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,
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.
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
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
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.