Professional Jeweler Archive: Message in a Girdle

January 2001

Diamonds/Gemology


Message in a Girdle

AGS Lab offers new laser-inscription service


The microscopic widths of today’s laser beams allow for fairly complex inscriptions in as small a space as a diamond’s girdle. Accordingly, the American Gem Society Laboratory now offers members and customers a service to document and brand their own diamonds.

The lab uses an excimer laser with an inscription point just 3 microns in diameter vs. the industry standard of 4-6 microns (1 micron is one-millionth of a meter, about a quarter the size of the period at the end of this sentence). This means more words or logos can be inscribed on a girdle without compromising the diamond’s clarity grade.

When necessary, AGS can use inscription lines as small as 1 micron, says lab director Peter Yantzer. At such tiny sizes the messages can be read only with a 60X microscope, but these thin lines come in handy when inscribing signatures, logos or other symbols. “We can trace the girdle’s edge and put in up to 19 characters – even short love notes,” he says.

Image, Identification, Sales Tool

The new service comes just as the use of brand names heats up in the jewelry industry. While some manufacturers have laser-inscribed their diamonds for years (Lazare Kaplan International, for example), the industry sat up and took notice last year when De Beers announced it would laser-brand some of its diamonds. “Even at the retailer level, more and more jewelers want their own store’s name featured on a diamond,” says Yantzer. (Colored gemstones can be inscribed also, though Yantzer has yet to receive such requests.)

In addition, security, documentation and consumer confidence benefit when laser inscription is used correctly. “The industry has seen first-hand how important inscriptions are in identifying diamond enhancements, such as GE/POL and fracture-filled diamonds,” says Yantzer. “It’s amazing how much information can be imparted by a laser-inscribed bar code.” AGS is studying how to use bar codes and databases with limited access.

Stuart Skolnick of LC International, New York City, agrees about the usefulness of laser inscriptions. “We print the diamond’s certificate numbers right on the girdle,” he says. “That’s a powerful sales tool for retailers who can match numbers to documents.

“We also tell our retailers to explain to consumers that if a piece of diamond jewelry needs repairing, they can be assured they’re getting back the same stone.”

Potential for Misuse

Yantzer acknowledges a potential for misuse. An inscription that would have identified a diamond can be polished off. Or an inscription can contain false information or use a logo without a company’s authorization.

“We have not heard of any such instances, but we’re aware they could occur,” says Cecilia Gardner, executive director of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, New York City. “Those instances would be dealt with in much the same way as any form of fraud and misrepresentation.”

• AGS Laboratory; Las Vegas, NV; (702) 255-6500.


– Robert Weldon, G.G.

Branded diamonds such as LC International’s Hearts and Arrows round brilliant cuts are laser inscribed with information designed to be used as a sales tool. Diamonds are courtesy of LC International, New York City; (800) 223-0248.

Photos by Robert Weldon

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications