Wired Cover Spotlights Synthetics

Wired magazine sent shock waves through the industry with its September cover story on “The New Diamond Age.”

The story on diamond synthetics covered mostly familiar territory for the industry—but its sensational tone caused some to worry that synthetics and other “gem defense” issues may soon resonate at retail.

The article portrayed two producers of gem-quality synthetics: Gemesis in Florida and Boston’s Apollo Diamond, which uses a technique called Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) to grow synthetics, mostly for use in the computer industry. (See “Identifying CVD Synthetic Diamond” below.) Both companies manufacture only synthetic colored diamonds.

In the article, an Antwerp dealer who inspected two yellow Gemesis stones said, “Unless they can be detected, they will bankrupt the industry.” A De Beers executive was described as “[turning] white” with his “hands … shaking” when he heard about the company’s plans to mass-produce the stones.

The article did note that an HRD scientist identified a Gemesis stone as synthetic, but it also said that’s “far from the last word.”

“Only a small percentage of larger diamonds are lab-certified—though the number seems to be growing as the industry becomes more aware of synthetics,” it said. “Diamonds that are smaller than a fifth of a carat are almost never sent to labs, since the cost would eat up any profit made from them. These modest stones actually represent a significant portion of the market, since jewelry designers regularly use them to create sparkling fields of diamonds on watches, earrings, rings, and pendants.”

The article also noted that there is no chance that the synthetics “are so-called blood diamonds—stones sold by African rebels to fund wars and revolutions. And they aren’t under the thumb of the cartel De Beers.”

Gemesis founder Carter Clarke was quoted as saying, “If you give a woman a choice between a two-carat stone and a one-carat stone and everything else is the same, including the price, what’s she gonna choose? Does she care if it’s synthetic or not? Is anybody at a party going to walk up to her and ask, ‘Is that synthetic?’ “

At press time, the article could be viewed online at www.wired.com/wired/archive/11.09/diamond.html.