Doing the Right Thing

July 1999

Diamonds:News

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 information system.

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.


 

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