Laser-Drilled Diamonds

January 1999

For Your Staff:Selling Treated Gemstones

Laser-Drilled Diamonds

Unsightly inclusions can be eliminated, leaving a hole, but also creating a more desirable and affordable diamond

This is seventh in a series of articles in Professional Jeweler showing how to explain gemstone enhancements honestly and positively. The series began in June 1998.

Diamond's beauty and brilliance have captivated us for centuries. Unfortunately, growth characteristics called inclusions keep some diamonds from attaining the brilliance they would have otherwise. These inclusions – often crystals of another mineral such as garnet – become embedded while the diamond is forming.

Technology discovered 30 years ago has come to the rescue in the form of lasers. Technicians use lasers to drill a tunnel into the diamond and vaporize the inclusion, which usually has a lower melting point than diamond. The tunnel – the width of a human hair or less – may reach deep within the diamond or enter only a short distance. Sometimes the diamond is then boiled in acid to remove any remaining particles of the inclusion.

Some laser drill holes are so small they're a challenge to find. Generally, however, they are easy to see through a microscope. But remember not all diamonds are laser-drilled. Go over the inventory in your store with your manager and identify which diamonds are drilled.

Some laser-drilled diamonds are filled with a foreign substance that reduces the visibility of the hole left where the inclusion had been, and this creates a specific set of concerns (see Professional Jeweler,April 1998, p. 36).

 A laser drill hole is visible through the table and reaches an inclusion below. It's magnified 20x. Gem courtesy of Yehuda Diamond Co., New York, NY.

Photo by Robert Weldon

Introducing Enhancements
When discussing laser treatments with your customers, appeal to their sense of wonder about human technology and ingenuity. Explain the high-tech feat of removing an inclusion deep at the core of a diamond. You might show diamonds with and without inclusions, just to give customers a choice. Some people like the inclusions and consider them to be a diamond's natural birthmark. Others prefer the extra brilliance achieved through laser drilling. Present the facts and let the customer decide which he or she likes best.

Special Care Warnings
If customers are concerned about keeping the passageway clean, remind them the hole's diameter is so small nothing can get in anyway. In addition, consult with your store manager about creating a policy to clean diamond jewelry for your customers whenever needed.

Diamonds are the hardest element on earth, and laser drill holes do nothing to diminish this resilience. If a diamond is lasered and then filled with a foreign substance avoid excessive heat. However, laser-drilled diamonds without fillers can be put in an ultrasonic cleaner.

Advice for Sales Associates
Learn your store's disclosure and return policies regarding laser-drilled diamonds. Remember that starting this year, supplier members of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses are requiring their members to disclose laser drilling in writing, regardless of the size of the diamond (Professional Jeweler,October, 1998, p. 33 and this issue, p. 30). Your store might consider adopting the same resolution.

 Legal Considerations

The trade considers laser drilling in a diamond to be permanent and to pose no special care considerations. However, it's wise to disclose any gemstone treatment or enhancement to customers.

The FTC Guides for the Jewelry Industry don't require disclosure of laser drilling alone. However, state laws allow consumers to sue if they feel you did not disclose properly or advise them about proper care and protection. Telling customers how a diamond was enhanced can avert complaints or lawsuits later. Here is what the FTC Guides say:

"It is unfair or deceptive to fail to disclose that a gemstone has been treated in any manner that is not permanent or that creates special care requirements, and to fail to disclose that the treatment is not permanent, if such is the case. The following are examples of treatments that should be disclosed because they usually are not permanent or create special care requirements: coating, impregnation, irradiating, heating, use of nuclear bombardment, application of colored or colorless oil or epoxy-like resins, wax, plastic, or glass, surface diffusion, or dyeing. This disclosure may be made at the point of sale, except that disclosure should be made in any solicitation where the product can be purchased without viewing (e.g., direct mail catalogs, on-line services), and in the case of televised shopping programs, on the air. If special care requirements for a gemstone arise because the gemstone has been treated, it is recommended that the seller disclose the special care requirements to the purchaser."

Recommended Reading
The Nature of Diamonds,edited by George E. Harlow, American Museum of Natural
History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

Diamondsby Fred Ward, Gem Book Publishers, Bethesda, MD.

Gemstone Enhancementby Dr. Kurt Nassau, Butterworths, London, UK.

Gem Identification Made Easyby Antoinette Matlins, Gemstone Press, Woodstock, VT. AGTA Source Directory1997/1998 (contains Gem Enhancement Manual) American Gem Trade Association, Dallas, TX.

AGTA Gemstone Enhancements, What You Should Know,American Gem Trade Association, Dallas, TX.

– by Robert Weldon, G.G.

Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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