is mind-blowing, just astonishing,” says De Beers spokesman Robin Walker.

The rest of the collection includes 11 exceptionally rare blue diamonds, cut in a variety of shapes and weighing a total of 188 cts. Another highlight of the collection is a 27.64-ct. vivid blue heart-shaped stone dubbed the “Heart of Eternity.” These stones came from De Beers’ Premier Mine in South Africa.

The De Beers Millennium Jewels will be shown to the public for the first time during the initial seconds of the new millennium at a giant new exhibition center called The Dome in London (also called the “Millennium Dome”). They will remain on view in a specially designed exhibit for the entire year. After that, the company isn’t sure what it will do with them.

So how much is the collection worth? De Beers says it’s without precedent, so any discussion of its value is “academic.” —Rob Bates

‘The Holy Grail’: Diamonds for Computers

You may think manufacturers of gem-quality synthetic diamonds are solely in the jewelry business. What you may not know is that many of them are trying to enter the computer chip business as well. That playing field may include General Electric and others now doing Pegasus-type “purification” of natural diamonds.

Think of what it would mean to create a semiconductor out of synthetic or natural diamond. It would be so powerful that the typical 1-in.-square computer chip would be reduced to the size of a pinhead and operate hundreds of times faster than current ones. This means ultra-fast integrated circuits and chips, diamond diodes, and switches that would revolutionize computer hardware.

If this technology proves viable, the silicon-based chip industry soon will be gone. But first, researchers have to create what they call “doped negative type (N-type)” diamond semiconductors. This is “The Holy Grail” in the semiconductor industry.

Two types of semiconductors are necessary to drive computers, an N-type with electrical “holes” that allow electrons to flow freely and a P-type that attracts electrons. Diamonds that contain boron (type-IIb diamonds) are electrically conductive—but they’re not N-type semiconductors, according to Mark Kellam, a research scientist at C3, the manufacturers of silicon carbide (SiC) synthetic moissanite gemstones. Type IIb diamonds are, however, P-type semiconductors.

The quest to create N- and P-type diamonds is probably why we’ve just seen the creation of spectacular blue synthetics from Ultimate Created Diamonds in Colorado (see “Gem Notes,” JCK, September 1999, p. 36). It shouldn’t surprise us that UCD president Alex Grizenko has a background in computer electronics. His blue synthetics, which are P-type semiconductors, put him halfway to the goal. And while he is leading the pack in commercially producing synthetic diamond, he now has competition with the University of Florida’s recent announcement of its Gemesis Corp. to create synthetic diamonds.

What does all this have to do with the Pegasus process General Electric developed for Lazare Kaplan? Shedding light on that question is new research from the latest in the race to create a diamond semiconductor, Rhombic Corp. of Vancouver, B.C. Technicians at Rhombic and the University of Missouri at Columbia are now testing a forced-diffusion process on natural diamond. Rhombic already uses this process to purify SiC of contaminants, resulting in a computer chip with a longer life and greater effectiveness. Forced diffusion can also introduce elements into a crystal structure. Introducing specific elements into purified diamond, such as boron for blue diamond, might be one way to produce N- and P-type semiconductors.

Does something sound familiar here? Apparently, removing contaminants from diamond is exactly what General Electric has been doing for Lazare Kaplan. (That’s what Martin Haske of Adamas Gemological Laboratory in Brookline, Mass., has been suggesting all along.) GE technicians were among the first to work on the purification of silicon carbide. Those same technicians are now involved with Pegasus and the purification of type-IIa diamonds.

In an unsubstantiated report, Rhombic claims that its N-type diamond technology has been successfully created in a former Soviet republic laboratory.—Gary Roskin

Canadian Diamonds Get Certificates

Diamonds mined, cut, and polished in Canada’s Northwest Territories will now receive a special certificate from the government there. Earlier this year, a local newspaper warned that foreign stones were being passed off as Canadian.

The certificate verifies that a diamond is a Canadian Arctic stone, says Martin Irving, director of diamond products for the government of the Northwest Territories. The document is designed with an image of a polar bear, the Canadian Arctic logo.

For now, there’s only one mine in the Northwest Territories—Ekati, which opened last year, not far from the Arctic Circle. But a second one is planned for 2002. There’s also only one cutter in the area, Sirius Diamonds. However, BHP Diamonds, the majority partner in Ekati, recently bestowed diamond contracts on two new entrants, Arslanian Cutting Works and Deton’cho Diamonds.—Rob Bates

‘Lucida’ Debuts at Tiffany

Tiffany & Co. recently introduced the “Lucida,” a diamond with a new cut and setting meant to appeal to contemporary tastes. The stone has a square mixed-cut shape with a high step-cut crown, wide corners, and a brilliant-style pavilion.

“It looks like an emerald-cut from the top, but not from the bottom, because the pavilion has more of a round brilliant shape,” says Tiffany spokeswoman Linda Buckley. “It’s not the most sparkly stone, but it gives off a subtle, quiet brilliance.”

The new diamond comes with a special setting, designed especially for the Lucida, available in platinum or 18k gold. Instead of the traditional six-pronged Tiffany style, the Lucida setting has four prongs that criss-cross the ring. “It’s a very contemporary, soft, feminine look,” Buckley says.

Tiffany has a patent pending on the design, which it launched in September for U.S. customers. It will be available worldwide by March. “Lucida” comes from a Latin word that means “the brightest star in a constellation.”—Rob Bates

47th Street Steps Up Security Measures

Two police officers already patrol New York’s 47th Street diamond district, and now two private security men will join them. They’ll wear civilian clothes—jackets and ties—but carry guns.

Hired by the street’s Business Improvement District (BID) from a Staten Island firm called PD Security, the retired policemen “will create more of a presence to deter minor crime such as pickpocketing,” says BID executive director Terrence Clark. They will prevent more serious crimes, as well. In their first week, the pair stopped a likely UPS robbery in progress, according to a PD Security spokesman.

BID has other projects under way to improve the diamond district. It has installed plants on the sidewalks and plans to display a “Welcome to the Diamond District” banner as part of a broader effort to increase tourism. A street repaving should be finished this fall. And come Christmastime, BID may offer “How to Buy a Diamond” classes for consumers.—Rob Bates

Want to Buy a Pegasus Diamond?

JCK has one for sale.

In an effort to show readers exactly what the Pegasus inscription looks like, we called Lazare Kaplan International in New York. We wanted to borrow a processed diamond that has “GE POL” inscribed on the girdle, take a picture of the inscription, and send the diamond right back. Could we get one? LKI’s answer: “No.”

Well then, does the company know of a diamond wholesaler who would be willing to let us borrow one to photograph? LKI: “No.”

Could they please let a wholesaler in New York know that we’re interested in taking a photo of a “GE POL”-inscribed diamond? LKI: “No.”

And just how would they suggest that we obtain an inscribed diamond to photograph? LKI: “Become a customer.” So we did.

We bought a 0.30-ct., SI2, E-color round brilliant. We paid $256. With the list price (using the Rapaport Diamond Report May 7 sheet) at $1,800 per carat, that’s 53% back of Rap. Considering that the stone is of very fine make, and if you overlook the fact that it was probably an M color a few months back, that’s a pretty good price.

But wait. A week later, we received a call from Brinks, saying that a package had arrived, and the shipping charge was $260. So including the shipping, we paid $516 for the stone, or 4% back of Rap—for a treated diamond.

An M color, SI2, lists for $800 per carat, or $240 for the stone. Sounds like we just paid retail.—Gary Roskin

Moissanite Exposés Air In New York and London

The New York media love moissanite exposés. A few weeks after WNYW Channel 5 caught appraisers unable to detect moissanite, rival WCBS Channel 2 fooled local jewelers with the diamond lookalike.

Station reporter Roz Miller mounted a moissanite, valued at less than $200, and showed it to two “reputable and seasoned” jewelers. One valued it at $800, the other at $500. The only one not fooled: a Certified Gemologist.

Meanwhile, a British TV program, “London Tonight,” caught nine out of 10 local jewelers misidentifying the simulant. Some even offered to buy it on the spot. The National Association of Goldsmiths says it’s working with De Beers to educate local jewelers.—Rob Bates