Lab-grown diamonds have been around for decades, but with improved commercial quality and an increased quantity of these stones in the marketplace, it’s increasingly important for jewelry retailers and consumers to be able to distinguish what is man-made from what is natural.
To satisfy this need, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) has developed a small device that can distinguish natural diamonds and refer lab-grown diamonds and diamond simulants for further testing with 100% accuracy.
Using spectroscopic technology and GIA’s 60 years of identification research, the GIA iD100 Gem Testing Device can identify lab-grown, natural loose, and mounted diamonds as small as 0.005 carats within a matter of seconds.
“We want to make sure that when a consumer is buying a diamond, they can have confidence in its quality and origin,” says Anthony Brown, director of instruments operations at GIA. “Physically, lab-grown and natural diamonds are almost identical. But there are very subtle differences that only trained diamond specialists can identify.”
With the help of the GIA iD100, this same expertise can now be put into the hands of all jewelry retailers, jewelers, and gem laboratories, whether they have gemological training or not.
Brown explains that the iD100 can distinguish lab-grown diamonds grown by both known methods, namely the high-pressure, high-temperature (HPHT) diamonds that essentially mimic the conditions that create natural diamonds in earth, and the chemical vapor deposition (CVD) method, which breaks down carbon-rich gas into carbon and hydrogen atoms that are then deposited onto diamond seeds to create diamond crystals.
“At the atomic level, there is a carbon lattice structure that exists in any diamond,” Brown says. “The difference in natural diamonds is that there are certain defects and impurities that the iD100 can detect.”
Brown adds that the device requires just basic training, and customers who have never used it before can use it correctly without difficulty. The device reads the results with an on-screen message as well as an audio “pass” for a positive natural diamond or “refer” for further testing to identify lab-grown diamonds or diamond simulants. The audio messages allow a jeweler to sift through large numbers of stones without having to look away from a loupe or microscope.
The device is also able to identify very small stones that a gem lab wouldn’t necessarily be able to inscribe, as many do for identification purposes.
“It’s a huge benefit if you have a parcel of lab-grown and natural diamonds that have been unintentionally mixed,” says Brown. “The test is to give yourself every assurance that every diamond is what you think it is. And two seconds allows you to do that very quickly.”
Ryan Gambrell, GIA’s instruments product marketing manager, says that testing loose stones and stones set within jewelry saves time and energy. “You can also perform the test right in front of consumers,” he adds.
The device, measuring approximately 6 inches by 8 inches by 3 inches with a weight of a little more than 2 pounds, is portable. “Its small footprint—that is, a small testing device that you can move from the bench to customers—is a huge selling point,” says Gambrell.
GIA is currently developing upgraded software, some of which can be downloaded into GIA iD100 firmware without charge. The device can also be upgraded without the need to send it back to GIA.
The GIA iD100 Gem Testing Device is available for $4,995. The pink diamond software upgrade is available for $249. To order, visit store.GIA.edu.