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October 2006

With the GIA’s decision to grade synthetic diamonds, and the ongoing debate over what exactly these stones should be called, we thought we would take a look at this issue.

The Name Game: The producers of synthetic diamonds are trying to sell them as “cultured” diamonds. We consider this a misnomer.

A cultured pearl is basically the same as a regular pearl, only it’s created with human intervention. It starts with a seed placed in a mollusk, where it grows and gets covered with nacre to create the famed pearl lustre.

The proposed “cultured diamonds” are something very different. If you wanted to create a cultured diamond the same way to grew a cultured pearl, you would have to start out with a small natural diamond, and then grow it under the same conditions natural diamonds are grown — underground.

But that is not how man-made diamonds are grown. Yes, they are the same as diamonds chemically, physically and optically. But they are not grown under the same conditions. Therefore they are very different than cultured pearls, which basically uses the same process as natural pearls, with a little human intervention.

Actually, with the all the fuss over whether the word “synthetic” should be forced on these stones, we think the proper word may be “artificial.”

Too harsh? Check out the “Macmillan Contemporary Dictionary.” The definition of “artificial” says “not natural” or “man made.” Or take a look at trans fats, much in the news right now. They are also considered artificial because they, too, are treated under high temperature and high pressure.

On dictionary.com, the definition of “artificial” says “made by humans.” The definition specifically references “jewelry,” noting an artificial gem is “manufactured to resemble a natural gem, in chemical composition or appearance.” Sounds like synthetics to us.

Fake Synthetics: Do a google search on “synthetic diamonds,” and you’ll see a string of companies who appear to be selling them. But how can this be? There aren’t many synthetic diamonds on the market yet.

The answer: Many companies are selling obvious CZs as synthetic diamonds. This is misleading, to say the least: Synthetic diamonds are an attractive product because they are diamonds. They are the same chemically as a natural stone, just made artificially in a lab, not in nature. They look the same too.

But CZs are not the same chemically as diamonds. They are not as pretty either. CZs are worth less than a dollar a carat, as opposed to synthetic diamonds which are still expensive to produce.

CZ are diamond simulants, which is a very different thing than synthetics, and they should be sold as such. The JVC should look on this, and any web site selling them ads should take steps to correct it.

De Beers in the Game?: Perhaps the most interesting issue is whether De Beers will sell synthetic diamonds. Several sightholders are already selling them. We would think that if De Beers were really against synthetics, they would have stopped this practice already. And in fact, we think that if the synthetic market ever grows, De Beers will get into it. It is not like they have a moral objection to them — they already sell tons of synthetics, of the industrial variety. Could gem synthetics be next?

Why the Industry Shouldn’t Worry: Diamonds are popular because they stand for something. They stand for commitment. They stand for love.

Can you imagine, if someone is getting engaged, they give an artificial token of that love. Sure, women may wear a synthetic earring or necklace. But as an symbol of love? Any guy who gives that better run for cover.

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