The round-table opened with a discussion on the locations where treatments are occurring. Sonny Pope, CEO of Suncrest Diamonds in USA, suggested India and Israel as the prime locations, though Dusan Simic added that while there are a few in India, there is also Russia, but the United States is where most facilities are. There are a few facilities which are not publicly known about – even Dusan doesn’t know about them. In US, there is only one irradiation facitility which is in Jersey in addition to Suncrest’s.
On whether the treatments are for value enhancement or ‘cheating’, Dusan suggested that any cheating would only be short term as labs rapidly become aware and find detection methods. He cited the example of a 6 ct light pink diamond that had been further coated pink and sent to a lab where it was identified as natural. That was the first stone to receive the treatment, thereafter such stones have not escaped detection.
With treatments being for value enhancement, valuer Gail Brett Levine was asked the price of treated diamonds. She replied that it was relatively easy, as Richard Drucker (Guide Magazine) has a price list for treated diamonds.
The moderator asked the panel about the prevalence of treated diamonds. Gail remarked that about twice a week she sees irradiated or HPHT treated diamonds. Branko Deljanin from CGL-GRS labs commented that in New York he saw many more treated diamonds than in Canada. Mikko Åström said he sees lots of enhanced diamonds but that is largely due to the nature of his work selling spectrometers to detect treatments and synthetics. The discussion moved towards the need for markings to clearly identify treated diamonds, with the suggestion of a suitable laser engraving. David Fisher from DeBeers Research remarked that laser inscriptions are not cast iron unlike the Forever Mark which ensures the naturalness of a diamond and is very difficult to replicate. Branko Deljanin added that the trade does not want permanent markings for either traceability or synthetic / treated nature because trade does not want 100% transparency in selling diamonds so they can benefit if diamonds is not detected by lab, or some segment of trade would remove laser inscription of “HPHT treated” and sell diamond in Asian market as natural colour diamond.
With the propensity of treated diamonds it was posed whether labs are generally suitably equipped to detect treatments. Mikko Åström observed that there is a huge increase in the quantity of gem labs but many don’t have a clue about how to detect treatments. The moderator asked if more communication between labs would improve their capabilities and preservation of the industry. Gaetano Cavalieri (CIBJO) suggested that the problem is that the main purpose of many labs is to teach gemmology to jewellers and after they receive their diploma, they set up a lab without enough money and knowledge.
An audience member asked if anyone knew the outcome of an incident last year where a large quantity of stones were recalled by GIA because of a claimed treatment that made a diamond’s colour paler, though temporarily. The panel were unable to offer insights into the treatment.
The moderator posed whether the public are aware of diamond treatments. Gail Brett Levine shared that she often comes across treated diamonds and owners are surprised because they never knew of the possibility of treatment. Branko Deljanin remarked that consumers are aware of synthetic diamonds through publicity such as in ‘Wired’ magazine, but he has never seen a consumer article on treatments. Gaetano Cavalieri said that at the end of the day the most important thing is to make money and most traders are not worried about how, though he believed there is a lot of morality in the industry.
Sonny Pope said people want reports to say “irradiated” or “HPHT” but he wished that the reports would merely report if a colour or treatment is permanent or not.
With new treatments coming on the market periodically, the moderator sought ideas of what the next generation of treatments would be? Sonny Pope ventured that Suncrest is having greater success at making light pink in a single step for stones with the right nitrogen content. He added that a significant technical advancement would be achieved if low clarity stones could be HPHT treated.
Despite the general consumer ignorance of treatments, the moderator asked if some treatments are more acceptable than others, such as HPHT treated type II brown diamonds. Gaetano Cavalieri opinioned that as long as treatments are not reversible then they are acceptable, after all everything is treated such as carpets and shoes.
Egor Gavrelko (IGE lab Spain) in the audience asked why an inexpensive instrument has not been developed for detecting mounted melee, to which Branko remarked that for mounted diamonds, fluorescence is the only option, while Dusan Simic said it could be done if one used a reflective IR system, a Renishaw PL spectrometer, plus other spectrometers totalling almost $500k. Egor Gavrelko remarked that every fancy colour is suspicious. But Sonny Pope pointed out that it is non-profitable to treat small diamonds as whites and pinks would be more expensive than naturals.
With the allocated time expired and comments and questions exhausted, the session finished.
John Chapman (Moderator, Gemetrix, Australia), Branko Deljanin (CGL-GRS, Canada), Gaetano Cavalieri (CIBJO, Italy ), Gail Brett Levine (NAJA, USA), Mikko Åström (MAGI, Finland), Sony Pope (Suncrest, USA) and Dusan Simic (AG&J, USA) at round table 2016.