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September 1999

Diamond News

GIA Progresses on ID of GE Process

The respected lab takes a cautious stance in its research on color-altered diamonds

The Gemological Institute of America has found what it calls recognizable features in some diamonds that have undergone the secret GE POL process. Though GIA won't discuss specifics, this is one of the first substantive steps in determining what's involved in the process. The news was announced at a special meeting for all participants of GIA's International Gemological Symposium in San Diego, CA, in late June.

GIA's research was prompted by concern over how to detect the process, which was developed by General Electric and is used by New York City-based

diamond house Lazare Kaplan International and its subsidiary, Pegasus Overseas Ltd. (thus, the acronym GE POL). GIA believes gem labs must be able to identify and disclose diamonds

subjected to any process. It continues to call GE POL a "process" because it hasn't confirmed what's involved, says William Boyajian, president.

Detection of the process is critical also because if the color alteration is determined to be a treatment, the value of the diamonds would go down (at the special session, diamond price list publisher Martin Rapaport announced prices for the few GE POL diamonds in the market are already 15% less than unprocessed diamonds of comparable grade). This inability to detect could cause consumers to question the value or all-natural status of all diamonds in treatable categories, a serious concern for the entire diamond market.

Identification Features

GIA conducted preliminary studies on several hundred diamonds submitted by GE and LKI, says Thomas Yonelunas, vice president of identification services for the GIA Gem Trade Lab. Researchers discovered identification features specific to the diamonds, he says, but it's too early to reveal them. He also says GIA's research suggests a portion of the diamonds will be recognizable, but not necessarily all of them. GIA notes it has not seen the full range of these diamonds and their characteristics and has not been able to examine them before and after undergoing the process.

The diamonds examined so far are 0.3 to 7 carats (mostly 1-3 carats), primarily fancy shapes, mostly D-H in color and IF-I2 in clarity (mostly IF-SI1). The "overwhelming majority" are Type II with some Type I (for a discussion of diamond types related to the GE POL diamonds, see Professional Jeweler, August 1999, p. 30). The diamonds also are distinguished by "unusual gemological features," says Yonelunas.

When GIA does uncover the nature of the process, how much information it can release is another issue. "It will be a delicate balance to protect GE's proprietary know-how and to be able to report findings without disclosing that know-how," says Boyajian.

Study of Color Clues

GIA has conducted its own color experiments for years to understand identification clues and was able to add and remove color in Type I and II diamonds. "We don't want to call GE's process a treatment until we know for sure, but if GE uses the processes we've used in our experiments, then it is a treatment," says Boyajian. He also notes GIA has not determined unequivocally the color won't change again later.

GE and LKI have agreed not to sell rough diamonds subjected to the process, though faceted diamonds with identifiable laser inscriptions have been on sale since early summer in Antwerp, Belgium. LKI will continue to laser-inscribe the diamonds for identification. However, GIA's Gem Trade Lab received two diamonds on which the inscriptions were partially polished off. The possibility the inscriptions could be erased – making detection difficult – is a fear among industry members.

– by Robert Weldon, G.G.

Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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