Doing the Right Thing
A laser inscription on Lazare Kaplan International's processed diamonds
averts a blurring of the boundary between natural and enhanced diamonds
The industry was troubled in March when Lazare Kaplan International announced
it would use a secret permanent treatment developed by General Electric
to improve the color grade and brilliance of certain diamonds without disclosing
it. LKI said the mystery process did not involve changes that altered the
diamond's natural state (Professional Jeweler,May 1999, p. 45).
By late April, protest from the trade forced LKI to announce it would
place clear laser inscriptions on the girdles of all GE-processed diamonds.
The laser inscription reads: "GE POL," which identifies the company
doing the enhancement (General Electric) and the company distributing the
diamonds (Pegasus Overseas Ltd., a subsidiary of LKI). The Gemological Institute
of America also announced it would note the treatment on its certificates.
This product raised so much concern because of the issue of detectability.
When first announcing the new treatment, LKI officials stated several experimental
GE-processed diamonds made their way through gemological labs with no detection
of enhancement. Alarm bells went off. Industry leaders, particularly GIA
President William Boyajian, immediately insisted the industry's leading
research organizations must be able to properly identify and disclose diamonds
subjected to any process.
LKI still won't explain the process used to enhance the diamonds, noting
the technology is the intellectual property of GE. LKI has supplied GIA's
research facilities with diamonds for study, but the samples didn't include
treatable diamonds without the enhancement, making it harder to pinpoint
the mechanics of the process.
GIA's Dr. James Shigley examined the samples. At press time, the lab
had not determined what happens to the diamonds when treated, nor had it
found a technique to identify the treated diamonds. However, GIA pledged
to build a database of information about the diamonds on its HORIZON management
LKI says something dramatic happens to the color in the small percentage
of diamonds that go through the process. "Diamonds with a G [color
grade] could conceivably jump to a D color, or from a G color to an F. A
lot depends on the material and how it responds to the process," says
Bob Speisman, LKI's vice president of marketing. "These diamonds go
through the process as natural diamonds, and they come out as natural diamonds.
They are indistinguishable from diamonds of equal color."
LKI leaders professed great surprise at the diamond industry's swift
and condemning reaction, which may lessen as the lasering identification
solution becomes more widely known. "The industry should be thanking
us instead of condemning us," says Speisman. "Another company
could have had access to this technology and not said anything."
But many advocates of full disclosure say even the laser inscription
is not enough and the industry deserves the full answer as to how this process
can be detected. If the industry is barred from learning how to detect this
treatment, it creates a dangerous precedent that may lead to other diamond
treatments not being fully detectable, says Elly Rosen of Appraisal Information
Services, Brooklyn, NY. And that ultimately threatens the definition of
what constitutes a natural diamond.
Despite continuing concern within the industry, GIA's Boyajian sounded
a positive note about the laser identification. "We are pleased with
the recognition that GE and LKI placed on industry and public concerns regarding
the identification and disclosure of GE-processed diamonds," he says.
"There was a willingness by all parties to do the right thing."
by Robert Weldon, G.G.
Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.