Industry Speculates About New Process

May 1999

Diamonds:Gemology

Industry Speculates About New Process

Lazare Kaplan and Pegasus Overseas Ltd. announce a new product. Only they won't say what it is

A guessing game has been in full swing since early March when Pegasus Overseas Ltd., a subsidiary of Lazare Kaplan International, New York City, announced a mystery process that improves the "color, brilliance and brightness of qualifying diamonds."

Pegasus, LKI and General Electric, inventor and owner of the patented process, will say only that it enhances certain characteristics of select natural gemstone diamonds. Pegasus spokesman Gus Weill says the companies want to protect their process. He also says the process doesn't have to be disclosed because unlike most others that improve a diamond's appearance, it doesn't change a diamond's all-natural content.

A Pegasus press release says: "The technique is permanent and irreversible, and it does not involve treatments such as irradiation, laser drilling, surface coating or fracture-filling."

What is it then? That's what the industry has been speculating about. Martin Haske of Adamas Gemological Laboratory in Brookline, MA, says that if the process doesn't reduce the diamond's all-natural content, that leaves two possibilities:

  • The diamonds might be annealed (heated) to improve their color in a process similar to those developed by Sumitomo and GE. But this would apply only to type 1B diamonds (the goal of annealing type 1B diamonds is to reduce their yellow component). "This would be prohibitively expensive," he says. (Reference Patents 4124690 and 4174380 at www.patents.ibm.com.)
  • A deep-cleaning technique could reduce or eliminate microscopic amounts of oxidation or radiation stains on a diamond's skin, perhaps even in feathers and other surface-reaching fractures. "Interestingly, GE registered a patent for a wet chemical process to remove oxides and dirt from deep cracks in airfoils in the aerospace industry," says Haske. "It employs a caustic organic mix of chemicals that, combined with an autoclave, deep-cleans metals. The patent doesn't mention diamonds, but I believe it could be used for diamonds." (Reference Patent 5685917 at www.patents.ibm.com.)

Dr. Ilene Reinitz of the Gemological Institute of America's Gem Trade Laboratory, says Pegasus submitted a few samples for testing but declined to describe the process. "We could not help noticing that one word conspicuous in its absence [in the Pegasus press release] is the word heat."

The heating theory has one strike against it in addition to the expense. It wouldn't improve brilliance, as the press release says the process does, according to Dr. Ken Scarratt, director of the AGTA Gemological Testing Center in New York City. "However, if feathers and other inclusions in these diamonds are found to be 'squeaky clean,'" he says, "that might point to a cleaning technique."

Speculation regarding the process led to this stark statement by GIA President William Boyajian: "It's usual for GIA to be consulted well in advance by firms involved in gemstone treatments. Due to such scant information, GIA has yet to discover any conclusive evidence to identify this treatment.

"The specific process is GE's business. But the ability to identify the treatment and ultimately to identify diamonds treated by the process is the diamond industry's business. If diamonds are treated in any way, then the trade has a right to know – and ultimately so does the consumer. The integrity of the industry is at stake."

– by Robert Weldon, G.G.



Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


 

HomeAsk the ExpertBrainstormStatsSite of the WeekConsumer Press Scan
Your Business On-LineCalendarMagazine & Site ArchivesStaffSite Map
Professional Jeweler EventsGuide to Electronic Services
Classified On-LineJA Certification Study Session

Home Ask the Expert Brainstorm Stats Site of the Week Consumer Press Scan Your Business On-Line Calendar Staff Site Map