Saturday, May 5, 2012
I had a young gentleman in the other day asking about a custom engagement ring and he wanted to know if I sold, or would work with, synthetic diamonds in my pieces. For those of you who are regular readers you know that I recently set a synthetic white diamond in a piece and that I have also set synthetic green diamonds made from a pets' ashes. So I told him that I wouldn't sell him a synthetic diamond but I would be happy to set one that he brought to me. I asked him how large of a stone he was thinking of and he mentioned a size that I know to still be pretty much unavailable in white diamonds so I asked him who he was trying to purchase it from. At this point in time there are basically only two synthetic diamonds producers making white synthetic diamonds of any size and the name he mentioned wasn't either one of them. It was an online company that had a pretty splashy page and lots of jewelry on it, but when the guy mentioned the type and size of stone he was looking at on the site, and I went to it the price was ridiculously low for a synthetic diamond. A synthetic diamond takes a lot of energy to produce and the initial investment in the machinery used to produce them is huge so I knew that no one was going to be selling them for these prices.
When I looked a little closer I realized the company actually said they were diamond SIMULANTS not synthetics but it was in and among all of the information that included the fact that they sold synthetic sapphires and other types of gem materials (and when you do a search for synthetic diamonds on line they show up almost immediately). Synthetics, in case you haven't read enough of my articles, duplicate the natural in all physical properties except that they are man made. SIMULANTS are another material altogether that is made to look like the natural stones they are trying to duplicate (cubic zirconia is probably the best known of these). The company also proceeded to talk about their special processes (in this case a supposedly proprietary coating on the surface of the material they were using) that made their simulants "almost as hard" as natural diamonds and that it also made them at least as brilliant as diamonds. They revealed that their coating had, among other things, corundum (i.e. sapphire) in it. They also went on to say that the coating made the stones appearance rival what was considered to be the best color in a diamond, "blue-white" and that it also was fluorescent, thereby creating another "highly valued" characteristic of the "finest" diamonds. I was so disgusted at this point that I couldn't bear to keep reading anymore.
So how many things are wrong with all of these statements? Well first of all, let's talk about hardness. The Mohs hardness scale is a scale of 1 to 10 in which a material from the next higher number can scratch material at any number beneath it. But a stone that is 5 on the scale is not five times harder than a stone that is 1 on the scale. It can just scratch all of the materials below 5. Sapphire is a 9 on the scale. Diamond is a 10 on the scale. But a diamond is actually 140 times harder than a sapphire! So if their coating is made primarily from sapphire material, diamond is still 140 times harder than their coating. That is not "almost as hard". Secondly the use of blue-white as a descriptive term for diamonds was so horrendously misused in the past that the Federal Trade Commission banned its use as a term that can be used in association with diamonds. The stone is either white and assigned a legitimate color grade, or it is a fancy blue color at which point you are dealing with a completely different type of diamond. And third, while some fluorescence is considered acceptable in a diamond, strong fluorescence is considered detrimental and will drive the price down on a diamond. And as if this isn't enough please don't get me started on how coatings never hold up on stones subject to daily wear and tear.
Now I have no problem with jewelers selling synthetic stones or simulants. I understand many people don't have the resources to pay for the real thing but they still want something pretty to wear. But I do have a problem when the company selling the items so horrendously confuses, misrepresents their material and makes statements that are so blatantly wrong in their desire to confuse the customer. There is, IMHO, no excuse for this kind of behavior on the part of these types of companies. But some of it does come down to a customer doing their research and reading carefully for content. While I wouldn't expect most people to know some of the things I have brought here, the use of the term simulated should be a warning flag when you are looking for something you think is synthetic. And if you are looking for something like an engagement ring it doesn't hurt to do a little thorough research first.
The pair of rings at the top are a pair I recently custom made for a couple who renewed their vows to stay engaged for at least another 25 years in my store recently. I love this town! They are made of a base of 18k palladium white gold with 18k yellow gold on top, natural color Umba Valley orange sapphires, diamonds and fancy sapphire accents.